In last week’s “Bringing E-Commerce Back to Basics” blog article, we reminded ourselves of the key reasons why we shop online. This week, we’re looking at what individual businesses can do to really boost their online sales performance.
Our best practice guide for e-commerce businesses is by no means an exhaustive list, but some elements we have delivered for our clients that have proven to work. No matter which of the following elements you decide to accept or reject, online businesses must analyse themselves from their customers’ perspectives. No matter what you do, sell, make or provide, your customers ought to find shopping on your website easy, quick, and enjoyable. They should be engaged and enthused by the experience you provide for them. By ensuring this, you’re delivering purchase-friendly online environments and making repeat business an almost certainty. Of course, that’s assuming your products meet buyer expectations first time around!
You’d be surprised at how many e-commerce websites (or any business sites for that matter) still aren’t responsive. Responsive simply means the website layout changes when viewed through various mobiles, tablets or desktops, resulting in a richer and optimised customer/user experiences.
With well over 50% of e-commerce traffic coming from mobile devices, the old pinch and zoom method should be renamed “pinch and doom” for e-commerce businesses! Even if you don’t sell online, remember that ROPO (Research Online, Purchase Offline- or vice-versa) is a huge part of consumerism today. In a nutshell…PLEASE have a responsive website, and ignore everything else below until you do!
In 2006 (a lifetime ago in the web), Amazon reported that each 100ms website load time equates to a 1% decrease in sales. This has a massive negative effect on your online sales and business longevity. Users not only expect, but demand fast-loading websites. If yours isn’t, your customers will simply lose patience and are much less likely to return.
Remember, your website is your brand’s touchpoint with your customers. They’re not just falling out of love with your site, they’re falling out of love with you! As far back as 2014 Google also announced it would include website speed in its search ranking algorithms, so slow websites and SEO don’t mix! Ensuring a fast site may be as simple as saving static versions of it, rather than recreating it every time it is requested by a user. Additionally, make sure your hosting facility is optimised for high availability and speed of delivery.
Ensure your shopping cart/basket is visible on every page with a large checkout button in obvious locations throughout your site. This will increase your conversion rates. Simples – onto the next one…
Since your online visitors will have different needs, and faced with your hundreds or even thousands of products, make sure your “Search” box occupies significant real estate throughout your website. Look how much real estate Walmart and Amazon allocate to their search boxes. These guys do okay…follow their lead!
Clear and consistent headings
Some users arrive from search engines and won’t necessarily land on your homepage, so ensure that every page includes consistent and clear navigation and breadcrumbs (navigational aids allowing users to track their location on your website). Use common headings on the main navigation for instant familiarity to build user confidence.
Chances are, a high percentage of your target customers use social media, so it’s essential to share content from your website via social sharing widgets. We recommend focusing on one or two social sharing networks that your target audiences are likely to be active on and you can commit to maintaining. These are typically Facebook and Twitter, but can vary across your client base.
Customer Confidence and convenience
One of the key consumer barriers to online shopping is the fear of being unable to resolve issues. To alleviate this, communicate clearly, and don’t use jargon or complicated terminology. Offering no-quibble returns helps convert users who are unsure on a particular purchase.
It’s vital to maintain customer confidence throughout the online sales journey, so we recommend including supplier logos and as many testimonials as you possibly can! Social proof is everything when it comes to online shopping, and the best marketers your business has are those outside of the company.
Newsletters and Calls to Action
Grow your customer database by making it easy and beneficial to sign up to your newsletters. Giving customers a reason to sign-up is essential, so clear and concise value propositions need to be applied. It is also best practice to give something away (this can be anything from discounts to knowledge) if you want people to provide you with their email address.
Include a ‘subscribe to special offers’ or ‘join our mailing list’ option at the checkout, and ensure to fulfil any promises around special offers or discounts to those that sign-up! Segmenting your newsletter sign-up by customer interest or wants will also ensure your customers receive more targeted and personalised communications.
Home Page/Main Screen
This is where most customers will first land on your site, so it’s essential to impart not only what you can do, but (more importantly) what you can do FOR THEM as quickly as possible. Prominent calls to action and relevant hero images encourage users to further explore your site and hugely reduce bounce rates. Large, professional and appealing imagery works best when presenting your products and offers.
Product listing pages
These are pages that list products after a customer has selected a category from the main menu or has performed a product search. It’s always useful to have a category introduction that gives an overview of your available products. Customers also expect the flexibility to sort and filter their options to make your products easier to find.
Individual Product Pages
These pages should be effortlessly accessed and their content should be easy to digest. “Buy now” buttons should stand out from the page by making them larger and coloured differently to the other buttons and texts. It’s also important to use concise bullet points to describe items, as your customers simply won’t take the time to read long descriptive paragraphs when shopping online. Incorporating a ‘wish list’ without pushing a user into registering first is also a good way of retaining customers. When they access their wish list, they will be prompted to sign up/log-in, which is also a superb way of gathering email addresses for future marketing campaigns.
For product images, quality CMS providers such as Kentico allow you to show a variety of product angles, and you can also incorporate real-life images using the product. This helps contextualise your products, and increases their chances of being purchased online. We recommend also including a product zoom feature so customers can see the product details up-close. Quite simply, the more detail customers can see and value, the more likely they are to purchase and share.
The Cart Page
It’s important to show all costs in the shopping cart before the checkout stage, as hidden fees are the number one reason for cart abandonment on e-commerce sites. Customers may also wish to add further items and update quantities at this stage, so this should be made easy. This is also an opportune time to upsell to customers and show some suggested ancillary options they may wish to consider.
Stripping-back the navigation on the checkout page keeps customers focused on the buying process and increases your chances of completing the sale, while unnecessary items or buttons on this page can distract.
If the user is a previously registered customer, pre-populating where possible makes the checkout an effortless process. Additionally, offering the customer several payment options is also advisable, especially for less established online businesses.
Including a final review and confirmation page detailing the customer’s delivery and billing information is always advised, as is a well displayed ‘confirm’ button. Once the customer has completed the checkout process, a clear ‘thank you’ page ought to be displayed. This should also describe what happens next, provide options for creating an account, track their order, and provide other relevant information.
The above are just a small handful of techniques e-commerce businesses can stay relevant to online buyers. As per the first of this 2-part blog entry, knowing your customer is the single-most important step. No amount of imagery, emails or CTA’s count if you don’t know what problems your business solves, and for whom.
Once, and only once you know that, will anything in this blog article have an impact. However, once you get both parts right, the impact will be considerable, and your online business will deliver an entirely new level of success.