Creating the perfect e-commerce website

Even the best designed websites throw up potentially deal-breaking obstacles for customers.

Question: What is a perfectly functioning e-commerce website? Answer: There is probably no such thing.

In business, we strive for perfection -- or at the very least we strive to make the absolute best of the resources at our disposal. And when it comes to operating an e-commerce website, what we really want to do is create an experience and architecture that maximises sales while also ensuring that we put as few obstacles as possible between the customer and the conversion.

But in even the best designed websites there is always room for improvement. Or to put it another way, there will always be customers with a solid and genuine intention to buy, who for some reason simply give up and leave.

And there can be lots of very good reasons why they choose to do so and some of these have absolutely nothing to do with design and functionality of the site. For instance, it may be that a customer abandons a shopping cart because he or she decides, at the last minute, that the money would be better spent on something else. However, sometimes the problem does very much lie with the site.

Now, generally speaking website designers know what they’re doing, but that doesn’t mean to say that they always get it right. For instance, navigation is fundamental but even today, 20 years after the birth of the World Wide Web, finding a particular product on a large, complex online store isn’t always easy.

But websites throw up other kinds of potentially deal-breaking obstacles. Just a few days ago I entered my credit card details in an online form and clicked the button saying ‘check details and submit’. At first I thought I’d linked to a blank page, but as it turned out I had to scroll up the screen to find the details of my purchases and the submit button. It was a simple glitch but one that could be costing thousands of pounds in lost sales. At the very least it was an obstacle.

These things happen, of course, and the reality of running a website is that you are -- or should be -- constantly improving the design and sorting out the glitches. But the question is: do you really know where the problems are? Do your customers bother to tell you or do they just bail out?

The feedback loop

One of the great advantages of digital live engagement is that it puts you directly in touch with customers who are experiencing problems. The behavioural analysis software that drives LivePerson’s engagement platform identifies customers who are showing signs of frustration, allowing you to offer assistance there and then.

And by talking to them at exactly the point when a problem has arisen you have an opportunity to carry out some on the spot qualitative research on how the site is performing and what the potential obstacles to conversion are. Or to put it another way, if a software or design glitch is confusing customers at the check-out stage, they will tell your agents and the problem can be fixed.

This is not an ad-hoc process. LivePerson’s Insights software allows you to systematically collect and analyse customer feedback, making it easier to identify genuine pain points and do something about them.

It’s all part of the quest for perfection.

Dustin Dean is vice president and general manager JAPAC and North America at LivePerson.

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