E-commerce – 10 tips for a successful website

Build the site that succeeds – 10 top tips to boost your chances of e-commerce success.

The e-commerce economy is expected to continue its rapid growth for years. This opportunity for success and sustainability is exciting, promising and intriguing for entrepreneurs, and whether you’ve already been involved with the launch of an e-commerce website or are looking to get involved, now is the time to strike.

The e-commerce economy’s upward trajectory isn’t a guarantee of success, however, and you can only expect to see results if you approach it right.

Here are 10 top tips to boost your chances of e-commerce success:

  1. Put the customer first

Look for ways to simplify the browsing and buying process.

Group products into suitable categories, display multiple images and views that can be enlarged, clearly indicate product options such as finishes, sizes and colours, prominently display specials and promotions, highlight new products or bestsellers, and keep the checkout process to as few steps as possible.

  1. Go mobile

Smartphones and tablets are playing an increasingly important role, with worldwide consumer spending projected to jump from $204 billion in 2014 to $626 billion in 2018. In addition, Google has already begun penalising websites that are not mobile-friendly by relegating where they appear in search results.

If you aren’t building an e-commerce site with mobile in mind, you are already irrelevant.

  1. Search function

Help customers find what they are looking for, fast.

Online shoppers don’t bother with sites that force them to trawl from one page to another, reading the description of every product, just to find what they’re looking for. Ask your web developer to incorporate an advanced search function.

  1. Breadcrumb navigation

Make it easy for customers to know where they are during the buying process.

Use a neat graphic to indicate how many steps there are in total, what point they are at, and how many steps remain. Without this function, customers are more likely to abandon the purchase.

  1. Suggest related items

If the customer is buying a bed, suggest bedside tables, pillows etc — this saves the customer’s time, making them likelier to comeback, and increases revenue.

It’s well-known that online shoppers add extra items to their carts to qualify for free shipping.

  1. Registration-free sales

Don’t subject your customers to a long and tedious sign-up process prior to making a purchase.

Emphasise the sale – ask them if they want to sign up afterwards to make the next purchase on your site easier. This approach is proven to increase sales, improve customer retention, and reduce cart abandonment.

  1. Clear shipping information

There’s a high rate of cart abandonment at checkout due to customers only then finding out the shipping timeline won’t meet their needs.

Display shipping information for each product early and offer multiple shipping options, such as standard, express or overnight-customers will pay more to receive a product faster. Provide free shipping when customers reach a certain spending threshold – it’s well known that online shoppers add extra items to their carts to qualify for free shipping, Calculate and communicate shipping costs early in the ordering process to avoid any shocks.

  1. Test, test, test

Before, during and after you launch, invest in thorough testing and analytics. If a feature, function or element on your e-commerce site isn’t working you lose your credibility… and the sale. It’s crucial you do enough testing to ensure an error-free shopping experience.

  1. Online marketing

Many companies have seen the opportunity for expansion via e-commerce, meaning it’s not enough to simply build a site and hope traffic, and sales, will come. Promote your site via search engine optimisation (SEO), Google AdWords and social media. Engage a skilled online marketing agency to optimise the number of hits on your site.

  1. Customer service

Make it easy for customers to connect with you during and after a sale. Offer live chat, a Q&A section and a helpline. Once a purchase has been made let customers know each stage of the process – when their order has been confirmed, picked and shipped – and provide them with the shipping tracking number. Then follow up a few days later to confirm they’re happy with the product.

Getting e-commerce right makes the difference between success and failure. Engage with a reputable experienced agency that will guide you through the process and build a site that succeeds.

Nathan Sinnott, CEO, Newpath WEB

This article first appeared in issue 11 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine

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