eCommerce sales are predicted to top $4 trillion by 2020. Your virtual storefront is the face of your business and its appearance and functionality will impact buyers’ behaviors and brand perceptions. Online stores require a different approach than physical stores and since 20% of the brain is devoted to vision, presentation is everything. The most notable benefit of eCommerce is that selling and buying can occur 24/7. It tends to be a quicker process than in-store shopping as it is easier for customers to find products and there are no geographical limitations. Also, an online store requires lower startup and operational costs than a physical store, and they are relatively quick and easy to get started.
As with every aspect of your website, mobile optimization is key for eCommerce success. In fact, Google uses mobile-readiness as a ranking signal in search results. The site must be mobile perfect so consider a mobile first design strategy. People are browsing across devices and channels before purchasing so creating a seamless experience from mobile to PC is paramount to success. 61% of people have a better opinion of brands when they have a positive mobile experience so ensure that your online store (and entire site) is built with responsive design and shows consistently over multiple devices and screens.
Design considerations for your online store are similar to those for your website. Your focus remains: What problem do you solve? How will it benefit the customer? How are you different from your competition? Use benefits-oriented headlines so you tell customers right away what is in it for them. Use whitespace to minimize clutter and create visual hierarchy and avoid carousels or long blocks of text. Show the personality of the business through your choice of themes and fonts while maintaining legibility, of course. Use only high-quality photography and images so visitors see a clean, attractive, and professional presentation of your products and services. Include an “About” page on your store to show the personality of your business and communicate the passion behind what you offer.
Your online store should be well-structured and easy to navigate. Provide search functionality with text search options and filters by category. Be persistent, include CTAs on all pages with clear messages for how to take the next step. Consider animations such as hidden menu bars and hover ads that are not blocked like pop-ups can be. Keep SEO in mind with dialed down sales pitches, breadcrumb navigation, and optimized page loading speed. Remember to test your site functionality regularly on both desktop and mobile platforms.
Your online store should have clean, clear, and expected navigation for the sales track – this is not the place to be creative. Make check-out easy with minimal forms and as few steps as possible in the buying/check-out process. Don’t force customers to register before they can purchase – this requirement is one of the biggest conversion killers. Instead, offer a guest check-out option and allow customers to save cart items with the option to purchase at a later time. 75% of carts are abandoned so have a system in place to identify where in the process a cart is abandoned, then engage customers of abandoned carts in resale efforts depending on where and why they left.
Users prefer easier navigation and more items per page when shopping. Include all details for each service or product so customers don’t have to call or engage in online chat to understand their choices. Identify out of stock items and clearly communicate your return policies. Mark best sellers and include product reviews, star-rating system, or testimonials to increase perceived credibility. Humanize the experience and post all of your contact information clearly; include phone, email, physical address, and social media channels. And on that note, utilize your social media channels to support your eCommerce efforts - the average person spends 135 minutes on social platforms every day!
Run loyalty and rewards programs to build repeat visits and referrals. Have a FAQs page or easily accessible information about sizing charts, returns, and warranties. Support popular payment methods and offer one-click purchasing. Security should be a top priority for your eCommerce. A security breach could shut down your site and, possibly, your business. The checkout process must be trustworthy with secure payment gateways that use third party services.
Be proactive and assertive in your shipping. Investigate tracking details promptly and thoroughly when a problem is reported. 39% of shoppers won’t return to a site following a negative delivery experience. Shipping is NOT the place to up-charge. Today’s customers expect better and quicker delivery that is fast, convenient, and either cheap or free. It is advised to use discretion when offering free shipping, for example, over a threshold amount, to avoid losing money in the process. Another option is to offer special deals and promotions for free shipping. Display absolute transparency regarding costs of shipping, handling, and sales tax, and clearly communicate expected delivery dates and windows. Educate yourself fully regarding shipping restrictions, both domestic and international.
Three up-and-coming things in the world of eCommerce:
User Generated Content (UGC)
The social sharing of your products and services builds trust. Customers are 97% more likely to purchase or engage with a business after having interacted with UGC so it is best practice to provide customers a space to leave reviews, testimonies, and referrals. Maintain healthy industry relationships because reviews left on external sites are helpful as well. Sharing and reviews also boost SEO.
Chatbots, AI & machine learning
There will be an increased reliance on smart tech such as voice search, chatbots, and personal assistants. These technologies decrease costs of providing 24/7 availability and enable a more interactive experience for FAQs and routine conversations. It was actually found that 48% of customers prefer to interact with a company via live chat than through any other channel. Companies can also use AI to increase future transactions. AI tracks user behaviors/actions and then anticipates how likely future users are to purchase based on how they do or don’t match up to previous buyer profiles. This also allows companies to craft more personalized user experiences.
Augmented and virtual reality technologies are still in development but many predict they will be the next “big thing.” Even at a low frequency, augmented and virtual reality could generate $2.5 billion worldwide in 2018. Experts warn, however, that you shouldn’t adopt VR/AR just to do it but, instead, discern how, if at all, they might work for your customers.
eCommerce is a must for today’s businesses, regardless of size. Make the most of your efforts and cross post ads, blogs, promotions, etc. across all channels. Use all best practices in user interface (UI) and user experience (UX), and don’t get comfortable with what you do. Constantly review and respond to analytics in order to provide your customers with the best eCommerce experience possible.
Realize you might be getting in over your head trying to do this all on your own? We can help! Contact us today to review your business and its needs.