Your website lives a rough life. Day in and day out, people you’ve never met visit and make a snap judgement about the quality of the site, the quality of the product or service you offer, and the quality of the company behind it. Is it fair? No, but you can’t blame those anonymous visitors. They’re dealing with their own problems, first and foremost finding what they’re looking for among thousands of websites offering similar things. It pays to have a little empathy and help those people out with a compelling story and good online store user experience design, because they will reward you with sales.
A compelling story and good online store user experience design will reward you with sales.
You might have seen or heard the term “User Experience” used to relation to websites. If you’re confused about what it is, exactly, you’re not alone. It’s a hard term to define without controversy because it can be applied to so many things, from restaurants to cars to, yes, websites. In this article when I talk about good online store User Experience (or UX for short) I’m talking about how easy it is for people to accomplish the task they’ve come to your website to perform, and what emotional response the experience of accomplishing that task elicits.
To fill in the blanks further, if you are an artist or maker selling her products on the internet, a good online store User Experience means that:
- Your website communicates your unique story and the quality of your products clearly and immediately;
- Visitors feel like they are interacting with a company that is trustworthy;
- It is easy for visitors to find the products they’re looking for;
- The things that make your products unique and different from similar items from other vendors are featured prominently;
- And most importantly, visitors can buy your products easily and using a checkout method that they feel they can trust.
If one or more of these conditions aren’t up to the visitor’s expectations, they will render their judgement swiftly and mercilessly with a click on the Back button.
Losing users to the Back button doesn’t just cost you sales, it costs you your Google PageRank score.
Losing users to the Back button doesn’t just cost you sales, it costs you your PageRank score with Google. Google pays attention to which sites users click on on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), and what they do next. If people tend to click on a site on the SERP and then hit the back button to “bounce” back to the SERP, Google makes note of that bounce and infers that what that site is offering isn’t what people want. And that means a demotion.
To keep visitor’s fingers off the Back button, you need to establish Trust and Uniqueness.
Trust means clear product photos, an attractive, professionally-designed site that matches your brand works properly on all types of devices, and clear pricing and sales policies. The physical retail analogy is that people tend not to want to shop at places that are dirty, have disorganized piles of products everywhere, and suspicious water stains on the ceiling. A site that spends time to design a good online store User Experience, on the other hand, is like a well-lit showroom with friendly, knowledgable staff who make sure the visitor knows exactly what they’re getting when they make the purchase.
Uniqueness is a little fuzzier. I can almost guarantee that you are not the only person in the world selling the type of product that is in your store. But you are the only person in the world selling that product made using the process, materials, technique, and philosophy that you are. The visitors who become your customers are the ones who feel a kinship, a resonance, with your unique story, but they’ll only get there if you put that story in front of them.
You are the only person in the world selling that product made using the process, materials, technique, and philosophy that you are.
You chose to make your products the way you do, and to build your business the way that you have, for specific reasons, and those reasons are your business’ story. Your story is an indispensable piece of a good online store User Experience, and that story is what will do most of your selling for you. The cliché that people buy lifestyles and not products is actually true for most goods and services, and especially true for hand-made products. People want to feel that they are being connected to something bigger, more meaningful, when they buy something. It might be that their purchase supports the revival of a lost traditional art form, or that it supports local craftspeople and local businesses, but it will be the differentiator that triggers their purchase.
This might sound phony or exploitative, and if the story your business promotes is exaggerated or false, then it is phony and exploitative. Fortunately no exaggeration is necessary. Whatever your vision for your work and your business is, that is your story, it is yours alone, and it will resonate with your customers. All you need to do is make sure they can hear it.