7 eCommerce 'Features' to reconsider before Black Friday
We all did a lot of online shopping in 2020, more than ever before (check out our Black Friday Roundup article for proof if you need it) and judging by the number of posts on LinkedIn and other platforms, and my own frustrating experience of trying to buy a set of matching family Christmas jammies, there’s plenty out there that eCommerce businesses can and should do better to claw in those valuable sales. I’m going to present a few of the big eCommerce no-no’s that drive me to distraction when shopping online. If you can honestly say your site has none of these issues I would shake your hand – but only if you’ve used plenty of sanitiser.
- Not offering a Guest Checkout
- Multiple Popups
- Intrusive Urgency & Scarcity Marketing
- Poor Categorisation & Navigation
- Site Search Slipups
- Social Ads Faux-pas
- Related Products / Cross Merchandising
1. Not offering a Guest Checkout
I know as marketers a lot of your targets are around growing your registered user base, but have you done any A/B testing around conversions when your online store insists on account creation BEFORE a user can checkout? No? Yes, of course account registration rates post-purchase are going to be lower but if the option for a guest checkout, or allowing social account login increases your conversion rate and sells more product then perhaps you need to rethink the weighting of your KPIs. But also rethink your checkout flow.
I mean, how off-putting is this as the first step in a checkout process? Now, Quicksilver might be a leading fashion brand but their checkout and registration process is far from enticing.
By using a modal popup overlaid on your site, your users can still feel like they are within the site and not being taken off down some data collection rabbit hole that’s going to be long and complex. It feels more slick and considered, reassuringly simple. Particularly if you use multi-step registration instead of a single large form. This way you can keep them on page, capture their email address / social account for retargeting if they still drop out, but keep the rest of the personal information as part of the checkout flow. At this point in their journey, this is more than enough data to keep engaging with customers. Canva do this very simply with their signup.
2. Multiple Pop-Ups
What does a new visitor to your site see? What is their first impression, especially on mobile device? There is nothing more frustrating than clicking on an advert for something really great looking that you didn’t know you needed, only to have pop-up after pop-up stop you from looking at it.
Not only that, by the time your new visitor has closed your 10% discount pop-up, and then closed your newsletter sign-up pop-up, and then waited for the urgency marketing message covering the product image to fade away (see point 3), they’ve had enough time to reconsider. You’ve spent money on ads to pull them in for that impulse purchase, and then stood in the way like an annoyingly persistent spritzer at the fragrance counter. In short, you’ve removed all the impulse from their impulse purchasing by getting in your own way.
3. Urgency and Scarcity Marketing or “189 people purchased this in the last 8 seconds”
I can’t quite remember when this high-stakes, borderline bullying, sales technique came into play and I’m often surprised by larger household names who use it in their online stores. Like this example from Very.co.uk. It puts additional and somewhat misleading pressure on consumers to make their purchase by suggesting that stock is flying out the door without actually showing you what stock is available. Whilst in principle we are all in control of our buying habits and what we spend, these little urgency marketing signs, especially the ones that appear overlaid on the product image itself, are less an indication that it’s a popular product with good ratings, than something you must by in the next 8 seconds or you will miss out and never have another chance. But of course that’s the point isn’t it. It taps into our perpetual fear of missing out or FOMO and our need for instant gratification. That little box is at best a scare tactic to drive sales and at worst, a really really annoying widget that stops customers seeing what they’re buying.
At least in the case of Very.co.uk they put this information below the product instead of making the product image impossible to view. Still, use with care. Ask yourself :
Is it right for your brand and customer demographic?
Does my A/B testing support this?
How long it will be before advertising or trading standards feel that this feature in eCommerce is less informative and too coercive or misleading as a sales tool. I suspect it will only take one complaint from a savvy consumer who can prove that the numbers are falsified or inaccurate with one retailer for it to be looked at in more detail. It’s a different story when it comes to scarcity tactics in travel and tourism however when the last remaining seats on a plane or hotel rooms do have a small and verifiable upper limit.
4. Location, Location, Location – Merchandising, Product Positioning, Navigation & Categorisation
This really is eCommerce 101. Ensuring your site has well-thought-out categories for products, easily navigable and clear with, if you have a large product catalog, really easy to use, and category-specific filter and sort options. Amazon has been possibly one of the worst examples of this, particularly in its fashion sector, and not helped by the Marketplace sellers either. They’ve done a lot of work to improve and streamline their categories but if your catalog doesn’t have a sensible range of attributes based on what you’re selling you’re letting yourself and your customers down.
Merchandising isn’t just a one-off event when you create a product. Checking your catalog for misplaced, misnamed, and incomplete products should make up part of your basic housekeeping to ensure your full range is searchable and where customers would expect to find it.
Most eCommerce platforms allow you full control, either manually or via a series of rules, over the order in which your products appear within each category, much in the way that a customer should be able to sort products by name, price, rating, and other attributes you have allowed them to have. Regular checking of category pages is essential to make sure you’re promoting your range the way you, and your buying teams, want to. If you’re lucky enough to be working with a platform that includes personalised navigation optimisation or even AI powered machine learning automation then well, it’s still worth testing it out every so often because AI is only as good as the data you give it. If you’ve got product data inaccuracies your AI will struggle.
5. Site Search Slipups
The root of good site search is good product naming convention and attributes.
Product naming conventions
eg Brand, item name or collection, type – are essential both for merchandising your site (see above) and for site search – especially if you have branded items that are well known and available elsewhere. Product names or titles should be consistent and correspond to any matching items or collections so they are easy for customers to find using filters or search. They also need to be linked correctly to barcodes or other manufacturer identifiers if you’re listing on Google Shopping portal to make sure your shop appears up against the competition.
All those additional fields that are sometimes legally required (food items for example) and that you can often customise to your collection – size, colour, style, ingredients, allergens, fit, brand, power, weight etc
Fuzzy matching and predictive search
Amazon do this well with heavy machine learning based on previous searches as well as using their vast database of products. This is a perfect example – not only is the search term Dinosaur incomplete, it is also spelled incorrectly. More interesting is that the returned results have delivered a fuzzy match where dinosaur is consistently spelled in incorrectly as well although this is corrected in the final search result of over 60,000 products.
All of these data points will form part of your site’s search algorithm and its ability to deliver accurate results. It’s not unheard of to have search rules based on the content of your product description alone which is disastrous in so many ways. It shouldn’t need saying that this should be avoided at all costs. For example – a product description that includes the phrase ‘may contain gluten’ would appear in search results for both gluten-containing and gluten-free products.
6. Social Ads Faux – pas
You’re spending money on social media advertising but conversion is lower than you expect. Your audience is right, your advert is compelling, you’re getting clicks but you’re not getting the sales. Have you considered any of the following :
All too often ads aren’t sanity checked and images are poorly cropped, not optimised, or just plain wrong. M&S went through a spate of this a couple of years ago and aside from being really truly annoying from a customer perspective, it was a huge waste of time and money.
Advertising Out of Stock products
In busy periods it’s easy to lose track of which products are being advertised at any given time, but if your social media ad campaigns are linking to items that are no longer in stock you are going to annoy customers and dent your future engagement.
Campaigns linking to a generic home page that doesn’t feature the originally advertised product are just going to increase your bounce rate.
You’re spending money on a product ad, for a specific product or product range, so why are you directing ad clicks to a blog post about that range that has no calls to action to purchase those products? Primark is very guilty of this misdemeanor and it’s just a recipe for poor conversion and high bounce rates.
This is so annoying it’s worth putting here again just to remind you not to do it!
7. Related Products
This feature has largely been overtaken by more popular crowd-sourcing recommendations such as ‘Customers who bought this also bought these’ alongside social media feeds featuring users with their product. If you are still using related products which are manually controlled ensure you have some methodology or a good understanding of your buying team’s product targets and forecasting to make sure you are featuring the right items. In the case of items that have matching sets – sibling matching outfits for example, make sure that these are easily accessible from each other to make user journeys as short as possible.
these tools in your checkout. You could. Many do, but use your analytics data, demographic profiling and business experience to consider what is appropriate for your business, budget and customers. Each tool on its own will provide a marginal gain in the quest for increased sales conversion, some gains will be larger than others and which ones are right for you is something you need to assess. There is always a trade-off between cost of development and implementation versus long-term benefit – but remember to take into account your wider business as well – is a tool going to be of value to other areas of the company such as warehousing, finance, customer service. Fetchify’s address lookup tools are ideal for front-end customer facing UX, but can also be integrated into back-end admin systems giving you a broader application and value across the business to increase data accuracy wherever it is used.
We’re not saying you should have all these tools in your checkout. You could. Many do, but use your analytics data, demographic profiling and business experience to consider what is appropriate for your business, budget and customers. Each tool on its own will provide a marginal gain in the quest for increased sales conversion, some gains will be larger than others and which ones are right for you is something you need to assess. There is always a trade-off between cost of development and implementation versus long-term benefit – but remember to take into account your wider business as well – is a tool going to be of value to other areas of the company such as warehousing, finance, customer service. Fetchify’s address lookup tools are ideal for front-end customer facing UX, but can also be integrated into back-end admin systems giving you a broader application and value across the business to increase data accuracy wherever it is used.
We are a pioneer in SaaS address lookup and data validation solutions. We process millions of transactions each day for thousands of clients ranging from small e-commerce startups to large household brands such as Heinz and RBS. Our flagship products Address Auto-Complete and Postcode Lookup reduce friction on checkouts and registration pages and helps reduce failed deliveries by as much as 50%. Since launching in 2008, we have differentiated by our ease of integration and exceptional support.