Best Practice Gone Wrong: Avoid the Worst Mistakes on e-Commerce Web Sites

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Best Practice WrongMany of the key things you should do when improving an e-Commerce web site are well-known. You should have large, high-resolution images, because the images aid conversions. You should have trust symbols especially if you are a small to medium-sized company, because the symbols will help alleviate visitor fears. You should enable user reviews because social proof is a huge influence on people.

And yet some of these same things, when used incorrectly, can lull marketers and business owners into a false sense of security, or worse, damage the brand.

When implementing best practices, it’s important to think about the best ways of tackling them as well - execution matters.

Getting User Reviews Wrong

Everyone will tell you that your product pages should have user reviews. Star ratings and their cousins are the holy grail of social proof, often more trusted by visitors than what the publishers say themselves.

But if you just implement these on all your product pages, all you’ll have at the beginning is a set of pages saying “no user reviews yet,” and pages averaging the first user review. It’s just bad marketing.

To implement user reviews well, think about the minimum number of reviews before you present the average. Customers may be turned off by a product’s one star rating, not realizing that it’s just based on a single review. So, pick a threshold (20 to 30 reviews) and do not display averages until you reach that threshold.

Aeropostale Review

At a glance, this Aeropostale tank top seems to have received low ratings. However, the product page shows that the average is only based on 1 review. 

The same is true of social media “likes.” If an item only has 3 “likes,” don’t show that beside the call-to-action (CTA) button.

Zales Facebook

This Zales item's 0 Facebook "like" should not be advertised next to the CTA. On the other hand, they have inviting copy that will make users want to review the product.

Wasting Trust Symbols

Part of the challenge of trust is getting the technology to work. You do want to be sure you are safe to transact with, and that’s not a trivial challenge. It’s precisely because it’s not trivial that after the technology is ready, marketers sometimes forget to make the fact that that they are trustworthy more visible.

Most e-Commerce sites have the trust symbols ready, but a lot of them put them below the fold. This is like hiring LeBron James, and having him play 7 minutes a game - 85% of visitors do not bother to scroll. In general, anything important should be within the visitors’ visual field without the need for them to scroll whether with their thumb or their mouse.

So if you’re seeing unreasonably high drop-off rates, and your trust symbols are not visible as soon as the page loads, this is one of the reasons.

When Clean White Space Gets Too Clean

You’ll hear this often, and loud: you need clean white space. A lot of it. And it’s true - cluttered product pages are not as good for user experience. But the thing about clean white spaces and lack of clutter is that the ones that are done right are done very deliberately.

Some e-Commerce sites choose to do away with the description, for instance - that’s a mistake. Short-descriptions that don’t create clutter are tough to get right, but worth the effort put into them. Achieving a clean look isn't about eliminating things the user needs in favor of usability - it’s about visually highlighting the things the user needs most, and presenting no more than what the user needs. 

Getting Best Practice Right

When you get best practices wrong, they can and will do more harm than good. If you think about the success parameters before implementing, you’re that much more likely to get user reviews, trust symbols, and layouts right.

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