Keep the design of the website as clutter-free as possible. There are probably many elements that you would like to put on every page of the website, but think about what are most necessary to convince the customer to make a purchase. List all of your elements and decide which ones are vital to making a sale. Also prioritize what information is most important to least important. For example, on a product page, the image of the product, its title, description, availability, prices, etc. are obviously important. Keep this in mind throughout all pages of the website and avoid overwhelming visitors with too much information within a small area.
Visible Shopping Cart
Design a shopping cart that remains visible throughout the stay so that users are re-assured of what exactly they have in their cart and how much it costs. This also makes it easy for them to quickly checkout.
Clear Navigation Paths
Give users a clear idea of where they are within your website structure. Breadcrumb links are one good way as well as having dropdown menus which demonstrate the structure of the website.
Each page where an action is required of a user, such as a product detail page, should have a strong call-to-action, which incites the user to take the next step toward accomplishing the goal of the page. This may be “Add to Cart”, “Checkout”, or most importantly, “Submit Payment”. Be sure to not have more than one prominent call-to-action – call it your primary call-to-action – per page. Secondary calls-to-action are good to have as a another choice when a user is not quite ready to commit to the primary call-to-action. For example, they may be willing to view your software demo, but not ready to purchase your software. Rather than lose that visitor, keep them on your website for a few more minutes by offering them secondary options.
In any website design, it should be crystal clear to your customers what is going to happen when they click on something and how it is they are going to go about accomplishing their objectives on the website. Use on-hover techniques to keep your design clean, yet explicative of what is going to happen when they click. Label links in a way that helps understand what the user should expect on that page of your website. Give your customers an experience that is pleasant, without surprises. Look at major ecommerce websites, and borrow techniques that seem consistent across many of them. This will most often be a safe bet to take. Major website companies test their designs over and over again to find what generates the best results. Some of their techniques can be borrowed for your website.
Whether it’s your colors, your layout, or style guidelines, keep a consistent image across your website so as to avoid confusing your visitors.If you have a variety of colors being used for the same type of button, it may cause a drop-off in sales simply due to the uncertainty brought on by the inconsistency of your design.
Create a checkout process that is as simple as can be. Fields should be easy to fill-out, not too close to each other. Pages should be clearly labeled and free of clutter. Look at some of the world’s most popular websites for ideas on what a good checkout process might look like.
Features of a Successful eCommerce Website
Highlight certain promotions, usually seasonal, which can push traffic to specific parts of your website. For example, our client, Anthony.com features their Father’s Day gift bags on their homepage the weeks leading up to Father’s Day. This helps the Anthony team increase sales of these items, which are high in demand.
Search and Auto-Complete
Give users the flexibility of searching for products that they are interested in. If the search bar suggests results, that will help you sell more by sending traffic to those specific products or categories rather than displaying a general search results page.
Sorting, Filtering, and Viewing All
Allow your customers to customize their ecommerce experience. Give them the ability to arrange your category pages as they please; to sort using various criteria like prices, popularity, a-z, etc. Also provide filters where necessary. Many customers do not enjoy clicking through pages of products and having a “View All” option is a good idea.
For fear of having to wait for another page to load, many customers may not want to click through to view your product pages. Instead, using a quick preview on category pages will provide them with the information they need to decide if they want the product without having to click through to the product page. Just like having secondary calls-to-action, a quick preview option gives users a secondary choice when browsing your website.
When a customer visits a particular product page, he or she demonstrates an interest in that type of product. Why not show them other products that either compliment the product being looked at or solve similar problems? This type of feature can keep users on your website for longer and increase the amount of money that each customer spends.
Give your customers quick and easy ways to share your product pages with friends and colleagues. Although it is very easy to do this manually, it increases the chances that someone will share a product with a friend if there is an easy-to-use button to do so.
Out of Stock
Just because some products, sizes, or colors go out of stock, does not mean that your customers should have no options. When such an event occurs, allow customers to sign-up to be notified when the product size and color they desired is back in stock. That way they are less likely to go to a competitor and it shows that you care about serving their needs.
Extensive product details can make the difference between almost making a sale and an actual sale. If a customer cannot find all the information they are looking for regarding a product, they may feel too uncertain about completing their purchase. It is very important to provide all of the information that you have on your products in a clean, concise manner.
Dynamic Shopping Cart
When a visitor adds an item to your shopping cart, rather than taking them straight to the shopping cart, display your shopping cart on the page in a small window that dynamically populates with the product(s) the customer is adding. This way the user experience is smooth and the customer is assured that their products have been added to the cart.
Save for Later
Many visitors may add a number of items to their shopping cart without having the intention of actually completing their purchase. Rather than forcing your customers to make the black and white choice of deleting a product from the cart or buying it, allow them instead to save it for later.
Shipping Cost Calculator
Allow customers to calculate the shipping costs directly from your shopping cart before going through the checkout process. The purpose of this is to avoid having users who leave due to the uncertainty they face going into the checkout process. Since the checkout process is a significant investment of time and effort, many will rather not start the process than find out halfway through that your shipping costs are too high. Instead, give them the ability to find out upfront, to avoid disappointment later. This may also give them the chance to go back and change some of the items in their cart or save them for later.
Do not use a flat rate or a single rate for shipping. Different customers will want different shipping methods; some will want their products to arrive immediately and others are fine with paying less for slower shipping. Cater to all types of clients to avoid a drop-off in sales due to shipping options.
Clicking the final “Submit Payment” button for many customers can be a stressful moment. Calm their nerves by not only displaying a payment confirmation page, but also sending an email confirming reception of their payment and containing next steps that they should expect.
Once an order has shipped, provide your customers with tracking information so they can feel at ease during the shipment of their order.
Back-end of a Successful eCommerce Website
As the administrator of your website, you should have a place where you can review all pertinent information regarding your the performance of your website. The dashboard should be customizable and offer summary information regarding various aspects of the website: out of stock items, information requests, sales figures, and ecommerce performance metrics.
You may have a team to work on your website, which means you should be able to give each team member a certain amount of administrative control. You should be able to decide what sections of your CMS each team member can edit or view.
A robots.txt file allows you to limit what content search engine crawlers get access to. Your content management system should allow you to upload a robots.txt and also be able to edit it if need be.
META Data Control
Ability to control your meta data is crucial when trying to get your website to rank well for various relevant keywords in search engines. You should be able to customize the title tag of every page on your website as well as easily create rules for types of pages to handle title tag creation. For example, you would not want to have to write the page title of each and every product on your website, especially if you have thousands of products. Instead, creating rules for each product will help you optimize a large number of product pages all at once.
A sitemap.xml file tells search engines of all the pages on your website, to ensure that those pages get crawled.
Each of your categories, subcategories, and products should be easily editable through your ecommerce back-end. That includes updating of product colors, sizes, descriptions, etc. and the ability to specify which categories/subcategories to feature on the home page or menu.
Tracking Code Addition and Editing
Whether it’s your Google Analytics code or Google Website Optimizer, you should have the ability to easily add and update tracking code on various pages. This will compress testing timelines by skipping the need for a web developer each time work is required.
Whether you have integrated with a 3rd party system or not, you should have a comprehensive understanding of the status of sales on the website, shipping orders, and customer information.