Customer experience is paramount in ecommerce. Surfing your site from their desk, sofa or on their phone or tablet device, customers need and expect to be guided through the buying process. A customer-focused ecommerce strategy is essential, as are simple and intuitive site design. However, your customers might require more direct guidance through the ecommerce buying process, especially if the site requires users to engage with multiple menus or filters to provide the most customized experience.

For example, last weekend, I was introduced to an accessories store called Charming Charlie by some friends. Sort of a “Plain Jane” girl, I don’t swap out my jewelry and hand bag very often, so I was a bit out of my element. But what surprised me was how this store, and subsequently, its website were organized. Charming Charlie physical stores are huge accessories stores that are arranged by color and metal choice–so if you are looking for orange accessories with silver metal accents, there’s probably a table for that and all of the items are grouped together to make shopping the store simpler. With a huge number of items and lots of variables within each color family, I was wondering how they were going to handle helping their online customers find exactly what they needed online.

When I logged in to Charming Charlie, I was able to view their website home page as is for about 30 seconds or so and then this helpful little popup appeared:

Guiding the E Commerce Customer Experience

The pop up invites the site’s visitor to explore the large selection of products and guides the ecommerce experience in two ways. First, the site calls the visitor’s attention to two specific ways that they can sort through Charming Charlie’s large SKU population: product color and product category. Second, it instructs the visitor on how to interact with the site without filtering the product selection by offering a selection of featured products in a mosaic style page layout.

First let’s look at the filtering options.

Guiding the E Commerce Customer Experience

Sorting by color allows the shopper to view all products with a particular color scheme and allows them to choose up to two colors at a time. This is especially helpful when you prefer silver metal in your jewelry but want a black watch band or black beads in your necklace. It’s also helpful if you know that your outfit is red and black–by selecting those two colors from the color menu, the site automatically shows you all of the items that are red or black. Unfortunately, it does not limit the results to products that are only red or black or a combination thereof.

Sorting by category allows visitors who know they want a watch or necklace to quickly hone in on just those products by selecting the appropriate category. Once you select a category you may also go back and sort the results by up to two color choices as well, thereby limiting the necklaces to those that will best match your intended outfit. Likewise, you can choose up to two colors and then sort by product category. While these two filters get the visitor directly to the product family they are lookign for, the one thing that the site does not do well is to offer cross-sells based on the criteria selected. For example, if a person is searching for necklaces in red and silver, it’s considered good ecommerce practice to also show earrings and watches that compliment that color choice.

The second way that the Charming Charlie site guides the customer’s ecommerce experience is by presenting the visitor with a clear way to interact with the site without having to sift through the results by presenting a selection of products to encourage the visitor to A) hover over the image and immediately see the product price, or B) click on the image and go immediately to the product page for more information or to make a purchase.

The B2B Ecommerce Take Away

CharmingCharlie.com clearly demonstrates how a customer-centric site design can help a visitor to navigate their way through a large SKU count and quickly arrive at the product or group of products that best meets their needs. While women’s accessories have little to do with B2B ecommerce, business-to-business organizations could take a nod from Charming Charlie’s understanding that it’s their responsibility as an online merchant to guide the customer through the shopping experience.

To learn more about creating a customer-focused online shopping experience, download the white paper, Increase the Cart – Creating a Personalized Ecommerce Shopping Experience.