Ecommerce continues to grow, and it continues to change. In 2015, global ecommerce sales totaled $1.5 trillion, about 7% of total retail sales. This year, ecommerce sales are projected to be $2.3 trillion, or 10% of retail sales. By 2020, those figures will be $4.1 trillion, or 15% of total sales.
Ecommerce changes not because website designers become bored with one way of doing things and gratuitously decide to try something new. It changes, first, because new technologies emerge and gain traction (for example, the increased pervasiveness of mobile shopping). It also changes as marketers become aware of consumer preferences, the “rules of the road” which define their online behavior—what, in other words, they like, and what they don’t. To gain traction in the growing ecommerce marketplace, businesses need, more than ever before, to understand what those preferences are.
You Can’t Succeed If You Don’t Know Your Audience
Take layout, for example—marketers know that 38% of consumers will leave an ecommerce site if they don’t like its layout—but what does that mean for your business, and for designers? Telling a designer, “I’m getting a lot of calls—people don’t like the layout!” isn’t especially helpful. The designer needs to know, specifically, what about the design they don’t like. Are they unhappy because they need to load a new page after every 10 products and want longer scrolling? Are they frustrated because they don’t get “hamburger menus,” or is that what they want? Are they dissatisfied with the layout on their laptops, or on mobile devices, or both?
As Consumers Change, Ecommerce Needs to Respond
What constitute “the rules of the road” about online behavior isn’t static. The rules are continually changing in response to new technologies and design capabilities—and the way consumers respond to them. Here are 3 design trends that are changing the nature of ecommerce in 2017:
1. Mobile First Is Now the Norm
Not that long ago, you’d design your ecommerce site, then make it responsive, or mobile-friendly. Increasingly, however, designers are doing the reverse—building a mobile site which they then make work on desktops and laptops.
Like other changes in ecommerce site design, this one is a response to changing consumer behavior. In 2014, 19% of online sales were on mobile devices. That’s expected to climb to 27% by the end of next year, and to keep growing. (Those figures would likely be even higher if consumers weren’t so frequently frustrated with their mobile shopping experiences.)
Making mobile step one in ecommerce design means that desktop site versions will now respond to what works on mobile. Expect desktop ecommerce sites to use hidden (hamburger) menus. Because mobile sites typically occupy the full width of mobile screens, more desktop versions will follow suit, with less centering and less white space. Finally, smaller mobile screens need images, buttons and icons which are large in relation to total space—that means they’ll be much larger on desktop versions.
2. The Rise of Infinite Scrolling
The increase in mobile shopping will likely make infinite scrolling, rather than pagination, the preferred design. Online shoppers using mobile devices can be frustrated with the need to load a new page after every 10 products, preferring pages that display more products by simply scrolling down.
The Baymard Institute recently conducted several year-long usability studies of more than 50 leading ecommerce sites. Although they concluded that there are pros and cons of both pagination and infinite scrolling, they found that users generally prefer infinite scrolling:
“Throughout our large-scale usability study of e-commerce product lists and filtering7, numerous test subjects explicitly complained about pagination. Test subjects generally perceived pagination to be slow, and the presence of more than a handful of pagination links would often discourage them from browsing the product list. More importantly, test subjects were observed to browse much less of the total product list than on websites that rely on “Load more” buttons or infinite scrolling.”
3. More Hamburgers, Please
The so-called “hamburger debate” got a little hotter with the Atlantic’s 2014 article, “The Hamburger Menu-Icon Debate.” “Hamburgers” are those 3 stacked lines on which you need to click to see a site’s navigation. Arguments against using this design element generally focused on usability tests which ostensibly showed consumers didn’t understand what hamburgers were or how to use them.
The hamburger debate continues, with some designers continuing to argue that hiding navigation hurts user experience. However, given the rise of mobile shopping and its inherent space limitations, hamburgers are gaining traction.
Although web designers don’t always agree about what specific design elements contribute to the best user experience, there’s no disagreement about the fact that the design of your site is directly related to its effectiveness in driving sales.
Ecommerce is a constantly changing landscape. Onestop is on the front line for evolving ecommerce trends, making adjustments based on a collective pool of knowledge gained from launching more than 130 ecommerce businesses.