Ditch the obstacle course: clearing a path for your clients

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Just last week, I remembered a last minute gift.  I knew what I needed, and I knew which store had it, and I just needed it delivered to my friend.  Easy peasy, right?  Wrong! I searched keyword after keyword without finding what I was looking for, and without any suggestions that would point me in the right direction.  I finally found it (only because I knew exactly what I was looking for).

When I went to checkout, I had to register and then re-register, and once I did, my “cart” was empty and I had to find the item again.  I went from dream client, ready to buy with a credit card in hand, to disgruntled grump in a situation that was 100% avoidable.  Will I buy there again?  Not if I can help it.  Is this happening to your clients?  Nooooooooooooo!  A customer’s path through your website should be clear, concise, and obstacle-free.   Improve your customers’ experience on your website with these three tips:

Offer suggestions

A customer should never get the screen equivalent of a “blank stare.”  No matter what they type in, your website should give them a few relevant suggestions or at the very least, a few guesses about what they might be looking for.  If a holiday is approaching, have items people are likely to be looking for on the front page.  The longer someone has to hunt for something on your website, the less likely they are to make a purchase. Harnessing the inherent impulsivity of online shopping is what separates “meh” small businesses from outstanding ones.

Don’t make the registration process into a headache

Capturing email addresses (and then using them efficiently) is obviously important, but you don’t want to drive your customers crazy in the process.  For example, consider having a “guest checkout” option in addition to a “returning customer” option, and make both easy to use and navigate.

Intuitive layout

Are things where customers expect them to be?  Can they adjust their order after they’ve entered shipping info, or is the only option a round-about way that requires them to start over?  Can they call or livechat if they have a question?  Is that information readily accessible?  Make sure your website has an intuitive layout that capitalizes on the expectations the consumer may not even realize they have.
Avoid frustration and increase revenue by making your website flexible and easy to navigate.  It shouldn’t feel like an obstacle course they get a prize for surviving.  If they have to clear their path with a machete, chances are they won’t be back.  If the path is already clear and welcome, they’ll return again and again and your business will flourish.