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It’s surprisingly common for sellers (even modern online sellers) to start thinking of purchases as simple matters of exchanged value. To them, it’s extremely straight ward and utilitarian: if you’re offered something you’d like at a price you’re willing to pay, then you go ahead and pay it. 


And if that were true, then the only key to success would be having the best products, the best prices, or both — but it isn’t. The reality is far trickier than that. You can manage to offer someone the right product at the right price, yet still fail to reach a conversion.


So what’s the secret to winning new customers and bringing them back? User experience (or UX), meaning what it’s like to use your store. But don’t take my word for it — allow me to explain why it’s essential that you invest in the UX or a User-Centered Design for your online store:

There’s no shortage of viable alternatives

Choose one of your products at random, and answer this question: how many ecommerce retailers sell either that specific product or one sufficiently like it to be a decent substitute? Barring an unlikely exception, there are numerous other sites waiting to complete the orders that you can’t — and even a slight UX issue can be enough to drive someone away.


Just think about how rapidly shoppers can browse, equipped with high-speed internet (even on mobile connections) and devices that let them buy at any time and from (almost) any location. By now, we’re all so used to the rich convenience of social logins, personalized searching and 1-click ordering that any user experience that doesn’t measure up feels like a chore.


So unless you want to see all the effort required to get a prospect to your site go to waste, you need to ensure that the entire process running from first arrival to order completion is not only functional but also straightforward, satisfying, and ideally enjoyable.

It’s key for earning customer loyalty

Let’s say your UX is already good enough to bring in conversions: does that mean you’ve reached an adequate level of design? Not necessarily, because it isn’t the one-off customers that really get retailers ahead: it’s the customers who keep coming back to place more orders, being willing to spend more money the longer they buy from you.


And that’s not all. Loyal customers are also easier to sell to, and much more likely to promote your store to their friends, leading to vital referrals — at least, that’s if you have a good referral system in place. If you don’t, then implement one: for example, Smile integrates well, and isn’t overwhelmingly expensive (starting at $49 per month).


Remember this: you don’t get loyal customers on your side by providing average user experiences. There’s really no shortcut to success: you just need to work on your having a user-centered design until it’s as good as anything your competitors bring to the table, or even better. And you’ll likely have more work to do than you think, as we’ll see next.

Functional design is much harder than it seems

As Ryan Bigge puts in this great Medium piece on UX, “While invisible work can sometimes feel taxing or mundane, it’s the raw material for unobtrusive experiences that generate long-term loyalty from grateful users.” Bigge is a Senior Content Strategist at Shopify, so the no-frills function-first design makes all the sense in the world.


Of course, even if you use that kind of builder to make your store, you can’t just rely on all the basics being in the right place. Different types of user have different frames of reference, and a catch-all template might not work for your target market. If you want your users to have frictionless buying experiences, you need to iterate until everything’s polished.


If you’ve ever used an Apple product, you’ll know the value of great design, but you might not know how many hours went into R&D. Messy solutions are easy. Elegant solutions are hard. This is why many people use the services of a design agency such as Clay.

It’ll reduce demand on your support

Customer support is inarguably one of the most vital parts of running an ecommerce store. At any time, a customer might reach out with a query, comment, or concern, and failing to handle it well is a recipe for disaster. After all, it only takes one disgruntled customer voicing their displeasure and frustration through social media for your brand to take a major hit.


By working hard on the UX of your store and havin a user-centered design or approach, you can mitigate a lot of the demand for support. For instance, you can create action scripts regarding the most common queries, and implement a live chatbot to seamlessly screen support requests on a 24/7 basis. You can also add an FAQ section to your site, make the UI clearer, improve the checkout process, space out your text… really, anything that will make the site better to use.


When you view UX from that perspective, it becomes clear that the cost of investing in UX pales in comparison to the cost of not investing in it: losing out on sales to your competitors, facing the churn of ceaselessly needing to find new prospects, and having to frequently step in to deal with the issue stemming from your confusing website. 


UX isn’t just a frivolity to toy with when you happen to have some free time. It demands top priority for any modern seller for the reasons we’ve looked at here — and if you have any ambition whatsoever, you’ll make a major commitment to overhauling yours.

     About UX Academy Courses:

     UX Academy runs evening and in-person UX training courses in Central London around UX, Voice & AR Design (Augmented Reality).
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