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As digital commerce continues to evolve, standards for user experience are on the rise. Why? Technology that creates personalized, seamless customer experiences (CX) across channels keeps raising the bar.
In fact, in a survey of more than 8,000 B2C and B2B buyers around the world, 73% said just one really good experience with a company raises their expectations of other companies. That's great news for companies who are already providing extraordinary experiences, but for the many that aren't, this poses a new set of challenges.
One thing customers expect when visiting a company's website is to find what they need - and fast. And if they can’t, they’ll leave. That’s the last thing you want.
Whether they're looking for a specific product, information on your service offerings, or user reviews to help them make a buying decision, ease of access is essential.
But many websites fall short when it comes to helping customers find what they're looking for. Some even (unwittingly) make the process more difficult. We're sharing tips for improving your website navigation and search to improve product discovery, enhance user experience (UX), and stand out against the competition.
Digital Buying Experiences Customers Want
It's hard to overstate the influence a great experience can have has on your customers. Salesforce found that for 89% of B2B buyers and 83% of B2C shoppers, experience matters as much as what a company sells. What's more, they found that access to information is the most influential factor in a buyer's perception of a company.
With more and more B2B buyers making purchases independently, you can no longer rely on your reps to make up for short comings on your website. In fact, 57% of B2B buyers never speak to a rep before a decision is made. Even further, according to a recent Trust Radius survey, 87% of buyers want the ability to self-serve part or all of their buying journey, preferring remote to human interactions prior to making a purchase.
For customers to have a successful self-service buying experience, they need to be able to find the information or products they’re seeking with little-to-no friction.
How fast do customers want to find what they're looking for? 56% expect to find what they need in 3 (or fewer) clicks.
For B2C customers, evaluate your website to ensure they can locate products, shipping information, or your return policy effortlessly.
For B2B buyers, make it easy for them to locate product demo information, user reviews, sales rep or customer service contact information, and other important product details.
Of course, browsing isn’t the only way customers find information on websites. Personalized recommendations based on customer behavior have raised the bar, too. Salesforce found that 62% of all customers now expect such recommendations.
When your site helps customers find what they're looking for quickly, while generating hyper-relevant recommendations based on their behavior, you're providing the high-quality experience customers want. It sounds simple, but it's a challenge for many retailers and B2B vendors.
Too Often Company Websites Fall Short
Only 47% of customers get the level of personalization they expect, according to Salesforce.
A Baymard Institute study took an in-depth look at nearly 20 top ecommerce website's navigation and search experience, uncovering "more than 700 usability issues related to product lists, filtering and sorting." That's more than 700 ways to frustrate buyers.
Does your website deliver a poor-to-mediocre experience with long product lists and unhelpful filters? Below, we’ve highlighted three areas to make it easier for your customers to discover products.
Clear, Concise, and Consistent Site Navigation
Most sites have room to improve their navigation to deliver a better customer experience (CX). What can you do to make it easier for your customers to find what they're looking for?
Save your customers from a friction-filled experience by focusing on the 3 Cs of site navigation. Keep it:
Clear. Customers must recognize your navigation categories at-a-glance, so they can scan and select the products or information they’re seeking. Focus on your best-selling categories and most sought-after products to help customers get started. Try a visual nav to elevate customers’ experiences.
Concise. Don't throw every product that's on your site into your top-level navigation, and definitely don’t list out the SKUs. Combine products under thoughtful and recognizable categories.
Consistent. Establish a uniform format for your subnav, so customers understand the website’s organization and product selection.
Don’t forget - optimize for mobile. In the US 52% of total web visits are coming from mobile users. All too often, we come across a website’s navigation rendering poorly on mobile. Make the mobile user experience touch-friendly, leaving plenty of space for fingers and using larger fonts.
Improve Search and Category Filters to Narrow Options
If set up properly, Both on-site search tools and product category filters can spare your customers a lot of digging around, especially as your website grows in size and complexity.
Search driven by AI will return products based on the search terms your customers type in, and take into account similar or complimentary search terms.
It’s a good idea to clarify what users can search for by placing a suggestion in the input field. Like, “I’m looking for décor, furniture, gifts etc.,” or utilize auto-suggestion to help guide their search query. These hints help users get to the point and, minimize searching through multiple SKUS and products. Remember to keep it simple by using natural language, making it easier for users to find what they want.
Text search that compensates for spelling errors is a must, and voice search is convenient for your growing base of mobile customers. In addition, your site's chatbot or live chat should serve as a concierge to assist in product discovery.
Optimize search results:
Be mindful of the number of products listed in on your site's search results pages, so you avoid overwhelming your customers as they browse.
Don't expect customers to search by a precise product name or part number.
Empower product discovery with intuitive search functionality and smart filters, so shoppers can seamlessly narrow their search in the moment. Consider intelligent sorting to surface the most popular or sought-after results in each sub category first.
Another area to review when trying to make it easier to discover products is the sorting and filtering options on your product category pages. Standardized attributes like price, best sellers, and new arrivals, don't always make it easier (or faster) for customers to find what they want.
For example, Whereoware built a three-website multi-site for our client Creative Co-Op, to span their Creative Co-Op, Bloomingville, and Illume brands. Utilizing Optimizely’s Personalized Search + Navigation feature, the intelligent search returns personalized results based on keyword relevance, customer activity (like site browsing behavior), and suggesting complimentary products from all three websites, helping retailers discover products from all three brands from one search. See an example below:
Refine product sorting:
Create filters like price, product types, brand, season, date, or most popular, or create custom fields to suite your business.
Combine filters (like age group or color) with sorting options (like price low-to-high), to give customers a super personalized selection of items that match their needs.
Standardized attributes like price, bestsellers, and new arrivals, don't always make it easier (or faster) for customers to find what they want.
Improve your website's product sorting by guaranteeing the most relevant (or in-stock) products appear first. Spotlight base products at the top, while placing related items, such as accessories or replacement parts, below.
AI-Driven Product Recommendations Discovery
As visitors move around your site, they should see customized recommendations based on their browse behavior, as well as their search and purchase history.
Product recommendations (Customers also bought or you might also like) area great way to serve up products a customer is likely interested in buying - based on their own activity or other customers.
Product recommendations help customers find similar, popular, or complimentary products, without having to search through all the SKUs on your website. They save your customer time, ensure their experience is easy and enjoyable, and are a great way to cross-sell and upsell products.
The Creative Co-Op multi-site includes Optimizely On-Page Product Recommendations. This AI-driven engine leverages personal purchase history and site browsing behavior to serve relevant, new, and trending product recommendations. The Creative Co-Op multi-site, as shown below, provides product recommendations from Bloomingville, Illume, and Creative Co-Op without viewers having to navigate between sites.Read the full case study here.
Track Your CX Improvements
How will you know if your navigation upgrades are helping to increase conversions and sales? Determine which KPIs are most relevant to the changes you make, test, and evaluate their success.
For example, before implementing a new personalized product recommendation engine, a retailer might benchmark cross-sell and upsell numbers, then track the changes. On the other hand, a B2B vendor might compare product demo sign ups before and after implementing navigation improvements.
Use your metrics to continue to refine your search functionality and navigation over time. Not only does this enhance product discovery and make it easier for customers to do business with you, but it will also set you apart from your competitors.
Need help delivering a streamlined online experience that reduces friction, increases conversions, and gives you a competitive advantage?Get in touch to talk to a digital strategist about how we can optimize your website for a customer-centric and efficient buying journey.