How do users track and return orders? How do they manage their account data?
Accounts & Self-Service is a unique aspect of the e-commerce user experience. Unlike the 6 other e-commerce themes we’ve researched, ‘Accounts & Self-Service’ is often not part of the “direct purchase funnel” — in most cases, users don’t need to sign in to complete a purchase.
However, this isn’t to indicate that Accounts & Self-Service is less important than other e-commerce themes. Returning users — those most likely to use Self-Service features most often — are critically important to a successful e-commerce business, which means the Accounts & Self-Service UX performance can be just as important as the UX performance of the Product Page, Homepage & Category, or other e-commerce areas when it comes to a site’s overall long-term sales.
Moreover, the Accounts & Self-Service area of e-commerce is arguably the most personal of the e-commerce areas that a user experiences. Users tracking a package, attempting to cancel a wrong order, or attempting to return a product often interact with a site on a deeper level than users, for example, browsing product pages or filtering product lists. They have more “skin in the game” after having invested much time (and potentially money as well) with a site — and therefore are particularly attuned to any friction encountered while trying to manage Accounts & Self-Service features. Frustration mounts quickly if it’s difficult to accomplish Self-Service tasks.
Indeed, when users find it difficult or impossible to manage Accounts & Self-Service features the consequences can be severe, both for users and for sites, as negative experiences in Self-Service Accounts can lead to lasting brand damage. Our quantitative study of 1,103 US adults finds that 4.98% would never purchase from a particular e-commerce site again, while 7.56% would be unlikely to do so — solely due to a negative return experience. Clearly, an investment of resources to improve the user experience of Accounts & Self-Service areas is warranted. This is especially true when factoring in how high-performing Self-Service Accounts will likely lead to reduced customer support requests — making the investment to improve the Self-Service Accounts features likely to eventually pay for itself.
Additionally, Accounts & Self-Service often have bespoke pages and navigation, with many internal departments producing their own content, and many site-specific features — for example, store credit cards, site communities, specialized order tracking features, etc. Because of the diversity of the content, there’s much more of a risk of running into severe UX issues: rather than having to only worry about a few product page templates, sites may instead have dozens of unique features that must all be kept up-to-date and perform well for users.
Furthermore, Accounts & Self-Service is an under-researched area of e-commerce. While there is ample guidance available on crafting homepages, for example, there’s a relative paucity when it comes to Self-Service account features. One main reason is the difficulty in researching aspects of an e-commerce site that are mainly hidden from public view, which makes it vastly more difficult and complex to research Accounts & Self-Service compared to other e-commerce areas (as we at Baymard discovered — for example, having to return countless products from different sites just to see what interfaces would be best to test).
Research into Self-Service Account design patterns has therefore been long overdue, which is why we at Baymard devoted a full year to researching only this area of e-commerce. During testing, test subjects encountered more than 1,400 usability issues as they tried to update their stored account information (like addresses, passwords, or credit cards), track a package, return an item, or cancel a wrong order. We’ve analyzed and distilled these observed issues into the 65 guidelines on how to develop a high-performing Accounts & Self-Service user experience, which address such topics as:
We’ve released a small subset of the Premium research finding on Accounts & Self-Service UX for free in these articles:
All 65 Accounts & Self-Service research findings are available as part of Baymard Premium, and are divided into the following 7 topics:
Baymard Premium also gives you access to an additional 52 reports with 640+ research findings on topics such as Homepage & Category Navigation, Search, Product Listing, Product Details Page, Mobile E-Commerce, and Accounts & Self-Service - the complete set of findings from Baymard’s 32,000 hours of large-scale UX testing & research)
This research on Accounts & Self-Service UX is part of Baymard Institute’s full 32,000 hours of large scale research catalog, which is based on:
Baymard’s research methodology is described in detail here.