The vast majority of Canadians shop online and all indications are that we’re ramping up how much we spend in a major way: hitting close to $40 billion next year, an increase of some 500 percent in just 7 years.

So, that’s good news for Canadian e-retailers, right?

Well, not so much. Almost half that money is being spent outside of Canada, and the biggest reason for that is lack of product selection on Canadian sites. But there’s another reason Canadians turn to international sites: customer experience.


Poor UX = Lost Sales

If your website does not allow users a seamless experience from home page to payment, you’re losing business. The entire process, which includes locating the desired product, accessing help if necessary and right through to check-out, needs to be intuitive and easy.

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And there’s a simple measure you can take to see how your website is doing: what’s your percentage of cart abandonment? The generally accepted statistic across industries is a 70 percent of online shopping carts are abandoned without customers actually making a purchase.

Customer surveys tend to show that price is responsible for about half of those lost sales. However, the website itself and poor user experience, are cited about 25 percent of the time as reasons a potential customer left the site.

Specific problems include:

  • navigation of the website too difficult
  • site crashed or timed out
  • the process takes too long
  • security check regarding payments excessive

While cart abandonment due to high prices may indicate that your target demographic needs to be changed, website issues and poor UX can be fixed at the design level.


User Experience Even More Important Than Price

Customers may go to your site first, but don’t test their loyalty.

If your site isn’t working, you’ll likely lose that purchase. While local shops with an online presence might sometimes be given a second chance, the larger, national stores will not. They’re expected to have informative, easy-to-navigate, and lighting-fast shopping sites.

So, if just one feature (like product reviews, for example) is not available – even temporarily – users will click off that site and go to a competitor’s online store. Price becomes secondary at that point, with convenience and user experience taking priority.

That one bad experience can affect the user’s decision for future purposes too. If they decide your site is just too much trouble, they won’t bother to visit again. The ripple effect can start here as well; not even with complaints necessarily, but with recommendations and testimonials in favor of your competitor.


Common UX Issues Across Size and Industry

Whatever you sell, whatever industry you’re in, and whatever the size of your business, if you’re an online retailer, you need to pay attention to these areas of your site:

  • Navigation. That’s the structure of the website, including menus, CTA and internal links.
  • Search. This is especially crucial for retailers rather than service providers.
  • Conversions. This would be an intuitive user path, leading potential customers down a sales funnel to the purchase.
  • Forms. Make all sign-in forms easy to complete.
  • Mobile experience. At least one-third of Canadian do product research and make online purchases on their smartphones and tablets, and that number is growing. Make sure your website is mobile friendly.

Although the main areas of development are similar at the outset, there are differences when refining a retail site.

For example, a small online florist is in a highly competitive industry with frequent, small purchases, linked to seasons and holidays. Promotion for a site like this is as crucial as the ease with which users can place an order and have it delivered.

On the other hand, a retailer of highly technical equipment that requires a personal consultation needs to provide a different customer path. This is a more specialized industry with big ticket, infrequent purchases, and the website should include all the information necessary to lead the user to the point of contact.

Size only becomes a problem when the original website structure isn’t planned properly. What often happens is that as the company grows, the website becomes bigger and more complicated making it difficult for users to find exactly what they’re looking for. In some cases, too much information is given and in others, it’s simply not clear what the user should do next.


Fix the Most Frequent Complaint First

If you think you’re losing business because of poor customer experience, focus on the issue users complain about most and fix that first.

So, let’s say your site has some outdated or static pages that don’t lead anywhere: Get rid of them and replace with them with responsive pages.

If slow loading times are a constant complaint, resize and compress images (and make sure to optimize for different devices). You can also use a cache plugin and serve images from a subdomain location. And if you’re not already, use the jpeg image format for images; it’s lighter in terms of loading than the png format.