Back to Basics: Three Fool-Proof Ways to Enhance the Online Shopping Experience

Alison O'Brien By Alison O'Brien | 09 Jan 2020

Australian online shoppers have high expectations, not only do they expect affordable prices, but they also want speed, convenience and security.

With the holiday season just around the corner, a simple, quick and frictionless shopping experience is where battles are fought and won. And it’s often the simplest factors that have the most impact. Clunky site navigation, long load times and poor mobile optimisation all contribute to a negative customer experience and can detrimentally impact sales.

In fact, PayPal’s 2019 mCommerce Index found that 20 percent of Australian consumers have abandoned a purchase or payment because the site didn’t work for their mobile devices. In today’s competitive online market, losing one-fifth of potential customers can be devastating to the bottom line.

In creating the best customer experience possible, online retailers must optimise speed, convenience and security for shoppers. Regularly revisiting the basics can make a big difference in the competitive e-commerce landscape.

1. Speed – The more you serve, the more you make

The ability to shop quickly online is one of the main benefits compared to shopping in-store and is an important factor to consider when designing the online experience. A smooth and fast shopping experience is key to driving customer satisfaction and ensuring return visits. Before customers even have a chance to make it to the checkout, load times impact how long they’re likely to stay on a site. This is amplified by the fact that Aussie customers enjoy more innovative shopping experiences, including augmented reality, shoppable videos, and visual search (where users can upload a picture of a product and find similar items for purchase), which are becoming increasingly popular.

However, if businesses want to take advantage of these technologies, they need their pages to load fast and offer a seamless experience. PayPal’s 2019 mCommerce Index: Trends Report found 39 percent of Australians said ‘search results taking too long to load’ would diminish the value of visual search, while over half said ‘video buffering’ would make shoppable video a disappointing experience.

Major sales events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Boxing Day encourage a high volume of browsing and shopping, which can also contribute to slow loading times and unhappy customers, putting extra pressure on online merchants at a time when speed is vital.

Follow some basic steps to ensure your website’s speeds are up to scratch – from the browsing experience on your site to checkout and payment processes:

  • First, ensure the navigation of your site is simple and there are not many pop-ups on your page;
  • Make sure the checkout is quick – simplify the transaction process to a single page;
  • Regularly review your service provider and plan to make sure it can handle high up times during peak sales periods;
  • Shop your site yourself – this way you can see how long it takes to select and purchase from your store and identify areas that may need improvement.

2. Convenience – Making shopping as easy as possible

Today’s shoppers are tech-savvy and expect to move seamlessly between shopping and check out – the less clicks your shopper has to make, the better. A checkout page that isn’t mobile-friendly can lead to frustration and shopping cart abandonment.

Making your site is mobile friendly is not just a choice, it’s a business imperative. PayPal’s 2019 mCommerce Index revealed that 73 percent of Australian consumers use their mobile devices to make purchases. In addition, consumers are shopping via mobile from just about everywhere – over a third said they do it while in bed; 12 percent said they use their mobiles to make purchases in the bathroom, and 16 percent said they do it while they are out and about with family and friends. Customers love the convenience mobile shopping enables, so it’s critical your site is mobile friendly to create a great experience.

Make the checkout process simple and ensure your customers can safely and quickly store their delivery data and preferred payment option. In terms of setting up a shopping account, focus on getting the balance right between data collection and an unobtrusive payments process.

Forcing users – especially first-time users – to sign up for an account can be counter-productive. Trying to collect too much data can result in customers looking elsewhere. Offering a guest checkout is convenient and saves time, and if your customers have a great shopping experience first time around, they’ll see the value in signing up to an account when they return.

3. Security – Establishing trust in your business

The ACCC’s Scamwatch found Australians lost $308,639 to online shopping scams in October alone. Customers are more wary than ever and will avoid transacting on a site they think looks unsafe.

If a website doesn’t provide adequate information about privacy, terms and conditions of use, dispute resolution or contact details, a customer will likely think twice about making a purchase.

Simple methods that can help boost customers’ trust include:

  • Educate your customers on good online habits – for example, not saving card information on shared computers and ensuring the ‘lock’ is present in the website URL;
  • Clearly explain your security processes on your website;
  • Ensure you are compliant with all relevant regulations here and overseas

Importantly, make sure your site is hosted on a secure platform and your customers’ data is housed separately. Not only is keeping customer payment information on your platform bad practice, but it could land you a heavy fine if your systems are compromised. Under the Privacy Act 1988, a serious or repeated interference with privacy can result in a fine ranging from $420,000 to $2.1 million.

Instead, invest in a third-party payment platform that offers the highest levels of security for managing this sensitive data. In today’s competitive retail environment, a positive online shopping experience is vital for driving business success and return customers. By revisiting the basics, online retailers can make all the difference to their customers and improve their shopping experience – not only meeting but exceeding their customers’ expectations.

Alison O’Brien is the Head of Mid-Market and Small Business, PayPal Australia.

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