Whether you’re a newbie entrepreneur or a cagey veteran whose artful selling tactics have been a huge cog of success over the years, one term in particular sticks out above most others in today’s world of business strategy: E-Commerce. As digital proliferation continues E-Commerce, simply put, will become one of the biggest assets that businesses can leverage to stimulate leads and drive conversions. So it’s surprising that many businesses, small and large, still aren’t properly utilizing one of businesses’ most important tools. After studying dozens of websites to see what some businesses are doing right and wrong we’ve compiled a list of 15 Key Rules you should consider before designing or redesigning an E-Commerce platform of your own. Let’s get to it!
#1: Create a Kick @ss Home Page
The saying that’s true for life is also true for your website—you only get one chance at making a first impression. It always surprises us when businesses don’t put enough effort into the design of their E-Commerce site’s homepage. Instead of skimping on features you should look at your homepage design as a mission critical aspect to getting your website right. Are your navigation buttons set up in a way that’s clear and that reinforce the actions you want users to take? Are you branding your businesses personality? Basically everything else that goes into your E-Commerce site has to flow through your homepage. Take a look at what Design By Humans is doing right. Their navigation menu is simple and functional, and their branding strategy emphasizes a youthful and striking design format.
#2: Tailor Your Navigation Buckets to Intuitive Search
You could consider this the 1B to the above section’s 1A if you were so inclined. The simple truth is that if you don’t make it easy for people to search your site for the things they want to shop for, then they’ll bounce from your site and shop somewhere else. To succeed in creating a great navigation bar you must segment every type of product you have into a different bucket.
Menswear E-Commerce sites are particularly good at this—men are notoriously stingy shoppers when it comes to clothing as they want to get in and out as quickly as possible. Look no further than E-Commerce mega fashion site, Mr. Porter. The main navigation bar is split into 10 different search options—but hover over any one of the options and there are plenty more segments that allow shoppers to easily search for exactly what they want. The Shoes tab alone gives you 26 different buckets to choose from—making search on the site extremely accessible.
#3: Keep Search Bar in Clear View
Staying on the topic of intuitive search, you should always keep your search bar in a place of prominence. Doing so will allow your users to seamlessly discover new pages on your website if they feel inspired to peruse offerings that either aren’t directly displayed, or that they want to navigate back to. Plus, the search bar has the added advantage of acting as a user’s compass while they navigate your site.
#4: Create a Review Section
The only types on online businesses that should be averse to having a reviews section are those who either make shoddy products, or those who don’t want to take the time to respond to customers—neither of which is your company, right? Good. Putting a reviews section on your product pages especially can be a great way for customers to describe their own experiences with your products, and hopefully evangelize them. And if adding a reviews section makes you nervous, remember—you can always block the comments you don’t want on your site.
#5: A/B Test Everything You Possibly Can
This is especially important if you’re a retailer, but really, if you’re marketing anything, A/B testing is a staple that you can’t ignore. Of course, testing at least two of everything costs time and resources, but you won’t really know what aspects of your site work (or can work) the best until you do at least some A/B testing. In an article about lingerie brand Adore Me FastCompany reports that the company tests as many as 30-40 different looks for each product that it rolls out onto the site.
#6: Integrate The Shopping Cart Function with the rest of Your Site’s Branding
This key point sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how many businesses think that one shopping cart icon is as good as the next. In reality, while all shopping carts should function in a similar fashion, they’re also extremely valuable calls to action—which means that you should be heat mapping and testing to see how likely a user is to take notice of your shopping cart icon. Just remember to keep your branding on point and integrated with the rest of your site.
#7: Offer Something for Email Signups
It’s one of the golden rules of inbound marketing: you need email signups to re-market, but you can’t just expect to get emails for nothing. There are plenty of E-Commerce platforms—such as Shopify and Drupal Commerce—out there that will help you create pop-up coupons and so forth that will give users the needed incentive to sign up for your newsletters. Offering consumers value is just a good rule of thumb for any of your marketing efforts.
#8: Don’t Skimp on Photo Production
So you’ve done your due diligence in social media, you’re getting PR mentions for publications that align with your business, and people are starting to funnel into your online shop. But they’re coming for one thing: the product. Whether you sell beds like Casper or skateboards like Element—don’t skimp on photo production. One of the biggest competitive advantages you can have over other E-Commerce shops is putting an emphasis on showing your product and showing it often. One thing that many E-Commerce sites get wrong is that you’re trying to imitate an in-store experience as much as possible while offering online convenience.
#9: Use Iterative Photos for Different Product Variants
This is in line with not skimping on video production but it’s important enough that it deserves a separate mention. If you offer different iterations of products—sweaters that come in blue, red, and green, for example—then don’t leave the guess work up to customers. Show them every product variant that’s available through your store. This helps users make smart choices when they’re shopping, which also increases their likely hood to convert.
#10: Write Specific and Detailed Product Copy
One section of E-Commerce sites that often goes underutilized is the product copy section. And it’s underutilized for a couple of reasons. One, product copy is not only where you can describe the product that you want customers to buy, but where you can really brand your business. Think about it—product copy that’s lively and well writing, while also being informative, shows off a brand’s affinity and passion for the products they’re selling. Two, product copy is a great place to help your business rank for keywords that are essential to your business, as long as what you’re writing is natural and doesn’t come off as an attempt to key-word stuff.
#11: Create a Details Section Separate From Product Copy
Place a details section at the end of your product copy. This is takes the opposite approach of writing vibrant product copy, however, it showcases pertinent information (like size, fit, dimensions, etc.) that are important to consumers when they’re considering opening up their wallet. A details section also caters to the type of visitor that wants to get in an out quickly without having to read branded product copy.
#12: Build Trust
One could argue that this whole post is about creating a relationship of trust between your online store and the customers that patronize you. Are you doing the little things that help build trust for your E-Commerce site? Doing something as simple as showing customers right away whether a product variant is out of stock before they try to purchase it can go a long way in terms of helping you build a trusting relationship.
#13: Keep Your Payment Process Linear
Once people decide that they want to convert, don’t give them any reason to reconsider. Think about any time that you’ve shopped online and have had to deal with an unwieldy payment portal. You have to fill our shipping and payment information multiple times instead of checking whether these two addresses are the same—maybe you’ve even had trouble filling out credit card or PayPal info because the process is so disjointed. The long and short of setting up a linear payment process is that it should instill confidence and get customers on their way. So test this section of your site—and test it a lot before you go live. If there are sections that seem cumbersome to you, then chances are they’ll seem cumbersome to everyday users as well.
#14: Leave Breadcrumbs
So what is a breadcrumb? Essentially it’s a text based navigation that shows a user’s current location in a site and how they navigated there. Breadcrumbs are important because they give users an underlying sense of direction instead of the feeling that they’re lost in a maze. Well designed breadcrumbs can help reduce site abandonment and can keep customers from going off track when it comes to making a purchase with you.
#15: Give Order Details ASAP and Give Them Prominence
Lastly, make sure that you’re giving users their order info ASAP. Make sure to provide all of the product details (like sizing and pictures in emails) just as soon as they place their orders with you. The reason you want to give these details as soon as possible is so that customers can overview their purchases and feel comfortable with what they ordered. Who knows: that customer who ordered a trench coat from your discount outerwear store might have accidentally ordered the wrong size—and ensuring that they can change their order before it goes to shipment can help you develop a relationship of trust and convenience with them.
The bottom line is that setting up an E-Commerce store that instills trust is a must for almost any B2C facing company. In 2014 alone Web Sales totaled $304.91 B—which was up 15.4% from the previous year. Simply put, you can’t afford to create an ineffective E-Commerce experience if you want to generate more sales for your company.