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How user
experience testing
can detect customer
experience friction
in e-commerce

Author: Shane Schick

If you saw that a poor customer experience led a frustrated shopper to walk out of your brick-and-mortar store, you might run after them to see how you could redeem the situation. In a digital-first world, it's even more important to do the same before friction gets in the way of e-commerce sales. User experience testing can help you understand frustrations your customers may have.

Friction in the e-commerce customer experience

Scientists define friction as the resistance to motion of one object moving relative to another;1 in a business context, it represents anything that prevents a customer from doing what they want or need to do. In a physical store, for instance, you prevent friction by making it easy to find products on the shelves, by having store associates close by to answer questions and by having enough cashiers so no one's waiting in a long line.

The potential areas of friction in e-commerce may not be as obvious, especially if you don't consider where it fits into the overall digital customer experience (CX). Long before a customer clicks "buy" on a website, for instance, they will go through a variety of steps that need to be welcoming, simple and seamless. That's why the first step in bolstering CX in e-commerce should be a journey mapping exercise, where you think through what it takes for a fictitious example of a representative customer (or persona) to do business with you.

As you map the customer journey, keep asking yourself, "What could possibly go wrong?" The answers will tell you what friction in e-commerce looks like. This could include:

  • Website design: This is akin to a customer walking into a physical store and beginning to browse. Make sure visitors can quickly and easily find the products and services they want to explore. This goes beyond ensuring pages aren't cluttered or the text isn't too small. It also means ensuring you have appropriate site speed as pages load, that customers can easily check inventory and that details around pickup or delivery information are clear.
  • Ordering: Customers in a physical store might use a shopping cart or fill up a basket by picking items by hand. In e-commerce, it should be just as fluid to add items and customize orders by size or other variables. Chat tools should allow customers to connect with your team to confirm availability and to assist in areas that aren't immediately intuitive. Accessory products that might complement a purchase, or related items that might bring value to a customer, should be served up as automatic recommendations at relevant moments.
  • Purchasing: A cashier might smile in recognition when a regular customer approaches with their shopping cart. Make sure your e-commerce experience does likewise by allowing repeat shoppers to easily log in with their email address and by integrating the purchase with their account history. New customers should be given the option to create an account or continue as a guest so they don't feel their experience is being interrupted. Offer multiple payment options to ensure customers can choose their preferred method.
  • Fulfillment and service: Customers may not want to wait long periods to get at their purchases, which is why flexible shipment or pickup options are always appreciated. If products are being shipped, empower them with tools to digitally track their orders. You'll need to continue supporting them long after those products arrive, though, with the ability to ask questions, register complaints or deal with troubleshooting through multiple channels. Strive for maximum convenience, including the ability to complete a return process online or in an app, and then dropping a product off at a store.

User experience testing, or CX testing, can help improve e-commerce experiences

The efforts you make to improve the e-commerce experience can be coupled with ongoing monitoring and analysis to identify where and when friction is popping up. Some tell-tale indicators include:

  • An increase in shopping cart abandonment rates
  • A rise in questions and complaints to your contact center
  • A drop in overall site traffic

Don't rely on those signals alone, however. While it has become increasingly used by security professionals, user behavior analysis is a great way to see what customers are doing—or not doing—when they visit your site.

As you make improvements, meanwhile, think about how you can A/B test for friction. Introducing two different versions of a product landing page, for instance, or more than one iteration of a "progress bar" on your e-commerce pages, will show if you're reducing friction or making it worse.

Beyond lost sales, a poor e-commerce experience can lead to negative feedback on review sites, social media or other channels where customers connect with each other. It can also mean more inventory left sitting around and, perhaps worst of all, more business that goes to your competitors.

The goal should be to establish continuous performance monitoring that studies for e-commerce friction holistically. Taking a break/fix or piecemeal approach won't work because even if there's friction in one step of the e-commerce experience, it will likely affect many or all of the others.

Fortunately, calculating return on investment (ROI) for e-commerce CX improvements is easy. Take out the friction and you'll see customers buying more, more often. They'll be more likely to leave positive reviews or testimonials. Revenue can increase as the costs to acquire and keep new customers go down. In other words, there will be less friction between you and the long-term success of your company, too.

Discover how Verizon can help you achieve an improved digital CX by blending human and artificial intelligence.

LiveScience, https://bit.ly/3oaDCmY.