eRetail & Usability: THE Perfect Definition


THE Perfect Definition of Usability in eRetail

Hi my eRetail and usability friends. You know, I haven’t given you your birthday present this year (sorry, I am very bad at remembering birthdays, but I do like you, really!). So, to make amends I’m going to give you a gift you can use over and over again. Nope, it’s not an electric toothbrush, or a lifetime’s subscription to Fruit of the Month Club (although those are fine gifts and the kind that just keep on giving).

No, this is the gift of the perfect definition of usability in the eRetail space.

You can thank me later (and I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan, shirt size Large, hat size Medium).

Give this Perfect eRetail Usability Definition to Your CEO

Armed with this perfect definition of usability, your eRetail CEO will “get it,” and do the correct and prudent thing that any right-minded CEO would do (that doesn’t want to have his or her lunch eaten by competitors that is) – immediately approve usability testing and subsequent usability improvements on your eRetail site that increases conversion, sales and (cue Angel music here) SHAREHOLDER VALUE!


Just print this out, take it to your nearest CEO, CMO or any other big-wig with an “O” at the end of their title and say the following:

“Picture this, you and 9 of your friends go into your local grocery store, grab a shopping cart (Note to all Brits, replace the word “cart” with “basket,” thank you. oh, and PS – thanks for inventing Bangers and Mash) and start going up and down the isles putting items into the cart. However, somewhere along the way 8 of your friends stop, shove their carts to the side and simply walk away, right out the front door, never to return! They never complete their purchase!

Ouch – why, that’s down-right BAD for business!

Abandoned Shopping Cart
Abandoned Shopping Cart

Sound far-fetched? It’s not. It’s exactly what’s happening with the vast majority of eRetail web sites, including more than likely yours. In fact, the situation is probably far worse. A typical eRetail web site is lucky if it has a conversion rate of 20%, many have rates far less.

Don’t you want to know why 8 out of that total of 10 people left, abandoning their shopping carts?

What would you give if you could follow those shoppers as they were going about shopping, observing everything they do, and more importantly, knowing everything they are thinking as they go through the process of shopping? And most importantly, what would you give if you could hear their thoughts as they abandon their cart and walk away?

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If only you knew what the problem was, you could probably fix it, and save lots of sales! Right?

Guess what? There is a way, and it’s called (play Trumpet announcement here) USABILITY TESTING.

Welcome to the wonderful world of getting into the thoughts of your customers, watching them use your site, understanding what’s bugging them, and having them tell you in exact, specific, and somewhat painful detail precisely why they are abandoning their shopping carts, and your web site.

Usability Testing: Better Than Mind Reading

Usability testing is better than hiring a psychic to read your customer’s minds, because it allows you to hear directly from the customer’s mouth what they are thinking as they go about the task of trying to buy something on your eRetail site. No medium or psychic required (sorry, you don’t get the crystal ball either).

Crystal Ball
Crystal Ball

Amazing right!?

You can get precise and detailed information, directly from your web site visitors, about why they are abandoning their shopping carts, why they are leaving your site never to return, and why they insist on going to your competitors site (darn them!).

Here’s How to Do Usability Testing:

1. Hire a usability testing pro. Think about this, you have a cavity in your tooth, you don’t want to get your cordless drill and take care of the problem yourself, do you? You could, but gosh, you don’t really know what you’re doing, and you could make things worse! No, you go to a professional Dentist who can treat your problem with advanced training, knowledge and those small little bowls with the swirling water in them that you’re supposed to spit into.

Dentists sink
Dentists sink

Likewise, you use a Usability professional to diagnose and treat your usability problems – they’re just as nice as your Dentist, probably less scary, but they don’t have those little bowls with the swirling water (well, most of the usability professionals anyway).

2. Observe real people using your web site. This is the cool part!  Your usability pro will set up a usability test in which people that actually use your site, or people that are just like them, will go through specific tasks specially set up by the usability pro. The usability pro will use what is technically referred to as the “THINK ALOUD METHOD” (which is a highly scientific and extraordinarily complex term, but means that your test participant will be asked to ummm, well, think aloud – ok, guess it wasn’t that technical) and they will speak what’s on their mind as they go through their tasks.

This is the BRILLIANT part of usability testing – you get to hear exactly where there are problems that are causing your potential customer to abandon those shopping carts, directly from the customer!

3. Recommend improvements, do them, enjoy the extra sales, yaada yaada yaada. After that, the rest is a breeze. The usability professional will recommend the improvements that should be made based on the feedback from the usability test participants. You make the improvements, watch the extra sales start flowing in, get a big raise, and take that golfing trip to Hawaii you’ve been wanting to do for so long (unless you don’t golf, in which case you’re probably going to the Brand New Dallas Cowboys Stadium – don’t forget, I wear a size large shirt and medium hat).

Conclusion: THE Perfect Definition of Usability & eRetail

So there you have it! THE perfect definition of usability in the eRetail space. If comparing an 80% shopping cart loss in a grocery store to your eRetail web site doesn’t stimulate your CEO to immediately take action then check their heartbeat – ’cause they’re probably dead.