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9 tips for optimizing your site or app's shopping experience

Jennifer DeRome  |  November 20, 2018

The holiday shopping season is here. Internet retail has transformed what was once the frantic Black Friday shopping spree to an entire month of increased sales. In 2017, total shopping revenue for November outperformed that of December. According to Shopify, internet sales this holiday season are projected to eclipse $12 billion, leaving retailers with an opportunity to delight both new and current customers with a great holiday shopping experience. As the season kicks into full festive swing, consider these 9 tips to further optimize your site or app for holiday shoppers.

1. Spread the holiday cheer!

The holidays can be a fun and festive season—they can also be a little overwhelming. Welcome customers with holiday cheer from the moment they arrive on your site or app, but don’t overdo it. Too much holiday cheer on a first impression may send customers searching for a more subdued experience.

How to do it

A quick and easy way to know if you’ve been too liberal with the tinsel is run quick, first-impression tests on home pages, landing pages, ads, and marketing emails.

2.  Include the dates for every promotion that you run

The holiday shopping season is filled with a dizzying number of sale options for shoppers. With sales starting well before Black Friday, it’s easy for consumers to mix up the various sale dates and times—and risk missing out on a great deal.

How to do it

Include the holiday, dates and times for every promotion you have. Customers need a crystal-clear understanding of what they can buy at discounted prices, and how long they have to decide if it’s the perfect gift. And don’t forget about shipping! Make sure customers know exactly when their purchases will arrive and whenever possible provide detailed tracking information.

3. Increase shopper interest with A/B tests

The success of your holiday sales depends a lot on how shoppers perceive promotions. Site or app design, ads, and email campaigns all have the potential to entice—or repel—potential customers. It’s important to understand how customers will perceive holiday sale promotions.

How to do it

Do A/B and comparison tests on your upcoming holiday copy and designs – even if they’re only in prototype form. By running A/B tests, you’ll be able to tell which content will lead to more purchases. The more testing you do, the more you’ll learn about your site or app, and the better your sales numbers will be!

4. Make it easy for holiday shoppers to find answers

Holiday shoppers are typically overwhelmed. So it’s important for them to easily find answers when they have questions about shipping, returns, gift wrapping, gift cards, and general customer service inquiries. Shipping surprises often lead to cart abandonment during the holiday season. Ensure that your site or app clearly communicates shipping costs and delivery dates.

How to do it

Conduct user tests on your shopping experience and analyze how long it takes test participants to complete each task. We recommend that you have participants try to find specific information. For example, have participants try locating information such as estimated shipping and delivery information, return policies, gift card/wrap options, contact info, and store hours.

5. Include the essential elements on your product pages

At UserTesting, we’ve heard from thousands of users that product details are among the most important element in making a purchase. They consistently list the following product information and elements as essential when making a purchase:

  • Product description, with listed bullets (not paragraphs)
  • Sizing chart
  • Ratings and reviews
  • Multiple images, with the ability to zoom in
  • The original price, the final price, and the amount a user will save

How to do it

Conduct a user test to review your product page, and ask them to identify each of the elements above. Don’t forget to ask if there’s anything else that they’d like to see there as well. Update your product pages to include any missing information.

6. Optimize for an omni-channel experience

This year, Salesforce predicts that shoppers will purchase more via mobile than any other device. But that doesn’t mean retailers should focus only on mobile experiences. Many shoppers may start their holiday shopping journey via mobile but complete their purchases in-store or via desktop. Retailers need to be sure that the experience is seamless across all platforms.

How to do it

Run tests on desktop, mobile, and tablets to ensure a seamless and enjoyable experience. Be sure that you’re optimizing for a wide range of devices, operating systems, and browsers. And don’t forget to test for accessibility for users with disabilities—they deserve a great shopping experience, too!

7. Appeal to shoppers outside your target demographic

Outside of the holiday season, you’re probably focused on a target demographic. But when the holidays roll around, companies have the opportunity to draw in new customers—potentially ones outside the target demographic.

How to do it

Help guide new customers by setting up easy-to-find gift guides, clear navigation, and a clean design. Run user tests with a different demographics and ensure that your site or app is accessible for people with disabilities.

8. Test the shopping process—start to finish

While you may have tested different areas of your site or app—like the shopping cart—it’s important to look over the shoulder of a user as they go through the entire process. Everything from researching products, shopping, and checkout experience. By observing the whole process, you’ll see where your users get stuck or confused and have a better sense for the entire shopping experience.

How to do it

Set up a dummy shopping account and use a real credit card to have users complete the shopping flow from start to finish ( just remember to not process those orders). You could also run “stick-of-gum” testing, where you have a user purchase something very inexpensive and compensate them for the purchase, as well as their test.

9. Prepare for next year—start testing competitors now

It’s never too early to start preparing for next year’s holiday season. One of the best ways to gauge how your shopping experience compares is to conduct studies on competitor brands.

How to do it

Start working on improving next year’s shopping experience by seeing what worked—and what didn’t—for both your company’s experience and that of your competitors.

Leverage human insights for a better shopping experience, all year long

The holiday shopping season is a great time to gather human insights on some of the busiest shopping days of the year. But don’t stop there. Gathering continuous human insights throughout the year will help retailers build a consistent brand, earning consumer’s trust and purchases. Keep your customers at the center of every business decision, no matter the season, and you’ll discover the gift that keeps on giving—happy customers.

Want to learn more?

To learn how UserTesting can help you understand your customers through on-demand human insights, contact us here.

About the author:

Jennifer is a Senior Content Strategist for UserTesting. When she's not dreaming up new ways to connect with audiences, you can find her traveling around the world or enjoying a glass of wine with friends.