The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Small Business E-Commerce Sites
Shopping online has become the norm for almost everyone world wide. We deal with e-commerce on a daily basis. We also deal with the frustrations of trying to purchase an item or items from a site that just makes it incredibly difficult. The most frustrating of all? Not being able to find the checkout button. Amazon is one of the largest (possibly the largest) and most profitable e-commerce sites around. They make it easy to locate products with the use of categories and searches, they have an easy to update shopping cart and checkout process, great customer service (at least in my personal experience), and they include customer reviews – which are both helpful and at times entertaining. (Click the link if you want to be entertained. Be sure to scroll down to the customer reviews section).
If you are thinking about starting an e-commerce site or if you currently have an e-commerce site, here are 14 pro tips to keep customers from virtually running away from your site.
1. Include Contact Information
Your company’s contact information should be prominently displayed. Customers want to know they are dealing with an actual company, they want to feel secure about plugging in credit card or bank information, and they also want to know how to contact your company if anything goes wrong. Ideally, contact information should be on the upper right hand corner of the home page and then easily located on each additional page.
2. Fast Site, Good. Slow Site, Bad.
Loading time is affected by shared hosting, large images, and an overload of third party plug ins. A slow page is frustrating to customers and they will go elsewhere. Be sure to talk with your web design company and /or your hosting company to find out the best method for fast loading pages.
3. Site Search Engine with Filters
It’s important to give customers the ability to search for specific items on your site. This will cut down on frustration and make the whole experience one of joy instead of pain. Also, customers should be able to filter search results by price, popularity, color, size, or whatever is applicable.
4. Web Browser Compatiblilty
Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer should be able to “see” and “read” all elements of your site. People are web browser loyal. If a customer thinks you’re site is “broken” because their web browser of choice cannot “see” it, then they are moving on to another site.
5. Well Crafted Descriptions Sell Products
How would you sell your product face-to-face? Now, put it into words. Be sure to list the benefits of the product(s), educate your customers on the product(s), and use adjectives (describing words). If you no longer offer a product, take it off the site. If a product has changed, be sure the site reflects this as well.
6. Include Related Prodcuts
Think, “Customers who looked at this, also looked at that.” Make sure the products are related. In brick and mortar stores, sales associates do this all the time. “Oh, I have the perfect earrings, shoes, and pants for that blouse.” Or “If you enjoyed reading the Harry Potter series, then you must read The Hobbit.” Use this same practice on your e-commerce site to upsale.
7. No Required Login or Account
Capturing customer information is part of business, but so is making the sale. Instead give customers the option to save account information after the transaction has taken place. That way, when they return all required fields are already completed. Bonus, product is sold.
8. Upfront Shipping Prices
Why hide this piece of information? Nothing burns a customer more than a good price on a product and then an outrageous shipping fee. Completely ridiculous. Put shipping prices out there for the customers to see. Sephora has free shipping for all orders over $50. It’s on every page of their site. Every page. You bet customers spend a minimum of $50 in order to get free shipping (this one does!). Or have a flat fee for all orders and then let the customer upgrade if they need the product sooner.
9. Oh, It’s SEO Time
An e-commerce site needs to have keywords and text in order to appear in customer searches. Google, Bing, and Yahoo look for elements in websites like updating on a regular basis. The more SEO friendly, the higher the ranking.
10. Call to Action
Be sure to guide your customers to the next step. Never assume the customer will know how your site works. The call to action buttons should be clear, easy to find, and bold.
11. Customer Service
Customer service should be higher up on the list. Phone numbers and emails should be on every page. If a customer calls into customer service, then your representatives need to be prompt, courteous, and adhere to the-customer-is-always-right-rule.
12. Easy Checkout Process
This button should be prominently displayed on every page of your site. In addition, be sure to make the shopping cart easy to revise. Customers should be able to delete items, add on items, or change quantities easily. The Oatmeal gives a great graphic on How to make your Shopping Cart suck less.
13. Multiple Payment Options
What do you mean you only take Visa or Master Card? I have to sign up for a PayPal account? Oh the hoops that keep you from making the sale. Use a payment service where customers can pay with a credit card, electronic check, or PayPal. The more payment options, the greater the customer base.
Include in this section your store’s policy on returns, shipping, and any general rules and “how do I” questions. It will save you in the long run.
These tips are in no means exhaustive. There’s security issues to consider, error reporting, domain name(s), product photos, regular updating, merchandising, and much more. The best tip? Find a company who specializes in e-commerce and do your homework before starting an e-commerce site.
Distillery Web Design and Marketing is a feature website builder, online marketer, and advertising specialty consulting group working with businesses in the Lebanon, Camdenton, Osage Beach, Springfield, and St. Robert areas of Missouri. Facebook, websites, online promotions, print media, radio promotions, online newsletters, graphic design and direct mail campaigns are our specialty. We know how to get the Internet, social networking and new media to work for you!