User experience (UX) flaws, even when minor, can hurt customer experience — something I recently experienced firsthand. While shopping for travel insurance, I ended up switching to a competitor’s insurance plan because of the confusing error messages I kept encountering on the original provider’s site.

Retailers: Poor UX is impeding your customers, too, and is likely hurting your firm more than companies like the travel insurance provider in my example. Why? Given many readily available alternatives (hello, Amazon!), if your customers find your site(s) and app(s) difficult or confusing to use, or they can’t complete their tasks with confidence, they are likely to simply leave. This is especially true during the end-of-year holidays, when consumers are stressed and crunched for time looking for the most convenient options.

There’s good news, however! The holiday season is well underway, but there’s still time to find and fix problems and create better experiences for your customers. Focus right now on solutions to these four questions for quick UX improvements with high impact:

  1. Can customers find the products and information that they need? Your customers need you to provide an effective information architecture and robust search functionality to find the products they want easily. Make sure that your content is also easy to understand — think plain language. Check to see that important information, such as product descriptions, return policies, and reward program details, are written clearly without using industry jargon and includes key details that customers are looking for, such as fees and delivery dates. Even simply improving the language in your return policy will improve user experience and reduce calls to your customer service.
  2. Can customers check out with ease and confidence? Customers who buy products using your app or website aren’t automatically enjoying the experience. Are you causing your customers confusion and anxiety during checkout because you don’t provide clear next steps and don’t proactively share important information like delivery dates and fees? To improve your checkout experience and build user confidence, review your checkout process: Do you use clear, descriptive labels for navigation elements to communicate the next steps in the checkout flow? For example, “Review order summary” in the advancement button explains the next step much more clearly than just “Continue.” Are delivery dates, options, and fees displayed up front and clearly? Do you clearly list different payment options? Does the confirmation page summarize key details (e.g., the product name, total price, delivery dates, etc.)?
  3. Can customers sign up or log in easily? Retail brands often require customers to create accounts for rewards and tracking orders. Users simply give up on these tasks when the entry field requirements are not clear and when error messages are not specific enough to help fix issues. Instead, make sure that your form explains what information you need from them — and why. For example, do users need a username or email to log in? If you require demographic information, explain why you need this information, how it will be used, and then provide the customer with an inclusive set of answer choices. And don’t forget to clearly explain up front the benefits of creating an account.
  4. Are you avoiding coercive and deceptive design? Back in July, the FTC filed a complaint against Amazon for using coercive and deceptive design, also known as dark patterns, to trap consumers into signing up for recurring subscriptions and making it very difficult to cancel the service. To protect customer trust and avoid lawsuits post-holiday season, review your digital experience to make sure that it is free of coercive and deceptive design patterns, such as hidden costs, difficult cancellation of subscriptions, pop-up windows that are easy to misclick or are difficult to turn off, and fake countdown timers.

To uncover new opportunities and continuously create better experiences during the holiday season and beyond, embed UX research at all steps of the design process, do research at both the tactical and strategic levels, and if you have more questions about improving your user experience, set up a conversation with me.