Retail and eCommerce appear to be polar opposites. Retailers base their entire business model on the idea that consumers want to see, feel, and try out products in person before committing to a purchase. eCommerce outlets, on the other hand, rely on speed, convenience, and massive product catalogs to get consumers to buy.
In the case of eCommerce, the answer is relatively straightforward – if you want to sell something online, you need to have a website. But what about retail? Retailers were around long before the invention of the internet, and they were doing just fine if the market capitalization of companies such as Walmart is anything to go by.
Retailers clearly don’t need a website to function on a basic level. So let’s ask a different question – can retailers thrive without a website in an ecosystem defined by high-speed internet access? Here things become less clear.
If your first point of contact with a retail brand is via a website, which is often the case, then the quality of the website user experience (UX) will determine your initial opinion about it. If you’ve had a good experience, chances are you will consider shopping at the retailer in question. Conversely, if you ended up having a bad time, you will probably think twice about shopping there in person.
So having a website with a good user experience can definitely be beneficial for retailers. The question now becomes: in what way? What can retailers hope to gain by improving their website UX? Let’s take a deeper dive into the topic.
RETAIL WEBSITE UX EXPECTATIONS
UX website design is all about meeting visitor expectations. If a website works the way visitors expect it to work, they will generally have a positive UX. This holds true for every kind of website, including retail. So what do customers expect from a retail website?
The most important factor at work in UX is functionality. When a customer visits your website, they are doing so for some particular purpose. This can include checking out products, asking about your return policy, finding your nearest outlet, etc. In other words, a hallmark of good website UX is giving customers the ability to instantly accomplish the goal of their visit. In other words, your website should provide basic features such as search, navigation, and contact forms.
Another factor of good UX is convenience. Convenience is a hard thing to quantify, but there are a number of key areas to consider. First, your website should load as fast as possible. Second, your website should work equally well on mobile, desktop, and tablet devices. Finally, your website should offer convenience features such as a color-blind mode and alternative image text, to ensure users with disabilities can use it without difficulties.
BENEFITS OF GOOD WEBSITE UX FOR RETAILERS
Customers love websites with good UX. But is website UX a worthwhile investment for retailers from a business perspective? For the majority of retailers, the answer is a resounding yes.
Good website UX can provide several tangible and intangible benefits to retailers. Let’s go over them.
Improved organic reach through SEO
This idea may sound intimidating to those unacquainted with digital marketing lingo, so let’s unpack it a bit. Organic reach refers to visitors that come to your website by making a search on Google, Bing, and other search engines. The ‘organic’ part is there to distinguish organic reach from paid reach through ads. SEO stands for search engine optimization, a process by which you increase the likelihood of appearing as a top result on Google for specific keywords.
Search engines rank websites according to a variety of criteria, some explicit, some hidden. And good UX is among the most relevant ones. Simply put, if a website offers a quality UX to visitors, they will tend to stick around longer. Search engines will take this to mean that the user found what they were looking for, giving your website a boost in rank in return.
Why does SEO matter for retailer websites? Because of local competition. Chances are you are not the only retailer in town, so whenever someone searches for a product or a store, there are several possible answers that Google can provide, and only one of them is your store. By optimizing your website, you will ensure that you consistently come out on top of search engine result pages.
Your website is a representation of your brand, which makes it an excellent marketing tool. In contrast to other forms of advertising, a website with good UX requires little additional investment.
Compare that to placing ads on billboards, printing leaflets, or hiring promoters, all of which require money, time, and effort, with no guarantees that they will be effective.
The biggest benefit of good UX is also the most difficult to quantify. Customer satisfaction is a difficult thing to gauge, but it is a given that satisfied customers will make more repeat purchases than those that are dissatisfied or indifferent. To put it in technical terms, UX is essential for improving customer lifetime value (CLV), which is a measure of how well your business is performing in terms of value extracted per customer.
Bear in mind that improving your website UX is necessary, but it is not the only factor that impacts CLV. If your actual store doesn’t meet customer expectations in terms of products on offer, price, returns policy, etc., having a good website UX won’t help much.
TURNING ONLINE EXPERIENCE INTO RETAIL SUCCESS
Modern internet users grew accustomed to a certain level of UX over the years. This created an imperative for businesses to meet the demand for good UX with their websites. In this sense, a website with good UX is a cost of doing business for any kind of company, including retailers.