Understanding the customer's journey on your website

Customer interest and successful conversion depends on how easy it is to move through your site. A well designed customer journey is vital if you want to increase your conversion rate.
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Conversion rates depend heavily on the flow of your site. What is flow? It's how hard or how easy it is for a visitor to move through the site and acquire the information that he or she wants. Good flow has a number of characteristics. First off, it follows the 80/20 rule. This means that the website is giving the visitor information at least 80% of the time, while the visitor need provide information no more than 20% of the time. This should be true even on a heavy input site where a customer must have specific information to purchase specialised equipment. 

Poor web design, or poor business decisions become obvious if a customer must hunt and peck through a site, making various inputs in the hopes of finding what he or she wants, especially if the information required stretches beyond the customer's knowledge. This is an indication that someone has built a site that is convenient for the company but inconvenient for the customer.

A website should be no more complex than it has to be. It should never be loaded up with videos and widgets. Links should be easy to find. If videos are necessary, they should be easily accessible but not intrusive. It's a big mistake to have a video on the landing page that automatically starts running the moment the visitor arrives. This is rude, as you don't know the the visitors connection speed and it's doubly worse if the video is a sales pitch. Your company will seem like a group of hustlers, if the first thing a visitor sees is a sales pitch. Remember, one infographic is often better than an entire video.

Another way to smooth out the flow is to include mini calls to action, easy and reasonable steps, that move the visitor through the sales process where the major call to action, the purchase itself, is only the final step. The key to mini calls is the word “reasonable.” At no time should the visitor feel manipulated.

If you must present complex information, then do it as simply as possible. Use a format that is easy to understand and interact with. For example, interactive infographics are a great idea when it comes to adding items to shopping carts, calculating shipping or making a purchase. Speaking of shipping, let the customer know the shipping cost up front, very few things are as frustrating as only finding out the shipping cost at the last minute. Putting the cost up front makes it easier for the customer to stay within budget and helps minimise shopping cart abandonment.

Communication is the key to a successful ecommerce site. If a chat option is offered, make sure that it's with a knowledgeable representative who can actually help the customer, preferably without escalating the customer’s problem to some faceless bureaucrat up the chain of command. An outsourced rep who knows little or nothing about the business will drive customers away and create the impression that your company doesn't know what it’s doing.

Remember, online sales isn't like brick and mortar retail where a product is simply put on the shelf and the customer buys what he or she wants. Online sales is all about dialog. The company that makes the most sales will be the one that can demonstrate it cares about and wants to communicate with the customer. After all, the Internet is a communication medium. So, always respond quickly to customer communication, whether complaint, question or praise.

The customer’s journey through your site must be engaging. The more engaged the customer, the more likely he or she is to make a purchase.  That engagement comes from good content that is easily accessible, quality communication and a website that visibly places value on every visitor.

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