11 Best Practices for eCommerce Homepage UX

Every website is unique in one way or another. However, there are certain things that every eCommerce homepage should absolutely have. We gathered a list of 10+1 things that, in our experience, every successful front page has in common. If you notice that your company’s homepage lacks any these, then don’t worry, since we’ve included not only justifications, but also tips on how you can adopt these techniques yourself!

1. User-Friendly Navigation

Nothing screams outdated web design like a monolithic navigation bar, filled with endless levels of hierarchy. This part of your website, often over-looked in terms of CRO, can be actually quite vital part of a positive customer experience. For example, watch retailer Saat&Saat managed to decrease bounce rates and increase conversion rates just by simplifying their menu structure!

In most cases, successful navigation structure is built to minimize the visitor’s “cognitive load”. Visitors create a mental image of the site’s hierarchy and message importance in just 2.5 seconds. Make navigational choices and paths short, logical, and don’t try to reinvent the wheel with category naming or site hierarchy.

2. An Omnipresent Search Bar

Regardless of how well you execute your site navigation, you can always support it with a solid search box. Don’t stress yourself trying to get to Google’s level immediately. Start small and build up the functionality, keeping these two metrics in mind:

  • Precision is the percentage of retrieved search results that are relevant.
  • Recall is the percentage of all relevant results that the search system actually retrieves.

One excellent way of improving your built-in search engine is to track what people search and where do they actually navigate. Make sure that these things meet! Another easy way to improve is to make sure that your top grossing products are easily searchable, or at least get higher up in the results of any (semi-)relevant searches.

Eventim UK has made their top navigation super simple: browse either by event type or location. The search bar is clearly visible throughout their site.

3. A Shopping Cart That Remembers You

You likely already have your shopping cart clearly visible throughout your site, and the cart/basket icon has a fool proof design, right? Good. What most online stores lack though, is a cart that would save whatever items you’ve placed in there even if you leave the site. Visitors want to put items in a basket to check out totals between different stores, or maybe they’re still in the dreaming phase of a customer journey — whatever the reason is, we know that this behavior exists. In fact, the average shopping cart abandonment rate is 68.63%. By keeping shopping carts “dumb”, or self-emptying, companies are practically shooting themselves in a leg by driving potential customers away. If I have 10 or more items in two different online store’s baskets, and one of them still has them after a week while the other doesn’t, the former is in a much stronger position to receive my purchase.

Remember that you don’t have to require visitors to create an account and sign-in for a shopping cart to remember them. Be it with cookies or localStorage, it can be done easily enough. There will be other opportunities — such as the check-out — where you can (with better incentives) guide people to make an account.

4. Rotating Carousels (of Doom?)

Sliders or carousels are a familiar sight on any eCommerce site regardless of the industry. However, lately they have been seen as a thing from the past, many experts questioning their function and effectiveness. And rightly so, since most of them are just poorly executed and never tested. But if you (or your boss) really want to keep a carousel on your homepage, our PM Riikka has a solid tip on how to make the most of it:

5. Personalization of Everything

This should be a no-brainer these days. However, recent study revealed that only one fifth of online businesses utilize personalization for conversion rate optimization. This is a shockingly low number, considering these two facts:

Whether just simple segmentation or hardcore individualization, personalization is practically a guaranteed to provide a positive ROI. If you’re just starting out, you first need to determine what kind of personalization is right for your site. If you’ve already done some personalization, but want to take it to the next level, then we have a handy guide for eliminating the guesswork from the equation.

6. Showcase Your USPs and Campaigns

Harvard Business School’s professor Theodore Levitt wrote back in 1986 that “Differentiation is one of the most important strategic and tactical activities in which companies must constantly engage”. This advice has only become more valuable during the era of online business, where (price) competition is fierce and consumers have an easier time than ever comparing brands and products.

Do you offer free shipping, a money-back guarantee, discounts or coupons? Do you have a campaign going on for a specific product (category)? Whatever it is, make sure that everyone sees it. All of these are great ways to boost homepage conversions as well as to increase the AOV (Average Order Value) in general.

A prime example from Finnair: first picture on the homepage, a clear value proposition, and the CTA has a sense of urgency.

7. Social Proof — Go On, Brag a Little

The homepage is by far the most crucial place on your site to display social proof. Whether it’s the logos of your most recognizable clients or better yet, actual quotes from them, you won’t have to shun giving them a place in the spotlight. People actually care about them (although they might not admit/realize it). As Wikipedia puts it:

“Social proof, also known as informational social influence, is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation. This effect is prominent in ambiguous social situations where people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior, and is driven by the assumption that surrounding people possess more knowledge about the situation.”

In plain English, people are influenced by other people’s actions. If your company or a product has been featured in the news, it’s good practice to link to those articles as well. Again, go with the publisher’s logo (e.g. Wired, VentureBeat, and so on) and make sure it links to the actual article.

8. Sharing Is Caring

Social media buttons have two different functions. First of all, you should have social media platform icons linking to your profiles. Usually companies tend to hide those in footers, but is okay to have them on top of the page too.

Secondly, you should at least experiment with sharing buttons too, starting from your front page offers. And I say experiment, because those buttons aren’t always guaranteed to give you any benefits — in fact, in some extreme cases they can even have a negative impact. For more about that and other data-backed tips regarding social media buttons, read CoSchedule’s aggregated guide.

9. Transparency Is the New Black

Your company’s contact details should be available on the homepage. Hiding streets addresses or phone numbers behind multi-level navigation makes the business seem unapproachably corporate at best, shady at worst. You don’t have to display everything here (e.g. if you have multiple offices, just show HQ on front page), but the basics, especially email and phone number, should be easy enough for any casual browser to find.

10. Test, And Then Test Again

As with any website optimization, whether small or big tasks, iterative testing is the only way to make sure that what you’re doing is actually the right thing to do. Passive tracking of statistics, lack of hypotheses or even worse, failing to see the big picture — the pitfalls of poor testing are many. However, when iterative testing is executed right, the results are well worth it.

Whatever you decide to test, make sure that you keep the process iterative. Continuous improvement and learning simply makes sense: do you really think that A/B testing between two different options really gives you the best answer, when there can be literally as many options to test as you can imagine (and your web dev team deliver)? Make smart, iterative testing part of your eCommerce toolbox, because it’s one of those rare things that brings value all across the board.

11. BONUS: Start Thinking Mobile First

Whatever industry you’re operating in, your customers are using mobile. Chances are they’re at least browsing your site on a mobile device, and increasingly more often also making the purchase through the mobile site. The importance of mobile visitors for your business is only going to grow — that’s a fact.

Responsive design is fairly easy, but also a very effective way to start addressing the mobile audience properly. To get you started, we’ve compiled a nice infographic called 6 Things You Can’t Ignore When Optimizing for Mobile vs. Desktop. Go have a look!

And there you have it, 11 eCommerce homepage best practices that everyone should implement. Albeit these are very UX focused, it should be noted that all of these can have a massive impact on the overall Customer Experience as well.

Do you think we missed anything? Please leave a comment below and let us know.

Tags: CRO, Frosmo Friday

Originally published at frosmo.com on April 19, 2016.