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How to Improve an E-Commerce Website

Updated on June 8, 2017
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Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, engineer, mother of 2, and a published sci-fi and horror author.

Introduction

E-commerce is causing many traditional retailers to close stores and go out of business. A few have shifted to e-commerce entirely to remain in business, cutting costs while still moving inventory. Brick-and-mortar stores that set up a good e-commerce website enjoy far higher sales for a fraction of the investment of a new retail outlet.

What are a few methods to improve an e-commerce website, increasing customer conversions and sales?

Rich, Valuable Content

Your content needs to be rich in detail and describe the product. It cannot be thin content that repeats keywords or rephrases the search terms. Include information like performance specifications, warranty information, items included in the product bundle in addition to model numbers and serial numbers. This approach helps your customers find the products they need in a search on your e-commerce site as well as improves search engine optimization of the product page when people search the internet for it. E-commerce pages can and should include SEO, such as putting the key search terms in the product title or the bulleted list of product specifications.

Show what you are selling not only in detail but in use, or as compared to related products, so customers can tell the difference.
Show what you are selling not only in detail but in use, or as compared to related products, so customers can tell the difference. | Source

Useful Detailed Images

Instead of simply showing the front, side and top of a product, show the vacuum cleaner being used, the inside pockets of a jacket, the toy in use with all the components around it. The image should present why someone would want to buy it. Your e-commerce listings need to use at least one high quality image, and user habits mean the most important needs to be placed in the top left. The less important images should then flow across the top or down the side of the page. Remember that the image load time should not slow down presentation of the page or you risk losing the customer.

You should seek to present the same “look” across your entire e-commerce site. If you show images across the left side of the page on one page, you should do the same for the other products.

Make the process of selecting and buying as short and simple as possible.
Make the process of selecting and buying as short and simple as possible. | Source

A Streamlined Checkout Process

Every click and data entry field you present to customers costs you a few potential customers from the implied hassle and effort. This is why the one-click ordering process was developed by Amazon a few years ago, and the “one push to order” app is so popular in business. If you make checking out easy, you lose fewer people who are in the final step in the conversion process. If you simplify re-ordering, you’ll keep existing customers to buy again, reducing the need to find new customers.

Remove the drop-down menu for salutations. Minimize repetitive data entry by customers. Copy the delivery address as the billing address but give customers the ability to alter it. One often-overlooked necessity is making the location for coupon codes and discount codes prominently visible early in the checkout process. You’ll gain points with consumers if they see the discount percentage applied immediately and see a small notice at the end of the checkout as to how much they’ve saved.

Clarity as to the Commitment

If you have a privacy policy or website terms and conditions, make a link to this available during the checkout process. Give people an opt-in to marketing instead of expecting them to find it and opt-out when checking out. If you put a notice that you’re going to sign them up for marketing messaging by default and they can’t figure out how to opt out, they are likely to abandon the shopping cart.

Three Clicks to Any Product

Design your e-commerce site to be as flat as possible for the product structure. Consider this the digital equivalent of merchandising. Pants should be separate from shirts, and clothing should be on a separate section of the site than shoes. However, every level of the product directory structure people need to navigate to find the right item costs you a few potential customers. This does not include the ability to sort products by criteria like size, brand, style or color.

Place the site structure map on the side of the page so that people who end up somewhere they don’t intend to be can click once to go where they want to go instead of hitting the back button and hoping they return to the level they last thought was the on the right path.

Prices without Surprises

One of the leading causes of shopping cart abandonment is a surprise at the end as to the total price. Make the total price clear early in the process, such as estimating shipping and taxes. If someone thinks they are getting an item for $50 and the total comes up to $62.99, you’ll lose them. When your free delivery requires reaching a set threshold, show this prominently when someone adds a cheaper item to the cart to entice them to add more items or upgrade to a product bundle.

You can convert many customers by clearly delineating the product by itself from the upgraded product bundle while giving them the ability to compare the product and the bundle on the same page. If the bundle’s price is only somewhat higher, they’ll often upgrade to the bundle – especially if the price point of the bundle makes them eligible for free shipping or faster delivery.

Customer Assistance

Provide clear instructions on how to contact customer support, whether it is to cancel an order or correct payment account information. Never tell people to send an email to customer support unless you can follow up almost immediately. Do not put a customer service phone number on your website and fail to take messages and return calls. The worst mistake to make is posting information about how to reach customer service that then fails to work, whether a customer service email that bounces or phone number that fails to go to voicemail. While chatbots may provide some assistance, never leave people at their mercy without the option of contacting a human for help.

Market Tactfully through Status Messages

You can market to customers when you send status messages, whether thanking them for their order while including a coupon code for their next order or including a call to action to follow you on social media at the bottom of a notice that their order has shipped. Unlike pure marketing emails, this kind of email marketing is built into messages customers see as reasonable to receive.

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