The most cutting-edge design may not be the best option for you, in many cases settling down with a functional design rather than the ones with slick features turns out to be a winner. Online stores are designed for users at all levels, what you really like about might not be the case for the majority of your audiences. This is simply because a design that seems to be exciting and futuristic could be intimidating to use for the less tech-savvy users.
Easy to use search bar
There’s a reason why in just 20 years, Google has become a global tech sensation – they fulfil a purpose that everyone needs – finding things easily. Likewise, if you want your store to perform to its potential, a user-friendly search is a must-have. Currently hosted third-party search is the way to go for eCommerce since they offer unparalleled speed with instantaneous search results.
Well structured shop categories and an easy to follow navigation
It is undeniable that running a successful retail business has a lot to do with how well organised the management team is: store presentation, stock management, bookkeeping, customer relationship, and the list goes on. The very first thing we require an eCommerce startup to do is to list all their product categories, from top categories to the most granular levels. Then find as many alternative ways of grouping the products as possible, before we can finally sit down and draft a perfect store structure that is suitable for the majority of their customers.
From a technical point of view, mega menus and breadcrumbs are standard navigation features when it comes to online stores. Due to the complicated nature of eCommerce where there’s likely more than one way of categorising products, mega menu highlights all categories under one roof so users can easily decide where to look for the right products. Breadcrumb, on the other hand, gives users an indication of which part of web store they’re currently on, in case there’s a need to return to previously browsed pages.
High-resolution Images with plenty of details
Photographing is a way of describing your products, they more details you provide, the more likely customers will purchase your products. To make your store look professional and trustworthy, basic photography settings such as lighting, aperture, exposure and background should be consistent for all your product photographs. It usually takes a lot of trial and error to get the best image quality possible for a given budget.
Getting the right images is only half the job, decide what resolution to be used for each image type such as thumbnails, listing images and main images will have a strong impact on your server resources and overall website speed. Within a given amount of products, the higher resolution your images are, the bigger your server will need to be. A recommended way is to forecast your product range to find a sweet spot of offering a great level of image details while staying within an acceptable hosting budget.
Fast website speed, aiming at sub 3 seconds
All eCommerce platforms are thirsty for hosting resources, in other words, the computing power of your server machine as well as network, which is the main dictator of your website speed. Alternatively, you can also request your hosting provider and web developer to fine tune your website and hosting environment to maximise page load speed.
According to our experiences in working on web page speed optimisation, sub 3 seconds is a good speed while sub 2 is more desirable. If you already have an online store, you can go ahead test your website speed by using Google PageSpeed Insights. Make sure the test pages include your homepage as well as the biggest category page which is usually the slowest page, so you can get an idea of where you’re sitting at the page speed spectrum. More in-depth speed-related topics are also discussed here (article coming soon).
Make shipping, return, refund policy clear and prominent
It’s a simple formula: the more you care about your customers, the better response you will get in return. Eliminating insecurity and shopping concerns is the first step online store owners should take into consideration when drafting their shopping policies, but most importantly such information should be prominent.
You’ve taken perfect images, fine-tuned your website, spent a considerable amount of efforts in online marketing and now you finally getting consistent shop visitors. But the reality is you’re luckily getting 3 out of 100 visits who made to your checkout. So to tackle the conversion rate of the rest 97%, you need to have a communication platform so visitors can contact you whenever there’s a concern raised in their mind. A help desk solution fulfils this purpose, it should be there ready to engage whenever needed.
Encourage advocacy, show user-generated contents such as testimonials and product reviews
Why user-generated content? Because it’s the trend and the future – consumer’s opinions and experiences are rich resources for online shopping. Product manufacturers can only describe product based on how and why they’re made in a very neutral point of view, and often they’re boring and difficult to understand.
On the other hand, the reviews from consumers are personalised, specific and interesting. Furthermore, some consumers with more shopping experiences might have a comparison between products from different manufacturers, therefore able to give useful information that is almost impossible for manufacturers to offer.
So if you haven’t gotten on top of this, have a product review feature in place, encourage buyers to review their items and reward your reviewers for doing it. A good third party solution worth to be mentioned here is Product Reviews Australia, which offers fantastic review services. Unfortunately, the only downside is their pricing plan is a lack of support for small-sized businesses.
No different than any other forms of marketing, online marketing is a numbers game. One of the contributing factors to a higher conversion rate is a simplified checkout process. Behavioural online shopping analysis shows us that: “majority shoppers just want to buy things from you without having a relationship“. So don’t ever force a customer to register before they can check out, and try to reduce the number of clicks needed to complete a checkout.
Design a customer journey
When bricks and mortar shops move online, the biggest change is the loss of customer service intimacy. To make it up, we need to design a customer journey to keep our customers informed, engaged and rewarded. The marketing gadgets we can count on are automated marketing emails, the weekly news and customer loyalty program.
A customer journey starts soon as an order is created, we should carefully design a series of emails to engage customers and ask for their feedback. In order to resell, we could also invite customers to your loyalty program where you will be rewarded for repeated shopping.
Direct your online marketing with an Annual Online Marketing Calendar
Online Marketing Calendar topped our list of “most desirable yet least accomplished” eCommerce strategy. Ever since we started our “eCommerce Solutions for SMBs” journey, we haven’t even had one client that has successfully initiated or followed an online marketing calendar. The leads to online revenue take a toll from its poor online marketing. From a user experience point of view, if a customer receives your newsletter while failing to recall who you are, that’s a warning sign and the sad thing is no one would ever tell you about it.
What you can and should do is to work out a 12 month online marketing activity calendar at the beginning of a new financial year (don’t worry about setting the goals if you start for the first time), take most commonly used marketing tools into consideration such as paid ads, social media marketing, email marketing, sponsorship and public relations, etc. You should have Google analytics set up to track your marketing activities for quarterly reviews.
As a business owner, you are well aware of the seasonal effects on your sales, so use those patterns in conjunction with public holidays (when people are most likely to spend) to maximise sales. Get familiar with your stock levels so you can predict when it’s the best time to clear out stocks to make ways for new products. In general, the more stats you can handle, the better online marketer you become.
Make your website easy to use across all popular devices
Driven by the boom of smartphones, responsive web design has overhauled the whole industry in just 5 years. As a result, all web designs and designer templates are optimised for mobile and tablet devices out the box. The amount of work needed for website mobile optimisation has dramatically reduced, but fine tuning device-specific performance is still critical. Google Mobile Friendly Test can give you an idea of how your mobile site stack up against your competitors, and where to improve.
Personalised shopping, sell grouped or bundled products
To achieve this we need to ‘think’ as a customer and take lifetime value (LTV) into consideration. Suppose you’re running a swimming equipment online store, and offer a wide range of products for swimmers at all levels. What you could do to make your online store personalised for your audiences is to offer carefully selected product packages for swimmers at different levels.
Take beginner swimmer customers for example, instead of selling goggles and swimming wears separately, you could group related products together as packages since as the skills of beginner swimmers progress, they are likely in need of other gear for advanced swimming drills. By offering this feature, you are not just providing an informed shopping experience but also dramatically increases your average order value.
Support your product with rich content
High quality product images, product videos, 360 degree product views, virtual try on, instructions and how-to guides are among the rich content list which takes your online store to the next level. It all boils down to a simple online shopping tactic: the more your customers get to know your products, the better sales your stores will generate.
Treat your resellers
Most manufacturing businesses have a nationwide reseller/wholesale network which usually represents a major part of their business. When those businesses start to selling products online, resellers are often neglected due to the extra resources allocated to the new revenue channel.
Our recommended approach to managing resellers while moving business online is to design part of your online store to be wholesale specific. The idea is to make bulk ordering convenient so that all resellers will eventually start to order online which will considerably reduced operation cost.
Flexible payment options
Flexible payment options really should be something for everyone: from the basic bulletproof credit/master cart payment (who hasn’t got a bank account?) to the ever popular lay-buy (buy now pay later) options, the more payment options we offer, the more likely customers to place their orders.
To many, a business is a lifetime commitment. It's easy to start one yet difficult to make it successful. Attitude, skills, experiences and dedication help hone the craft along the way, but it's often the great vision and resilience to remain focused wins the game. Read more about me here