Creating A Seamless User Experience

You've probably thought a great deal about the user interface (UI) of your ecommerce site, and your product landing pages, in particular.  You know you want your customers to find them easy to navigate.  You've also probably spent some time considering the overall user experience (UX) of the customer on your site. Does the layout and content make shopping pleasant for the customer?

It's important that the links on your landing pages take the customer where they want to go, that customers can sort products by the right attributes quickly and easily, that they don't become frustrated or bored before they can get to an item they wish to buy, and, that the checkout process is secure but simple.

You have thought about the UI and UX from the point the customer hits the landing page through checkout. Now, for a truly seamless ecommerce experience, it’s time to consider the UX in your SEM campaigns. You created your site’s organization for ease of customer use, so let’s extend that organization to your advertising.



Keywords are among the most signal-dense actions viewers can take. These self-selected precise bits of data inform us what product the customer is looking for and provide an idea of what attributes the customer values in that product.

Take a baseline search for "men's shirts" compared to a more attribute-rich search like “men’s wrinkle free dress shirts” or “men’s French cuff shirts.” In both of these searches, the customer tells you he or she is truly interested in dress shirts – and dress shirts with quite specific features. If your ad takes them to a page featuring a variety of men’s shirts but no clear way to display dress shirts only, they may become frustrated and drop out.

How can you prevent this? Start with a strong category structure and accurate categorization of your merchandise. Depending on the complexity of your offering, and the ways customers ask for it, this may involve implementing a taxonomy or ontology to distinguish that “men’s French cuff shirts” are dress shirts.  In a March 2013 webinar, Anthony Mullen of Forrester Research stated, " Taxonomies allow for simpler choices and provide a path to narrow focus." The simpler and cleaner the organization of a shopping site, the more likely it is that a customer will make a purchase. Ensure your UI provides customers with simple routes, like sort or enhanced search features, to quickly isolate the products they want.

But the best sorting mechanic will be meaningless without a rich categorization system on the back end.  You've already arranged your products based on factors like the type of product (furniture or, more specifically, bookshelves), the attributes you think customers value in the product (e.g., wood bookshelf versus metal bookshelf), and by factors to help you control your inventory (e.g., on sale).  If the way you've categorized items on the back end isn't detailed enough or if the attributes you've chosen to use to distinguish your products are of no interest to the customer, the customer's experience will be poor. 

Having done all that work to make sure your products are organized correctly and given the right attributes on your site, doesn't it make sense to organize your SEM campaign along the same lines? Say you've already taken the time to organize your used car inventory on your site by make, model and year. Why not use that system to organize your keywords?

If your campaigns are organized in a way that is similar to your site, the customer will feel like the shopping experience flows continuously, from the time they typed a query in their search engine to the time of purchase.  

If your SEM campaign ties in to your existing categorization system, it becomes easy to architect the path from customer searches to ads to the precise items they purchase. This makes optimization, analytics, reporting and projections simpler, too.

 The user experience starts the moment the customer starts a search. By unifying the categorization system embedded in the UI of your website and your campaign structure, you create one continuous and simple funnel for the customer. Paying attention to where the user experience actually begins will end in better results.

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