Online shopping has become a regular affair today. Almost everyone shops on the Internet, not only during the holiday seasons when online retailers offer huge discounts but throughout the year. According to Commerce Department estimates, annual e-commerce sales in the U.S. totaled $304.91 billion in 2014, almost 15.4 percent up from the previous year. The fourth quarter i.e. the holiday seasons sales accounted $95.98 billion, which represented 31.4 percent of the total eRetail sales in 2014.
In its recent report, the Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce estimated that the U.S. eRetail sales for Q3 2015 was $87.5 billion, up 4.2 percent from this year’s second quarter e-commerce sales.
But what makes people click the purchase button?
Well, it isn’t easy to answer. From pricing to usability of your e-commerce site, a lot of factors can encourage your visitors to make the purchase. But one thing is extremely important – the overall look and feel of your online store. The design of your e-commerce website affects your business in more than one way. To begin with, it obviously affects how your customers view your brand. In addition, your website’s design also affects the user experience, which again, affects your sales directly.
e-commerce Web Design and Sales
A 2006 study by Lindgaard, Fernandes, Dudek, & Brown indicates that it just takes 50 milliseconds for a user “to develop an impression of a website and decide whether he or she likes it”. If your users feel that our e-commerce store is difficult to navigate, requiring tons of clicking they will abandon your site sooner than you imagine. In fact, users can even abandon your online store if they don’t like the theme or color of your website.
The design of your online store is therefore as important as any traditional brick and mortar store. The layout, the navigation, the look and feel, everything affects your sales. Attractive online store design has always been a key factor in determining the store’s sales and marketing as it increases your products’ perceived value to your customers apart from making your website seem more trustworthy.
One thing with e-commerce website designs (just like any other website design) is that the trends change almost every year. In 2016, for example, online stores are more likely to look alike as designers are now employing similar user interface design patterns and card-like layouts to the e-commerce sites. The popularity of these design trends is most driven by the higher usage of mobile devices. Studies indicate that more than 50 percent of all e-commerce traffic come from mobile devices. In 2013, one-third of all holiday season e-commerce purchases were made using a smartphone.
The user interface design patterns that designers are now using work well on both mobile devices and desktop computers, making the online stores truly responsive. As a result more and more designers are incorporating these patterns to provide convenient and similar shopping experiences across devices.
The following are 5 e-commerce design trends that you should keep your eyes open for in 2016.
1. Flat and Material Design
Flat and material designs have similar design style, although they differ in certain aspects. Both the designs are trending right at this moment. The key reasons for their popularity are as follows:
- You can easily adopt them for responsive sites
- They are content-focused
- Provide a young, fresh look to your website
Both the designs have minimalistic style that highly appeals to users in terms of accessibility and simplicity. For one thing, both flat and material designs provide a gimmick-free feel. Combined with vibrant and bright colors, these design patterns reflect the true essence of young brands like Google, Dunked and Needle in Seattle.
Although they look very much alike to the untrained eyes, difference lies in the details. Besides, they both have certain pros and cons that you need to consider when settling for one design over another.
Flat design, for example, is a great option if your users are highly attuned to digital interaction. Material design, on the other hand, allows you to communicate and response to your users’ actions. It basically attempts to combine the real and digital worlds and is essentially multi-dimensional, even though it is aesthetically flat. It is an evolution of flat design and more robust in nature.
But keeping aside the debate regarding flat design vs. material design, we will be seeing a lot of e-commerce websites implementing these design patterns to focus on UX.
2. Responsive Design
Responsive web design is here to stay, thanks to the growing trend of mobile Internet usage. This is definitely a good news for online retailers as responsive design provides a rather affordable and simple way for businesses to create an effective mobile-friendly site that also improves user experience.
In fact, responsive web design is more than a trend now; it is a best practice, especially after Google released its Mobile Friendly update in April 2015. It is therefore quite obvious that more and more websites, including online stores will become responsive in 2016, if they haven’t already. Now, this isn’t happening just because Google says so; responsive design is highly compatible with minimalism, helping designs to keep the page weight down. In addition, it works well with other popular design trends like cards and car-like layouts when it comes to fit the screen size.
While this design is versatile, there are certain things you need to consider to provide optimum user experience. Your responsive e-commerce store should be lightning fast across all devices. Performance remains the biggest issue for many. It is therefore recommended to apply performance testing in order to measure and optimize your e-commerce store effectively for each device and screen size.
3. Card Design
Card and card-like layouts are trending for one simple reason. It allows you to add and organize amounts of content with little or no effort. The card-like boxes are used to encapsulate text, images and resources. e-commerce websites are highly leveraging this design pattern not only because it allows them to add huge amount of content, but is also pleasing to the eye. A bonus – card design is extremely easy to use. Users can check out their options with an immediate glance. And as mentioned earlier, card design works really well for responsive themes.
This design pattern has just started heating up and isn’t going anywhere soon. Rather, quite the opposite; it will be much more prevalent in 2016 and beyond especially in the e-commerce landscape.
The popularity of cards and card layouts was largely driven by their inclusion in Google’s Material Design. Microsoft too is jumping onboard in order to stay relevant. In addition, many websites, e-commerce and otherwise, are using card designs. Coca-Cola’s “Ahh” campaign and Pinterest are the two most popular examples. Some e-commerce examples include Adidas, Lord & Taylor, Watb and Belk etc.
4. Parallax Scrolling
Parallax scrolling or long-scroll pages are nothing new. The technology was initially used in 2D games and has been extended to business websites, especially e-commerce sites in the recent years. In fact, this design trend gained much momentum in 2014 and hasn’t lost its charm yet. But why parallax scrolling?
Statistics indicate that users spend 76 percent of their browsing time in scrolling. It is, in fact, great for capturing your visitors’ attention quickly, to ‘wow’ them. It allows designers to:
- Guide visitors through storytelling model, which has gained a lot of popularity lately
- Show 3D model using movement, page depth and animation
- Create timelines to provide a fun and very visual presentation
With the popularity of m-commerce, clicking is fast becoming a thing of past. Hand-held devices are designed in such a way that users find it easier to scroll down pages for a seamless content experience. And the smaller the device’s screen is, the longer the page scroll would be. This is the basic theory behind parallax scrolling sites.
Parallax scrolling also reduces the loading time and information is presented in a storytelling format, further enhancing user engagement. It is easier to navigate the store, which in turn increase your chances of generating sales.
When it comes to designing, sites implementing parallax scrolling usually have one larger home page linking to other similar kind of pages. Some sites are also opting for one single long page, aided by infinite scroll. However, they aren’t recommended for e-commerce sites.
Using parallax scrolling technique along with scroll-triggered animation and Ajax/jQuery techniques, designers can really get innovative with the setup. Being such a dynamic technique, parallax scrolling sometimes challenges designers to look for more creative and innovative methods to leverage this trend.
You can refer to them in order to emulate their style but remember that just like any other design style, parallax scrolling too has its drawbacks. So choose wisely and consider its advantages and disadvantages instead of following the trend blindly.
5. Interruption Merchandising
Interruption merchandising. A fancy name for something we are already familiar with. Remember the pop-up advertising! Of course you do, who can forget those annoying online promotion? In the 1990s the so-called pop-up advertising were first introduced; when you click at them, albeit mistakenly, the ads and sometimes the entire website opened in new browser windows every time. Worse still, many of them were deceptive and you never know what will open.
I hated them; in fact, most consumers hated those irritating pop-up ads. It was therefore no surprize that pop-up blocking services became commonplace soon enough and shortly after, web browsers too started blocking them.
But why am I talking about pop-up advertising once again? Because, they are making a comeback. And quite interestingly, interruption marketing is now being embedded in website design. This design trend is using the pop-up as a model. Online retailers are using them to offer special discounts and in exchange asking you to subscribe to their email list and/or follow their various social media profiles.
The reason behind this comeback is obviously email marketing. For online retailers, email marketing is one of the most powerful tool to reach out to their target audience. More number of email subscribers means more visitors and more chances of getting sales. Online retailers understand this very well and therefore use any means to attract more subscribers (read sales).
These pop-ups and interruption merchandising will become a common sight in 2016, especially for online stores. Many of the top retailers will start leveraging them, although selectively. This means, these pop-ups won’t be showing up every time you visit the online retail store. Sometimes, it will be displayed only when you take a specific action such as scrolling or when you attempt to leave the site.
Some of the brands that are already using modals on-site effectively include Ann Taylor, COS, Big Lots, AQ/AQ, Taylor Stitch and Pretty Little Thing. There are several apps to help you set up a pop-up seamlessly to promote your email subscriptions.
There are some e-commerce website design trends that are fading fast, while others are here to stay. Designs that further aid consumers’ mobile shopping experience are specifically hooked for long as the popularity of mobile Internet usage is likely to increase even more in the coming days. As a result, more and more online retailers will be focusing their e-commerce design strategies on those platforms to stay relevant. Minimalism, simplicity and clarity will play key role in the year ahead. But before jumping onboard, make sure they are best for your users. After all you following some trends blindly only because they are ‘in’ at the moment isn’t your goal; you should rather strive to provide the best possible user experiences to your consumers.