E-commerce websites have ballooned in popularity for entrepreneurs. And although a handful of giants such as Amazon or eBay dominate the space, niche e-commerce websites continue to multiply. Yet not all e-commerce websites are created equally. An ordinary site won’t do. To stand out from the crowd, you need to create a great e-commerce website.
Let’s look at five elements that will help your online store or e-business get moving for success.
Must-Haves: E-Commerce Basics
Buying online should be easy. But e-commerce websites require many technical considerations to create that ease-of-use experience. These include: inventory and delivery tracking systems, a shopping cart and abandoned cart recovery, payment options and billing, tracking numbers and order status, applicable taxation and other basic features.
Given all these technical considerations, you are unlikely to code your e-commerce website from scratch. Instead, start with platforms specifically designed for e-commerce enterprises such as Shopify or BigCommerce. Compare as many top ranked platforms as you can. Apart from the basics listed above, other considerations depend upon your budget and needs. For instance, is live chat a feature you wish to employ? What payment options do you need? Do you plan to accept cryptocurrencies? And perhaps most importantly, how easily can you adapt the platform to your overall brand and offerings?
Identify Your E-Commerce Audience… and Hold Their Attention
Every successful business requires clear audience identification and segmentation. A good salesperson knows how to engage and hold a client’s attention. But that is much easier with in-person sales. If a salesperson sees a client is dissatisfied with an offering, he or she can guide the customer to another. And if a customer moves for the exit, a salesperson can intercept. A simple, “Did you not find what you were looking for?” might save the sale.
With e-commerce, the potential client needs only to click away. You’ve lost them, and likely forever. To hold the viewer’s attention, it is imperative to know your niche and your customer profile. Only then can you advertise your e-commerce site in the right media. Be sure your brand appearance and voice accurately reflect the culture and needs of your audience. Engage them in a style that will appeal to their sensibilities and tastes.
And digital does offer tools with advantages to keep that client from “walking out the door.” For instance, options such as sorting items by price can help a customer self guide. Other filter options may include year, brand, size or color. Consider deeply the questions an in-person client would ask to narrow their search. Then, employ those categories to your filtering options. Finally, make use of live chat if possible. Although you can’t introduce your sales associate in-person, you can place them directly on your potential client’s screen.
E-Commerce Website Design
Websites require two kinds of design. Let’s call one graphic design and the other digital design. Graphic design includes aspects such as color palette, visual hierarchy, logo and more. The other aspect we’ll call digital design. Although the two overlap in overall website design, they differ in many ways. And because graphic design aspects will define your brand for a long time to come, we strongly recommend working with a skilled graphic designer. Work with them closely. They may know design, but you know your customer.
With digital design, the KISS rule comes into play: Keep it Simple, Silly. Although you may build your e-commerce site from a desk, most shoppers will find your site on mobile. Ease of navigation, clean and uncluttered pages, and succinct product descriptions improve the mobile experience and drive sales. Optimize your menus to have as few items as possible. Menus that are too long can be hard to navigate. On the other hand, requiring the user to make too many clicks can increase bounce rates too. Search bars and the aforementioned category filters can help greatly. Also, consider using product-specific landing pages for advertising.
Finally, pay attention to aesthetics when updating your online inventory. If you hired a professional photographer for initial listings, maintain that consistency of quality in your updates. Similarly, keep your product descriptions succinct, accurate and on point. Consider what a client would ask about the product in person as well as the features you wish to promote. Then, bullet point these features so the user can take them in quickly. Limit yourself to no more than seven bullets with as few words as possible in each.
Keep It Social—Make Full Use of Digital Media.
E-commerce websites level the playing field drastically for entrepreneurs. For instance, leasing real estate on a busy street eats into your profits. But online, all “roads” eventually lead to your site. Make full use of “busy streets” by developing a strong social media presence. It’s not enough to inform. Your social media posts should engage.
And don’t feel obliged to be on every social media platform. If time limits you, you will likely achieve more on two or three social media platforms with a strong presence than attempting to manage 10. Yes, social media management platforms such as Hootsuite can help you cross-post over multiple platforms. But be sure you have time to answer questions and otherwise engage on each of them.
Finally, encourage clients to leave reviews on these platforms as well as Google. Most first-time clients will check these reviews before purchasing from you. Encouraging happy buyers to leave reviews will boost your star rating and lead more consumers to your site. And again, engage. Thank those who post positive reviews. Ask negative reviewers what you can improve, and truly try to assist and learn from them. A few one-star reviews posted out of frustration can dramatically affect your overall score. Kindly following up on these puts your professionalism and customer care on full display for others. Often, these angry reviewers will frequently modify or even remove those bad reviews upon assistance.
Loyalty Programs and Other Sales Tools
Successful e-commerce websites make full use of the medium in other ways, too. Loyalty programs, for instance, help ensure you retain the customers you worked so hard to acquire. E-commerce loyalty programs, however, may differ substantially depending on your product. For instance, you might employ a points system toward a free product after a certain number of purchases. Or offer a discount with a monthly subscription. These loyalty programs work great for consumable or disposable items such as coffee or razor blades. For less disposable items such as tools or furniture, you may simply offer discounts on future purchases from your store. And because you have likely acquired the customer’s email address, sending occasional special offers or coupons is simple.
Adjacent to loyalty programs, you will find promotional codes. Use these in your advertising to attract new customers. Additionally, unique codes make it easy to quantify which advertising vehicles work best for you. And finally, consider using popups on your e-commerce website. Yes, the word “popup” likely makes you cringe. But don’t let bad past experience influence your decision. Many sites employ popups poorly. Use them for flash sales, limited time offers and related, relevant discounts. A customer already considering a purchase will love seeing a 15% off special pop up on the screen. Here, timing is everything. Pay attention to your web data. A popup should be timed such that the user has time to learn about the item, but appear before he or she is likely to click away.
Successfully integrating each of these five items or categories into your unique e-commerce offerings will enhance user experience, increase sales and help drive success for your online store.
Photo by LightField Studios/Shutterstock
Bryan enjoys the digital space where arts and technology meet. As a writer, he has worked in education, health and wellbeing, and manufacturing. He also assists smaller businesses in web development including accessibility and content development. In his free time, he hikes trails in central Florida.