Wednesday, 20 August 2014

User Experience --- A low hanging fruit.

When it comes to increasing sales and generating more revenue for a business, first thing people think is offering new products and competitive services. Online business is no different, when people talk about generating more revenue the immediate reaction is, what more can we offer to our users. But no one thinks or talks about improving user experience to generate more business. I had the same opinion till very recent but I realized that enhancing user experience can generate more revenue for your online business by improving the conversion rate and hence leading to more sales.

As I mentioned, I had never thought that improving user experience would lead to more sales. I knew user experience is important. Bad user experience frustrates the users and would lead to bad publicity of the website which would impact business indirectly to some extent. But now I know that enhancing user experience can directly impact the business and bring in more revenue.

I was working on a website which retails UK train tickets. It is the largest online train ticket retailing website in UK with good hold of market share and better understanding of the business. When talking about the enhancements on this website, selling add ons, offering faster and better delivery services, etc. were the features which were picked up for development most of the time as they had potential to get more business.

It is an open website where people can search and browse train timetable and tickets. But to buy the tickets on this website users have to mandatorily register or log in to the website (if already registered). In several analysis reports, it was noticed that there was a significant drop on the number of visitors on the website after the log in page. It was quite evident that the users find this process of registering themselves on the website tedious. Moreover it was not the one time effort of registration but users have to log in next time onwards when they come to the website. For this they must remember their passwords or go through the forgot password flow of resetting password through email, etc.

Hence, we introduced the feature of guest checkout, where users can only provide their email address and proceed with the booking without registration. If they are already registered and do not remember their password they can still proceed as a guest by only giving their email address. Login and registration were still an option to get extra benefits of saved preferences, etc. but was not mandatory.

This helped users in 2 ways they do not have to go through the additional step of registration and if they have once registered they don’t have to remember which email id did they register with and of course the password remembering pain was gone. When user is in hurry and wants to quickly make a booking for a train with a very close departure time, this was an awesome feature. Along with this there is a human psych of not wanting to provide many details to the online world where only providing email address can get the work done, and hence this feature became helpful.

After a week this feature went live, the drop of website visits after the login page reduced significantly. The conversion rate of number of people visiting the website and actually buying the tickets increased by certain %.  This was a direct impact of better user experience on sales and revenue. And hence I learned the value and importance of enhancing user experience.

We always focus on complex things to improve business and increase sales but really never care about such minor stuff, which can create greater impacts. User experience is one such thing, which can bring in so much value but is ignored by everyone. For example, an online retailer can offer all the jazzy products on the website at a lower price compared to the competitors but it is of no use if the product search of the website is pathetic. Users will not find those awesome products in the search and will not even know that these products exist at such low prices. Hence, making the search simple and relevant is the most important feature on such websites.

User experience is a low hanging fruit that can create larger business impacts yet can be tackled easily and quickly.