River Island’s e-commerce development manager reveals why design and usability Is key to improving customer experience

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Ahead of this year’s Internet Retailing Expo (IRX 2015), Helen Colclough, e-commerce development manager at River Island, gives her advice to those retailers looking to improve their design/usability in order to improve the customer experience

“The short answer to this is get your mum, dad, brother or nan to complete a task on your site or app and watch what they do– you learn so much from watching someone who isn’t perhaps a digital native get through checkout for example – I can’t confirm you won’t die a little bit inside of sheer frustration but at least you’ll learn a lot.

“On a bigger scale it’s hard to define one single step for any specific retailer – as so much depends on where you are in your own journey with UX within your organisation whether that be from a cultural perspective, due to budgetary constraints or with availability of resource. For some it would be to do start doing some A/B tests, for others it might be user testing with customers.

“If there was only one piece of advice I would give it would be to start looking at your data and defining some KPI’s for customer experience – without that you can’t start to locate any existing issues or to track what is and isn’t working as you try different things.

“MVT and A/B tests are great because you can baseline your default experience against all your test experiences – but if you don’t know what success looks like you’ll still struggle to know if you’re making the right changes.

“Successful design and usability for conversion is really about using a combination of optimisation tools, design skill, data insight and technology to produce the best possible customer experience that drives the most revenue for your business.

“Last year we redesigned our checkout login page. Partly because we felt it didn’t communicate very clearly in its existing form and partly because we wanted to ensure it worked across devices on our responsive site – it’s such a key page as the ‘entry’ to checkout that there was a huge amount of pressure to make sure the page was the correct design.

“Luckily we have a great MVT partner in Maxymiser and were able to run multiple versions of the page to a small section of our audience and really see which one converted best.

“We found that conversion was significantly improved by having quite a simple layout, and (quite surprisingly!) by having a specific layout of New Customer and Existing Customer options. We still have work we want to do on this page and tests planned but we discovered there was a 17% increase in conversion from having the current version of the page to the old one.

“There’s always exciting developments in our industry (which is why I like it so much!) but at the moment I think there’s a couple of things being discussed that have the potential to impact the way we shop. For me bringing the technology of the digital channels to the store estate is hugely exciting.

“I personally hate the thought of stores becoming showrooms. For me stores are the key to modern retail, as brand hubs, collection points and places where you’re going to get the best possible product advice. I think digital technology in a multichannel setting can really improve both in store and online experiences for customers.

“Things like digital payment methods like Apple Pay being used in a store and online setting, being able to self-scan products to check sizes or even complete your own purchase in store without queuing will all change the way we interact with stores and digital channels.

“From a retailer point of view joining up the data from stores and online will enable all sorts of insights as well as being able to target relevant offers and recommendations based on the customers entire purchase history and not just an online snapshot.

“As one of the first high street retail websites to move to a responsive design I’m interested in hearing others experiences– especially Stuart [McMillan] from Schuh whose presentation on that very subject is right before mine (bonus: you are in the right place to hear me if you come along to it). I’m also interested to hear about the rebirth of the High Street from M&S and John Lewis.”