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eCommerce

Post-Cyber Week eCommerce site audit: What to look for

Chris Powers
January 29th, 2021
15 MINUTE READ

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have traditionally anchored the most important time of the year for eCommerce businesses. As the unofficial start of the gift-giving season, Cyber Week-the five-day span between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday-has long been a boon for retailers who do most of their business online. And 2020 was no different. Bolstered by the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on consumer spending habits, the busiest shopping weekend of the year soared to new heights last year. With numerous big-box retailers closing brick-and-mortar locations on Thanksgiving Day and health administrations advising against shopping in person, a historic number of consumers took to the web to take advantage of the giant sales Cyber Week is known for.

According to data from Adobe Analytics, online shoppers spent $34.4 billion during 2020 Cyber Week, a 20.7% year-over-year (YoY) increase. Cyber Monday alone saw $10.8 billion in sales, making it the biggest online shopping day in U.S. history. On Black Friday-which lags just behind as the second busiest online shopping day-U.S. consumers spent $6.3 million per minute. The pandemic took the most successful weekend in online retail up a notch, as brands and retailers saw historic sales across the country.

So how did your brand stack up this past holiday shopping season? Were you able to reap the benefits of the unprecedented Cyber Week eCommerce sales traffic? Or does your performance leave a lot to be desired?

We get it, online shoppers are a fickle bunch. Competition in eCommerce is fierce, and it can be difficult to woo consumers-especially during a time when so many online retailers are offering their biggest discounts of the season. If your Cyber Week sales didn’t blow anyone away this year, it’s important to understand why. Perhaps your deals just couldn’t compete. Or maybe your shipping costs caused consumers to look elsewhere. Or, perhaps it was your eCommerce site’s overall customer experience that failed to deliver.

After reflecting on your brand’s 2020 Cyber Week performance, it may feel like you fell short, missing opportunities to grow sales and draw in new customers. While your brand may offer quality products, your site may be filled with engaging content, and your Cyber Week deals were enticing, you perhaps neglected one of the fundamental components of good design: the user experience (UX). 

While there are many potential causes for an eCommerce site not performing well during Cyber Week, a likely possibility is a poor UX. Usability is crucial to the success of your web presence. Solid UX design can alleviate user frustration, streamline paths to purchase and create an all-around positive perception of your eCommerce store. With a solid UX, you can be well on your way to boosting conversions, growing sales, and taking advantage of boosted Cyber Week eCommerce traffic.

To assess any potential faults in your eCommerce site’s UX and to determine where improvements are necessary, it’s essential to conduct a full UX audit. A UX audit provides a detailed analysis of your eCommerce site’s user experience. By placing your entire eCommerce website under a microscope, you can determine why your site is underperforming and what specific areas need improvement.

In this article, we’ll look at why it’s important to audit your eCommerce site and provide an overview of the individual elements of a successful UX audit. Additionally, we’ll discuss the benefit of enlisting a third party to complete your UX audit and outline how to measure future success after completing an audit. Read on to learn how your business can turn things around for Cyber Week 2021 with a superior eCommerce UX.

What is a UX audit?

A UX audit is a formal process that seeks to understand all elements of a digital platform’s existing user experience. A UX audit goes through every component of a platform with a fine-tooth comb, recording how well those components contribute to the site’s overarching goals and usability. If your eCommerce website is underperforming, a UX audit can help determine why through significant analysis. 

The key with any UX audit is to identify all user pain points. By examining the entire eCommerce user experience from a practical perspective, a UX audit can reveal the individual elements that are frustrating, deterring, or confusing users-and ultimately hindering your conversions.

Once all pain points are uncovered, a UX audit offers actionable recommendations, insights, and solutions to ensure underlying problems are addressed. The UX audit outlines user-centric fixes and improvements that ultimately help users achieve their goals on your website. 

UX audits address a common concern for eCommerce sites: shopping cart abandonment. An audit can analyze the checkout process and determine the pain points that cause users to abandon their carts. Not only does the audit identify the problem, but it lays the groundwork for providing a solution that rectifies the underlying cause.

Audits can indicate the general usability of an eCommerce site, or give a more granular analysis by studying how well the experience engages users, targets personas, and converts. Audits provide thorough feedback and insight into points of both success and failure and help brands offer strategized solutions to boost conversions and grow sales.

Why is an eCommerce UX audit important?

In the case of eCommerce websites, good UX means so much more than having an attractive, visually appealing web design. A beautiful website with clever imagery alone cannot curb bounce rates or drive conversions. Essential to the success of your eCommerce website is its ability to deliver superior customer usability. Creating seamless paths to purchase and ensuring customers derive value from every click is vital.

An eCommerce UX audit examines your site from the perspective of the customer. It takes a practical approach towards navigating your site, documenting all areas where customers experience difficulties completing tasks. The more of these instances you isolate, the more fixes you can make to your site to create a seamless, streamlined customer experience. In turn, this will curb user bounce rates, boost your conversions, and ultimately drive sales.

All eCommerce businesses need to invest in UX audits. They provide brands with explicit information regarding the elements that are contributing to and hindering an eCommerce site’s usability. Simply put, investing in a superior UX leads to results. According to a 2016 study from Forrester Research, better UX design could boost conversion rates up to 400%. A UX audit is the first step to making real improvements to your site’s customer experience.

What should be in your post-Cyber Week eCommerce UX audit?

While a full UX audit will examine the entirety of your website, the following component is key areas of relevance for eCommerce retailers looking to boost their conversion rate.

Homepage

Your eCommerce site’s homepage is one of the most important elements of your customer experience. For many shoppers, the homepage is the first interaction they have with your brand. It’s the first impression they get of your brand and the gateway to your product offerings. A well-designed, frequently-updated homepage will keep your users engaged while accurately pointing them in the right direction upon arrival.

As a core website page, your homepage should communicate to your customers what products you offer and how they will benefit them. Make sure your homepage content is concise and easily understandable. Look for areas where your homepage design was confusing or created roadblocks for customers. Are your promotions easily understandable? Does your design make use of a carousel? Are users able to personalize their homepage experience? Consider any opportunities to create a positive first impression of your brand, while encouraging customers to come back time and time again.

Page speed

Page speed may seem inconsequential, but the fact of the matter is that it has a massive impact on how users engage with your eCommerce site. According to Vouchercloud, 57% of users will navigate away from your eCommerce site if they have to wait more than three seconds for a page to load. Online shoppers are nothing if not impatient, so delivering a speedy experience should be top of mind for all eCommerce brands.

Page speed not only affects your eCommerce site’s UX and customer perceptions, but your page rankings on search engines. Google uses page speed as a ranking signal, so slow pages can be left off of organic search results as search engines like Google deprioritize pages with hefty loading times. 

Use Google’s free PageSpeed Insights tool to see how your site stacks up. Then, consider multiple strategies to reduce page speed across your eCommerce site, like optimizing your CSS, reducing image sizes, implementing a content delivery network (CDN), and more.

Category navigation

Having your products be easily located and accessed by consumers is crucial to the long-term success of your eCommerce business. Intelligent product categorization will help your customers find exactly what they are looking for in a timely fashion. No matter how well you present your products with eye-catching imagery, customers will never find what they desire if your product categorization is not practical and deliberate.

Examine the taxonomy of your product categories. Do you have extensive parent categories? Are you making use of intermediary category pages to create a more narrow navigation path for customers? While every eCommerce brand will categorize its offerings differently, there are some conventions and best practices to ensure your customers can easily sift through products. 

The Bamyard Institute, a leading web UX research firm, has extensive guidelines for creating improved site navigation through product categorization. Read about that here.

Search

For a long time, “search,” as it relates to eCommerce, referred to improving the content on your site to rank higher in Google searches-commonly known as search engine optimization (SEO). Recently, however, consumer behavior has begun to shift, and more and more customers are using eCommerce sites’ search functionality to look for products as opposed to dumping all queries into Google. This makes taking steps to improve your site’s search functionality vital to the overall success of your eCommerce website.

Jamie Appleseed of the Baymard Institute writes:

“Thus, not investing in good search usability can not only cost sales in the short- and mid-term, it can also set flawed user expectations for future use of your site. Expectations can be difficult to shake off even if the search experience is eventually improved down the road.

We, therefore, urge eCommerce owners not to postpone investing in improvements to their eCommerce search experience, lest they be haunted by faulty user perceptions for years to come. Instead, take advantage of the dismal state of eCommerce search and turn it into a competitive advantage.”

Look at common search queries from visitors to your site. What types of search terms are they using? Are they searching for product names, or using more thematic terms (“winter layers,” “bedroom storage,” etc.)? Does your search bar provide categorical suggestions as users are typing? Using intelligent product tagging can help narrow individual searches to return products most relevant to your customers. Additionally, opening up your search tool to respond to more thematic queries can present users with a host of product options when they’re not sure precisely what they are looking for. 

By expanding your search functionality’s capabilities, you help to streamline the user experience and create a positive perception of your eCommerce brand. If your search functionality leaves much to be desired, consider incorporating solutions like Nosto and Segmentify for improved product recommendations, as well as Klevu for advanced search functionality.

Product pages

Arriving at an individual product page on an eCommerce website is the virtual equivalent of picking an item off a shelf to inspect it. Just like a customer in a brick and mortar store might grab a product to check out the packaging and assess whether it’s right for them, users on an eCommerce site poke around individual product pages to make their final decisions on purchasing. Therefore, it’s important that your product pages are well-designed, engaging, concise, and contain all relevant information that will entice online shoppers to make a purchase.

When reviewing your product page templates, consider the following best practices:

  • Include eye-catching calls to action (CTAs) like “Add to cart” or “Buy now” buttons.
  • Make sure your product images are large and clear. Your imagery should visually communicate the unique details of your products.
  • Consider incorporating video in addition to product images. Stacks and Stacks, a home storage eCommerce business, saw that a customer who watches a product video is 144% more likely to add that product to their cart.
  • Write concise and engaging product descriptions.
  • Highlight discounts and sales, and include price comparisons, demonstrating how your price is cheaper compared to the list price of competitors.

Checkout

The checkout process is the culmination of the eCommerce experience. But prioritizing customer experience can’t stop here. Your checkout process needs to be just as streamlined and straightforward as the rest of your eCommerce website, or else you risk losing customers that are just on the cusp of conversion. Preventing checkout abandonment should be an essential goal of any eCommerce site. 

Checkout abandonment occurs when customers exit the payment process after they’ve begun. Because you’ve spent countless amounts of time and effort on optimizing your eCommerce site for conversions-not to mention all the marketing and advertising costs you’ve incurred-losing customers at the checkout represents lost revenue. It’s imperative that your checkout process does not deter consumers who have already demonstrated the intent to purchase.

During your audit, examine the checkout process from the user’s perspective. What appears to stop customers in their tracks and abort the checkout process? Does your eCommerce site offer limited payment options? Consider adding more payment methods. Does your site force customers to create a user account? Implement a guest checkout process. Do your customers have concerns about entering their personal information (address, credit card number, etc.)? Display security badges to create a positive impression of online safety. 

Your customer experience needs to deliver right up until users click that final “Complete checkout” button. Curb your checkout abandonment rate and complete the last challenge in the quest for conversions.

Who should perform my eCommerce UX audit?

UX audits can be performed by your internal teams if you handle design and development in-house. But having your internal teams audit their own work isn’t ideal. Think of it like editing your writing: sometimes enlisting another set of eyes is best to catch any spelling mistakes or grammar errors you might have missed. 

Achieving as much impartiality as possible is extremely important. It’s difficult for an internal team to distance themselves from what’s being analyzed. For this reason, it’s often best to seek out a third-party partner to complete an eCommerce UX audit.

Also, a comprehensive eCommerce site audit can take a great deal of time to complete. It’s rarely feasible for internal teams to effectively manage an audit while still devoting time to their day-to-day tasks.

Hiring a third party eliminates a great deal of subjectivity and allows for objective and rational analysis. A UX design company has no personal stake, nor are they emotionally invested in the product or service, and therefore possess little to no bias relative to what’s being surveyed and studied in the audit. Also, it alleviates the burden your internal teams would have to carry to complete the audit on top of their existing work. 

What post-audit success looks like

In eCommerce, conversion rate remains the industry benchmark for measuring site performance. But conversion rate shouldn’t be the only key performance indicator (KPI) that you use to measure success after you’ve completed an audit and implemented necessary changes. There are numerous other, more nuanced metrics that can combine to provide a holistic view of eCommerce success.

For instance, the average order value (AOV), or the total sales divided by the number of orders, can be used to help differentiate your user base, and make marketing changes accordingly. For example, if you notice a certain user group has a particularly high AOV, you can increase your marketing outreach to that segment.

Or consider customer acquisition cost (CAC), or the total of all expenses incurred to gain a new customer, including costs associated with the actual products or services purchased by said customer. If your CAC exceeds your AOV, you’re spending more to bring in new customers than those customers are purchasing. This is not an ideal position to be in.

Read more about important eCommerce KPIs besides conversion rate here.

How you measure the success of your eCommerce audit is entirely up to you. Select a set of pre-defined KPIs before conducting your audit, then measure them some time after the changes are implemented. These KPIs will serve as the gauge to measure the success of your audit and the changes made based on its findings. 

It’s also essential to continue monitoring the performance of your site, even long after your audit changes have been incorporated into your eCommerce site. Use your established KPIs to view the long-term implications of your audit. If change isn’t happening, maybe it’s time to consider another audit, a website redesign, or a complete eCommerce replatforming.

Ready to give your eCommerce site a UX audit?

UX audits are crucial components of any long-term eCommerce success strategy. They can answer questions like, “Why are users not purchasing our products?”; “Why am I not getting any return customers?”;” Why am I not seeing great results on my marketing campaigns?”

Investing in an eCommerce UX audit is the most efficient way to assess and improve your site’s conversion funnel.  An effective, streamlined UX means more happy customers. When users feel good about interacting with your site, they buy things, simple as that.

If it’s time for your eCommerce site to undergo a UX audit, get in touch with Codal. Armed with market-tested design principles, our audits help brands curb cart abandonment, streamline paths to purchase, and make their eCommerce sites powerful tools for boosting revenue.

Codal can deliver a comprehensive audit of your entire site-the key first step in delivering a seamless, engaging customer experience.

Chris Powers
AUTHOR

Chris Powers

Chris is a Content Marketing Specialist at Codal. With a background in journalism and marketing, Chris has written about a variety of tech topics, including open source, fintech, and cybersecurity. Chris loves taking on new challenges with just a pen, paper, and his brain.

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