Customer focused eCommerce: Find and Flow

Much of my working life has revolved around eCommerce sites.  I’m both a practitioner and a customer and I look for patterns and features of a site that add value and utility to the customer experience.  I was thinking about a few of my “lessons learned” over the past several years after I went through a search-and-find exercise with my daughter for something she’s been saving to buy.

Here are two rules of customer focused eCommerce that site owners should follow:

1. Make sure site search works well (Find)

Don’t make the customer look for the product by clicking through multiple layers of categories and then searching for the product in a sea choices.  This is the Internet and electronic commerce, so take advantage of product indexing and let the computer sort through hundreds, if not thousands, of products in seconds.

Site search rewards customers that already know what they want.  Those customers will be more likely to look for a search function to cut down their total transaction time.  If you enable the customer to find what they are looking for immediately, you’ll increase your odds that they will stay on the site to and continue shopping.  Most of the well known eCommerce sites like Amazon, eBay, and Wal-mart do a fantastic job of this.  Compare their search features to some of the financial institution sites and you’ll see a big difference.

Site search also rewards customers that may not know exactly what to call a product they want.  In today’s rapid product life-cycle time and ever changing model names, a customer may only know a piece of the brand name or product name.  Site search is a very valuable tool in this situation.

In my experience, I’ve been able to draw a direct correlation between sites that offer site search and the end goal of a purchase.  The sites that provide search results for product key words or specific product names have a higher percentage of customers using the Internet channel and completing a sale. My experience has mostly been with financial services and products.  However, the concepts are the same regardless of industry.

2. Keep it simple (Flow)

This is a challenge for many marketers and site owners.  Bottom line is keep your site flow simple and don’t don’t clutter the screen with too much information.  Customers tend to scan site pages looking for either products, deals, or contact information.  If the site and ordering process are too complicated, they will leave.

Get to the point.  Everyone expects a cross sell area.  But don’t overdo it.  Nothing is more annoying than multiple cross sell pages to get through checkout and then additional cross sells after order submission.

Your site should be worthy of a sell based on good content and simple straight-forward sales practices.  Creating a sales process that contains too many pages only gives more opportunity for confusion and customer abandonment.

If you want to get an overdose of cross sells, extra clicks, and pages then visit Dell or Vista Print.  To see a nice simplified experience try the Amazon 1-click ordering button.