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6 simple ways to upgrade the online shopping experience

Would you order from a menu that just listed "chicken" or "fish," without any details? Would you buy clothes from a store that asked you to enter your full name, address and credit card data by hand every time you came in to purchase? Believe it or not, when it comes to online shopping consumers encounter these scenarios, and others like them, far too often.

So how can merchants up their game to the best industry standards — and, more important, at least meet their customers' expectations? Here's a look at a handful of smart tactics in retail, both in the online and offline worlds.

Enrich those product descriptions

“Longer, keyword-rich product descriptions increase visibility among search engines while capturing your brand’s irreverent style and voice,” Peacock says. Take ModCloth for example: Its website copy is both SEO-friendly and representative of their products and brand:

"As you give your healthy eating presentation at an elementary school, why not embody the spirit of your fave smart snack in these ruby-red wedges? Soft fabric composes these shoes’ upper, while a shiny, faux patent-leather heel grounds the mid-height wedges, and you along with them."

Get creative with customization

Too many choices in products can overwhelm shoppers -- so striking the right balance to personalize the experience is key. Adds Peacock: “More customization options and a user-friendly, graphic interface will make it quick and easy for shoppers to navigate the site and find the products they want.” At Indochino, the popular men's service for bespoke suits,  shoppers can select color, style, size and fit to meet individual needs.

Get ‘real-world’ with product images

Context is important when shopping online, when consumers can’t see or physically hold a product. Merchants that can create a virtual but "real-world" use for your products. Says Peacock,  “Swap product images for ones that feature real people wearing or using your merchandise, evoking a sense of fun and community.”

Simplify checkout

Steal a page from the Amazon playbook and find ways to make the checkout process as easy as falling off a log. Amazon gives customers the option to create a ‘one-click’ settings that allow them to instantly purchase without re-entering information. Says Peacock, “a one-page checkout process streamlines purchasing, leading to greater sales conversions.”

Get responsive in mobile email

Retailers that boast a seamless shopping experience on their site can lose much of that customer goodwill if their email and mobile channels don't measure up. One basic must-have is responsive design for mobile email, ensuring the same experience across any device or operating system. "Marketers who implement responsive design report a 20 percent increase in clicks and conversions on average," writes Michael Della Penna, Senior Vice President of Emerging Channels at Responsys. "Start slowly," Della Penna advises, "By isolating one or two responsive-designed emails to track and measure the impact for your brand and then proceed with a full rollout."

Deliver product recommendations to customers

Another way to improve the shopping experience is to email product recommendations to customers based on their web browsing history. Email programs that recommend products from a customer's abandoned shopping cart or items the customer has viewed are proven to "reengage shoppers," according to Practical Ecommerce.

Motivate offline shoppers to shop online 

Smart use of mobile messages that are delivered based on a consumer's location can drive traffic to a retailer's website, where shoppers can find special deals or online-only merchandise. Research shows that advertising campaigns that use location data perform twice as well those that don't.

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