This is a guest post by Emily Maxie from Skuid.
Competition for digital dollars continues to increase, and you no longer only need a great product to stand out in the crowd. You also have to provide an intuitive, simple, and memorable buying experience. Your e-commerce user experience (UX) can make or break your company, and companies that go above and beyond have seen tremendous growth.
So what does a great e-commerce UX look like? To help inspire you, we found five examples of stellar e-commerce user experiences—and one example to avoid. You will notice that I don’t talk much about button size or font choice. That’s because UX is about much more than just the user interface design. It’s about the entire experience you give your customers, from your website to social media, to in-person interactions with your brand.
Related: See The Top E-Commerce Trends to Look Out For in 2016
There’s nothing new about renting vacation homes online—HomeAway has been doing it for eleven years. And yet, Airbnb has grown to a $5.78 billion valuation in seven years. How did they do it? By passionately creating memorable experiences for its users.
It’s no coincidence that two of Airbnb’s cofounders are designers. When you arrive at their homepage, you’ll instantly feel welcome—the exact feeling they want to create when you stay at an Airbnb. Their imagery feels authentic, like pictures you’d take with your friends or family while you’re vacationing.
Once you’re ready to book a place to stay, Airbnb’s minimalist design makes it easy to find what you’re looking for, whether you’re on a desktop or mobile device. When our communications specialist, Annie, wanted to visit Marina del Rey, she registered for an account and booked a beach house in just a few minutes—from her iPhone.
“It was so easy, I didn’t even really notice that I was using an app,” Annie says. “Interacting with homeowners is always seamless. I don’t feel like there’s a middle man between me and the person I’m renting from.”
If you’re interested in learning more about Airbnb’s UX, check out this article about their hidden interaction gems.
2. Warby Parker
You don’t have to have high-dollar products to stand out in the world of e-commerce. Warby Parker built their business on the idea that great customer experiences don’t have to come with a huge price tag.
For just $95, Warby Parker will ship you five frames of your choosing to try on before purchasing. You’ll have five days to test them out and get feedback from your family and friends. If you’re still stumped, you can upload pictures onto their Facebook page, and they’ll help you pick the pair that looks best. At the end of five days, you ship the unwanted frames back with the included shipping label.
This simply solves the problem of blindly trying to choose frames online, extending beyond their online experience. Your new frames arrive in elegant packaging with a quality case and microfiber cloth. From start to finish, Warby Parker gets it right.
3. Dollar Shave Club
Dollar Shave Club expertly sets users’ expectations from the start. They clearly outline the four-step process on their homepage: choose your blade, adjust as you go, treat yourself and easily cancel. By showing their packaging online, they set expectations about the physical experience customers will have when they order.
Once you get to their product page, ordering your first box is as easy as one, two, three. First, you pick your blade. Their product comparison chart makes it easy to choose the right blade for you. Next, you can choose add-ons like post-shave cream. Finally, they ask for your shipping address. This is a great example of microcopy—a small bit of instructional text—and how it can humanize your e-commerce UX. Instead of saying, “Shipping Address,” they take a more personal route by asking ““Where should we ship?” This gives you the feeling that there are real people behind this interaction, not some unfeeling computer.
4. Panera Bread
In an era where people want their food faster and customized to their liking, a few shops stand out for their fresh approach to e-commerce. Panera Bread’s website has always been chock full of information, including nutritional information, a carousel of delicious food imagery, and a listing of the soups of the day. But the addition of their online Rapid Pick-Up ordering system may very well turn them into your newest lunch addiction.
After choosing your pick-up time (in as soon as 10 minutes!), you can peruse their easy-to-navigate menu for your meal choice. They even allow each of their menu items to be highly customized. Once you’ve made your selection, you’ll see your order listed in the sidebar with a running tally of your bill. You can save your favorite orders and payment information for an even faster online checkout in the future. All that’s left to do is head down to your local store, where your order will be bagged and clearly marked in a special pick-up location. Goodbye, long lines!
And just in case your computer isn’t handy when hunger strikes, the Panera app extends full functionality to your mobile device for ordering on the go.
In an effort to continually expand and improve the user experience of coffee addicts worldwide, Starbucks offers the ability to order through their app with the Mobile Order & Pay system. Particularly handy on long road trips where you need to keep your caffeine levels topped out, your co-navigator can browse the menu, place a customized order and pay, and your order will be automatically sent to the nearest Starbucks or another location you choose. Voila! Your drink will be waiting for you at the drive-thru or regular pickup area inside.
One Thing to Avoid When Developing Your E-Commerce Site
A dark pattern is an element of a user interface that tricks the user into doing things, like buying insurance for a purchase or signing up for recurring bills.
Example: Have you ever signed up for a free trial, only to find out that in two weeks you’re automatically subscribed to an annual service costing $99.99? Burying these details in a sea of tiny type qualifies as a dark pattern. Also, something as simple as pre-selecting a box for buying an extended warranty is not a good practice.
While dark patterns are sometimes intentionally created, they can also be the product of poor design and planning. This means that will a bit of forethought, they can be avoided to create a better experience for your customers during the buying process, which may translate to happier—and repeat—customers in the future.
When it comes to creating an extraordinary e-commerce user experience, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s important to understand your target customers and give them an experience that matches their needs. Each of these companies do that perfectly, and it’s no coincidence that they’ve all experienced tremendous growth in the past few years. If you take the time to focus on creating exceptional user experiences, you’ll certainly reap the rewards.