With online marketplaces flourishing, it’s important to make sure that your virtual store is optimized for repeat buyers, potential customers and even those who just want to browse. Most online shoppers have a certain level of expectation when they visit an e-commerce website. What’s more, the tiniest flaw can very easily discourage people from completing an action or even just remaining on the site.
The goals here are to attract a potential customer, encourage browsing, and secure a sale by ensuring that every step of the purchasing process is as smooth as possible. To do that, there are some basic features and functionalities that you should implement on your e-commerce site.
This is one of the most important factors for a pleasant online shopping experience.
First, you need a speedy site; page loading times have to be fast and optimized for heavy traffic. In this sort of environment, even a couple of seconds’ delay can lose you a customer. Second, all menus should be clear and one should be able to access any part of the site from any page.
Your search function is crucial to browsing, so it should be prominent and contain advanced filtering options (such as “sort by” popularity, color, price range, etc.).
There should also be obvious paths to products, the shopping cart, payment, FAQs and so forth. In this case, a clean, uncluttered design is the best option.
Your products are the core of your site, so their presentation and display need special consideration.
Ideally, each product should have its own page and should be professionally photographed against a clear and plain background (with great lighting). Buyers appreciate photos from different angles and, if you’re selling jewelry for example, seeing a product in context—like a bracelet on someone’s wrist.
The description of each product should be detailed, including important information such as availability, size/weight dimensions, etc., so that people know exactly what they are paying for.
Features such as “favorite/like” and “add to wish list” are useful for potential customers, as well as the ability to add an item to the shopping cart (a must-have functionality).
To encourage browsing, related/similar items can be displayed in a sidebar or at the bottom of the main product. Finally, a nice touch would be to add one or two positive reviews from customers who have bought the exact same thing. This could be the deciding factor for someone who’s unsure about a product.
Reputation, reputation, reputation!
Although the e-commerce industry seems to be thriving, many people are still nervous about shopping online. If you’re not a household name yet, there are several things you can do on your website to establish and verify your business’s trustworthiness:
- Showcase any certifications or awards that you might have received.
- Link to your social media channels (this is more important than you realize).
- Include your company details—especially contact information—in the footer of every web page, for example.
- Get an SSL certificate (and make sure it doesn’t expire).
- Display the badges of your offered payment gateways.
- Apart from individual product reviews, have a page dedicated to testimonials from customers.
In Part 2, I’ll discuss payment methods, pricing & shipping information, customer support, and more.