E-commerce sites are booming, and they show no signs of fading as online sales continue to increase. Online shopping is convenient, but the risk for customer frustration is higher since there aren’t employees to instantly grab to assist in finding an item. Keep the customer happy and you’ll both benefit, but stress them out and the whole process is compromised. There are endless options people can make purchases from, so online retailers need to attract customers and distinguish themselves as the company to buy from online. Retailers can achieve this status by creating a comfortable, smooth process for their customers when making purchases.
First, you must identify your site’s current problems with e-commerce.
1) Difficulties during the checkout process will send customers away just as quickly as the click brought them to you. If the checkout process is too long, too confusing, or too stressful, customers could very easily change their minds. The internet is supposed to be fluid and easy to use and when someone’s hard earned money is on the line, it’s important that they feel comfortable, calm, and happy spending it. It’s very easy for a potential buyer to leave your site for another option; once you have their attention, find a way to keep it.
2) Build trust with SSL certificates to make customers feel safe about entering personal information. Users must SEE how safe your site is. Your site could be locked as tightly as Fort Knox, but you must give the appearance of safety or shoppers will be hesitant. These safety certificates should be boasted on your site not only for the customer to see, but for hackers as well. Why do people rob banks when they could get much more value out of robbing the gold at Fort Knox? Because trained military, guns, cameras, and steel doors have Fort Knox locked down, and bank security systems appear much easier to circumvent. Deter would-be hackers from even thinking about compromising your site; if they see how difficult your site would be to hack, they likely won’t try.
3) Don’t limit payment options on people who are willing to buy your product. Saving money on your business may require some cutbacks, but do not limit how your customer can pay you. A big turn-off is being denied a purchase because it costs the retailer money to accept a credit card. This is where in-store and online shopping differ greatly; if I’m already at the store, I will find another way to pay, rather than put everything back and drive to a different store that accepts my card. If I’m online and a website doesn’t accept my payment, I do one thing: close the window and find another site, simple as that. I haven’t left my couch, so emptying my virtual shopping cart isn’t going to waste my time.
4) NO fine print for return policies, shipping information, or a simple phone number. All of this information should be easily accessible. Your virtual customer service desk needs to be displayed on the first page of your site so a customer doesn’t have to click through ten hyperlinks to find out if a product can be returned in 30 days. Finding the information needed must be as easy as consulting an employee in-store.
5) Make your site compatible with different browsers. If a customer can’t even access your site, you’re the next line in their internet history. What’s more logical for a customer: downloading a browser that is compatible with your site, or searching for a new retailer who carries the same product? The one thing you cannot afford to risk is wasting a potential buyer’s time; ease of access to your site is vital.
Your focus should be getting customers in and out. They want to spend time browsing your products; they do not want to waste time figuring out how to find the product they are searching for.
Focus on utilizing these seven practices:
1) Focus on usability
Your site must be easy enough for the novice online shopper to browse and buy. Any difficulty (even if it’s caused by the shopper himself) will deter a potential buyer.
One of our clients, ColourMe, has made their homepage colorful and inviting, but simple enough to not be overwhelming to potential customers.
2) Implement breadcrumbs to ease navigation
The back button should be a customer’s friend, not a button that takes them to the “unable to process your request” page. Allow your customer to go back if they need to; allow him to easily see what is already in his virtual shopping cart. In a store, shoppers can go down each aisle and check off what they’ve already found; the same should be true for online shopping. Nobody should have to go through the same line twice.
A breadcrumb can simply be a reminder that an item is sold at your online store, much like a candy display at a brick-and-mortar checkout lane. An example of how ColourMe has done this is shown below:
3) Prominently display contact information
If your customer does run into difficulties or something unfamiliar, they should have easy access to help. Whether it’s via an online chat, an email, or a representative by telephone, they should always have someone to rely on when in need.
Contact information should be easy to read and accessible, as it is here:
4) Create a visible search field
For customers who already know what they want, the search option is their best friend. It’s like walking into your favorite store, screaming the name of the product you want, and it landing in front of you, asking whether or not you need another item. Search fields are great tools for customers, and effective for site owners, because they get shoppers in and out and can help increase conversion rates.
Search fields should be located in several places on your site to increase your customers’ chances of using them.
5) Show recommended and related products
This is similar to the checkout line at any retail store. If you’re buying an mp3 player, you’ll need headphones too. You want new shoes? How about some laces or shoe cleaner? You’re getting a new shirt, and these pants would look great with it – why not make it an outfit? You get the point: accessorize, accessorize, accessorize, and see your sales increase. Customers can’t buy something if they don’t know you sell it. Suggestions are easy, and if it’s not necessary, the only thing the customer has to do is click “No, thanks.”
A great “matchmaker” tool can lead to additional purchases. ColourMe’s version of this can be seen here:
When customers have already made selections, recommended associated items are good “pulls” to increase their chances of multiple purchases.
6) Use prominent Calls to Action
Eventually you will have to close a sale, even without a salesperson. Make the checkout button big, bold, easily accessible, and inviting. Customers shop online so they don’t have to wait in long lines and deal with slow cashiers. Reinforce your customer’s motive to shop online by making it easy to close out when he’s ready.
7) Implement special offers
Give your customer a reward for shopping with you! Allow them to save money when they buy more during their current “shopping trip,” or give them coupons and discounts that keep them coming back. A happy customer is a repeat customer, and they will be more inclined to shop with you again if they have a “special offer” code to bring back. Simply put, make them feel special.
A good offer is prominent and eye-catching, like these:
Data analysis tools are essential for tracking your e-commerce site. Without knowing what’s working – and what isn’t – you will have a hard time adapting your site to meet your customers’ needs. There are a variety of tools you can collect data from to make your job easier.
Google analytics: Analysis is important for tracking the success of your website post-launch. Google analytics is very helpful in providing real-time data about your site with statistics like internet users, site hits, conversion rate, and Google searches.
Google analytics can show you everything from conversion rates to an analysis of your revenue streams, as seen here:
Google Analytics can also track your clicks and visits across your various campaigns.
Wireframing: It’s an important part of project planning that acts as a guide throughout the entire e-commerce development process. Wireframing is a pre-launch luxury because it gives website owners an advanced look at the functionality of their website in a structured outline, before the content is dropped in. It allows the owner to see what the site will do, more so than what it will look like. It can also save the web designer time during the design process.
There are several good wireframing options out there; examples are noted here.
Magento Shopping Cart: Magento offers a very powerful e-commerce platform that’s necessary for a successful website to run smoothly. The community version is free; there’s also a paid enterprise version available. Magento also offers a free 30-day trial for website owners to test out, either before they launch the site or during a soft-open.
To give you a head start on what your feedback will guide you toward, here are two characteristics shoppers love to see:
1. Social media log-in: Whether the platform is Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, most internet users have at least one registered account with a social media site. Allow the customer to sign in with their social media account and avoid the time-consuming (sometimes deal-breaking) registration page. We live in the social media age, and if your site doesn’t jump on board, your customers might jump ship.
2. Easy checkout: This point cannot be reiterated enough. If the customer’s entire process is smooth, but the checkout is a hassle, then the whole purchase could be compromised. Shoppers are impatient and want instant gratification; when the time comes for them to pay, make it as easy as possible for them to punch in some credit card numbers and be on their way. Guest registration is a huge help for customers who want to get in and get out. The problem is that most retailers require registration because they want customer information in their system for marketing purposes. Before requiring registration, you may want to weigh the benefits of allowing the occasional shopper to go straight to checkout. They don’t have to sign up at your store, so don’t make them do it online.
The psychological aspect of shopping must be considered when creating an e-commerce site; it plays as big a role here as it does for in-store shopping. Make the customer happy, give him a comfortable environment to shop in, and he will feel more comfortable pulling out his wallet. You might have to take shortcuts and be frugal at times with your site, but don’t settle for mediocre virtual customer service. If your site is comfortable, consistent, and convenient, the customer will do the rest for your success.