Delight in the e-commerce experience

I’ve always been a frustrating dinner partner. I refuse to make a suggestion where to eat, because I love the surprise of finding new restaurants or discovering foods I didn’t know I wanted. I don’t want to be trapped by the limits of my creativity at the moment of low blood sugar. There isn’t much difference in my shopping - I’ll be most excited if there’s a surprise involved. I joined a CSA for this same reason - the bag of unknown vegetables is a weekly present I love opening. I don’t remember how I stumbled across Birchbox, but you can instantly see how the beauty product subscription service is innovating in the online commerce space. For $10/mo, you get a curated box of samples (surprises) that they hope you’ll love enough to start buying from their online store. (You bet I signed up right away, and it’s FUN.)

Thinking about innovating an e-commerce user experience is a challenging task. When words like “user delight” are thrown around, you have to wonder if it hasn’t all been done before. In doing some background research for a recent project, I went looking for delight in e-commerce experiences. Here’s some elements I found:

1. Real people

Some of the product signup experiences I loved best had a real human/customer element. These products had a keen sense of why their customers were using their product.

Evernote's sign-up screen

2. Charming copy

A sign-up experience with friendly microcopy is engaging and moves the user along with enthusiasm. A genuine expression of welcome personalizes the usually anonymous online shopping experience.

Do's sign-up form

3. Easter eggs and general fun

The hidden corners of an experience are great places to put in extra effort to make an experience memorable. (But remember to make sure you’re thinking about the users’ perspective when adding fun - there’s a time and place, and the error messages aren’t usually it.)

Virb's captcha at the bottom of their sign-up form

4. Personalization

Many sites have repeat customer traffic, and when this is the case, remembering their customer’s preferences and browsing behavior and responding accordingly is a great way to add some extra personalization to a buying experience. FreshDirect remembers and highlights my frequent purchases, while Meetup remembered me in between visits and offered a promotion.

FreshDirect displays your favorite items


Meetup remembers that I started to create (but didn't complete) a Meetup group

5. Creation as sign-up

When they can start with the fun bits (creating something cool), visitors become more invested in converting to active users.

Squarespace's sign-up flow has you choose a template first

6. Scarcity

Creating a sense that the user is in an exclusive club with access to a limited product adds an element of specialness to the experience. You’ll see this most often in waiting list to get into a product, but the LayerVault example below is especially clear.

LayerVault plan page 

7. Shopping carts

The shopping cart is a great place to add small details of delight. This example from Warby Parker almost makes it into a game to fill your cart with product. (Not to mention the pure delight in it’s at-home try-on model.)

Warby Parker shopping cart