2017 didn’t exactly get off to a roaring start for the UK’s high street retailers, with new year’s day footfall significantly down on previous years. In the face of this challenging environment, more retailers are looking to online for the growth they need. Next is a prime example, which announced an additional £10 million ring-fenced for digital marketing to bolster their online presence following their disappointing festive season performance.

Digital marketers should be celebrating this reallocation of budget to their departments, however, it comes with a catch. As more shopping takes place online, brands are finding themselves in a crowded market where differentiating themselves to consumers becomes more challenging.

Many are predicting that user experience (UX), will become the next big differentiator for online brands, but just how big of an opportunity is this, and how can digital marketers make practical changes to make the most of it?

Sizing the opportunity

Market analysts are very bullish about the opportunity presented by well-crafted UX for brands. Walker predicts that UX will overtake price and product as the key brand consumer brand differentiator by 2020, while Forrester is forecasting that even a 10% improvement in UX could deliver up to $1 billion in increased sales in some sectors.

Get to grips with the problem

Marketers are well aware of the problems that great UX can help to solve. Conversion rates and basket abandonment rates remain dismally low online compared to brick-and-mortar stores: ContentSquare data suggests that average conversion rates can be as low as 1.5%, compared to up to 20% in physical stores.

The rising popularity of mobile e-commerce compounds this problem: according to ContentSquare’s mobile e-commerce report, which analysed 300 million user sessions last year, sessions on mobile phones are 1.5 times shorter than on other devices, and 37% of those mobile sessions lasted less than one minute. Marketers need more than great branding and savvy advertising to maintain mobile shopping as an effective revenue driver.

UX is a way of reducing the ‘friction’ that these online visitors feel when visiting e-commerce websites, expanding the window of opportunity for brands to make a sale. Marketers can start by listening more closely to their product development peers to truly understand how their e-commerce channels work, and what changes are possible in what time frames.

Building your UX to-do list

As with many things, it’s best to start small. For example, according to ContentSquare data the exit rate for mobile users is 25% higher on the second page visited - put those pages under review and make sure they’re optimised for smaller screens and that the most important information to prospects is presented clearly.

This process of gradual improvement by A/B testing and optimisation is seen as the norm for most product and marketing optimisation teams, but there is a better way of doing things. A/B testing takes up time and energy, and there are ways to minimise the number of tests you do, making sure that those tests are delivering as much value as possible. Focusing on newer metrics such as scroll rate, hesitation rate and time before first click can really help draw attention to specific elements of a page that users struggle with. These data points can help minimise the amount of trial and error marketers and product managers have to go through.

If you cover these basics, you’ll find your share of returning customers will begin to improve as more people come to your product or service specifically because it is easy to use. Think about Amazon or Uber, where you can purchase a product in three clicks. These companies have simple interfaces which help the user complete the desired action as easily as possible: users are then more likely to return to the company’s product or service again if it stands out from the rest.

Measure your progress

This part is key. There’s no use persuading key stakeholders to invest in UX improvements if you’ve got little to show for it afterwards. Keeping track of your online conversion rate is a start, but it can be tricky to trace UX improvements back to improvements in conversion rates.

There are a range of new analytics tools on the market which can help measure UX more directly. Measuring things like the frequency with which the consumer interacts with the page, via clicks and mouse movements, the time before the first click, or click repetition, can help marketers understand on a deeper level what their users are doing on their site, and how that experience could be improved.

Content teams can spend huge amounts of time on creating beautifully designed hero images or blog content for the website, but are in the dark about whether users are actually engaging with them. These questions are difficult to answer with conventional analytics: newer tools such as zoning analysis and visual revenue attribution can help marketers by putting a monetary value on their visual collateral.

These improvements to UX are a small amount of upfront effort, but they will help your website offer an experience your users are more likely to remember, and more likely to return for.


By Duncan Keene, UK managing director at ContentSquare

GDPR Summit Series is a global series of GDPR events which will help marketers to prepare to meet the requirements of the GDPR ahead of May 2018 and beyond. Further information and conference details are available at http://www.gdprsummit.london/

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