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The Retail Detail

E-commerce Strategy & Design

Category Archives: Ecommerce Websites

A high-performing e-commerce website will clearly communicate your core proposition, inspire buyers with memorable design, and achieve high conversion rates through first-class usability. Whatever your budget there are some basic good practices you should be sure to implement:

1. Tell me what it is, and what’s in it for me – when browsers land on your site they need to be able to quickly see exactly what you are about and why they should hang around! This is called communicating your ‘core proposition’; why you exist and how you are better than / different to the rest.

2. Show, not tell – don’t write paragraphs of text about how friendly / quirky / professional you are, show me in the way you design your site, the language you use, and in your all-important customer service policies. Actions are louder than words.

3. Use your own images – pictures are worth a thousand words, be sure to make them authentic to your business. Don’t be tempted to just use stock photos as you will look just like everyone else, and it says to that you haven’t been prepared to invest time on your website.

4. Fresh Content – your homepage is your shop window. e-commerce websites need to be updated with fresh content at least every other day. I recommend 5 days per week. Keep your potential buyers interested with news of latest products, reviews, industry news, offers and featured items. When you update your site frequently with appropriate fresh content, buyers will come back more and more often, blogs may link to your articles, and search engines will rank you better – all proven to increase conversion.

5. Make your items easy to find – name categories with the terms that potential buyers will use – don’t be tempted to over-elaborate for the sake of being ‘quirky’. Put items in more than one category. Give customers more options for how they find items – e.g. shop by brand / price / colour etc.

6. Make it easy to be trusted – prominently display your contact details including phone number, email and registered address. Post clear and fair return policies, ensure you have a plain-English privacy policy, publish a Frequently Asked Questions page.

7. Make it easy to get paid – you’ve done the hard work: designed a great site, secured first page search engine rankings for your keywords, made it easy for customers to find your items, built trust – now seal the deal! Use a payment gateway that accepts all major credit and debit cards. Offer alternative payment methods – e.g. postal order, cash on delivery – if they are appropriate to you and your customers. Ensure your checkout is simple and intuitive to use. Don’t make customers register with you just to buy one of your items – make accounts optional, never compulsory. Don’t ask for marketing information at the checkout stage – it might be tempting to do so but it drives customers mad, possibly mad enough to go buy elsewhere. Lastly, if you have access to details of abandoned orders, a polite and professional email offering assistance can often ‘recover’ the sale and earn you a new and loyal customer.

8. Check your links – customers hate broken links, and search engines will penalise you for them, too. Free software is widely available to check your whole site in minutes.

9. Get the SEO basics right – relevant site title and description, fresh content, keyword rich text, use of headings, alt and meta tags, appropriate inward links. Search Engine Optimisation is not a dark art, despite what some agencies might want you to believe.

10. Keep it professional – it’s great to add personality to your site (it’s one of the things that gives you a key advantage against your big volume competitors), but always keep it business-like. Basil Fawlty had lots of personality – enough said?!