20 Best Practice Tips for the Forward Thinking Ecommerce Business
You know what you want to sell and you’ve done some basic research. You’ve looked into the market and you’re pretty sure there are people out there looking for what you’re offering. You’ve even checked out other sites selling the same or similar products so you know what the competition’s like. So how do you turn your idea into the money-making machine you’re sure it can be?
Or maybe you’ve already set up your online store, but it’s not performing as you were hoping. You’re not getting the visitors to your site that you were expecting, and many of those that do arrive don’t stay long – they’re certainly not buying anything. You’ve checked your analytics and you can see that some visitors are definitely interested; some are getting as far as putting items into their basket but are disappearing again before completing their purchase. What can you do to improve your site?
Here are twenty tried and tested strategies for any eCommerce business that wants to be better and hopefully make more money!
1 Make your site visible
The building block on which all your subsequent efforts are built, for if they can’t find your site, they can’t buy your product, can they? Most people will come looking for you on a search engine and if you want to win in the race for good rankings, you need to work at it constantly. Whether you earn your results organically with smart keyword use, clever image labelling and a bit of social media schmoozing, or take the short cut via pay-per-click and Google Adwords, you need to draw people in, and the higher you rank on a search engine results page, the more visitors you’ll get.
As to which works better, we’ll hand that question over to those groovy people at web development maestros Groove Commerce for their thoughts.
2 Make your site attractive
Once your customers have found you, you don’t want to scare them off with clashing colours, illegible fonts and ugly images. Your landing page may be the first thing your potential customer sees of you and your business, and you want to make a good impression. If you really want to do it yourself, make sure you get the honest opinion of someone you trust (and who has good taste) before unleashing your creation on the world. Otherwise, it’s far better to invest a few pounds in getting the job done properly by someone who knows.
The wrong design can scare people off before a page has even half loaded.
3 Make your site navigation clear and simple
Unless you’re only selling one product which sits neatly on your home page, your customers will probably need to try a few different pages before they’ve seen everything they want. In this era of superfast broadband, people are – conversely – increasingly impatient, and it won’t take too much head-scratching and wondering what they need to click on next before they give up on the whole idea and go and try somewhere else where they know what they’re doing.
Not that clear navigation has to be boring, as this selection pulled together by Creative Bloq proves.
4 Help people find just want they want toot sweet
Of course, the quickest way for people to find what they want can be via a search feature but, as Google have proved, that may not always be as easy as it sounds. Using filters to narrow down selections saves shoppers from having to scroll through pages of products they can’t afford, items which are only accessories, brands they wouldn’t touch with a bargepole and colours in which they wouldn’t be seen dead.
5 TOP TIP! A/B Testing
If you want to try something different on your site with a particular goal in mind – a higher click-through rate or more conversions, say – then then best way to find out is try a live test and measure the results. You’ll be surprised at how much of a difference simple design or layout changes can make.
This very interesting blog to be found at Tweak Your Biz tells you why you should do A/B testing far better than I ever could.
Making the sale
6 Write like your site depends on it
Good product descriptions rich with keywords don’t just help you climb those search engine results we were talking about earlier; they’re also quite helpful for letting your customer know exactly what he or she is about to spend his or her money on. Unlike a traditional store, where the customer can touch, feel and quiz you directly about a product, here they’re relying on the information you’ve prepared earlier. So make it good, make it accurate and make it readable.
If you’re not sure how to go about creating the right kind of product description, why not give this great podcast by Matthew Ogborne at Last Drop of Ink a listen?
7 Picture this
At Davpack, we have the advantage of a trained photographer in our ranks, so we’re always confident that we can present our products in their best possible light (and if you think that’s easy, you try taking pictures of clear polythene bags!). There are many products – especially shoes and clothing, for instance – that people will want to see front, back and sides so include as many pictures as you can.
Of course, not everyone is fortunate enough to have that sort of expertise on tap, but Practical Commerce have a great guide to what you’ll need to produce your own professional-looking product pics.
8 Trust in me
Internet security has come a long way, but there are still many people rightly wary of releasing their credit card details to people they don’t know and will never meet. Doing everything you can to make sure they know you’re entirely worthy of their full trust is therefore essential.
This report shows that seeing a recognised trustmark makes a huge difference to many consumers when deciding whether to buy from a previously unused site.
9 Buy! Buy! Buy!
As previously noted, online consumers are terribly impatient. Most pages on an ecommerce site want visitors to take a designated next step, such as ‘add to basket’, ‘continue shopping’ or ‘proceed to checkout’. Tests have shown that sites with clear and prominent ‘calls to action’, as these are collectively known, have a far greater success rate than buttons a user has to search for or which are unclear in meaning.
Take a read of this comprehensive Econsultancy guide if you want your call-to-action buttons to play an active role in turning more interested browsers into paying customers.
10 TOP TIP! Display contact information
Along with the trustmark, knowing how to get in touch with a seller is regularly cited as being a key component in deciding whether to buy from an online store. Sites which only have contact forms risk losing customers who naturally will want to feel they can quickly contact you should they have a problem. Displaying a contact phone number clearly on every page and an address on an easily found page are proven to be a deciding factor for online consumers contemplating whether to give you their custom.
From wanting to buy to actually buying
11 Make the process straightforward
When someone buys something from your ecommerce store, unless it can be downloaded, you’re naturally going to need an address to send it to and people will usually understand that. If you start asking for an address, an email address, a mobile phone number, a landline, a password and their mother’s maiden name in case they forget the password, chances are they’ll get bored and go away. Some reports suggest that over 50% of online shoppers say they would abandon a purchase if they felt they were being asked to go through too many hoops.
As it happens – as long as you don’t go over the top – asking for this kind of information tends to be far more favourably received if you explain why you need it, as this Baymard blog explains.
12 No hidden charges
Imagine you’re in a traditional shop and have made the decision to buy something; you take it up to the till, at which point you’re informed that actually the item is going to cost more than on the price tag, because of local taxes, handling charges, credit or debit card fees and so on. What would your reaction be? Most likely drop the item where you stand and tell the shopkeeper where they can stick it!
Yet online stores are doing this all the time and, just like complicated registration procedures, it’s the sort of practice that leads over half of us to give up on buying something we want.
13 Clear form validation
How many times have you filled in a form online and had to go back and fill in a ‘required’ field because you hadn’t seen the tiny asterisk? Or had to have several goes at choosing a password because the site didn’t tell you at the outset that it needed at least one upper case letter and at least one number? Or had to redo the postcode without a gap in the middle…or redo it with a gap in the middle?
This comprehensive article by Smashing Magazine will guide you through best practice ideas and tips for constructing the most user-friendly eCommerce forms that won’t test your customers’ patience.
14 That won’t do nicely, sir
Surely there’s nothing more ridiculous than losing a sale because your shopper can’t use a common method of payment to complete the transaction. Only allowing people to use, say, Visa or Barclaycard and not AmEx means you’re not allowing a significant proportion to buy from you. The same goes for not allowing people to use PayPal or, conversely, only allowing them to do so.
15 TOP TIP! Summarise the order before completion
Given the need for security and required information, there are usually a number of pages a shopper has to work through before completing an online purchase. It’s a good idea to have a final screen clearly spelling out all the important information they need: what they’ve bought, how much they’ve paid for it (including any delivery charges), where you’ll be delivering to and when they’re likely to receive the goods. Throw in very clear ‘Edit order’ and ‘Complete purchase’ buttons and your customer will be able to conclude the deal confident everything is as it should be.
You’re not done yet!
16 Stay in touch
Just because you’ve got the order and received payment, it doesn’t mean you no longer have to do anything to keep the customer sweet. Good after-sales service can mean the difference between a transaction completed and swiftly forgotten and a memory of a thoughtful business you’d be more than happy to deal with again. A confirmation email should be standard, as should another to let the customer know when the order has been dispatched.
17 Getting the goods
Of course, the other thing you need to do after you’ve taken their cash is make sure they get their order in return, not only within in the timeframe promised, but also delivered safely and in one piece. So take your time and ensure you source the right kind of postal boxes that will keep your delivery charges down and protect the contents, and engage a reliable courier with a good reputation for taking its customers as seriously as you do.
18 Post, tweet, pin
Staying in touch with your customers can mean so much more than an occasional email campaign – although don’t knock them, they have a surprisingly high hit rate! People are hanging out on any number of social media sites nowadays, and you may be surprised at how ready they are to engage with their favourite brands while they’re at it.
Here’s a helpful summary by those groovy people at Groove Armada on how to build your brand and make your social media presence play a key part in growing customer loyalty.
19 Telling it like it is
Without nagging them about it, encouraging your customers to leave a review either of you as a company or the product they’ve bought can reap rich rewards. After all, good word-of-mouth has always been the best form of marketing and things are no different in the digital age.
Of course, you’ll get bad reviews occasionally as well and you need to make sure you respond in the right way – here’s some advice on dealing with bad reviews from Small Business Trends that you should really read and follow.
20 TOP TIP! Get mobile!
Optimising your eCommerce site for mobile devices – that means smartphones and tablets, by the way – is no longer an optional extra. This set of stats from Econsultancy is nearly a year old already, but should hammer the point home if you’re in any doubt that being mobile ready will get you more sales.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on which have been the most successful methods you’ve employed to boost your site visits and turn vague interest into a confirmed sale, so leave your tips, tales and experiences in the comments section below.