With an increasing number of retailers turning to the web to grow revenues and acquire customers, e-commerce competition is fiercer than ever before.

When online shoppers are browsing with intent to buy, retailers need to do everything they can to make the process informative and enjoyable, so offering the best possible browsing experience is crucial to keep customers spending.

We recently tested today’s digital highstreet by surveying 1,000 consumers about their attitudes and personal experiences before benchmarking these findings against the performance of the UK’s top 25 retailers.  

Browsing is a critical stage for retailers to encourage sales, but the average retailer score in this area was just 62% against the benchmark. So where are they going wrong?

Falling short on video

Today’s consumer is no longer satisfied with a list of product photos coupled with short descriptions when shopping online. Our research reveals that online shoppers crave more interactive features, such as video content.

Currently, there is a significant disconnect between consumers and retailers when it comes to video. With only one in four retailers providing it, even the biggest players seem to be underestimating the importance of video to consumers.

What retailers are doing well

It wasn’t all bad news though as most retailers were getting the basics right and our consumer research showed that it is often the simplest things that matter most.

Effective product search (88%) and detailed specification information (70%) are key concerns for online shoppers when browsing, and retailers are performing well here.

High quality images with multiple angles and zoom functions were also considered to be important by 62% of consumers, with 54% appreciating user reviews and 40% the ability to compare products.

Who does it best?

Marks & Spencer and VERY came out on top, both scoring 84% against the browsing benchmark.

They are great examples of how going the extra mile with user reviews, product recommendations, and video content can elevate a retail site from providing a good visitor experience, to an outstanding one.

So what can we learn?

The overall browsing score of 62% against the benchmark indicates that there is plenty of room for improvement, even among some of the UK’s top retailers.

We’ve put together five top tips that will help retailers offer an exceptional browsing experience: 

  • Spell it out. Give as much information as possible on everything from pricing to shipping to returns, and make sure everything is easy to find at every stage of the shopping journey.

    The nature of e-commerce means consumers are able to shop elsewhere almost immediately if they have any problems, so don’t risk losing them by withholding crucial information.

  • Make it visible. One of the drawbacks for consumers shopping online rather than on the high street is the inability to touch and play with a product, to really get a good look and feel.

    Online retailers should help reduce this by making product images interactive, allowing the product to be viewed from more than one angle. It’s worth investing in rotatable, zoomable images and, where appropriate, video.

  • Give visitors options. Consumers often like seeing what else is available, so make this easier by recommending alternative products or showcasing add-ons or associated accessories.

    As well as improving the browsing experience, behavioural merchandising is a great way to increase basket value.

  • Include reviewsCustomer reviews are powerful endorsements for your products, they reassure customers and overcome last minute fears.According to ratings company Reevoo, a reviews reader is 200-300% more likely to purchase than a customer who doesn’t read one (and 67% of customers trust reviews even more when they see both good and bad ones).
  • Enable comparisons. Allow people to compare products in the same category. This is especially important with more technically-based products, where even the smallest variance in specification can make a world of difference.  

The good news for retailers is that implementing many of these features is relatively simple, and definitely worth doing considering how crucial enjoyable browsing is to the overall online shopping experience. 

By improving browsing, retailers of all sizes will see their websites become engaging, effective and interactive places that will encourage visitors to spend more time, and money, on the site.