UX audit of beauty e-commerce sites
Online cosmetics sales have enormous potential, which is why we have taken a look at several stores in this category and analyzed trends in the beauty industry. In this article, Agata Chmielewska and Radek Rejsel share specific tips that will help increase sales in online drugstores.
According to a report prepared by Gemius for the Chamber of Electronic Economy, cosmetics have been one of the 3 most frequently purchased product categories online for several years.
Moreover, people who currently do not shop online indicate that they could start buying cosmetics online in the future. This shows a huge potential that the industry has in reaching new customers and increasing sales.
Because consumers search for information about cosmetics and perfumes online (according to data from the E-commerce in Poland 2022 report), beauty brands and stores should strive to provide the best user experience at all stages of the purchasing path. This applies to the moment of looking for information, product selection and when finalising the transaction. All of these stages are influenced by different factors, but to identify which ones require optimization, a UX audit should be conducted.
What is a UX audit?
A UX audit involves analyzing a website, online store, or other digital product with the goal of evaluating the product from the perspective of user experience. It includes an expert’s evaluation and analysis of data collected from user behavior monitoring tools such as GA, HJ, etc. This allows to identify obstacles on the transaction path, as well as elements that need improvement.
A UX audit is often supplemented by research with potential recipients in the form of interviews and observation of how they perform specific tasks on the website. This helps to gather a complete picture of the problems that users face and the reasons.
Naturally, the audit is just the first step. In itself it won’t change much, it is imperative that recommended changes are implemented, registered mistakes are eliminated and further monitoring of the service be continued.
In the case of online stores, a UX audit is usually conducted to find ways to increase conversion or make a decision whether to redesign the entire store, if the layout is significantly different from common standards.
UX audit in cosmetics stores
A UX audit in e-commerce does not differ significantly between individual industries. There are minor differences resulting from the specifics of what the customer pays attention to. For example, in beauty stores, the appearance and aesthetics of the store may be more important than in a store selling products for builders.When conducting a UX audit we always pay attention to:
design, the platform’s overall look and feel,
clarity, meaning the readability and ease of understanding of what one can find on the platform,
reliability, which means building trust and a sense of security,
functionality, or intuitive design, with an easy navigation on the website, and a seamless transaction process, which is the achievement of a goal.
These elements, combined with promotional activities and customer service, create a complete customer experience. That’s why we always encourage the analysis of the entire customer journey. This journey begins with the user’s first contact with the brand, such as social media ads, in-store actions (product search, cart process, etc.), and post-transactional support (delivery or contact with customer service).
Let’s go through a few examples of audits we conducted for Polish online drugstores. We collected the conclusions from these audits into common thematic groups. These audits were conducted based on our team’s expert knowledge, without access to analytical and sales data or user research.
First impression – overall appearance and style
As we mentioned earlier, in the beauty industry a store’s aesthetics can be very important. Customers’ motivation for purchases often involves improving their appearance, maintaining health, and freshness.
The first encounter with a website should evoke positive feelings and make the user feel they are in the right place. Try to avoid overwhelming the user with information, and minimise the feeling of ambiguity and chaos. Of course, website aesthetics are not only important for online drugstores, however here the aesthetics particularly support building credibility and satisfying the needs related to taking care of one’s body.
Why are aesthetics so important to us? It is related to the so-called aesthetic usability effect. According to this, people perceive aesthetic designs as more useful. This applies to both the appearance of the website as well as product packaging. In other words, we are simply more forgiving of nicely designed services, and products presented in them appear to work better.
What feelings do you have when looking at the Alkmie.com? Do you also feel it is difficult to determine which element is most important? Your eyes jump around the whole page, you don’t know where to focus, and the whole thing is a bit overwhelming. The page structure is also disrupted (margins and distances between different elements are unclear), and it’s challenging to quickly determine what elements belong to each other. The black navigation bar with product categories doesn’t help either, adding even more weight to the page and dominating it. It distracts from the elements that should attract attention when entering the page, such as CTA or USP buttons (Unique Selling Propositions).
The color black is often associated with luxury and frequently used by brands positioning themselves as premium. But does the color actually matter? According to research conducted by Dutch startup Usabilla – yes, it does matter – particularly for cosmetic brands. The study demonstrated what attracts users’ attention and how color plays a role in building positive consumer feelings. For example, Dove’s blue and white color scheme brings to mind freshness, purity, and youth. That’s very likely precisely what we expect from cosmetics.
Earlier, we mentioned call-to-action and USP buttons. The latter is, in a sense, a brand promise that supports the visitor’s feeling that this website will meet their needs. This feeling can be achieved in many ways, but the most common and straightforward one is by using the banner that appears on the first screen which answers questions that arise in the consumer’s mind. Will I find products for myself (such as specific brands or products)? Does the store support values that I’m loyal to (such as environmental protection)? How is this store better than others like it (such as a low threshold for free shipping, cosmetics samples)?
We’d like to say that the main banner on the first screen, doesn’t have to inform visitors about promotions, sales etc. However, for many years financial aspects have been one of the main factors motivating internet users to make a purchase.
Of course, Drogeria Natura knows this and informs visitors about current promotions on their homepage. But are they doing it the right way? In our opinion, not necessarily, as the number of elements on the banner disturbs the aesthetics and doesn’t clearly state what the user will receive. The slider changes so quickly that before we get to the important information, “2+1 for 1 penny*,” we are already looking at another loaded and incoherent banner.
A platform’s clarity, meaning it’s readability and ease of understanding, together with the avoidance of overloading users with information, ensure that the platform looks professional and builds trust.
Clarity also refers to text size and placement of individual elements on the website. Let’s not burden customers with a small text size, or a multitude of buttons in close proximity. Remember that people have different disabilities, such as poor vision, for whom a smaller text will simply be unreadable.
Clarity also means making it easy to scan the text through good formatting: using a bolder font style for the most important words or short phrases, creating lists, and underlining. Bear in mind, if we use bold for entire sentences or paragraphs (as in the example below from Alkmie.com), it loses its purpose.
Significance of content in the beauty industry
The product page and its content have a significant impact on the purchasing decision. When looking for information on cosmetics, customers attach great importance to detailed product descriptions, good photos, and opinions of other customers. Additional materials such as tutorials or videos are also important. This is somewhat related to the fact that customers cannot pick up the product, check its consistency, read the description on the packaging, or ask a salesperson about it.
It is also worth to add an ingredients list to the product description, both active ingredients and their chemical equivalents, such as INCI compositions, as this is the transparency that consumers expect (according to Deloitte’s research),
In addition to the content itself, the structure and hierarchy of information are also important. In the example shown below, from the Super Pharm drugstore, we can see that the 3-column layout of the product page gives the impression that the page is spread out, making it difficult to take everything in at once. Additionally, the large amount of white space can cause the user to overlook important elements (such as the “add to cart” button).
How do we know what to include on a product page? Katie Sherwin from the Nielsen Norman Group has prepared an excellent guide in which we shows that it’s not only about the photo and product description. Shipping information or usage tips, which are particularly important in the cosmetics industry, are also desired.
It is also considered a good practice to provide a large number of photos or videos related to a given product. These can show the packaging from different angles, the consistency of the product, and in the case of colored cosmetics, how a particular eyeshadow or lipstick looks on different skin tones. It is always worth asking the manufacturer for this type of material, as they may have it in their database and be willing to share.
Another important element of a product page are reviews from other customers who have already used the product. We know that acquiring reviews is not an easy task, but it is well worth the effort, as studies show that the experiences of others have a huge impact on purchasing decisions – especially in the beauty industry. For example, one study found that adding at least one product review can generate up to a 65% increase in sales. However, remember the Omnibus directive, which came into force this year and requires e-commerce owners to ensure that reviews come only from people who have actually used the product.
You can also try to collaborate with influencers who will test selected products and share their impressions on their social media or other communication channels. Include their reviews on the product pages as well.
Speaking of product pages, let’s address another very important issue: information architecture. Unfortunately, it was a very weak point for many of the drugstore websites we audited. Disrupted information architecture can cause users to have problems distinguishing between individual elements on the page, finding information, or even missing the add-to-cart button.
The structure of product listing architecture is another common problem that creates chaos, for example when products are very close to each other or there is a lot of white space between individual elements on a product tile (Example: Alkmie.com). In addition, the lack of clear spacing between products makes it unclear which information belongs to which product.
The readability of product listing is also disrupted in Drogeria Natura, where, similarly to the previous example, there is no clear separation between product tiles, and there are additional lines separating individual elements within the tile, causing further confusion. Here, the information hierarchy of the product is disrupted as well: Brand > Fragrance > Product Name, whereas it should be Product Name and Brand > Fragrance. All of this ultimately leads to a loss of orientation when scrolling through the page, making it unclear to which product the given information pertains to.
Functionality in the store – intuitiveness and simplicity
Thanks to technological advances, customers can feel similarly in online stores and in physical ones. There are countless functionalities that allow you to immerse yourself in the product and learn more about it. Let’s start with the basics and move on to more innovative solutions later.
One of the most common actions taken by customers during the purchasing journey is to use the search engine, especially when they know exactly what they want to buy. Therefore, a smoothly functioning search engine is crucial for a positive shopping experience, and any issues related to it can be a reason for customers to abandon the website without making a purchase.
What should we pay attention to when it comes to the search engine?
– It should be prominent on every subpage (except for the shopping cart).
– It should account for misspellings, synonyms, and the lack of Polish characters.
– Autocomplete (e.g. popular queries) and suggestions for completed search queries are a very convenient.
– The search engine can also suggest products with their thumbnails, categorized by type, and provide a direct link to the product page, bypassing the search results page.
– For returning customers, it’s worthwhile to offer personalized suggestions based on their purchase history and on-site behavior.
Filtering and sorting
These features are crucial when dealing with a large product range and can greatly improve the user’s shopping experience. However, for them to be effective, they need to function properly and be customized to suit the specific products being offered. Regrettably, this is not always the case.
To ensure that customers are aware of their ability to sort or filter through a lengthy list of products we must inform them. Nonetheless, in the case of Drogeria Natura, there is a lack of visual cues for sorting and filtering. Furthermore, the filtering and sorting functionality is hampered by the page reloading after each selected filter, as well as its poor filter categorization.
Facilitate achieving the goal, i.e., making a transaction
To ensure a successful conversion in an online store, it is crucial to make the process of completing a transaction as easy as possible. When a user visits an online store, they typically intend to purchase something, and it’s important to help them achieve this goal with minimal obstacles.
To achieve this, it’s important to use various design elements that encourage customers to add items to their shopping carts. However, it’s equally important not to overdo it, as too many distracting and confusing elements can frustrate customers and make it difficult for them to understand the next steps. For example, like Drogeria Natura shown below, some online stores may use excessive cross-selling elements or too many attention-distracting elements in their shopping cart design, which can negatively impact the user experience. Instead, it’s better to keep the design simple and focused on guiding the user towards completing the purchase. At the same time, during transaction finalization, it may be wise to omit the search bar, in order to not distract the customer, and show stages of in-cart process instead of breadcrumbs.
Additionally, it’s important to avoid forcing customers to create an account in order to complete a purchase. This can be a turn-off for many users who don’t want to remember login credentials or share personal data. According to the Nielsen Norman Group, people are afraid that registering will result in receiving a lot of spam. Instead, offer the option to complete the purchase as a guest, while also making it easy for users who do want to create an account to do so without requiring excessive information.
Finally, it’s helpful to clearly communicate the steps involved in the purchasing process, so users understand what to expect and where they are in the process. This can prevent confusion and ensure a smoother user experience. This was, for example, missing in Alkmie, where the user still had to make a payment, but received information that the order has already been accepted. The user may feel that everything has been done, while in fact, they still have to pay for the order.
By avoiding these common pitfalls, online drugstores can create a more user-friendly checkout process that improves conversion rates and helps build customer loyalty.
Improving customer experience trends in the beauty industry
For many consumers, buying cosmetics online is still difficult to imagine. They need to talk to the seller, inquire about its effects, smell and check the consistency. That’s why the beauty industry is one of the most technologically advanced and experimental, testing solutions we wouldn’t even think of. It’s worth being open to these solutions and trying them out to improve customers’ shopping experiences.
Expanded search options
Visual search has been around for a long time, but few Polish e-commerce sites offer this option. However, it significantly reduces the time it takes for a customer to find a specific product, especially if they see a cosmetic product with their friends and want to quickly check if it’s available at their favorite drugstore.
Using machine learning (ML) in search also improves the customer experience by personalizing search results and product recommendations. Combined with Natural Language Processing (NLP), products that are in line with users’ intentions can be displayed without the need to search for exact product names or categories.
You may associate these options with clothing stores, but why not implement them in online drugstores? After all, there are many questions that customers need answers to: Which shade of lipstick should I choose? Will this eyeshadow match the color of my eyes? Artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) can help answer these questions by enabling “virtual try-ons” and simply allowing customers to check the cosmetics on their own faces. The question arises: Is this investment worth considering? Probably, as 61% of consumers prefer to shop from retailers that offer the possibility to use augmented reality.
Inclusivity, or open to everyone
What is inclusivity in the beauty industry? It is celebrating our diversity and taking into account all skin tones, skin types, and simply each of us exactly as we are. It also means no division into cosmetics for women and men and using human diversity in communication that reflects real life rather than the Instagram-perfect filter. Young customers are increasingly demanding transparency, respect for everyone, and no longer want to pretend or chase after unrealistic demands from the world and themselves.
Marketing is important, but when combined with UX, it can bring significantly better results. It’s worth to place greater emphasis on improving the customer experience in online drugstores, as with the use of the possibilities offered by modern technology, we can further accelerate the development of this e-commerce segment. Where to start? The best way is to begin with an analysis of the current situation, namely a UX audit that takes into account not only the interaction with the store, but the entire purchasing process. Add analytics and tests with real users to get an even fuller picture of what can be optimized or changed. The key to success is understanding the customer and building a sense of security that is worth every penny.