At some point in the spring, marketers were fully aware that coronavirus had caused 2020 to take an unexpected and game-changing turn.

Budgets were cut, growth plans were put on hold, outdoor spend plummeted, experiential became exclusively digital and we were all forced to WFH (juggling incessant zoom calls with restless kids, walking the dog and DIY commitments with varying degrees of success).

Whilst there have been obvious winners like gaming, entertainment, ecommerce and D2C, the majority of B2C and B2B brands have been forced to radically rethink their strategies and up their digital game.

So at a time of immense financial pressure, optimising user experience and driving conversions from websites has found its way to the top of the ‘to do’ list and a crucial challenge in getting through the disruption

Fortunately, there are practical things you can start doing today to make sure you’re not letting customers fall through the cracks and giving them the best possible experience of your brand. Here’s my top 5 tips:

1. Adopt a mobile first ideology

Pre-pandemic, mobile ecomm sales were expected to represent half of all online sales in the UK for the first time with smartphones being responsible for 62.5% of those sales. 2 in 5 UK shoppers now say they will make more online purchases after lockdown ends.

Although many physical stores have now reopened, it’s expected that ecommerce will remain incredibly important – nearly half of global consumers say they will not return to shops for ‘some time’ or ‘a long time’ after lockdown eases – and many have become accustomed to the convenience of shopping online, especially on mobile

Many sites considered ‘mobile responsive’ but this approach is often not properly optimised for mobile devices. They are simply reformatting the existing desktop content to fit the screen.  Usually start by creating the desktop version, and then fitting that to other devices it can result in clunky mobile versions

Mobile-first design is different. You design a product that can be easily browsed on mobile devices before you start to think about the desktop version. This means your initial product is a lean, mean, mobile design that provides amazing user experience. Only then do you start to enhance that design for desktop, adding scroll effects, large images, fancy effects, and hover buttons galore to make it well-rounded. 

Google will be switching completely to a ‘mobile-first index’ by September 2020. This means that it’s in Google’s best interest to cater its search results to mobile users. They don’t want to direct their users to sites that won’t load or function well on their devices.

As a result, mobile user experience will now play a major role in search rankings even in desktop search results.

The very first thing to think about when approaching mobile-first design is content. Space is of a premium on mobile. You need to prioritise content so that the most important information and actions are clearly visible. You therefore need to know exactly what users are looking for when they visit the site. 

By creating a content-focused site, you’re also putting the user first by giving them exactly what they’re looking for and providing a quick way to satisfy their needs. It’s about leaving out unnecessary, confusing, or distracting content. 

This can be as simple as leaving out adverts, or cutting a welcome message in favor of a booking form. All this helps to create an e-commerce experience for the modern user that will ultimately help them make faster decisions.

2. Rethink your personas

At some stage during the early stages of your initial website process it’s likely that you developed a range of personas using demographic/behavioural data. These fictional biographies allow you to segment your audience and to tailor promotions, communications and content to those at different stages of the customer journey

It’s always important to regularly revisit personas and to adapt them accordingly based on the latest data. During the coronavirus pandemic this has become even more imperative, given the huge impact it’s had on buyer behaviour 

During the pandemic, research has suggested that there have been some distinctive changes to buying behaviour online:

Many people who haven’t shopped online before might be visiting your website for the first time. People are now said to be doing more planning and research before purchasing. Whilst in a physical store they might be more impulsive, a mixture of more free time (for many people) and conservative spending habits has led to people being more thorough with their purchases.

By returning to personas and mindsets, you can think strategically about how to nurture new prospects into your pipeline at a time when they may feel anxious about buying. Some of your personas may have very different needs at the minute and it’s about adapting your offering to help them in any way that you can.

You could help website visitors to make a positive purchase decision through your content or simple video tutorials.

3. Adapt your content 

Being responsive to situations is incredibly important, nobody could have foreseen the impact of coronavirus and some brands have far better than others at staying ahead and meeting the content needs of their customers. 

Since lockdown, many consumers have had more time to surf the web. Successful brands have adapted their content strategies to capture users who are spending longer online.

Editorial content is usually seen as a quick win since it normally requires little technical input and can therefore be developed and implemented rapidly. However, for some brands it’s often not that straightforward – inefficient, monolithic, systems can mean that the simplest of website updates can cause a big headache

If your business is in a position to look at re-platforming, CaaS (Content as a Service) platforms take away the complexity of managing content and allow teams to rapidly push content updates live as they have a single role (managing content), provide a streamlined interface and require no prior HTML knowledge.

4. Prototype and iterate 

Continuously improving your website UX/UI is essential. It’s impossible to get everything right the first time.

Learning from data and behaviour should be regularly fed back into the process. Offering a smooth and flawless user experience to website visitors often means developing new features that weren’t even considered as part of the initial roadmap but have been identified during analysis as opportunities to add value to your audiences.

During the current pandemic, it’s vital to test and iterate. For the first time, perhaps ever, everyone is connected to the internet and browsing various kinds of websites. 

What better time is there but now to conduct user research and usability tests that map current online shopping experiences?

Without the option of face to face in labs, UX teams have been forced to look at remote research methods including video. There has been a heightened appreciation for remote study types and platforms that allow for participant recruitment from afar.

Even a small amount of testing can help deliver new perspectives and validate ideas. It can be as simple as polls on websites, heatmaps and recording tools.

Testing doesn’t have to be perfect, prototypes don’t need to be elaborate or well-planned – the goal is to validate your ideas. Testing uncovers a wide range of insights, while considering context. It also provides immediate feedback and helps you to avoid costly mistakes.

5. Consider speed 

The speed of your ecommerce site, especially on mobile devices, is hugely important. Studies have consistently shown that fast page speed will result in a better conversion rate. In other words, the quicker a webpage loads, the more likely a user is to perform the targeted action on that webpage

64% of smartphone users expect a webpage to load in 4 seconds or less.  Google’s mobile page speed study shows how the bounce rate rapidly grows when the website loads more than 3 seconds. This affects sales  –  a 1-second delay in load time will cost you a 7% loss in conversions.

Google has indicated site speed (and as a result, page speed) is one of the signals used by its algorithm to rank pages. This is important as around half (48%) of online shoppers start their purchase journey on search engines.

So what can you do about it?

Be smart with design decisions. The design decisions you make are the basis for a quick loading speed. Developers can only do so much to reduce it. Consider whether you really need that fancy video background or 5 videos on a product page.

Although video content is important and can often lead to high levels of engagement, having too much rich content can mean slower loading times and have a detrimental effect on user experience and therefore engagement

Using WebP images can help.  WebP is a modern image format that provides superior lossless and lossy compression for images on the web. Using WebP, webmasters and web developers can create smaller, richer images that make the web faster. Google recommends using WebP and other next-gen formats to significantly reduce the size of your images while preserving their quality.

You can also use a CDN (Content Delivery Network). A CND is a group of servers dispersed all around the world. It distributes the content delivery load through the closest server to your visitor’s location, making local user experiences faster.

Hopefully you’ve found this ‘techy’ perspective useful to evaluate how your digital strategy should evolve in-line with whatever happens next. You can always drop us a line at Anything and we’d be more than happy to share our thoughts on how your website can get fighting fit for the challenges ahead.