Ecommerce sites are geared towards maximizing sales. Every design feature, navigation branch and piece of text should drive people towards the checkout portal. However, there’s much more to consider besides a streamlined sales process. From reliability and rapid download speeds to helpful product descriptions and dependable hosting, we consider below ten golden rules underpinning any successful shopping portal…
Top 10 Ecommerce Site Rules for Success:
- Reliability. This is number one on our list because an unreliable ecommerce site will inevitably fail, irrespective of its other merits. Optimize loading times by appointing a dependable hosting partner like Midphase, offering a 99.9 per cent service level agreement and flexible hosting options. Rigorously beta test the site on numerous web browsers and output devices, checking every page for functionality issues or display errors. Launching a glitchy website isn’t an option in today’s mature marketplace, since customers won’t come back to a portal that hangs or returns 404 errors.
- SEO. Search engine optimization comes second only to reliability on the priorities list for an ecommerce site. Build written content around keywords and long tails – multi-word search terms people use to find exactly what they’re looking for through Google and Bing/Yahoo. Of course, SEO goes far beyond text. It involves using every piece of HTML in the site’s coding to advertise its contents, from meta tags to a robots.txt file. Good SEO also demands a blog or news page to demonstrate the site is regularly updated, while every photograph requires a detailed caption explaining what it is.
- Minimal registration. People often get exasperated when confronted with a lengthy registration page. By contrast, being able to check out as a guest and register later encourages spontaneous purchases. It shouldn’t be necessary to create an account to make a purchase, and every user field needs to justify its presence. Ensure people aren’t tricked into being signed up for marketing literature by displaying a prominent tickbox to refuse newsletters or promotional material. If payment details are going to be stored, provide a reassuring description of how data will be protected. Finally, never trap people in checkout functionality, forcing them to close the browser to amend their basket or add more items.
- Appropriate presentation on any device. A responsive template is pivotal for customers to navigate a site equally easily on any device, acting as a universal path of least resistance towards the checkout. Top menu bars may need to become hamburger menus, but there’s no excuse for making the mobile experience any less intuitive or simplistic than on a desktop computer. Patchy 4G and Wi-Fi networks encourage minimalist designs with lots of white space and compressed graphics/logos/photos.
- Testimonials and reviews. Even the most loyal customer has to start somewhere, and what better way to reassure first-time site visitors about integrity and dependability than existing client testimonials and product reviews? High-quality items shouldn’t have any problem attracting favorable critiques, and it’s also fine to offer people a small discount or incentive off their next order in exchange for leaving a review. Social media platforms act as unofficial testimonial sites as well, so set up Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Respond to any contact within 24 hours, and remember even critical comments can become positive brand adverts with diplomacy and courtesy.
- Extensive product information. It’s hard to provide too much information about a product. When people can’t physically touch or smell an item, they rely heavily on photos and descriptive text. Upload pictures from multiple angles in a slideshow, and provide detailed product descriptions in easy-to-read paragraphs. Videos have merit, but ensure they don’t automatically start to play. Embed YouTube videos directly from parent company Google’s servers, so they’re ready to play with minimal buffering.
- A smooth payment portal. Hidden charges and concerns about payment security are the two most common reasons for ecommerce checkout abandonment, so be upfront about postage costs and taxes. Having enticed customers this far, streamline the purchase process with Verified by Visa 2FA and “please wait” messages while transactions go through. Offer multiple payment options, including fringe platforms like Bitcoin and Stripe. Enable people to amend their order, payment or contact details right up to the point of purchase. Finally, automate concise (yet informative) emails and/or texts to confirm order receipt, dispatch and delivery, making sure the order number and customer services contact details prominently displayed.
- Rewards for loyalty. Returning users ought to be able to log in using a simple username and password combination, with cookies saved in their browser and payment details stored securely. Some companies offer discounts on a customer’s first purchase, but the second transaction is the key one for building loyalty. Consider discounts for repeat custom or new customer referrals, and integrate one-click repeat orders or an ability to view and re-order past transactions. Occasional “we miss you” emails may bring wandering customers back into the fold, while organic client databases can be used to promote new products or services free of charge.
- Filtered navigation. Many sites include dropdown menus where customers can narrow a search by category or attribute, such as size and color. Incorporate customer reviews as a filter, and ensure any reviews section can be searched for using relevant keywords. TripAdvisor does this particularly effectively. Make sure navigation menus inform audiences of exactly where they are in the website hierarchy. Allow selected options to be unclicked rather than having to reload the page with each change, and list the quantity of items in each subcategory using real-time stock levels.
- Unique flourishes. Rolls-Royce are famous for incorporating “power reserve” dials into their cars instead of rev counters, and some ecommerce sites have adopted similarly distinctive flourishes. Clothing retailer Threadless goes large on its Happiness Guarantee returns policy, while the O in Beth Ditto’s logo doubles as a navigation tool. There are plenty of ways to add character to a website, from mouseover effects to unconventional product descriptions. Add urgency with a “rarity indicator” in lieu of conventional stock levels, and augment studio-based product shots with photos of items being used in the real world.
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