It’s time to critique your Web site

While retailers continue to refine and upgrade their Web sites, have they made the buying experience easier for cus­tomers?

When Decision Direct Research’s 2007 post-holiday online survey results were compared to 2004 survey results, we found that many of the scores suffered a dramatic decrease. For instance, the percentage of respondents who said the Web site is well laid out and easy to shop decreased from 88% in 2004 to 60% in 2007. The percentage of respondents who agreed Web site offers are reliable and product search options are accurate declined from 86% in 2004 to 58% in 2007. Furthermore, the percentage of folks who agreed that sites offered detailed and accurate product descriptions dropped from 84% in 2005 to 58% in 2007. The percent­age of people who agreed the item matched online descriptions slid from 86% in 2005 to 55% in 2007.

Chip Heath, co-author of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, offers food for thought. “I have a DVD remote control with 52 buttons on it, and every one of them is there because some engineer along the line knows how to use that button and believed I would want to use it, too. People who design products are experts cursed by their knowledge, and they can’t imagine what it’s like to be as ignorant as the rest of us.”

Perhaps we have become so enamored with the technology that, in our effort to make the process enjoyable and easy, we have made many tasks more difficult to complete. Clicks have been added, registrations are lengthy, important information and instructions are no longer found above the fold, and home pages are crammed with so many products that the site can make visitors dizzy.

Most disturbingly, the percentage of survey respondents who believe Web sites offer an easy online checkout process dropped from 91% in 2005 to 57% in 2007. Isn’t this one of the issues we thought we had taken care of years ago?

The challenge for multichannel retailers is to focus on what customers want rather than what the design team wants. As you hurry toward the critical holiday shopping season, see how easy it is to shop on LL Bean’s site. How does your site compare? Ask customers and prospects what they think. Listening to customers and making even a few changes will not only save sales, it will increase your holiday revenue. 

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