If you sell items on your website, there are things you should always be aware of, whether you run a fully fledged global site offering hundreds of products or are just setting up a small boutique store. In this blog post, we look at the essential elements that lead to ecommerce website success.
Let’s start with the most obvious but most important point – if you want people to buy from you, your products need to be great. But whereas in a bricks and mortar store where people can quickly ascertain the quality of your merchandise, online it’s a little more difficult. It’s therefore essential that you show your products in their best light. Self-taken, amateur shots won’t do. Make sure you have professional photographs taken of all your products and display these images with options to view from different angles and zoom in.
Once your customers have ‘clicked into’ an item to find out more, include as much information as you can – sizes, colours, dimensions, materials, availability, price and so on, as well as customer reviews and ratings if you have them.
Your brand needs to portray an image of quality and reliability, helping potential customers to understand what your company is about and encourage them to revisit. You’re expecting users to part with their hard-earned cash.
Branding and design can play a big part in making the user put trust in your products over a competitor, so you need to ensure that the various elements of your site are consistent, from layout, colours and typography to image use and tone of voice. Above all, your brand and your message needs to shine through, so make sure this is clear on every page.
The more products you are selling, the more complex your navigation system might become and it’s easy to end up with too many layers, dropdowns and multiple paths. Organising your products into a catalogue where users can browse by category or search for items is important, and including thumbnail images will help visitors to quickly find what they’re looking for.
An ecommerce site will only be successful if your customers trust you and know that their money and personal details are safe. You can raise your credibility with customer reviews and ratings, especially those from external sources, and ensure that you include FAQs, details about shipping charges, return policies and so on. If you are seen to be taking your business seriously, your customers will too.
Accepting safe payments is essential and so you need to have the ability to cope with encrypted transactions. Using a service such as PayPal is an easy way to do this and is a globally recognised company that already has a level of trust built in.
Well before you open your online doors for business, you will need to make sure you have your eCommerce platform and backend systems fully functioning and ready to go. Your customers could potentially come from all around the globe and so you’ll require a robust hosting provider to make the most of this.
Supply and distribution needs to be smooth and fast to meet consumer demand and everything must be fully tested and working before it goes live. It’s essential to deliver what you promise.
You will also need to have systems in place to deal with anything that goes wrong. Customers have plenty of power in the form of social media and if your service isn’t up to standard, it only takes a tweet or Facebook update to do a lot of damage to your business.
Making sure that your policies and procedures cover what to do in the event of returns, complaints, social media comments and so on can help you to turn what might seem like a crisis into an opportunity.
New content, deals and promotions
People like to see that your site is evolving and that new items are appearing on the ‘shelves’ of your shop. So when you add new merchandise, make a song and a dance about it with additional page real estate, glossy new pictures or extra pages for ‘Hot New Products’ or ‘Fresh off the Press’.
Similarly, everyone loves a bargain. You might choose to feature particular items, offer seasonal discounts, give promotional codes for subscribers of your email newsletters, offer free postage and packaging when customers spend over a certain amount or even link your offers to Twitter contests or Facebook competitions.
However you choose to promote items on your site, make sure that visitors know about the deals that are currently available – don’t hide your best offers away at the back of the shop!
The personal touch
Finally, just like in a regular bricks and mortar shop, what people really want is the personal touch. Online, this means everything from including contact details (not just an email addresses, but real people on the end of a phone too), customer help options, live web chats and information pages on your site telling your customers who you are, what you believe in and what your story is. Remember, people buy from people.
Running an ecommerce site can seem a little daunting, but with an eye to the details and a sense of product, people, placement and promotion, it can be not only a lucrative opportunity but also a very rewarding business. Good luck!