Website UX Best Practices During COVID-19 & Times of Crisis

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Craig Smith  |  Founder & CEO

Empathy is the prevailing idea. 

Accomplishing business growth during times of crisis isn’t a guarantee. The very idea of success born from universal hardships demonstrates strength and capable leadership. For all businesses, whether thriving or struggling to stay afloat, transparency and empathy are necessities. The perception of profiteering during a crisis when many face health and financial uncertainty is distasteful. Brands must present offerings carefully, so as not to be perceived as insensitive to the climate of the times. Now more than ever, your brand must ensure empathy to consumer’s plight as a part of your UX plan.

While maintaining an image of strength and reliability, businesses must be flexible and adapt to changing circumstances, user behavior, and time-sensitive messaging. 

Empathy can be harnessed in many ways. Here are a few tips to tune into your brand’s softer side:

  • Narrow your focus. Think about what you have that your customers need right now, and speak directly to those needs. 
  • Stop squeezing. Subtly move from hard selling to soft selling. Focus less on the product or service you’re offering, and more on what it can do for your customer. 
  • Emails are the best currency. The shift from selling to relationship-building in your core touchpoints. Assume traditional conversions will be affected, and shuffle up your priorities accordingly. When sales don’t come as easy, lead nurturing becomes a necessity—and there’s no better way to maintain communications than over email. How can you better attract sign-ups? How can you be a resource for your readers now and in the future?
  • Make customer service easily accessible. Increased visibility gives users an elevated sense of trust. Phone numbers and email addresses should be quickly discoverable, whatever path users take through your website. FAQs should be prominent and kept up-to-date. And external messaging should be sensitive to customer’s anxiety and frustrations during this time.

When testing isn’t an option…

Unfortunately, the processes around A/B and multivariate testing require clean data and periods of stability to monitor changes in user behavior—something which few industries have right now. 

Instead of traditional tests, emphasize UX changes that make it as easy as possible for users to transact. Take immediate action on new and relevant UX best practices, such as:

  • Product Discovery & Selection
    • Merchandising! Relevant products/offers based on individual needs is ideal.
    • Example: Promoting essential care and grooming items to horse owners vs saddles and other non-essential items.
  • Not great:
    In this first photo, there is no info about the current climate of the country. If a customer made a purchase right now and it was out of stock or took more time to ship your customer might assume that you are negligent in your job. Customers might also assume that you’re out of touch with the times. Neither assumption is good for future business.  
  • Better:
    In this second photo, we have a Hero Banner. This banner is designed to provide info to your visitors right away. Guests are instantly informed and given the ability to make an informed decision.
  • Convey Value on the Offer/Product 
    • Example:
      • Messaging: Looking for
      • Messaging: Feeling isolated?
      • Messaging: Can’t get to the store?
      • Messaging: Worried about running out?

Ensure a relevant connection between the offer/product and current plight of your customers. Answer their questions like, will they get it fast enough? Speak to realistic shipping expectations and why delays should be expected on certain products. Present your customers with all your advertised deals.  You can do this by offering special coupons. If you have an active discount, don’t make them go look for it, offer it freely.

  • If they need it once, do they need it again? 
  • If it’s consumable, can you offer a subscription? 
    • Subscriptions offer customers signup and forget about it. 
    • Consumable supporting products, can you offer those in a bundle?
  • Capture the order Quickly & Securely

Consider implementing a guest checkout option to eliminate additional steps for new customers. Mobile payments are more important than ever so it’s key to ensure correct input formatting specific to mobile keypads. This will make for smooth conversion once customers are in the final steps to completing their purchase. Take advantage of the many new ways of ease to pay, such as PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Wallet or Amazon Pay.

Saying nothing isn’t an option.

When consumer confidence is low, your fans, viewers, and shoppers need assurances. Most aren’t sure what businesses are still actively doing business. Customers who see a website devoid of timely and relevant messaging will leave, wondering if you’re either DOA or asleep at the wheel.

  • Give assurances, that you are: 
    • Still operating
      • Communicate updated hours if necessary
    • Able to deliver (even if it’s slower than usual)
    • Standing behind the products/services you’re offering
    • Following all CDC recommended guidelines 

For those in need of sweeping website changes: 

Now is a perfectly fine time to re-platform—that is, if it is something that you have not only been considering for a while, but actively planning, budgeting, and coordinating.

Here are a few reasons why:

  • A new platform may provide capabilities necessary at this time, such as faster order fulfillment, product bundling, and SEO-friendly eCommerce build, improved page speed or ease of use among staff and departments (developers, content marketers, and product managers alike)

  • The project already requires a team that efficiently works while apart (sometimes over states, sometimes over countries) to handle the many various functions needed during all phases

  • Q1 and Q2 are typically the best times to launch a large migration effort, as they are considered “off-season” times for eComm retailers

If you are unable to make quick changes to your website because of the lack of dev power, inefficient back end systems, or other reasons, there are workarounds! 

Tools like Visual Website Optimizer (VWO) can help quickly augment the front-end of the store to properly display any changes you need to make during these trying times. As a trusted partner of VWO, Trinity has plenty of success stories and examples of site improvements we’ve made with zero development hours. 

For example, you might:

  • Add site-wide banners
  • Add context to Product, Cart, and Checkout pages to notify customers of delays in shipping or changes in shipping costs
  • Renew or add marketing banners to the site to highlight products of need for people during this time
  • Update brick and mortar store hours
  • Update customer service response times
  • Provide any information that a customer may need to know while placing orders or contacting you 

Today more than ever, quick and concise communication with customers is everything.

We’re here to lend a hand.

These are uncertain times for many networks and communities—families and neighbors, coworkers in your business and in your online competitors. In order to thrive, we must push to stay open, stay active, and innovative together. 

Working to meet the needs of our partners has always been a priority here at Trinity. Together,  we can turn the current crisis into an opportunity to expand services, sales, and scope. Start with a free strategy session, and let’s talk through some of the challenges that COVID-19 presents to your business.

Strategic partnerships like those we have with our trusted customers don’t just keep our online stores up and running; they have the potential to propel our industries to previous heights and beyond. 

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