Anyone can have an e-commerce site. And it is becoming easier and cheaper, with sites like Shopify, to create a good looking effective site.
What this means though is that more people than ever have their own online stores, saturating the market place with a mass of available goods. The challenge of e-commerce then is becoming increasingly about the online shopping experience rather than the actual products.
So delivering that experience alongside your great products will help your sales. We have done some digging and pulled out 9 actionable tips to help you optimise your e-commerce experience taking into account best practices and design principles.
1. Use Creative Imagery
Imagery is a hugely powerful tool to create an emotional connection with visitors. Pictures speak a 1,000 words, so having great imagery up front is the first step along converting the visitor to a buyer.
According to Denise Lee Yohn, author of What Great Brands Do:
To create valuable, sustainable customer relationships, great brands don’t sell customers on contracts—they seduce them with connections. Impactful, memorable, emotional connections lead to true brand loyalty.
Creative, artistic imagery is most effective at the top of the sales funnel. It helps create an emotional connection with your ebsite visitor. As they progress through the sales funnel, you will want to start supplying more technical product imagery and eventually images can become superfluous, even distracting.
Test out prominent imagery on your e-commerce homepage to determine if you spark visitors’ curiosity. Then, try downsizing or eliminating images in the checkout funnel to achieve a simpler layout that keeps users focused.
A few more design Do’s and Don’ts
- Use whitespace to minimise clutter and create a visual hierarchy
- Custom fonts lend personality and are easier to implement than ever (thanks to Google Fonts) - just make sure your design theme allows you to customise fonts and that the text is readable
- It is worth putting effort into creating small design cues to tell your story from a visual perspective, so ensure your design theme allows for some customisation.
- Flashy carousels are never a good idea
- Long blocks of text are hard to read (Maximum of 600px wide for optimum readability)
- Overcrowding your home page with too much information creates distraction
2. Your Email capture methods
Your database is hugely important, so you want to be building that up constantly. So how to capture visitor email addresses becomes an obsessive question.
Unlike social media, targeted EDMs (electronic direct mail) give you direct access to a customer. Having a customer’s email address (and other contact details) means that your business can directly market to your buyer and track their clicks. Utilising an on-page subscription form on your website means that customers can instantly sign up to receive news from your company. However, you have to make it worth their while. Offering a special discount or something useful like an eBook is a great way to entice customers to sign up.
Many e-commerce websites use popup modals, or lightboxes, that ask a visitor to share their email address, often in exchange for an initial discount.
However, if this sign up modal is one of the first interactions you have with the site most people will dismiss it and ignore it. Some will even click off your site. It is an intrusive element that, if the user doesn’t already know that they like your product can be an annoyance.
You should try minimizing the friction that you introduce to the user experience when asking for information. Consider targeting pop-ups only to return visitors because intuition for new users will be to close a pop-up without even reading it.
Or allow your visitors to interact with your website content maybe navigate beyond the homepage so their purpose for navigating to the site is at least somewhat fulfilled before requesting personal information.
There are alternatives to pop-ups that are less obtrusive, like including text input fields in the site itself, somewhere obvious but not in the way. Like a constant reminder, or a floating fixed element that appears at the side or bottom of the screen. These methods of are far less intrusive than a pop-up.
3. The Product Page
Value propositions like these are a key way to differentiate your e-commerce experience beyond the products you sell. When you have the ability to offer a unique, delightful experience, make sure your customer knows about it.
Try testing key value propositions like “Free Shipping” or “Easy Returns”, featuring them as close to the primary CTA as possible. Even if you’ve already displayed the value proposition elsewhere on the page, it’s acceptable to repeat key messages on the page to help influence adding products to a cart.
A good search functionality is really important. If you ant people to buy your product theyhave to be able to find it. Make sure you include design themes, text search options, filter by category and that everything is clearly laid out and easy to navigate.
Mark out best sellers
Highlight your best-sellers. This is hekpful in two ways, it adds an easy way for people to navigate to popular content. It also adds credibility to your site. Prduct reviews and ratings are another ay for people to verify the quality of the product.
Identify out of stock items
There’s nothing more frustrating for customers than spending precious time researching and choosing a product, only to find that it’s out of stock. If a product is not available, make it easy for your customers to see this on your ecommerce site.
Include all necessary information
Ensure that all the information that is relevant to the buying decision is right there on the product page. A customer is never going to phone you up and ask for more information, so make it easy for them to find what they need. Include information like:
- Materials used
- Technical information
- Included extras
- Returns policy
4. Keeping Shoppers Focused
Throughout the shopping experience you want to make sure the shopper always has adding to cart and moving to purchase in their mind. Shoppers move through an exploratory phase of shopping to a task-orientated one as they progress through your site. What this means is that once they have a task in mind, a product they want to purchase, they need to easily add to cart the items they want.
One way to help this along is having similar products or products they’ve already viewed occur. This will allow them to quickly make a choice between these products.
5. Cart Confirmation
Always make the next step obvious. A pop-up that confirms they’ve added to their cart will let them know exactly what they have to do next to complete the purchase.
Try showing a preview of the current cart alongside a checkout call to action. This reduces the effort required to take the next step and begin the checkout process.
Keeping them on track
Even though ecommerce payment solutions have been around a long time now, most buyers will have doubts if the buying process isn’t going where they expected. Choose a navigation which is clear, clean, and trustworthy (i.e. use a https URL for any pages that require personal details) at all times.
Certain shopping cart best practices have been around for years because they work. Don’t try to be clever and choose something completely different because this will just alienate your customers.
Choosing the right Shopify, WooCommerce or Magento ecommerce platform solution for your business is a great way to get your eCommerce store up and running efficiently, without spending unnecessary time or money customising your own solution.
Shopping cart abandonment
Many of the latest eCommerce website design packages incorporate systems that register when a potential buyer has stopped short of making payment. This situation has become known as shopping cart abandonment and there are ways that ecommerce platforms are able to provide a solution. Apart from collecting valuable data relating to the actual point of abandonment, a well-designed system will also resell to the potential customer.
6. FAQs and general information
The more information you can provide about your products, the more chance you are going to have of making a sale. Once again, the aim is to make it easy for customers to make a purchase. Include clearly formatted information such as:
- Frequently asked questions
- Delivery information
- Information about returns and warranties
- Sizing charts (if you sell clothing or footwear)
7. Don’t just redesign; iterate and test
“Redesign” is a word that carries enormous weight, loaded with both optimism for a better user experience and increased conversions, as well as a tremendous investment of resources. Should you test small changes, or a completely redesigned experience?
When the objective is to test a completely revamped page, is it best to do so in an iterative process with one element changing at a time or all at once with the redesigned page as the one variation? We want to know which changes provide a positive/negative impact, but we also want to know how those elements work together as a whole.
Regarding testing revamped designs try an iterative process over a complete redesign tested against the original, because it provides more insight about users’ behaviour. A complete redesign will not tell you what about the redesign influenced a change in behaviour.
8. Discover when is the best time to get visitors to register
Building your email database, as mentioned in 2, is essential to developing customer relationships.
Many e-commerce conversion optimizers are asking: when is the best time to require an email, like a sign-in form to purchase or to add a product to a cart? Mobile sites also pose some unique challenges because of screen size and users’ browse-not-buy tendencies on mobile.
A trend in e-commerce is requesting the email address at multiple stages of the funnel, including at the end when a user has advanced to checkout. Email credentials are then requested to create an account instead of letting visitors complete a purchase as a guest.
On mobile, try to avoid having many steps or modals layered on top of your site experience. Instead, direct users to a page that has only one task: registration.
9. Reviews and ratings
Having reviews and ratings on your products helps the customer believe in your product. Even bad reviews can do good. I know if I’m going to purchase a product I often lok at the worst reviews as they tend to be more detailed, however, I they only become persuasive if there are consistent complaints of the same thing.
Also, if you have a large percentage of good reviews and just a few bad ones, customers will see you as being open and honest. If you do receive a bad review, make sure to follow it up immediately so customers see that you will work to resolve any issues in a timely fashion.
Getting more reviews and ratings then is pretty important. Try sending out an exclusive offer or discount to people that recently purchased asking them to leave a review. Encouraging a review like this not only could gain you quite a few, but also helps build customer relations, because you are offering a reward to loyal customers for doing something that they may have already considered doing.
Continue to iterate, test, and try new ideas
The only way to uncover the ideal e-commerce experience for your visitors is to iterate and test. Bring user feedback and expert best practices into your brainstorming process, and make sure your hypotheses are grounded in data and design best practices. You’ll arrive at an improved experience for both your business goals and for your visitors.
It’s worth noting that while these best practices should all but guarantee success in B2C eCommerce, B2B eCommerce is a different beast.
Where the focus of an eCommerce site should be to win trust and develop loyalty, B2B eCommerce stores should be entirely experience-driven. They should cater to an audience who already has the trust and loyalty of the brand or distributor, and instead focus on ease-of-use, efficiency, and clarity. In particular, attention should be paid to the bulk ordering of multiple product variants, as well as simplified re-ordering mechanics.