8 Final User Experience Checks for Online Retailers This Holiday Season

Liam Burns
Written by Liam Burns
November 12, 2020

As online shopping continues to evolve, it’s ever clearer how consumers interact with brands and make purchasing decisions depends on the digital experiences you provide.

Expecting more consumers to shop from the comfort of their home to avoid the hassles and dangers of in-person check-out lines amid a pandemic, ecommerce digital teams need to meet consumer demand with an exceptional user experience. In 2019 alone, 1.92 billion people purchased goods or services online, resulting in 3.5 trillion U.S. dollars worldwide – and those numbers may spike in 2020.

How can you better prepare your online retail experience for this year’s high-traffic holiday season? Let’s dive into some final user experience checks before holiday shopping kicks off.

Do you need to update your user experience for the holidays?

While it’s predicted that online sales will make up 22% of total sales by 2023, it’s indisputable that 2020 has changed buying habits due to economic instability, social distancing guidelines, and more.

Consider the following 2020 shopping behaviors:

  • 22% of consumers compare prices more than normal
  • 21% of consumers say they’ll spend $300 less on fewer presents
  • Digital sales have grown between 24-35%
  • More than 84% of holiday growth occurs from a smartphone

Consumers are now spending more time than ever before online and are starting their online shopping earlier this year. With contactless shopping options available to alleviate health concerns, an exceptional user experience could be the difference between making a sale and losing one to a competitor.

By providing consumers with an enhanced user experience, you can capture their attention, persuade key audiences into converting, and increase your customer lifetime value (CLV). Thus, impacting your overall engagement and return on investment (ROI) during the holiday season.

8-point user experience holiday checklist for online retailers

With online holiday shopping trending big this season, digital teams are analyzing and updating their user experience to maximize potential conversions. Before the holiday season hits full swing, here are a few final user experience checks:

1.    Create an inspiring homepage design

While solving technical issues and monitoring site traffic, you might be wondering if updating your layout and homepage is worth the hassle before the holidays. However, on big holiday shopping events like Black Friday, your customers will have a sense of urgency. Shoppers are going to be looking for holiday promotions and incentives, so you need to highlight any savings with a user-friendly layout.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Intentionally place content blocks that highlight any specials
  • Bold color contrasts to draw attention to deals
  • Simple call-to-action buttons
  • One hyper-relevant promotion
  • Clear navigation with filtering options for users to find what they need

2.    Use captivating product descriptions

53% of online shoppers research multiple products before making a purchase decision. When your customers are looking for the perfect gift, they will need detailed product or service information to learn more about your offerings. The more details you’re able to provide around the holidays – features, specs, photos, reviews, etc. – the more confident people will feel about making a final purchase.

Your product descriptions are a great way to educate customers on your products and compel them to convert. Depending on the number of products or services you sell, consider updating your descriptions around the holidays to match the seller’s intent. When writing descriptions, think about the following elements:

  • Who is your customer buying this gift for? Describe how it fits their needs.
  • Why should your customer give your product as a gift? Include scannable benefits in a list format.
  • Why should your customers trust you? Promote reviews and any user-generated content to provide additional proof.

3.    Provide account options at checkout

The user experience during checkout needs to be seamless to avoid your customers abandoning their carts. What does your current checkout process look like? How many steps do people need to complete? To improve your conversion rate, it’s important to streamline the process into three simple steps: Product selection, cart review, and checkout.

For example, 28% of customers abandon their cart because they’re forced to create an account and make a profile. Instead, offer a “guest” and “create an account” checkout option. If they choose “guest”, ask the customer to build their profile after the purchase so you can continue to personalize their future brand experience.

4.    Offer multiple payment and shipping options

With customers being more financially responsible this holiday season, it’s important to offer choices. After all, you’re competing with mega ecommerce enterprises like Amazon, Walmart, Wayfair, and more. To meet customer expectations and accommodate last-minute shoppers, you will need to provide multiple payment processors and flexible shipping options.

While only 17.5% of online retailers offer free shipping, you can offer coupons to avoid the sticker shock and encourage customers to make the final purchase. You can also provide multiple shipping options so the customer can choose their timing.

When it comes to payment processors, PayPal has been growing in popularity, especially during the holidays due to its enhanced security features. With 346 million people using PayPal, considering offering it among common credit card options so your customer feels comfortable.

5.    Alleviate online security fears

Cyber threats and online fraud have increased by 30% in the past few years. While online shopping is safe under the right precautions, you may need to provide extra proof that your website offers a secure shopping user experience during the holiday season.

You can make your website more secure and put your customer’s minds at ease by doing the following:

  • Use anti-malware software and display their security badges from Norton, McAfee, etc.
  • Install SSL certificates to create a secure connection between your website and the customer’s credit card
  • Include reviews and social proof from past customers to provide real-time feedback
  • Keep your website up to date and run regular backups
  • Provide secure payment methods like PayPal and eWallet

6.    Reduce friction for mobile shoppers

Life has gone mobile and offering a responsive design is no longer a nice-to-have. It’s becoming even more crucial for digital teams to deliver a memorable mobile experience through each stage of the customer journey during the holidays. In fact, 62% of people are less likely to make a purchase with you in the future if they had a negative mobile experience. 

To improve the mobile user experience, include these elements in your development:

  • Testing: Test the entire mobile checkout experience on every system (iPhone, Google, Android, Windows, etc.)
  • Content: Develop educational and actionable content that compels the customer to learn more
  • Personalization: Offer an “other products you might like” section based on the customer’s browsing history
  • Speed: Provide a quick experience by testing your shop’s loading speed
  • Tap-friendly: Program all buttons and links to include the appropriate margins and size

7.    Deliver on responsive customer support

During the holidays, your customers are used to having in-person retailers answer questions and help make buying decisions. Since they will be missing out on that traditional experience, your website needs to imitate personal customer service through digital features.

Improving your customer service user experience not only builds trust and credibility with customers. Consider including the following:

  • Include a live chat feature for customers to speak directly to a customer service agent or AI-automated response for 24/7 support
  • Develop helpful content like how-to guides, videos, and photos that demonstrate your products in use
  • Display a frequently asked questions page to answer relevant inquires
  • Allow users to answer questions and read reviews regarding “fit” or “expectations” to help your customer get a clearer view of the product
  • Offer a “contact us” page that includes a form, email address, and phone number

8.     Provide a clear return policy

Shopping for other people can be challenging and gifters will often ‘swing and miss.’ Since your customers are shopping for their loved ones, there are going to be returns before and after the holiday. Your return policy should be crystal clear, easy to understand, and provide longer return windows to accommodate every type of holiday shopper.

To improve the user experience and reduce buying errors, provide a trustworthy return policy throughout the checkout process so customers feel confident making the final purchase. It can be displayed during the final stage of checkout in a modal and on a separate landing page for more details. Take it a step further by including a link to the return policy in your transactional confirmation and shipping emails.

Bolster user experience during the holiday season

While this year might look a little different for holiday shoppers, it’s more important than ever to fine-tune your online store’s user experience to boost your ROI and instill buyer confidence.

Before the shopping season is over, tackle the following tasks:

  • Simplify decision-making with an improved layout and product descriptions
  • Give your customers options to set up their accounts, pay, and ship products
  • Showcase your digital mobile experience with ease-of-use features
  • Implement safety measures to promote buyer confidence
  • Increase your customer service efforts and return process

Ready to boost your holiday conversions? Download Maximizing Conversions for Holidays: 7 Optimization Ideas from Leading Online Retailers to learn more.

Topics: Customer Experience, Ecommerce, Online Retail, User experience
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