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eCommerce Tech Series - UX & CRO

We continue our eCommerce Tech Series with the UX Edition, which covers User Experience (UX) and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), UX Research, UX Design, and UX Implementation. 

In this episode, our team discusses user experience and conversion rate optimization. Plus, they offer key insights into the critical components of the UX process for eCommerce Development


Visit the Shaping eCommerce Channel on Youtube to watch our full eCommerce Tech Series.


Team Introductions (1:39)

Clara Shen - Head of UX & Design
Danuta Sęczkowska - UX Designer
Jared Shields - Solution Specialist & Project Manager
Tim Bucciarelli - Senior Manager, Digital Operations

What is User Experience (UX)

User Experience (UX) is a really broad term and basically covers any interaction that someone has with a product or service. So that service or product could be a website or an app. Or a physical object, a computer, a storefront, or a building. So, the term itself is really - any way that a person interacts or experiences your product. 

User Interface (UI) vs. User Experience (UX) Explained

I would say it's most often confused with User Interface (UI), which describes more of the purely visual aspect of a product or service or what it looks like. Obviously, there's a lot you can do with that. And a lot of that is influenced by the User Experience (UX) and user experience decisions. But, there are a lot of things that can be under the surface, which can affect a user's experience and, therefore, can affect how they perceive your brand. And so, user experiences are just a lot deeper, a lot more broad, and can cover any number of factors.

The User Experience of Physical Objects

I will refer to physical objects. I think the book, The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman is really interesting. He points to doors as an example, which are really easy to use. And here we need some descriptions, like pull or push, and the door affordance should be really easy to understand. The user shouldn't be thinking about what he needs to do. It should be easy to understand. He knows, "Okay, this type of door, I need to push or this type of door I need to pull." So for me, this is user experience. Like, it's something that you don't need to explain.

The User Experience of Star Trek and The Door

That's a great example to really break it down, and it's fun because it seems so simple on the surface - a door. Right. Okay. I can imagine, like the mechanism that you actually physically adjust. Is it like star Trek where it just opens, and it's a motion sensor? Or is it a push-down or a push button? Does the door squeak when you open it? Is it well cared for? You can really dig into all the minutia of the experience of that door, and it becomes a lot more interesting to me, anyway, to think through how can you optimize that experience for the person who is using it?

Defining Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a goal of many eCommerce businesses - user experience influences conversion rate to a great extent. Conversion rate is the number of conversions you have divided by the number of people who came to the site. Conversions can take many different forms.

For most eCommerce businesses, the conversion is a purchase on the site. But, it can also be capturing an email address through a newsletter subscription form, or it can be a certain trade-in form completed. The conversion can be whatever metric you're tracking to improve your business. The conversion rate is just taking that metric and seeing out of all the people that came to my site, how many of them are completing this goal that I need them to complete.

Improving the User Experience and Conversion Rate Optimization for eCommerce Clients

What's the process that we go through to help eCommerce clients improve user experience and conversion rate optimization? So I would say, the question often goes to a project manager or a client account manager first. 

At that point, it's already their job to start talking, to start asking the client, "Why do you want to bother with user experience? Just because you've heard of it as a term, it doesn't necessarily mean you as a company has thought deliberately about it.

"Okay, this is an approach I want to take with my business. I want to start prioritizing the user experience. I want to prioritize what my customer's frustrations are." I think it's really important to make sure the client understands - that's the purpose of user experience research. 

User experience research often doesn't yield the results they want if you don't have a very clear purpose at the beginning of why you want to embark on this journey? Is there some problem you've noticed? Did you have a really bad customer service call? Are you looking at your website and you feel, "This is really clunky, and I don't like it, and it's frustrating to use."

Those are all perfectly great reasons to start, but it's just important to start from a place of purpose, rather than just, "Oh, you know, I want to optimize the UX." But it's really difficult to do that if you don't have a problem in mind.

Conversion Rates and eCommerce Sales

Often we look at the most common conversion rate, which is the number of sales divided by the number of visitors. And obviously, that does give you the most information from a business perspective about revenue. About how well your business is doing.

But in other ways, it's not always going to capture how well your business is doing. Just because you have a high conversion rate really doesn't mean your business is doing better. If you had a low conversion rate, but you have way more users, you might have a better business day than on a day where you had a high conversion rate, but much fewer users. So the number itself can't tell you the whole story.

The Whole Story When it Comes to Conversion Rates 

That's the trick with percentages because if you have two visits to your website and they both result in sales, that's a 100% conversion rate. But when you're trying to make 500 sales a day, that's not particularly good. 

A lot of times users aren't visiting your website just to make a purchase. Maybe they have an account, and they want to update their information. Maybe they just want to browse, subscribe to your newsletter, or read some content. Or, they just landed for the first time, and they're most likely not going to make a purchase. But you can still start building towards that purchase. A lot of purchases aren't made on the first visit. And so again, that's why we recommend looking beyond just one conversion point, like the sale. 

Conversion points can be many different things. Making a sale is a conversion point, but it's not always the most revealing one. That's why we like to talk to our clients and really understand what problem they think they're having or what problem they think their customers are having, and you can turn that into a conversion point.

Should eCommerce Clients Prioritize User Experience?

Most clients don't come to us for user experience. They don't come with the request, "Do you have a UX person or UI person on your team? Usually, it comes in the form of, "Hey, we have this problem. What do you recommend for solving it? 

And if it's not a simple technical solution, then that's when the project manager or solution specialist brings in the UX team. But even then, you face some skepticism around it because a lot of clients have their own designer. Or they say, "Okay, well, I have this designer, and there's some thought going into the designs, so I don't need user experience." But often those designers are very good at making things look good, which is great. But like you said, you might have a door in front of you, but you need a little bit of extra guidance to know how to use it. (See Star Trek and The Door section above.)

Focusing on Those KPIs and ROIs

A lot of people like to focus on KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and ROIs (Return on Investments), and what am I going to get out of this? I wonder if one of the problems is that user experience seems kind of amorphous. They don't really know how they can measure or attribute this action to this particular user experience design. 

User Interface (UI) and Design

The other piece that I think is worth discussing is User Interface (UI) and design. I think that user experience somehow gets lumped in as kind of this, "Oh, we've got this creative director, or we've got this designer, so user experience is covered. So I think it is worth talking about these two elements. Maybe, how could we measure? Or is that really the point? How is it substantially different than this concept of design?

The UX Phase - A Practical Client Example

Maybe we can even go through a practical example. So, Clara, Danuta, and I are all working on a UX phase right now for a client. We're through the very early portions of it and are only now getting to the design phase. Up until this point, we've worked on a wireframe and prototypes to get the flow down - the ultimate goal of everything. So design doesn't even come in until we have that first foundational portion done.

Good UX Is Really Invisible

I think that good UX is really invisible because people can easily spot some really bad UX design, like process, errors, or process at checkout. But when user experience is really good, it should be invisible. So that's why some people don't think user experience is important because they don't see this as a separate element. Before we design something, we need to do a lot of research and create a lot of flows to make it intuitive and easy to use. And then we can think about design and add some colors. And, of course, design is about making big impressions. For example, someone enters the site and sees really beautiful illustrations or colors, and it has this effect - Wow. But for us, it's more important to have everything in a logical order and be intuitive.

Impressions of Design (17:33)

Just to follow up on Danuta's comment, the design obviously makes a huge impression. It's pretty much our main sense that's getting stimulated when we see a website. So obviously design, the visual look, and the interface are going to play a huge role in the conversion rate. 

Like Danuta said, "good UX should be invisible." So there's really a lot of thought, work, and consideration that goes in before we even start designing - which really lays that proper foundation for the website. So I think, yes, you could ignore it, and you could keep going. For me, that just means you are increasing your risk level. I'm not saying your website will be a disaster. Sometimes paying attention to UX doesn't mean your website will be a huge success if it has a poor interface, poor branding, and poor styling. But, committing time and consideration to thinking about the user, the user flow, and the frustrations can really lay a nice foundation.

Focusing on UI Issues

The reason why clients often focus on UI more often is that it's really easy to pinpoint a UI issue. This font is the wrong color or size, the margins are not good here, or the padding is too small. These surface-level issues often seem way bigger. But it kind of covers the deeper UX problems, and they require a bit more thought, consideration, planning, and thinking. That then leads to needing to do more research, thinking about the customer, and getting more data. And obviously, that's a big investment and a time commitment. 

Measuring Attribution and the ROI of UX

Any thoughts on the measurability or of the attribution? How important is that? How do people measure the return they should be getting from their investment if it needs to be a relatively substantial investment in their UX? 

It's very measurable, I would say. Obviously in projects, the ideal situation is that you keep measuring throughout the whole process - at the beginning, during the middle, and at the end. But like you said, it's sometimes difficult. 

How can you attribute that metric to that particular design change? So that's why you do have to plan ahead and think about what you were going to measure for that specific change. Obviously, if you're changing many things at the same time, and many interactions or flows are going to be adjusted, it is difficult. But, you have to go back to the high-level metrics like the Net Promoter Score (NPS) or even more basic conversion points. So yes, I would say it's difficult however it's definitely possible to measure it, but it depends on the scale of changes you're implementing; it can affect the quality of the data.

The Process: Measuring, Analytics, and Optimization (21:00)

First, we need to define what we want to optimize and measure. Then after that, we should move to the analysis stage. Some methods we can use to do this, for example, are web analytics - Google Analytics, click maps: Hotjar, or for mobile:, usability testing, and of course - audits. 

In our process, we usually start with data analysis and an expert audit. But of course, user testing can provide very good insights. For us, it's also really important to talk with our client, the employees and get some feedback from customers. For example, speaking to customer service or someone who knows the end customer. So after analyzing this data and gathering feedback, we can make some hypotheses and think about how we can verify them.

For example, we have a project where we think that changing the multiple-step checkout process to a one-step checkout will increase conversions by 10%. To verify this, we can run AB testing. We will take half of the users and give them version A and another half of the users will see version B. After calculating the research sample, we'll know how long we should wait for the results. After that, we will know which version converts better - A or B? Then, we can implement this best-performing version. Another option to analyze is running usability testing with users, but this one is more tricky. 

Making Changes to Improve the User Experience

UX often involves many different changes. You might be overhauling the complete navigation structure. In that situation, some kind of testing can be really good because you can set up, for example, a scenario, a test, or a task. 

Let's say, you have to navigate to this particular product and check out. Before you start the experiment, you can run a benchmark and see how long it takes people, or what the success rate is of finishing some task within some boundaries or criteria. Then, after updating your website, I think it's very clear. If you run the test again and you see that the success rate has changed, it takes people less time to check out, or people are making less mistakes or errors - then that is a successful change. It means that by changing your approach, you have made the user experience smoother or you've reduced errors, and that is a positive change for the user experience.

Next Steps: UX Review and Design

Stand out in a crowded marketplace with results-driven superior user experience. Boost your sales with IronPlane, a leading UX Agency. We strive to create simple, functional, and attractive user experiences. We’ll work with your team to help your business earn more, build loyalty, and take the next leap forward. We take a fast-adapting approach using methods tailored to your business needs and customers. Learn more on our UX Review and Design services page. and schedule a free consultation today.

About IronPlane

IronPlane is a full-service eCommerce agency specializing in platform design, development, and digital marketing. Our team of certified Adobe Commerce / Magento and BigCommerce developers designs and builds eCommerce solutions balancing client vision and functional requirements with business goals for a concrete return on investment. We have the expertise and resources to manage eCommerce migrations, upgrades, new site builds, custom integrations, managed hosting, and ongoing support. Connect now to schedule a free eCommerce consultation

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