Humanising your eCommerce – the golden ticket to running a successful online store

In a world where our digital and real life experiences are becoming increasingly intertwined, people are demanding the convenience of online shopping yet increasingly craving human connection at the same time. Understanding this is the secret to creating an online digital experience that turns visitors in to customers and eventually passionate advocates and promoters of your brand. Here’s 5 ways you can humanise your online store and brand for the win.

Jen Jeavons
Founder / Managing Director
Humanising your eCommerce site

Getting traffic to your site is not enough

As many people find out the hard way, it’s not enough to generate traffic to your site (although that’s definitely important). In today’s super competitive market you can’t afford to spend on getting traffic to your site and then failing to convert and retain if you want your online business to succeed. The steps a lot of online store owners seem to overlook are the last three items in the below diagram. The magic is in closing the sale and then delighting your customer in order to have them coming back for more and telling all their friends.

So how do you do that?

1. Design for humans (User experience)

Human beings are complex, emotional creatures. Understanding this and designing a user experience that is sympathetic to humans and how they interact with your brand online is crucial. This is what’s known as “User Experience” design. It’s more than a pretty layout that matched your logo. And it’s more than having your products available for purchase online. Rather it’s a strategically crafted experience that takes in to account your users, how they want to interact with your brand online and what they want from your website. Here are some things to consider in terms of user experience on your site.

Know your user – Understanding who your users and customers actually are is the first key step in being able to provide a satisfying online experience for them.  What do they know about your brand before they hit your site? What devices do they mainly use? What’s their demographic? What are their problems and how can you solve them for them? What would stop them buying from you and how can you remove these blocks?

Designing for emotion – Humans tie emotion to recall of memories. You can use this to your advantage on your online store by creating an online experience that makes them FEEL something (and I don’t mean emotions like frustration!).  This can be done by making things playful and interactive on your site.  Incorporating subtle micro interactions (think playful load ins or hovers on certain elements) and emotive imagery in your videos and photos to pull people in to your brand story and make them remember you.

Unique design and the Law of Sensory Adaptation –  You know how you stop noticing the colour of the office wall because you see it all day every day? Or the way your house smells of your dog which people comment on but you don’t notice it any more?

This is because the human brain cleverly filters out repetitive or un-useful information in order to free up brain power for the important stuff. This is very handy to understand in terms of your website design. If you are using a template or layout that is super popular in your industry, popular stock images that people are used to seeing over and over again, or a logo that is not terribly unique and looks like everyone else in your industry then users brains are going to flag these elements as “repetitive and unimportant”. This is bad news for your online presence given people make a decision as to whether they trust and like you within the first 3 to 5 seconds of landing on your website. This also applies to copy – so beware of using boring, same-old same-old corporate or sales speak in your wording. People switch off. Make sure you’re using unique design elements and original, memorable copy to jolt them back to attention.

Understand that cognitive load tires humans – If the human brain has to try and decipher too many elements it loses focus and gives up. So if your site is using too many colours, fonts and different elements then it creates cognitive load for your users and they are more likely to hit close on the browser tab and go elsewhere. In eCommerce this is massive. Too many product options, confusing navigation, lack of detail in product descriptions and images – these all lead to cognitive load and hurt your conversion rate. So think about ways that you can help users make a confident purchase from your site. Functionality like live chat is a great way to help clear the way for customers to get the answers they need in a hurry in order to hit that “Pay Now” button with joy. Other ideas include rethinking and simplifying your product catalogues and navigation, having a great site search that really works well, clearly displaying shipping and returns information and implementing super clear product descriptions and images.

A chat study released by ApexChat revealed that live chat can increase online leads by an average of 40 percent

2. Invest in the technology

Your online store is essentially another shop front for your business. I’m always amazed at how some businesses will invest huge amounts in a physical shopfront experience (one that potentially has a limited exposure to the public in comparison to the reach that an online store can have) but invest very little time and budget in to their online store. Having a poorly designed and malfunctioning eCommerce site is the equivalent to having a shop which you don’t keep clean or take pride in with shop assistants that are rude, unhelpful and slow.

Your site needs to function to absolute perfection. It must be fast and secure so your customers are not left with a single doubt about purchasing through you. There should be no errors and no broken links so you look 100% legit and trustworthy. It’s a super competitive market out there so laying the foundation in this way is a critical step.  Reframe how you’re thinking about what this should cost and budget accordingly rather than continuing to throw good money after bad.

Humanising your eCommerce store for conversions

3. Make every interaction count

You are only as memorable as your last interaction – so make it count! Studies show that 60% of consumers are less loyal to a brand after JUST ONE bad experience with the company’s website.  So think of ways that you can improve each interaction with a customer. It starts with making sure your site performance and user experience is rock solid. But beyond that it might be using customer data to personalise their orders and your communications with them or a personal phone call if things have gone wrong to let them know you’re on to it. In every way possible strive to make the experience awesome, memorable and personal for your customers.

4. Stay in touch

How many times have you purchased from an online store and never heard from them again? Given it’s five times cheaper to market to someone who has purchased from you before than to someone brand new it is crazy to not be reaching out to existing customers regularly. Reaching out post purchase via email and ask for feedback or reviews is a great way to keep customers engaged with your brand. Woocommerce has plugins like Follow Up Emails and Review for Discount which will allow you to create personalised emails that go out to customers at intervals post purchase asking for feedback and product reviews in return for a discount on their next purchase.  This is a great way to automate the process of ensuring ongoing customer communications after purchase and increasing engagement and satisfaction. Other ways include ongoing email marketing to your mailing list and keeping your social media channels moving with current content and stuff that adds value for your followers.

Jen Jeavons Pixel Palace

5. Humanise your brand

This one is a hugely overlooked strategy that wields immense power in terms of marketing and conversion for your online store. We all love the convenience of online shopping but we also really want to buy from brands that we feel a “connection” to.  Being “human” with your brand means showing vulnerability and opening up. It means maintaining an open conversation and honesty about where things are at and where you’ve come from. And it means being able to admit when you’ve stuffed up and talk about how you’re going to do better next time. Being vulnerable creates connection. Connection creates emotion. Emotion creates recall of your brand.

Another way to humanise your brand is by showing genuine character in your brand personality. So things like speaking like a real person, using a conversational tone of voice and using real photos of real people in your business create authenticity and character that’s super relatable.

A great way to do this is by putting a person front and centre in your messaging.  “Founder First” creates a personal element to your brand and give your customers an opportunity to feel like they are buying from a person they like and relate to – rather than some big profit hungry corporation that doesn’t care about them. We all want to hear from the people behind the brand. Think about it – no one really wants to read a mission statement from Tesla. But we’re all super keen to read a blog post from Elon Musk himself. So be brave and put yourself and your story out there. Inspire people with your “why” in your business so they understand why you do what you do and want to join you on your journey.

In the end, humanising your online store is about curating an experience of your brand online with a focus on how you want your customers to remember you. Speak to your customers needs and emotions and you’ll be turning them in to raving fans and amazing advocates for your brand.

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