According to a 2013 report by the ONS (Office for National Statistics):
“72% of UK adults bought goods or services online”
With more and more shoppers turning to online stores, businesses around the world now rely on their websites to bring in a large chunk of their total revenue.
I’m not going to try to convince you about the advantages of shopping online; we already know that the system works because people have been doing their weekly food shop online for years.
What I will be discussing in this article are 14 essential features to make sure that your business’ website allows purchases to be made online, quickly and efficiently. I’ll also be addressing issues that can enhance the overall user experience and help your site convert better, which will ultimately increase your profits.
Here are my 14 essentials tips for a profitable eCommerce website.
1. Offer a Price Promise
Everyone loves a bargain; it’s inherent in human nature. But have you ever been in a situation where you’ve bought something only to discover it’s cheaper elsewhere? It’s infuriating, right? Certainly your customer base doesn’t want to find themselves in the same situation.
That’s why people shop around. Your website is not the first, nor is it the last stop in your customers’ decision-making process. I’m referring to what’s known as the consumer buying process; and it looks somewhat like this:
The “Evaluation of Alternatives” phase is when they’ll be looking around for cheaper alternatives, because price is a major factor in a consumer’s decision making process.
Every consumer looks around, but you don’t want them to lose touch with your site entirely.
If you offer, or state that you have a price promise, you’re far more likely to create a memorable impression, which should keep your products and services at the forefront of their mind. You might even shorten their decision cycle by letting them know that “you won’t be beaten on price” straight away.
Whatever you’re selling, make sure you continually monitor all your competitors and charge consumers at the same rate or cheaper than your competitors. It’s better to make a smaller margin on a sale than no sale at all.
2. Low cost or Free Shipping Charges
A survey conducted by E-tailing Group discovered that unconditional free shipping is the number one criteria for making a purchasing decision on a website. Some businesses try to make an extra margin on every sale by charging the customer more than the standard rate on delivery. With so many companies offering FREE shipping, charging extra for shipping costs is shooting yourself in the foot.
If your business model does not allow you to make the shipping charges completely free, the least you should do is reduce costs to a minimum, or offer free postage once a customer orders over a certain amount, like Topshop does:
3. Define your Unique Selling Points (USPs)
Any business needs to define their USPs. Firstly, to help differentiate their business from their competitors, and secondly, to attract buyers. If you need help establishing what your USPs are, ask yourself:
1. What makes you different from your competitors?
2. Why should a customer buy from you and not from your competitors?
If you can answer these questions you have identified your Unique Selling Points(s) (USPs). Without making your business stand out from the rest, it will be difficult for you to convince your website visitors to buy from you.
Coming up with USPs that stand out from the crowd can be a little tricky but the most obvious USPs are those that benefit the customer and make their life easier. These might include:
- Sending out goods at the speed of lightning
- Offering a better standard of products and services
- Being cheaper and more convenient than any of your competitors
Kiddicare have made their USPs as an online business obvious across their website:
Once you’ve established what distinguishes your business from the rest, make sure you shout about it across your online presence.
4. Address any uncertainty
Your customers, in particular first time buyers, will be hesitant to give out any sensitive details through your website. Other questions that might cross their minds are:
- Is this safe?
- Will I actually receive my order?
To win your website visitors’ trust you need to provide them with absolute confidence that you are a genuine business that takes customers’ privacy, security and peace of mind very seriously. You need to let them know that they can enter their card details without worrying about fraud.
One way to tackle credit card fraud anxiety is to make sure you display trustmarks across your site. Trustmarks are small images and logos that show a security guarantee by an external party. Their presence indicates that it is safe to shop on your site and they make a customer more inclined to make a purchase if they know their payment details are safe.
Here’s how Pets at Home show that they are a verified, secure online business:
5. Create content that nurtures confidence and advocacy
The easiest way to instil your customers with buying confidence is to create content that answers any anxieties they might have about purchasing something from your business.
Many brands create a dedicated FAQs section or landing page on their site which addresses any questions that a consumer might have and they place a visible link to this section from the homepage. Here a list of questions that Qwerkity (formally Presents for Men) have addressed:
Addressing payment questions
It’s common practice for businesses to allow consumers to chose how they pay, whether it’s via PayPal or by entering their bank details. I’ve already addressed how you need to offer peace of mind to consumers about giving out their bank details, but you should also offer consumers a number of ways to pay. You can let consumers know which payment methods you accept by displaying them alongside your ‘Secured by’ Payment banner. Here’s how kiddicare showcase their payment options:
Estimated delivery time and returns questions
Another factor for garnering trust is to display an estimated delivery time prominently on every page or let your customers know the delivery options that are available to them, e.g. first class tracked or a courier service.
Also, should a consumer still be hesitant about making a purchase, knowing that they can return an item once it’s been received is more likely to get them to commit to buying from you in the first place. Here’s how Not On The High Street makes their delivery and returns policies accessible via each product page:
Help your prospects to formulate their buying decision by making the whole process as easy as possible. Building their confidence and trust is a sure-fire way to increase sales.
6. Persuasive copywriting
The primary objective of your ecommerce website is to compel your site’s visitors to buy from you. One of the most common problems for ecommerce websites is the ability to write persuasive ecommerce copywriting for a large number of products and provide unique content to both visitors and search engine spiders.
To differentiate your business from your competitors it is vital to write your own description for each product. Quality product descriptions with compelling copy front-loaded with benefits can not only transform ecommerce conversion rates but also helps your site gain higher search rankings.
Here’s how ASOS have formatted their product’s copy to highlight the key benefits and selling points of an item of clothing:
7. High Quality Product Images
The biggest hang up consumers still have about buying online is the inability to try before they buy. For example, in terms of clothing, many people would still prefer to see if something is a good fit before they commit to buy.
To counteract this problem, showing high quality images of the product from different angles will make the buying decision much easier for them.
Schuh.co.uk showcases their footwear from a variety of angles, and you can click to enlarge each thumbnail:
In particular, you can see a pair of feet wearing the shoes so that you know how high they come up, and how they’ll look with certain items of clothing.
Other brands, like Watchco.com, offer close-up views of their watches, like this:
This type of display helps customers get a true to life impression of the items they’re interested in.
8. Customer Reviews
Customer reviews have become essential for ecommerce sites as the majority of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision. Customer reviews help eliminate any uncertainties potential customers may have about a product, or can help with product selection.
As an added value to your products or services, you can attain SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) benefit too, as more customer reviews means more fresh and unique content. Customer reviews can be shown in the search results (for both organic and paid) which helps to increase the click-through rates. Here’s an example from the organic results for a plastic lamp from Argos:
The gold stars tell a prospect that many customers are satisfied with this product, which can create a strong buying signal.
You can get reviews to show up in your organic search results by marking up your webpages with rich snippets.
In order to get these reviews to show up for paid listings, you’ll need to add sitelink extensions, and you can find out how to do those by downloading our Complete Guide to AdWords Ad Extensions.
9. Guest Checkout Option
Whilst there are many benefits of getting a visitor to register their details with your website, however, some customers hesitate at the prospect of having to sign-up and provide their personal details because they simply don’t have time.
For such customers, it is important to have an “express checkout” option that doesn’t require signing up. Don’t forget, even with the guest checkout option, you are able to collect enough customer information that can be used for remarketing purposes at a later date. Here’s an example from feather-skin.com:
10. Live Chat and telephone numbers
Having having a live chat section on your website, and making your email and phone number clearly visible, shows potential customers that you can be contacted if they have any questions during their purchase.
Displaying these prominently also shows that you’re a real business operated by humans not just by computers. If possible, set up a ‘live chat’ functionality for your business. Here’s an example from bevilles.com.au:
11. Shopping Cart Abandonment
Shopping cart abandonment means the loss of a customer who was going through the check-out process but unfortunately didn’t fully commit to buying.
An effective way to reduce shopping cart abandonment rates is by sending the customer a follow-up email. Make sure the first follow-up email goes out ASAP and that it’s personalised and contains some special offers to try to encourage the customer to make that purchase.
Here is a brilliant example of a shopping cart abandonment follow-up email from dabs.com:
Note how there’s a link directly back to their cart, so the customer can literally pick up from where they left off! They’ve also highlighted their brand’s key benefits, including “delivery from as little as 99p”.
Make sure that you sync your emails with Google Analytics and your Customer Relationship Management software so that you’ll know whether these follow-ups emails are working so you’ll be able to understand better your customer’s route to purchase.
12. Social Media
According to Twitter UK’s Managing Director:
“94% of Twitter users shop online via their mobile (source)
Therefore we cannot deny the impact that social media is having upon our online purchasing habits.
The logic is simple; you need to present your brand wherever your target audience invest their time, which essentially means social media channels.
Tell your audience that they can find you on social channels like Facebook, Twitter, G+ etc, and encourage them to like you or follow you. Here’s how ASOS prominently display their social media channels on their website:
Once you have a social presence, it is vital to post regular updates and get engaged with your fans/followers. Here’s how ASOS position their products creatively on social media:
Note that they include a link back to the relevant landing pages and they use a mix of high quality photos of their garments to appease both boys and girls.
13. Conversion Rate Testing and Optimisation
One thing websites should always be doing is testing their layout and testing their navigational structure for optimum conversion rates. CRO (Conversion Rate Optimisation) is a vast topic which focuses on the testing of landing pages, aiming to find the optimal design and messaging mixture that produces higher conversion rates. However, addressing a few ‘quick fix’ issues on your website and its checkout process can help conversion rates to increase.
By using various software tools i.e. Visual Website Optimiser and Optimizely, you can run multivariate page comparison testing (A/B testing) to find which combination gives the best conversion rate. Also, tools like Clicktale and Mouseflow help you identify your visitors’ movement on any given webpage. With the help of these clever tools you can use statistical methods to take the guesswork out of conversion rate optimisation.
Read our case study to find out how we used conversion rate testing to increase a client’s conversions by 221%!
14. Optimise for search
“50% of everything that we buy will touch a search engine at some point – that’s why it’s imperative to consider search engines for every piece of content you create” (Source)
Some lazy merchants take the product description from the manufacturer’s site and end up having a vast amount of duplicate content across their webpages. Think about it! Why would search engines rank your page higher when they can find multiple websites with exactly the same content? Here are a few ways to optimise your content to help your products perform better in search:
The Page Title – this has a direct impact on search rankings. This is what a search bot will read first in order to determine the relevancy and context of your webpage. Make sure your title is unique and contains your product name so it is more likely to be retrieved for relevant searches.
The Meta Description – this doesn’t impact directly on search rankings but can help increase your click through rates (CTR). It’s kind of like your shop window: it’s your chance to sell your products and services within the search results. Make sure your meta description is explicit and contains the product name and a call to action!
The Page Heading – otherwise known as the <h1> element – it has some impact on search rankings. Make sure the h1 includes your product name. Do not use the same text in your h1’s as your meta page title.
Product description – this will affect search rankings. Try to include the product name at least once in the product description. If the product is also associated with multiple names, such as ‘USB stick’ and ‘Flash drive’ then try to include both names in the deception.
A website for any business is usually the first point of communication between a customer and the products and services provided. In order for your website visitors to buy your products or services with confidence, it’s vital to have a web strategy that delivers what I have coined as the 3Fs: the site must be Fast, Functional and Familiar.
If you want to make sure your eCommerce site is performing at it’s best, get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to help.