By Greg Randall May 30, 2017 Retailing

To create an amazing online experience, we must first understand what makes a great physical retail experience, says eStar’s Greg Randall.

When a customer walks into a hardware store a good salesperson will adjust their pitch based on the consumer’s questions.

A great salesperson will answer these questions without using technical jargon and present new information and options.

To the customer this is a personalised experience relevant to his or her buying intent. An amazing online experience is one that’s also considered from the consumer’s perspective.

When applied together, the following 10 principles will improve any customer’s online experience.


1. Consumers are on a journey

A 2010 Google study found consumers referenced five websites before buying online or in store.

In 2013 that rose to 12.

Not only are consumers on a journey, these journeys are becoming longer and consumers are more informed than ever.

Design for customer journeys with your brand – whether the purchase is in-store or online.


2. Each journey includes multiple steps

For a customer, a “step” occurs when he or she takes an action and new content is presented. If relevant, this makes consumers feel they’re moving closer to having their needs met.

These steps should appear at the right time and be obvious.

The perfect time to present warranty information is at the time the consumer has his/her mind set on a product. Home Depot does a good job to introduce this option on the product page:

Once the consumer selects “Learn More” there is enough content to assist with decision making but more detailed content is available for those who need more.


3. The function of user experience

User experience design or “UX” plays a critical part in the user experience and ultimate decision to purchase.

To understand how “UX” contributes to a great experience let’s break it down into Interaction Cost and Value Design.

Interaction Cost is the physical and mental effort customers use on each step of the journey.

Physical effort would be clicking, scrolling, typing and waiting for pages to load. Examples of mental effort include consumer confusion, not being able to find relevant information and dealing with unrequested content like pop-ups.

Value Design covers the creation and presentation of content to assist the decision-making process.

Retailers should have a firm grasp of a consumer’s pain points and when they occur. Build extra value through articles, diagrams and video content.


4. Respect the fold

The “fold” is still as important as ever, but the dynamic has changed.

Consumers are used to scrolling but they won’t exert extra effort if they believe content below the fold won’t add value to their journey.

By displaying relevant content above the fold, customers will happily scroll down looking for more of the same below the fold.


5. Let data do the decision making

Use the data to help you determine what’s working and what’s not.

Focus on insights that tell you what’s turning consumers into customers – what’s bringing them back and what are their pain points?

Understanding this data can boost a retailer’s ability to deliver the right experiences at the right time. Google analytics is the best source of this data.


6. Apply best practice

Digital best practice will expedite a retailer’s digital evolution. There are plenty of best practice methodologies, principles and process to learn from. Listen to what others have learned.

In 2016, Home Depot followed a best practice methodology to enable local store information (phone numbers and store directions) to be visible in Google for consumers looking for DIY products who had proximity to a Home Depot store.

The result was 8x in-store ROI for the advertising spend.

(Visit “Think with Google” at for more information.)


7. Wireframing

The first step to translating customer experience from planning to touchpoints comes via the use of wireframes.

They ensure the integrity of the experience by eliminating the subjective (personal tastes and opinions) and emotional influences of look and feel.


8. Design “consumer first” not “mobile first”

Designing for a screen type (such as mobile) could mean the design develops around the wrong focus.

Instead of applying the experience design plan to the mobile screens, create wireframes for all touchpoints.

This ensures the full consumer context is considered and leverages the experience capabilities available for all touchpoints.


9. Design experiences for intent-driven “micro-moments”

“Micro moments” is a Google term used to describe a consumer’s moment of high intent and need for engagement.

Thanks to smartphones, it’s almost impossible to predict when and where this comes from.

But take a mum of teenage children who lives in a large city suburb. To capitalise on this “micro moment” principle, an electrical retailer would be better to focus on her when her children start flatting and she goes online to buy housewarming gifts.

Home and garden smartphone shoppers prefer to get their purchase inspiration via their mobile first.

“60% of these homeware consumers use mobile search for ideas about what to buy before they head into store.“ (More here)

Homeware retailers need to be visible for these intent driven homeware idea micro moments and deliver experiences exactly aligned to what these consumers are looking for.


10. Be iterative

Don’t approach the online experience design process as a one off because it’s not. Use insights from data gathering and hypothesis creation to drive iterative and agile development.

Technology is the enabler for everything. All principles are powerless unless they have the right technology as the enabler.

A good example is, which is spending US$1.8 billion in technology – the first time in its history that it’s spending more on technology than on bricks & mortar improvements.


eStar Digital Strategist Greg Randall’s

The 10 Principles behind Amazing Online Experiences

are expanded on in a series of four e-books.

To find out more contact




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