Customers today are informed, connected, savvy and willing to hunt for the best deal. Online ecommerce platforms have drastically changed accessibility and intensified the competition for market share. On the web, mom and pop shops, large retailers and everyone in between, are on a fairly even playing field.  So how can you stand out in a crowded online marketplace? Answer: User experience.

Beyond the best pricing, customers want a simple, intuitive online shopping experience. All retailers, regardless of their size, should approach ecommerce strategy with as much purposeful intention as they approach floor plans for brick and mortar locations or customer service programs. User experience is a unique combination of customer service, based on insights from your customer base, and a digital sales strategy to maximize profitability and ensure long lasting customer relationships.

Within user experience design, usability is the foundation. Is the site easy to navigate? Is there a clearly defined purchase path? Further, do the functionality and features of the site best display the product or services in a way that appeals to your audience? Identify the framework that best showcases your brand that will keep your customers happy and coming back.

As technology continues to evolve, so does the way we use it. The usability of your online sales site should also evolve; companies should strive to meet the needs of their consumers’ long term. Fusion’s in-house optimization strategist and usability expert, Will Plusch, encourages Fusion’s clients to stay curious and warns against making user experience decisions based on assumptions.

“Don’t compare yourself to other retailers without being informed, be prepared for constant learning,” said Plusch about user experience design. More importantly, he encourages clients to know what components of user experience are triggers for their target audience. For example, “Consumers who tend to buy travel insurance scan quickly, the use of keywords is particularly important with this audience,” Plusch explained.

Content, presentation, layout and interaction are the design principles to consider within user experience.  “Graphics work well with certain types of ancillaries, just as graphics help sell core products,” said Plush.

When evaluating usability and website experience optimization, companies must think about their products and services comprehensively. Ancillary products and services should be integrated seamlessly into the purchase path. The results of a Fusion research study in partnership with Forrester Research indicated that many of the participating companies aren’t proactively cross-selling ancillary products thereby forcing consumers to navigate further through the site.

Additionally, ancillary products shouldn’t appear as an advertisement, as users do not respond well to content that doesn’t appear native. A cohesive and personalized resonates better with consumers.

The frequent assessment of content and visual aids is critical to successful user experience design. “Test incrementally, test everything and keep trying different methods,” Plusch. User experience is a data driven exercise, Plusch continued, “Knowing what works and what doesn’t is critical for survival and remaining relevant.”

The most important takeaway: “Testing and optimization never end,” said Plusch, “offers and usability can always be improved.”