It’s no question that websites are important to retailers, especially those that only retail online. It’s virtually impossible for businesses to function without one.
But if everyone knows that they need to have a great website, how come there are so many with one or more fatal flaws? How can you make sure that your website is working to the best of its ability? It’s a balancing act between loading time, functionality, and social media integration. Getting it right can be difficult, but keeping these tips in mind will keep your site on the straight and narrow.
All bells and whistles or functional minimalism?
Retailer websites used to be simple. Shoppers could view photos of available products and purchase them via the site or over the phone. But although not much has changed in the actual buying process—the majority of retailers rely on a ‘shopping basket’ system—the needs of your customers have changed.
Consumers now spend a lot more of their time online, with many in constant contact with friends and family via social media. They also do a lot more of their shopping online, which can cause customers to spend less. This means it is almost mandatory that stores have their own social media presence. Their websites should also be fully integrated with social media functions. Younger customers crave personalisation and the ability to shop socially, interacting with the brands they buy and with their friends.
But all of these extra functions can put pressure on your website.
To appeal to younger generations, your social media integration needs to be up to scratch
Most shoppers under the age of thirty dislike speaking on the phone and are less tolerant of being on hold. This makes them the perfect users of online chat functions, whether they are functions that help with problems—issues with returns, for example—or functions that help to persuade them to buy more, such as virtual personal shoppers.
These younger shoppers display distinctly different shopping behaviour than older shoppers. They want to have a clearer view of the products they are buying before they buy them. This means you can benefit from providing videos and 360 degree views of each product to help persuade them to buy. If they are able to interact with the product further—virtually try it on, for example—they have invested more time in the product and are more likely to buy it.
Don’t allow social media integration to reduce the loading time or functionality of your website
As users demand increased functionality, websites have begun to develop slower and slower loading times. Australia, for example, has an average loading time of 8.2 seconds compared to the US’ 3.9 seconds, with an average of 4.5 seconds globally.
Why is this?
To put it simply, websites are getting bigger and more complicated, integrating with social media and providing more hands-on interactive functions. These aren’t just there to appeal to younger consumers; these social media integrations are standard to most online shoppers.
You might think that with these increased needs shoppers will be willing to wait a little longer for their site to load. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Nearly half of online shoppers will leave a site if it isn’t fully loaded after three seconds and an extra half-second of loading time can make a 10 per cent difference to sales.
Mobile website optimisation is necessary for mobile-oriented sales
While you may want to ensure that your website is all-singing and all-dancing, another more stripped-back version of your site needs to exist: your mobile site. Often viewed over 3/4G, users won’t want to waste expensive data on loading a large, unwieldy website. Your mobile site should be stripped back and optimised for quick, simple use.
Website loading times are key; how long should yours take to load?
Ideally, your website should have a load time of between 2 and 2.5 seconds.
This loading time, however, isn’t always possible. It’s a balancing act; your website needs to be easy to use and quick to load, but also integrated with social media. It needs to be quick, simple, reliable and fun, with a strong use of multimedia and interactivity. One time when sites can slow to a crawl is during heavy traffic periods such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
By ensuring that your site is simple to navigate and that your checkout process is simple and easy to understand, you can reduce the amount of abandoned baskets in your online store.
Phillip Adcock is the founder and managing director of shopper research agency Shopping Behaviour Xplained Ltd, which operates in seventeen countries for hundreds of clients including Mars and Tesco.
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