e-Commerce Best Practices: 15 Actionable Tips To Follow
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As the world sees a shift in consumer behaviour in the 21st century, the Internet has become the new arena for retailers to fight for consumers’ money and attention.
With stiff competition in the online shopping landscape, e-commerce site owners must go an extra mile to outperform rivals.
This article covers 15 actionable tips on running an e-commerce site. From homepage design to conversion optimization, there are ways to make the most of your online business.
Below is a quick preview of best practices for e-commerce websites:
- Secure your site with HTTPS
- Put your value proposition front and centre
- Test your site speed
- Make your products easy to find
- Highlight bestsellers
- Provide informative product description
- Display quality product images
- Display customer reviews
- Create a simple checkout process
- Allow as many payment methods as possible
- Send cart abandonment messages
- Optimize for mobile devices
- Answer frequently asked questions
- Make customer service easily accessible
- Prioritize search engine optimization (SEO)
1. Secure your site with HTTPS
Many people take a leap of faith when shopping online. This is particularly so when they are not familiar with the brand.
Having a ‘not secure’ warning would certainly make visitors give a second thought to sharing their credit card information on your site.
An SSL certificate would help reassure your customers that their personal information is safe with you.
2. Put your value proposition front and centre
Your company’s value proposition gives people a reason to buy from you instead of your competitors. It is especially important if your store sells homogenous products.
To appeal to consumers, your value proposition should tell what is special about your brand, address consumers’ pain points and highlight how your products or services can help them.
As a rule of thumb, putting your value proposition on the homepage of your e-commerce site best delivers the message.
3. Test your site speed
Nobody likes a slow website. Ideally, your site loading speed should stay under 2 seconds.
A study performed by Neil Patel, the digital guru, reveals the following findings about website loading speed:
- 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
- A 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.
- If an e-commerce site is making $100,000 per day, a 1 second delay could cost you more than $2.5 million in lost sales every year.
The importance of maintaining a site that loads fast is evident. To test the loading speed of your site, Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a great place to start.
Below are some items that could help improve your site’s loading speed:
- Choose a performance-optimized hosting solution
- Minimize HTTP requests
- Minimize external scripts
- Use a content delivery network (CDN)
- Reduce server response time
- Enable browser caching
- Reduce image sizes
- Use lazy loading
- Compress files
- Reduce redirects
4. Make your products easy to find
Stylish website design is nice to have.
Yet, in the process of optimizing e-commerce sites, owners often focus too much on aesthetics that they lose sight of the primary purpose of setting up an e-commerce store — making people buy things.
To this end, your products must be easy to browse and find. Here is how to do it.
Categorize your products
Large e-commerce sites may have thousands of products to sell. It would be unrealistic to expect your visitors to browse each and every item before making a purchase.
Categorizing your products is one way to help customers find products easily.
Lululemon, for example, organizes its products by their target users (women and men), product types (clothing and accessories) and activities (yoga, running, workout, etc.).
Here is how they do it:
Enable product filters
Product filters are helpful for users to narrow down their search and find what they are looking for.
As an example, Lululemon allows filtering by shirt length, size and activity. Some e-shops also provide price filters. Online marketplaces may offer filtering by brands too.
Use a search bar
According to a report by Forrester Research, 43% of e-commerce site visitors go directly to the search bar, and are 2.4 times more likely to make a purchase.
Including a search bar in your e-commerce site not only improves the user experience — by helping visitors find desired products easily — but also gives a boost to conversion rate as searchers know specifically what they want to buy.
Below is an example from Lululemon’s e-store, which features a search bar above the fold (at the top right corner):
The brand even takes a further step by suggesting ‘trending searches’ so that users can find Lululemon’s popular series in one click.
5. Highlight bestsellers
Popular products have proven traction that they are liked by customers.
If that is the case, why not amp up the sales of your best-selling products by, say, featuring them on your e-commerce site’s homepage?
6. Provide informative product description
Information about your products is essential for visitors to make informed purchase decisions. You cannot sell a product by just its name.
A good product description includes the product’s features and benefits that appeal to readers. Include a video demonstration if purchasers need a little help understanding how to use your products.
5.11 Tactical, for instance, showcases features and functions of its signature tactical backpack with a short video.
7. Display quality product images
Unlike brick-and-mortar store visitors, online shoppers cannot touch and feel the items that they wish to buy. This could be a reason that holds people back from making a purchase.
Product photography is one way to make your item visually accessible, authentic and attractive.
As a matter of fact, half of online shoppers make purchase decisions based on available images, according to Google’s Consumer Survey.
Pro tip: Do not skimp on product photography. Take photo shoots of your product from every angle possible. Also showcase variants of your products visually (e.g. different colours, cutting, shapes, etc.).
Below is an example from Nike.
8. Display customer reviews
Your customers’ words speak louder than yours.
In the virtual world where people cannot physically touch and see your products, customer testimonials serve as social proof that your brand is trustworthy and your products are worth buying. In short, customer reviews help you sell.
9. Create a simple checkout process
Based on a survey of 46 different studies, Baymard Institute finds that some 70% of online shoppers abandon their carts.
Below are some tips to help you reduce your e-commerce site’s cart abandonment rate:
Do not force account creation
To obtain more information about customers, some e-commerce sites ask visitors to create an account in order to complete their order.
However, from users’ perspective, account creation could be time-consuming and burdensome. In fact, forced account creation is the second most common reason for cart abandonment, according to Baymard Institute.
Unless an account is strictly necessary, e-commerce stores would be better off giving visitors an option to check out as guests.
Give clear steps and instructions
It would be off-putting to fill out a lengthy form just to buy a little something online.
The best practice is to keep checkout procedures quick and simple. Ask customers to fill in only what is necessary to complete the transaction.
If the nature of your e-commerce business requires that purchasers provide a large amount of information, be sure to let your customers know what they are going through (e.g. step 1 out of 3).
Allow your visitors to complete checkout distraction-free. Once they have initiated the checkout process, there should be no distractions — no ads, no more promotional content.
Below is an example of how Adidas keeps the checkout process simple and easy:
- Show a numbered progress bar on top
- Request minimal information input from customers
- Allow guest checkout (left-hand side) or sign-in (right-hand side)
Reduce surprise costs
Having unexpected fees (e.g. taxes and shipping fees) added to the total checkout amount would cause your customers to reconsider their purchase decision. Very often, this would lead to cart abandonment.
If your customers must pay these fees, make sure to inform them at an earlier stage, such as on product pages.
Alternatively, you could offer free shipping for orders over a certain dollar amount.
10. Allow as many payment methods as possible
Most customers have a preferred payment method. If that method is not available, visitors may simply give up buying from your store.
Here are some popular payment methods that you could consider:
- Credit cards
- Debit cards
- Google Pay
- Apple Pay
- Cash on delivery
- Bank transfer
11. Send cart abandonment messages
There are many possible reasons for not completing the checkout process.
Visitors may be window shopping, comparing prices, or they simply get distracted and forget about the shopping cart.
Cart abandonment messages are a great way to remind potential customers to complete their purchase. This is most commonly done through email.
12. Optimize for mobile devices
Mobile e-commerce, otherwise known as m-commerce, is growing at an unprecedented rate. Andrew Lipsman, principal analyst at eMarketer, even estimates that more than 50% of online purchases will be made on mobile devices in 2022.
Yet, browsing with a small screen could be frustrating, even worse if the website is not mobile-friendly. You could lose customers because of poor user experience (UX) on your site.
Below are some quick tips on how you could make your e-commerce site friendly for mobile users:
- Use responsive web design (RWD)
- Use a sticky top navigation menu
- Allow both browsing and searching on your site
- Use easy-to-read typefaces and font sizes
- Limit pop-up windows on mobile devices
- Pay attention to your site’s loading speed
- Enable accelerated mobile pages (AMP)
- Use a clear and strong call to action (CTA)
- Make the checkout process intuitive
You could also test your site for mobile-friendliness using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
13. Answer frequently asked questions
People tend to walk away and not place an order if they have unanswered questions about the products they are interested in.
Common customer queries include shipping information and return policies.
You could work with your sales and customer support teams to get a grasp on what other questions your visitors usually ask. Put up a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page so that people can find answers easily.
ASOS, the London fashion brand, has their FAQ topics well-organized as follows:
14. Make customer support easily accessible
It is common sense for in-store salespersons to respond to visitors’ queries on the spot. Online shoppers deserve the same.
Right next to ASOS’s FAQ section is a “Contact Us” box, enabling visitors to talk to sales experts instantly.
Pre-purchase customer support would help answer any queries that your visitors have, and facilitate a purchase decision.
Post-purchase support is equally important. It helps deliver positive customer experiences. Happy customers are more likely to return and make repeat purchases, hence more sales for your business.
Many businesses have already been using WhatsApp as a Customer Relationship Management tool even before the WhatsApp business came along. Therefore, WhatsApp released various business versions to assist business owners in engaging their customers and targeted audiences, there are WhatsApp Business App and the WhatsApp Business API. These two models of WhatsApp that fulfill this role above and are available for businesses of various kinds.
15. Prioritize search engine optimization
You probably came across this article searching for e-commerce best practices. What about potential customers finding your products through online search?
Google’s Consumer Survey reveals that more than 50% of shoppers use the search engine to discover new brands and products.
But the truth is, your e-commerce website could hardly show up top on the search engine results page without some serious efforts in search engine optimization (SEO).
The idea of SEO may sound intimidating at first. But as many e-commerce sites have shown, it is an investment which will reap rewards in the long run.
Some last words
As the digital arena becomes increasingly crowded, running an online store will only become harder, requiring more sophisticated techniques and strategies.
If you are looking to grow your e-commerce company, Choco Up could lend you a helping hand.
Choco Up is Asia’s leading revenue-based financing (RBF) platform. We provide flexible, non-dilutive funding for fast-growing companies. With cross-industry experiences in e-commerce and financing, we have helped hundreds of businesses grow and maximize their upside potential with RBF funding.
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