A few weeks ago, I sat down with a gentleman who has been a buyer for a government agency for the past four years to discuss his experience when making online purchases on a variety of manufacturing websites. To respect his privacy, I can't disclose his real name, so let's just call him Joe.
Joe spends a good portion of his day buying parts on e-commerce websites. While he is not an expert in web design, he is however, an expert on visiting websites and having to work really hard to make a purchase. We wanted to know what attributes of a website make his life easier, and what makes him never want to come back. Here are the key takeaways from our conversation:
- Poor Navigation and Poor Search Capabilities. These both have caused Joe to quickly leave a website. The website might have had the best price, but if it takes too many steps to find the product or you can never find it because the search feature doesn't work, Joe would rather go back to Google and find another website.
- Outdated Design. When Joe comes to a website that appears to last be designed in the 90's, the layout is confusing, or it's hard to read, he quickly doubts the credibility of the website. "Is this website really still active?", "Is it safe to enter my billing information?", and "Where is everything?" are just a few questions that pop into Joe's mind. If Joe automatically doesn't feel comfortable or trust the website, he leaves.
- Difficulty Making Contact. Hello, anybody home? Just because you have a website does not mean you can leave the phones unattended or have no one to respond to emails promptly. Another annoyance Joe has come across, is the inability to get a live person on the phone. A website can do many things, but it can not completely replace customer service. It's important to have trained, well-spoken staff who are readily available to answer support calls as well as emails. Remember, trust is important when it comes to making a buying decision, and having open communication is key in creating that trust.
- Lack of Communication. Joe has had experiences where he's made a purchase, but didn't receive an order confirmation. This caused him to wonder if the order actually went through, and he also started doubting his purchase decision. Once a purchase is made on a website, the communication must continue. They've trusted you enough to buy from you, so effective communication will maintain that trust. (seeing a pattern here?)
- Save Previous Information. When Joe ends up making a purchase on a site, what he looks for next is the ability for the site to save his information. Since Joe is a Buyer and wants to make purchases quickly, he loves it when a site does not make him re-enter his information for future visits. Keep that in mind when selecting your e-commerce software. Pick a software that has the option for the purchaser to either check out as a guest or create an account which will save their shipping and billing details.
- Fast Purchasing Process. User experience is something that needs to be closely monitored, and should evolve as you collect data and feedback. If it's not easy to quickly find a product or if the website has a long checkout process, that hinders Joe's ability to make a quick purchase. When Joe goes online he already knows the exact products he needs to purchase that day. He wants to quickly find those products on your website, get them into his cart, and in 2-3 steps complete his purchase.
When I sat down with Joe and started the interview process, right away I could see his excitement for the opportunity to vent about the frustration that he experiences on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the manufacturing industry is littered with poor, outdated websites that don't accurately represent the quality of products they are selling. There is a great opportunity for many of these companies to make simple advancements to their website and become a preferred vendor. In the meantime, you may be left to wonder how many "Joe's" have already turned away.