The digital revolution has shaped consumers to expect flawless service and the answers to their problems at the snap of their fingers (or a few taps on a smartphone screen). A visually pleasing website isn’t enough anymore - your customers want fast, easy convenience and that comes in the form of an easy-to-navigate, fast-loading website that anticipates customer needs (extra points if it’s before customers realise they even had that need).
Let’s dig deeper. Here are 15 elements that make a successful e-commerce site.
- No clutter
- Simple, clear menus
- A search bar
- A short, straightforward checkout process
- Have accurate, clear product information
- Personalised product recommendations
- Special treatment for returning customers
- Rewards for bulk purchases
- Offer multiple payment options
- Blog and create content regularly
- Build an email subscriber list
- Don’t neglect SEO
- Ensure your customer service is easily accessible
- Optimise for a range of devices
- Encourage customer reviews and testimonials
1. No clutter
What do you want your customers to do when they click onto your website? To make a purchase or enquiry, of course. But the ‘busier’ your website is, the harder it can be for your customers to find what they need and for their eyes to be drawn to what you want them to notice.
Avoid clutter so your website has a clear point of focus, such as your call-to-action (CTA) button or your latest product line, and it makes it easier for your customers to find what they want and what you intended them to see.
2. Simple, clear menus
Menus are a chance for your website to appear more organised. By grouping various aspects of your website together, it’s easier for your customers to find what they need. But like we mentioned in the previous section, don’t overcomplicate things.
After all, 19% of consumers leave websites empty-handed because they struggled to find what they were looking for. So, keep it simple and straightforward, not overly specific or full of technical terms (unless you’re absolutely certain your persona will understand what they mean).
3. A search bar
When a website menu doesn’t help you find what you’re looking for, what’s usually your next action? To type in a few key terms in the search bar!
As well as offering a search bar, consider having additional features to help your customers narrow down their options, such as:
- Ability to sort by price, ratings etc
- Search results tailored to previous interactions on your website (e.g. purchase history, customer service enquiries etc)
4. A short, straightforward checkout process
Once your customers decide to buy something, they should be able to go through that process relatively easily. Each additional step in the checkout process is another chance for them to abandon the transaction, so you want to reduce the number of steps and only get essential information.
5. Have accurate, clear product information
The more detailed information you can include in your product listings, the better as it helps your customers build a more accurate view of what they might be buying from you. This includes:
- Product descriptions
- Product imagery
- Any additional media e.g. videos, ability to view a 360-degree view of the product etc
6. Personalised product recommendations
The more personalisation you can offer to your customers, the better their experience with your brand and the more likely they are to buy from you. One fantastic way is to recommend products tailored to the individual customer. This could be based on:
- Purchase history
- Search history and other interactions with your website e.g. articles read on your blog
- What other customers of similar interests and profile have purchased/interacted with
If you can provide your customers with products/services they’re likely to be interested in, you’re making it easier for them to engage with what’s most relevant to them and improving the likelihood of a purchase.
7. Special treatment for returning customers
With 72% of consumers admitting they’d choose one brand over another if they received special treatment, it’s clear most of us appreciate being treated like VIPs and this isn’t something you should ignore when improving your e-commerce site.
Your returning customers are the perfect group to offer special treatment to. Why wouldn’t you reward the people largely responsible for helping you make a profit? Here are a few ways to do that:
- Personalised greeting when they return to your website
- Exclusive promotional codes (e.g. on their birthday or just to say thank you)
- Early access to sales and other events (this can be a great Black Friday e-commerce tactic)
- Special gifts (e.g. samples, branded freebies)
8. Rewards for bulk purchases
It’s not just your returning customers who would appreciate being rewarded; you could also reward your new customers/prospects and entice them into making a purchase. You could offer bundle prices or ‘spend X and save Y’ offers as a way of cross and up-selling and boosting average basket value.
9. Offer multiple payment options
Visa and Mastercard might be two of the most popular payment options for B2C customers but that doesn’t mean everyone will want to pay via those methods. There are those who prefer PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay and the ‘buy now, pay later’ or ‘pay in instalments’ options.
And this is just for B2C customers. What about if you’re in the B2B landscape? B2B customers are different to B2C in terms of needs, purchasing motivations and the overall buying process. They want a variety of flexible payment options that can be bespoke to their needs and you should be able to cater to this.
10. Blog and create content regularly
How often will the same person return to your website? If they do, they’re probably not buying something every time they visit, especially not B2B customers who are much less susceptible to impulse purchases than B2C. But it’s not just about how often your customers purchase from you.
It’s also about how much value you can give them and how much they trust you. In fact, 82% of UK consumers say trust is extremely important when they’re spending money. You can build that trust by creating content on a regular basis, such as:
- Blog posts
- Whitepapers and reports
- Explanation/how-to videos
Content like the above show your customers that your company is the one worth investing in, you’re a market leader and you know what you’re talking about. This is particularly vital for B2B customers who need that additional validation to get their boss’ approval.
11. Build an email subscriber list
If you’re going to boost your e-commerce sales, you need website visitors who are ready to buy. In addition to regularly creating content and (gently) pushing your prospects towards a purchase, you can build an email subscriber list where you can send them special, relevant offers, promotions, content, company news and more.
This is another way to build a relationship with your customers, boost trust and keep your brand in the forefront of your customers’ minds.
12. Don’t neglect SEO
We’re getting into marketing territory now (my specialty) but don’t worry, I’ll keep it high-level. SEO, also known as Search Engine Optimisation, is the process of enhancing the quality and quantity of traffic to your website.
The higher your website ranks in a Google search, the more likely your customers will find you. Ideally, you want to be on the first page of results and to rank higher than your competitors. The keywords you choose to target matter here. . More on SEO best practices here.
13. Ensure your customer service is easily accessible
Customers can experience issues on even the best, most user-friendly websites. Or they may have a question relating to their purchase. Whatever the reason, you must ensure your customer service can be easily reached.
Offer a variety of channels to suit your customers - not everyone will want to pick up the phone, send an email or have to wait 48 hours for a response. Live chat and chatbots can be great ways for customers to get their issues resolved as soon as possible.
14. Optimise for a range of devices
With the majority of people owning smartphones, it’s vital that your website is optimised for mobile as well as desktop. But you can’t neglect the people who might visit your website on a tablet or the fact that phones are getting bigger and bigger every year.
So, make sure your website is optimised for a range of devices.
15. Encourage customer reviews and testimonials
Your blog posts and eBooks might proclaim you’re ‘the best in the industry’ but modern-day customers can see straight through that. They’ll want to see proof and that comes in the form of reviews and testimonials, which adds credibility to your brand, service and products.
If you’re a B2B business that’s partnered with another company (for example, at Columbus, we’re a Microsoft partner) ask if your customer can leave you a review on the partner portal. You can also create case studies, whether it’s a video or written.
Your e-commerce website design is one piece in the overall e-commerce strategy puzzle
For many businesses, their website can be the first point of contact between buyer and seller, so the way your website looks and works matters. But that’s not all. Nowadays, with people doing most of their shopping online, businesses have had to up their e-commerce games, leading to a significant increase in the amount of competition.
A great e-commerce website design is just one part of your overall e-commerce strategy. You need to consider other areas of your overall strategy, such as social media marketing and using solutions to provide your customers with the best service and experience possible. Interested in finding out more?
Register for our webinar on 9 December at 10am GMT where we’ll be discussing all things B2B e-commerce strategy and helping you pinpoint the areas for improvement in your current strategy.