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E-commerce and containment: How is UX the answer to new consumption patterns?

Thomas Huber

January 21, 2020

8 min of reading


The arrival of Covid-19 at the start of the year has had a strong impact on consumption patterns. As a result of the confinement period and the one we are currently experiencing, this change in behavior has turned into a habit. Indeed, there has been an increase in online shopping during the lockdown period, and even in the post lockdown period. This phenomenon has been particularly favored by the closure of non-food stores and by the desire of consumers to protect themselves against health risks. Following this increase in the use of e-commerce sites, UX should not be neglected in business strategy. Using a UX Designer allows you to strengthen your position and stand out in a competitive environment.

E-commerce sites, an essential part of everyday life

According to the Médiamétrie Internet Usages Observatory, 40 million Internet users made online purchases during the first quarter of 2020. More than three quarters of Internet users (76%) made at least one online purchase during of the last 7 days during the confinement period. This proportion is not only higher than that observed during an "ordinary" period (one in two Internet users is a buyer during a month in a normal period), but it increases even beyond May 11, the date of the first phase of the period of confinement in France.

With the first confinement, and reinforced by the second, consumer habits have changed. Purchases via e-commerce sites have become essential, this is due to the reduction of risks, the reduction of anxiety and the feeling of security and belonging that generates online versus in-store purchases. In addition, faced with the inability to purchase non-essential items in stores, turning to online platforms was the most convenient solution for consumers. Regarding essential purchases, for 31% of those surveyed by Médiamétrie, online shopping enabled them to withstand the constraints related to confinement and to avoid exposure to health risk.

We can ask ourselves the question of maintaining these habits at the end of this health crisis. However, online shopping is a practice that was fully anchored in the habits of French people long before the health crisis. In addition, a significant portion of online shoppers will continue to buy online as a precaution against a possible return of the virus.

Increased competition in the e-commerce market

To meet consumer expectations and survive the economic crisis following the pandemic, some companies have had to rethink their strategies and consider omnichannel. In the food e-commerce sector, the marketplaces of small businesses have also recorded an explosion in demand during the containment. New sites have also been launched, and brands still absent from E-commerce (discount, organic, fresh products, etc.) are considering their presence on the internet. Some traders, present only in the markets, now offer to have their basket of fresh fruit and vegetables delivered to their homes.

Consumer demand for an online service is not just about the food industry. Today, 74.7% of online shoppers expect a delivery service from their convenience stores. Failing to offer a delivery service, some businesses offer click & collect, such as many booksellers, or clothing stores outside the big name. It would not be profitable for them to offer a delivery service, but having a click & collect service allows them to facilitate the daily life of their buyers, and to continue minimal activity in times of crisis.

Map of bookstores offering click & collect

The goal of this omnichannel is not the cannibalization of online versus physical stores, but the complementarity between a physical store and an online service to maintain an optimal shopping experience with the French.

More than ever in this period of confinement, UX should not be put aside among e-merchants. However, the decline in the resources allocated to UX is a matter of concern, some sectors being greatly impacted by the Covid-19 crisis.

What if it was a mistake to put the UX aside during this time? With the rise of online shopping, small and large marketplaces have every interest in optimizing their purchasing journeys through UX Design. In the transformation of a visitor into a consumer, UX plays an important part, it aims to improve the user experience by making it pleasant and useful. UX works on 3 elements that make up a brand: its usefulness, its proximity to the user (its ability to create common languages), and its hedonic dimension (generating pleasure).

What better way to stand out than to offer a flawless shopping and browsing experience. Internet users will naturally be more inclined to return to a platform that offers a great user experience.

Most of the well-known marketplaces like Airbnb, Amazon, and Etsy attribute much of their success to a user-centric design approach. An online shopping platform must take into account the needs of these online shoppers.

The client should feel comfortable and satisfied with their experience from start to finish.

UX Design & Marketplaces best practices  

It is important to take into account some good UX practices to highlight your marketplace and stand out among Internet users.

  1. Promote the security of your site

The lockdown has prompted new consumers to buy online. With the massive influx of newbies to e-commerce platforms, security is key to encouraging them to buy. For this, networks and databases storing customer information must be secured by a reputable company. The consumer can thus be assured that the information relating to his credit card will not be stolen or that his personal address will not be compromised. The comfort level of buying from a company increases when the consumer feels secure.

  1. Make navigation accessible and fluid

Plus il est facile d'acheter quelque chose, plus on achète de choses. Une navigation simple et maniable, non seulement, favorise les ventes, mais rend l'expérience bien plus agréable que de devoir comprendre comment fonctionne le site E-commerce. N’hésitez pas à simplifier vos pages et utiliser des menus pour catégoriser vos produits. Il ne faut pas oublier aussi de réduire le nombre de pages présentes dans votre tunnel de conversion. Plus le nombre de pages diminue, plus le visiteur validera rapidement son panier. 

  1. Use attractive visuals 

There are many differences between home shopping and online shopping, but an important aspect is seeing the actual product or service in action. Human interaction will always have a personal touch when it comes to shopping, but designers need to achieve this digitally. Product photos, the look and feel of a website or application, aesthetics are all very important to the design. A tip is to use photos and videos on the product pages. The customer must imagine the product in its environment, it is necessary to compensate for the absence of the product in real life with the maximum amount of visual to meet the need for physical projection.

The example of ASOS 

UX an integral part of the strategy of e-commerce platforms during and post-containment.

The Covid-19 has had a strong impact on consumption patterns. Purchasing journeys have gone digital and marketplaces have seen their number of users increase.

New players have entered the market to survive and adapt to new consumption habits. Click & collect, home delivery services ... The presence of large and small brands continues to grow and tends towards omnichannel.

To differentiate themselves and remain competitive, e-merchants must call on UX Designers to optimize their platform and relaunch new products. The key advantage for online sites is to focus on user experience through UX Design.

Sources : Qubstudio ;Baromètre trimestriel de l’audience du e-commerce en France 1er trimestre 2020 (Médiamétrie & Fevad) ; Medium 

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