The ten things every retail website should have for Christmas

In case you hadn't noticed, Christmas is looming large and many retailers are hoping that they will see a massive boost in sales in this make-or break season. Never before however, has the world of e-commerce been so important for retailers. Guy Redwood, MD of market research and usability consultancy SimpleUsability, shares his top tips on the simple things every online retailer needs to have on its Christmas list.

All retailers worth their salt know that their online presence must be every bit as fulfilling and satisfying an experience as a visit to a bricks and mortar store. At no time is this more important than Christmas when customers are scrambling to search out bargains online and worrying about getting them delivered in time to tuck under the tree.

At SimpleUsability we have spent ten years using specialist, cutting-edge technologies such as eye tracking, to capture conscious and unconscious behaviours of people, watching how and why they buy what they do - whether browsing online or walking around live retail environments.

We found that there are many simple things that every retail website can do to ensure the best consumer experience possible. Here are my top ten dos and don’ts that every multichannel retailer can put in place and that won’t require extensive redevelopment:

• Don’t cover your tracks

A clear strategy for handling post-purchase worry about delivery is paramount. Users want websites that allow them to check the status of their order. If you are using a third party, make it clear who the third party is so that the shopper can chase the delivery agency directly. This also means any problems are more likely to be blamed on the delivery company than the retailer.

• Inspire confidence in delivery

On the ordering or checkout screens, make clear reference to your success in handling high demand over previous Christmas periods to establish a reputation as a company that works hard to get orders delivered on time. Support this with positive customer comments.

• Add a last post

People infer value in something that has limited availability – so set some last order deadlines or stock levels to encourage purchasing decisions in your direction. Similarly add in major 'last order dates' in the same way Royal Mail list its last posting dates for various parts of the world.

• Steer and suggest ideas

Our usability research suggests consumers are more likely to make a purchase when there are fewer decisions clouding their minds. It’s a good idea to help buyers through subtle narrowing, i.e. by suggesting products suitable for the season or that would be good gifts.

• Keep tabs on product placement

People will invariably research and compare products across many retailers, so refrain from moving things around on your website as it will confuse and frustrate people trying to find them on their return. Always keep the user journey as simple as possible.

• Don’t go for style over substance

Big, shiny photos and images with no call to action are a source of frustration. There is nothing worse than featuring great products in glossy images, but with no links that allow the user to purchase the particular product being displayed.

• Avoid ‘Sold Out Sorrow’

There is nothing more annoying than finding ‘Out of stock’ items. Make sure that if it is the end of the line for certain products that the website is reflects this. Ensure you regularly clean it up so users aren’t becoming frustrated and don’t forget to let them know if it will be back in time for Christmas delivery.

• Keep it simple

Don’t bog the users down with too much text. Make it short and snappy, or bullet point those important lines.

• Show off your reviews

Obviously users aren’t able to touch and feel the products online; our research shows that they fall to customer reviews for feedback. Don’t tolerate an empty review section; make an effort to get some feedback for every product.

• Check your search

If users are searching for products from publications then make sure all the variations of the naming of that product are returning results. There’s nothing more tedious than manually searching the website for a specific product.

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.