A Great Ecommerce Site... From the Customerâ€™s Point of View
- November 15, 2012 10:30 am
- Web Design
If you are running an ecommerce business, you know how important it is to have a well-designed and well-serviced website.
Itâ€™s often challenging to run an ecommerce website successfully, since there are so many elements to consider. After all, youâ€™re not just presenting your company to visitors, you are also running your business through your website - including taking orders, accepting payments, providing delivery information, and more. While you may be personally acquainted with how your website functions, it is also necessary to take into account how easy it is for customers to navigate, and also what appeals most to potential customers.
Hereâ€™s some components of an ecommerce site that contribute to a great customer experience and that can in turn increase your sales.
Design and Appearance
Since thereâ€™s no personal interaction with customers, the design and layout of your website is paramount. Think of your website as being the â€śfaceâ€ť of your company. You could have the greatest products in the world and provide customer service thatâ€™s second-to-none, but potential customers will never get to experience this unless they actually make a purchase. First impressions count!
Some quick tips:
- Research how to design great websites
- Keep it simple and cut the clutter
- Organize and categorize your products to make it easy for visitors to find what theyâ€™re looking for
- Get external feedback of your website from resources like Usertesting.com
When deciding on product selection, itâ€™s important to realize that more is not necessarily better. The number of products on your site also wonâ€™t necessarily determine the success of your business. In fact, limiting your product selection can actually prove beneficial, since it prevents customers from experiencing decision paralysis, enables them to easily locate particular products, and reduces the number of steps before a purchase is completed.
Another drawback in having too huge a selection of products is the logistical challenges this poses. The failure to source and deliver products in a timely fashion can have a negative impact on your business.
Searchability / Navigation
An often-overlooked element of an ecommerce website is an onsite search engine. An effective search tool should provide an optimal number of relevant results quickly.
Navigation is also key - and refers not just to the menu bar on your site, but the various paths that visitors can take to find products. Successful ecommerce sites allow customers to search for products by category, by brand, by simple keyword search, or even by color or size. The categories you choose of course must reflect the types of products youâ€™re selling - but take the time here to really think through how different visitors may search. You canâ€™t sell something that cannot be found!
If a potential customer is at all uncertain about whether to make a purchase on your site, what they see and read on a detailed product page can make or break the sale. Hereâ€™s where you will describe the product more fully and provide images, link to reviews and ratings, and - where applicable - suggest accessories or complementary products. Keep your product pages neatly organized and be careful of information overkill or clutter, but donâ€™t skimp on detail.
Visuals play an important role here. Because customers cannot actually touch and feel the product, they want to at least be able to see it - with multiple views, where possible. Even customers purchasing books at online bookstores like to see images of the cover to know whether theyâ€™re hardcover or paperback.
The Point of Sale
Once the customer has his shopping cart filled and is ready to buy, your website must be able to process the transaction smoothly. However, this involves more than just having a great server and payment gateway. Youâ€™ve got the customer at the cash register... now donâ€™t let him slip through your fingers! Barriers to completing the sale can include:
Requiring an account before the sale gets processed. Be careful here that you ask for appropriate information, but donâ€™t make it onerous. Another option is to ask at the end of the transaction if they would like to create an account (which then will pull much of the info theyâ€™ve already input for shipping/billing details, etc.)
High shipping costs, and/or vague shipping costs. Be transparent here and youâ€™ll save yourself a lot of headaches.
Inconvenient payment methods. Be sure to list all payments on the product page and give multiple payment methods (at least 2 types of credit cards plus PayPal, at a minimum).
Speed is especially important for an ecommerce site. Customers are impatient and the faster you can get them to the purchase point, the more likely they are to buy. Website speed is also a way that customers evaluate your reliability as a merchant.
After the Purchase
After the transaction has been completed, your customer should be able to view an order summary and receipt, which should also be provided by email to them. Including links in the receipt that direct the customer to a page on the website where they can track their order is a great way to improve your customerâ€™s experience and build trust.
Have your own ecommerce website tips to share? Post them here and weâ€™ll feature them in a future blog posting!