January 14, 2013, 10:19 AM

Little details—and mistakes—can add up for online shoppers

IRWD speaker Tim Ash explains why customers leave e-commerce sites.

Lead Photo

Tim Ash speaking at last year's IRWD conference.

Humans’ short-term memory can handle only about four items of information at a time, yet many web sites bombard consumers with extensive category lists, perhaps with 20 labels , says Tim Ash, CEO of landing page optimization firm SiteTuners. Moreover, just 2% of consumers actually invest the time and energy to use advanced searches on web sites, he says.

Information overload is one of many small friction points in a web site’s design that can add up to a significant factor that discourages consumers from buying, Ash says. He will tell retailers how to identify the small problems on their web sites that keep customers from buying during a session at the the Internet Retailer Web Design and Usability Conference 2013  entitled “Anatomy of a purchase: Mistakes to avoid.

Ash will begin the session by walking attendees through a web site visit from a consumer’s point of view and noting the problems encountered. While many retailers plan the display and organization of their sites with care—given that retailers are experts about their own products—what makes the most sense to them might not be so obvious  or easy to manage for consumers, he says. “Consumers have the attention span of a lit match,” he says. “Or they just don’t care, don’t want to take the time to learn how to use the search.”

Beyond reducing the amount of information on a page, Ash offers a handful of other tips for retailers to optimize their sites:

  • Avoid technical jargon or industry-specific terms.
  • Place information such as returns policies near the point of purchase rather than buried in terms and conditions.
  • Add features to help customers find what they need as quickly as possible, such as product suggestions.
  • Make sure the site is just as easy to use and navigate if consumers arrive through a “side door” instead of the front door of the home page.

“It’s pretty much endemic—every site has these types of problems,” Ash says.

The editors of Internet Retailer asked Ash to speak because of his expertise in improving web site design and usability, including more than a decade of experience helping hundreds of clients improve their sites.

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