An All-You-Need-To-Know Guide to Design for E-commerce

Posted on  8 April, 2019

What is E-commerce?

E-commerce, simply put, allows you to buy and sell things online. You can buy physical goods or services, and these purchases are facilitated by the exchange of money and data. Online retail is the most commonly understood E-commerce platform, however, there are other varieties of e-commerce as well such as drop-shipping, subscription, digital products (online libraries, eLearning, media, etc.), services and even crowdfunding.

In this article, we have spoken about retail e-commerce because it is driven by its users; it not only relays completely on the user’s decision and engagement but also caters to a diverse group of users with different needs and goals. Hence, designing an e-commerce site requires a thorough understanding of its users which can only be achieved through a Research-driven Design Approach. According to a survey, trillion dollars is lost alone in e-commerce owing to the poor UX!

So, here is our attempt to highlight majorly two things; first, the benefits of investing in experience design for the e-commerce industry and second, what are the common understandings that an entrepreneur and designer should have while designing an e-commerce platform.

Benefits of Investing in UX for E-commerce

It’s fairly obvious that satisfied users are the key to the success of any product – so much so that 70% of projects fail due to the lack of user acceptance. The Experience Dynamics report found that designing an e-commerce site to fit user behavior increases the profits and reduces the costs to a large extent. Studies from various e-commerce player who opted for design first approach witnessed a 30% growth in sales and a 50% decrease in bounce rate. The report also highlights that 86% of users preference for mobile apps over mobile sites, owing to the ease of use. Let’s look at the four most important benefits of investing in UX design for e-commerce.

A Boost in Revenue and Conversion

Studies shows, every penny invested in UX brings 100 in return. That’s a whopping 9,900 percentage ROI! Companies that invest in e-commerce UX principles see lower acquisition costs, significantly lower support costs, increased customer retention, and increased market share. To elucidate, designing a usable and simple checkout flow helps shoppers in completing their task quickly and with ease, thus ensuring they are not lost in the transition. This can only mean one thing – an increased conversion rate! Sometimes this conversion rate can increase by up to 105% for mobile traffic, and 85% for desktop traffic.

A Boost in Revenue and Conversion

Increased Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty

Designing great digital experience in e-commerce not only attracts users but also helps retain them. Positive experiences on the web and mobile create a loyal base of customers aka brand ambassadors. A well-designed e-commerce portal guides users on the site like an invisible assistant and keeps them engaged while providing them with quick solutions.  This, in turn, reduces marketing channel costs and increases the conversion ratio.

Increased Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty

Fewer Support Calls

People today, need quick solutions, something on the move! For an E-commerce portal, this is the most critical yet quite ignored bit of information. Customer support accounts for a large amount of investment on one hand and on the other hand are quite frustrating for users as they often come with a long waiting period. Establishing a well-defined information hierarchy and navigation helps to design in-app support that is accessible, efficient and prompt, which makes up for great user experience.

Fewer Support Calls

Reduced Development Waste

User-centric design is a sure-shot way to decrease your development costs and the possibility of your project failing. E-commerce UX research helps in ascertaining answers to the most critical questions and sets the foundation for heading towards the desired goals. User-research and user-testing at different stages in the design process to validate the functionality of the product and its acceptability in the targeted context. This results in at least 25% less rework and bug fixes, post-launch.

Questions You Should Ask While Investing in UX

Let’s figure out how exactly do you know what to expect if you’re not a designer and aren’t completely sure of what exactly needs to go into e-commerce website design or mobile design? We’ll take you through a few e-commerce UX principles to look forward to when you approach a design agency for your platform:

Understanding the Target Audience

We’ve already described that online retail is driven by its users. Hence you need to entirely understand their needs, wants, preferences, and buying behavior. Focusing on asking the right questions helps build the right strategy for user-centric design. We can gauge insights on users by employing two research techniques:

Primary Research

Primary research is usually conducted by meeting existing or potential users and collect the information first hand. This kind of research, albeit time-consuming and costly, can help give you a fresher perspective and unearth the hidden opportunities. These research insights not only build empathy towards the shoppers but also help in taking a more informed design decision. A few points one must gather through the research activity are:

1. What do users believe are a product’s most important features? This helps you prioritize the features that are important to your audience. Prioritizing the features affects product development and overall business turnover.

2. How do users perceive the product? Why do they perceive it the way they do? Identifying consumer perception and understanding it helps to understand the brand value of the product.

3. Does the product always meet user expectations? If not, where does it fail to meet these expectations? Asking these questions helps us define the problem, which further helps us set a clear direction for designing the website.

4. Discover how users interact with the product. This helps in understanding which medium the users are more active and it gives us a rough idea of the technical limitations of our target group.

Secondary Research

Secondary research is mostly a subordinate activity to primary research and is carried out in conjunction with it. Secondary research is widely used to study current market trends and competition, technology, and to understand the user’s psyche or demographics in case previous studies could give any related insights. Sometimes secondary research can give a comprehensive overview of the market situation and consumer behavior trends. The questions that you can look to ask while conducting the secondary research for understanding e-commerce UX are:

1. Who is your competition? Where do they stand in the market? These questions help you analyze the competition so as to understand the challenges and best practices in the market.

2. What is the region covered in your research? What is the demographics of the target group?

3. How diverse is the ethnography? What are some important cultural factors?

4. What other studies have been carried out to categorize users? For instance: The Neisel and Norman group has published an article that clearly categorizes shoppers into 5 different types based on their shopping behavior: product-focused,  browsers, researchers, bargainers, one-time shoppers.


Technological Challenges

India’s internet user base was at about 475 million, as of July 2018, making up for about 40% of the population. Despite having the second-largest internet user base in the world, the penetration of the e-commerce market is still low and is confined mainly to the major metropolitan cities. As it grows, e-commerce players still need to cope with the technological challenges faced by the tier-two and tier-three cities of India.

1. It is necessary to understand the technological behavior of the users in semi-urban and rural areas by conducting observational research studies.

2. Another important consideration is the internet bandwidth that people operate on. This helps businesses decide how light or heavy an app should be. It also becomes a deciding factor for the introduction of new technologies like Progressive Web Apps into the market. Large data and multimedia elements can be downsized, so as to keep the app from being too heavy.

3. It is essential to understand the preferred easy and efficient communication systems to enable smooth processes for feedback.

4. One must also gauge the reluctance to part with personal and financial information that has led to cash-on-delivery being the most preferred payment option and how to overcome them?

Technological Challenges

Aligning Business Needs with User Needs

Understanding user needs forms one side of the coin, aligning the needs with business requirements to form the right solutions is the task that needs the most attention. Let’s look into the few questions that could help us find answers to finding the sweet spot that creates a win-win situation.

What is the current business model? Understand the business model and users they’re catering to, whether it is a B2B, B2C, C2C, C2B model. This should one of the most important aspects to discussion because it helps in outline the primary and potential customers.

What is the product offering of the business? It is important to highlight the products being offered to be able to build the right strategy. For example, Myntra is an online retail specialized in clothing, whereas Urban ladder focus on furniture as the key product segment.

What is the objective of the project? The objective should outline the immediate goal of UX along with the expected outcome in the long term. It could be an increase in conversion rate and sales, or reducing bounce rate, or building customer loyalty.

Who are the current and potential users of the business? Users form the crux in online retail because sales completely rely on the user’s decision and engagement with the platform and there’s no scope for traditional hard selling. That means the product should deliver an exceptional experience to your customers.

Hidden Opportunities

Research often leads to new hidden opportunities and insights that have not been yet discovered or the ecosystem has been oblivious to. To find such insights one has to keep a tap during research and need to frame the right kind of questions. One of such insights to note that an omnichannel presence is more beneficial than a single physical channel or a single online one. Shoppers are essentially more concerned with actually purchasing the product than where they buy it from. Sometimes, they juggle between online and offline channels before making a purchase, for different reasons.

It is important to be able to leverage the benefits of both online and offline channels for the purpose of conversions. With certain products like clothes or even furniture, very often buyers wish to physically examine if the product fits their need or not. Once they’ve figured that out, they take some time to mull it over and then choose to make an online purchase, as it is more convenient than to go back to the store. A lot of companies, including Zivame and Pepperfry are thus using a multi-channel approach, providing their users with a well-blended online and offline approach, and ensuring that they do not lose out on customers in any transitory phase.


We’re going to conclude this short but comprehensive guide to investing in and designing UX/UI for e-commerce, by reminding you that the key is to ask yourself the right questions. Understanding your business, the product you are providing, and the needs of your target audience can help set the direction in which you want the design for your platform to be headed.