The Role of Usability, Anxiety & Motivation in Ecommerce

So, you want to improve your website performance.

But where do you start?

Everyone in the business has their ideas.

Your competitors are adding fun-looking new features to their websites.

And you’re staring at your screen thinking, “Where do I even start?”

Enter The U.A.M Method (Usability, Anxiety, and Motivation).

This post breaks it down into:

As well as some examples, and how you can do this for your website.

What is the U.A.M Method?

The U.A.M Method covers 3 aspects of a website that every brand should focus on improving.

  • Usability; the functional aspect of the site.
  • Anxiety; the questions & concerns visitors have.
  • Motivation; the wow factor, the why.

After running hundreds of tests, and gathering insights from thousands of our client’s customers (and while working within brands ourselves), The conclusion was made that broadly speaking, every change made to a website falls into one of these three categories.

Why usability is your starting point

Usability is how easy it is to use your website, and it can be broken down into two areas:

1. Site speed

These days websites need to load fast. With the amount of competition out there, if your website doesn’t load quickly, you’ve lost that potential customer.

With a one-second site speed improvement increasing mobile conversions by up to 27%, it’s a no-brainer that this should be one of the first things you consider when optimizing your website, and should remain in consideration whenever changes are made.

Use tools such as Google’s PageSpeed Insights or GTMetrix to identify where your site speed problems lie. If you’re on Shopify, apps such as Nostra can do a lot of the work for you.

2. Clear navigation

Your website should help people find and buy what they are looking for, so you need to:

  • Have a clear navigation that’s easy to understand.
  • Have a search function that generates relevant results and allows browsers to filter and sort them easily.
  • Help people select product options and customizations without jumping hoops.

Essentially, if a customer lands somewhere on your website, it should be quick and easy for them to find and buy the product they are looking for (or in other cases, find the information they need, or take whatever action they came to the site for).

How Can You Improve Usability?

The two places to start when fixing usability issues are the GA4 Purchase Journey Report and Microsoft Clarity.

In the GA4 report, you’ll get a feel for where the problem areas in your funnel are. For example:  are people struggling to find products, or do they land on PDPs but don’t add to the cart?

For a lot of brands, especially on Shopify, the biggest issues tend to be getting visitors to the right product in the first place, and then convincing them to add it to their cart.

On the other hand, Microsoft Clarity gives you the behavioural insight to your website.

Its heatmaps and session recordings help you understand: 

  • What is happening on those pages
  • Where your visitors are clicking
  • Where they are not clicking 
  • What might be the cause of conversion problems

As shown in the screenshot below of a Product Detail Page, the heatmap shows where visitors are clicking on the page and which elements are most important to them.

In this case, due to the aesthetic nature of the product, the image gallery is one of the hottest spots on the page.

It is also evident that lots of visitors opt for the Search function, hinting at that feature’s importance to the website experience as well.

Scroll maps are equally as important because they add context to the clicks.

If an element isn’t getting many clicks from visitors, it might be tempting to presume it’s not an important element.

However, as shown by this scrollmap, important information such as Product Features and Specifications simply aren’t being seen by visitors.

Tools like Clarity may appear overwhelming initially, which is why it’s essential to do the funnel analysis first.

You have to open Clarity with a mission in mind, rather than just scanning heatmaps or watching session recordings.

The two areas with the biggest opportunity for improving the usability of a website are:

  1. Making your navigation super clear and easy. It should be broad and shallow with fewer clicks required, and it should be clearly labeled. No one wants to have to work out whether a category is relevant to them.
  1. A rich search experience that is visible on-site. A good search function provides users with tips on how to search, provides results quickly, and allows those results to be filtered and sorted as the user needs.

Most brands do well enough on the usability side, especially if using a strong Shopify theme. Still, you’d be surprised by the impact some small improvements make, such as changing from Swatches to Dropdown selectors on a PDP, which improved conversion by 12% for one of our clients.

How does anxiety impact someone’s willingness to buy?

Every potential customer is anxious about the purchase they are about to make.

They’ll be worried about whether they understand the product if you are a trustworthy brand, and what will happen if things go wrong.

Anxiety covers the questions and concerns a visitor has to overcome before they can buy your products. 

In some cases, they must know the answer, such as allergy information, while in others, they will let it slide.

Questions like:

  • What size do I need to buy?
  • What ingredients are in this?
  • How do I install it?
  • What happens if I need to return it?

Ozarke’s customers asked how to replace a lightbulb if it breaks. So it’s not just the immediate questions they have, they’re also thinking months, even years into the future to ensure they won’t face problems.

And then there are also the anxieties about your brand and your business.

Someone who has purchased from you before may not have these concerns, but these account for approximately 25-30% of ecommerce purchases.

Therefore, the priority for a business must be new customers. People who have never purchased previously, and may have never heard of you before.

It’s not just the product they have questions about, they also have concerns about trusting their money with your business.

Concerns such as:

  • Who are you?
  • Do other people like your products?
  • Do you seem like a legitimate business?
  • How do I contact you if I have a problem?

Far too often this information is confusing, hidden, or missing entirely from a website, and in a lot of cases, unanswered questions make visitors unwilling to complete the purchase.

How do you discover your customers’ anxieties?

Listen to them.

Customer research is a powerful method for gaining the insight needed to grow a business.

Think about it. If you speak to your customers, listen to what they’re saying, and analyze that feedback, you can come up with creative solutions to fix their problems, make sure they get the information they need, and make them feel comfortable about making a purchase.

Without this feedback, you’re guessing what needs to be done.

The data will tell you where the problem is, but customers will tell you the why.

You can do this through surveys, customer interviews, or approaching your customer service team.

1. Surveys

Surveys are a fantastic place to start and easy to do.

Simply split your email list into those who purchased in the last 30 days, and those who have never purchased, and ask them why:

  • Why did they buy it?
  • Why didn’t they buy it?
  • What information about the product or company was important to them?

These questions dive into what your customers care about, and you can go further and ask whether they’ve bought from a competitor and what they liked or disliked about that experience.

2. Customer interviews

Customer interviews allow you to take a deeper dive into customer feedback. You’ll never get the full picture from someone providing a line of text in response to a survey, but letting them speak to you for 30 minutes face-to-face changes things entirely.

Interviews can start much broader to allow the customer to settle in, and then once probed with some initial questions about their interests, why they were looking to buy, and what their preferences are, the interviewer can go deeper into those responses to understand what is truly important to them.

An example of this would be when someone responds with “price” as their reason for not buying. In most cases, price is not the real answer, value is, and customer interviews allow you to probe deeper into this response to understand why they felt the price was too high.

Getting customers onto these calls just requires an email asking them for 30 minutes of their time, normally in exchange for a voucher. 

Target customers from the last 30 days to gather the best feedback as their purchase experience is recent enough.

3. Customer service

Customer service is another valuable source of insight. 

This team speaks with your customers every day, answering their questions, dealing with their concerns, and learning from them.

Not only should you be analyzing tickets to see what issues or questions appear frequently, but you should be working closely with the team themselves to get their viewpoint.

The vast majority of the time, anxieties relate to a product more than a business.

It’s easy to get a professional, legitimate-looking site live, gather some reviews, and do enough to make people comfortable. Using the professional-looking and well-recognized checkouts from platforms such as Shopify and Bigcommerce also helps as this is the most important part of the journey.

Think through the buying process for your products.

What are the key features that people care about and have to know to purchase? Ask yourself why that information matters.

If a common question is, “What are the dimensions of the sofa?” One concern might be, “Will it fit where I want it?” But the other might be, “Can I get it into my house?”

Some people might care about what material it is made of because of personal preference or maintenance concerns. 
Groove (the customer support SaaS) coined the term First Contact Resolution, which they define as:

First Contact Resolution: Resolving a customer’s issue in a single interaction, eliminating the need for them to contact you again about the issue.

For phone support, that means resolving the issue in a single phone call.

For email and social media support, that means resolving the issue in a single response.

For live chat support, that means resolving the issue in a single chat session.

An example of this would be if someone reached out to ask how to change their password.

A standard response would point them to the “Forgotten Your Password” link, while a first contact resolution response would also outline the requirements for the password.

A similar approach might work well on your website. 

Have you put everything the customer needs to make a decision on the page, in a way they can understand?

If not, work out what they need and how to add it.

If you think you have, keep asking questions because you haven’t put everything in.

Why is motivation important for conversion?

Your visitors need to get excited about the prospect of owning your product. They need to see how it will solve their pain points or help them achieve a desired outcome. 

These days, with the level of competition out there for ad inventory, the share of wallet, and your audience’s attention, it’s not enough to convince someone that a product meets their requirements, you have to get them excited about it, and desperate to have it in their hands as soon as they can.

Your ads should be doing part of this. You should be targeting pain points and desired outcomes. You should be presenting a better life in your ads. That’s why a lot of people will be clicking. 

Spacegoods and True Classic are two examples of brands doing this well in their advertising.

But a lot of brands make a mistake and don’t continue this messaging on the website.

Some brands thought CRO was just UI/UX changes because the ad is what sells the product.

Usability gets people to the product.

Anxiety clears up the questions and concerns people have about making a purchase.

But it’s the motivation that convinces them to get their wallet out.

How do you discover this?

As with anxieties, motivation comes down to research.

Most businesses have an idea of what their customers want and why, but only at a high level.

Brands will sell products designed to relieve neck pain and leave it at that.

While neck pain is annoying and most people want to resolve it, there’s normally an underlying reason for needing to do so. For example: wanting to play sport, or maybe it’s affecting their time with their family. Both of these reasons came out of feedback gathered for Groove Pillows.

Surveys and interviews are great ways to explore motivation, but reviews are another goldmine of feedback.

Both happy and unhappy customers will leave feedback related to why they wanted the product, not just the product itself.

Take a look at Amazon and see the number of vacuum cleaners/hoovers that mention that they are great for pet hair.

You’ll also see hundreds of reviews of these products which specifically mention how good or bad the product was for pet hair.

These reviews tell marketers the key messages they should be using in their adverts and on the product listings.

Another benefit of reviews is that you can gather insight from your customers about your products and business and do the same for your competitors.

To top it off, this is raw, genuine feedback that people are offering in public, and the feedback is often rawer, clearer, and more genuine than when they’ve been asked a specific question by the brand in question.

When researching this, look for feedback relating to two key questions:

  1. Do they see how your product resolves their pain point?
  2. Do they see how your product moves them toward their desired outcome?

Gather feedback, assess it against your website, and make changes accordingly.


2024 is the year for focusing on your customers.

Their wants and needs.

Their pain points and desired outcomes.

While your competitors are out there worrying what everyone else is doing and copying ideas from each other.

You should focus your efforts on your business, and your customers.

Just an hour or two a week spent on the methods mentioned above will create a huge amount of value for your business, not just for website optimization but for your advertising efforts, email marketing, customer support, and even the product itself.

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The Role of Usability, Anxiety & Motivation in Ecommerce