eCommerce 101: the 10 fundamental practices
Author: Kostas Papanikolaou
eCommerce 101: the 10 fundamental practices
Let’s assume that you are the owner of a company that runs an eCommerce website. The majority of your sales are probably processed through there. Now, let’s assume that you have entered the website of another company, to make a purchase. What are the factors that will determine your overall experience? The things that the human brain unconsciously notices while experiencing virtually anything? What determines if a person will return to a website in the future?
These things are essentially the practices successful companies follow to run equally successful eCommerce websites. Included in that list of important factors are the following:
- Tidy website
- High-quality hosting service
- Optimized checkout process
- Optional yet rewarding registration
- Customer reminders
- SEO & Blogs
- Payments, shipping, and ads
- Descriptions & Presentation
- Customer service & Mobile support
This list consists of some of the most important factors which determine the quality of an eCommerce website. There are many more aspects to an online shop, and each company will usually tailor its eCommerce website around the needs of both its customers and those of its own. Below, we are going to take a look at each of the aforementioned categories separately. We will explain a few things about optimizing an eCommerce website, to achieve the best possible outcome.
This might seem like a very vague term so we are going to explore it, by breaking it down into three parts: avoiding clutter, simplifying menus, and adding a search bar. The first part is regarding what a visitor sees the first time they enter a website and focuses on CTAs, Call To Action buttons which refer to any device designed to prompt an immediate response or encourage an immediate sale. Simplifying menus is… simple. Menus are great, they help with organization and group products/services that a company is selling. However, too many categories will lead to confusion, so eCommerce websites are better to include broad terms for categorization. Finally, a vital option in the Search Bar. This may seem as obvious, but the power of the Search Bar is immense, minimizing the search process, and therefore making navigation extremely easy.
High-quality hosting service
Owning and running a fast eCommerce website is of absolute importance. Every single web page needs to load fast, for the company to yield high conversions. The speed of a website is determined by its hosting service and investing in a premium one will reward the company in the long run. On top of overall website speed, a premium web hosting service will protect a website from crashes, error reports, and glitches as well.
Optimized checkout process
Have you ever had issues completing the purchase of a product or service online? We have, and that affected our impression of an eCommerce website greatly. This is why an e-shop needs to have a checkout process that is as simple as possible. Each additional step in the checkout process increases the chances of a customer abandoning the purchase. Requesting only essential information from the customer is the way to go. In essence, that information usually includes the things that have to be written on the shipping label: Name, Surname, Shipping Address, Postal Code, City, Country, and any information directly related to these. Billing information is obligatory.
Optional yet rewarding registration
More often than not, the process of registration is directly attached to the checkout process. Certainly, an eCommerce website has several benefits from users creating accounts, including the increase of prospective receivers of newsletters, offers which may generate more sales, and more. However, making registration obligatory may lead to the customer having a bad experience, or even abandoning the purchase overall. A guest checkout option is the best way to avoid such a possibility, allowing customers to make orders without having to create an account.
More often than not, a customer might add one or more items into their cart within an eCommerce website, and not complete a purchase. Usually, this will leave the item inside the cart, idle, waiting for the checkout process to be completed, or to be removed from the cart. eCommerce websites and companies can increase traffic, and therefore profit, by communicating with customers about their cart status. Building an eCommerce email list of subscribers can be a gamechanger. This of course is possible only through the use of email addresses of registered users who have agreed to communication regarding offers, news, releases, new products, and more.
SEO & Blogs
Research published in 2017 showed that 46% of consumers start the purchasing process through a search engine, and not directly from an eCommerce website. Therefore, having an up-to-par SEO on your website will help it reach the top of Google rankings based on searches related to the products and/or services you are selling. Another way to optimize SEO is through blogging. This will not only help where an eCommerce website appears within Google’s rankings but will also allow customers to return to your website for other reasons in addition to purchasing products/services. You can read more about SEO at our blogs on SEO, On-Site SEO, and Off-Site SEO.
Payments, shipping, and ads
One of the most important parts of purchase is the payment method. eCommerce websites that support multiple, and various payment options, will attract more customers. Alternative payment methods such as e-wallets are a great way to offer variety. Also, free shipping is always a great way to make sure a customer completes a purchase and doesn’t abandon the process due to unexpected costs. Finally, minimizing the number of ads running on a website will help with the overall user experience. Too many ads interrupting a user might lead to them abandoning the website.
Descriptions & Presentation
As noted above, SEO is vital for an eCommerce website, since it allows it to place high in Google’s rankings. The wording does not only come from blogs, but also from product descriptions, which also help with the customer experience, and can increase the chances of a purchase. Good wording on a product’s description allows customers to understand what this product offers, if it matches their needs, and also allows the website to promote products distinctively. How these descriptions are presented, and the images used for the products are also crucial since presentation defines half the customer’s experience most of the time. A polished website is more attractive than a sloppy-built one.
Customer service & Mobile support
Ease-of-access to customer service is of vital importance since it’s the foundation upon which solving problems is based. High-quality customer service will show customers that those running an eCommerce website care about them, and care about the products/services the company is selling. Part of the customer’s experience is also mobile support, which all eCommerce websites should invest in. We live in the “on-the-go” era and an eCommerce website that works seamlessly on mobile devices is fundamental for every company.
Before anyone buys anything, they want to know what experience others had with that product or service. eCommerce websites offer that option through customer reviews, which assist other customers to learn about a product, and if it’s worth the purchase. Including customer reviews in an eCommerce website will increase trustworthiness, and will also offer customers a sense of community, and therefore, it allows them to increase the website’s overall quality.