8 Essentials for Ecommerce Websites

Ecommerce is having its best year ever, and that’s not expected to change anytime soon. Online sales in the U.S, are expected to reach $523 billion in the next 5 years. That’s a 56% increase from the $335 billion that it reached in 2015.

With ecommerce going nowhere but up, and platforms like Squarespace making building an ecommerce site an easier and more accessible process than ever before, it’s important to know how to get it right. After all, more ecommerce also means more competition. If your customers have a frustrating, confusing or difficult time purchasing from you online, they can potentially be buying from a competitor in seconds.

So, here are ten essential things to keep in mind when building or overhauling your online store.

1. Easy Navigation

No matter what kind of website you have, anytime a visitor comes to your site you want them to be able to easily make their way from page to page and find the information they are looking for. With ecommerce sites, however, sales are very directly at stake. So, having a solid navigation is doubly important.

Navigation on an ecommerce site can become more difficult and unwieldy with the greater number of products being offered. Make sure you take time to fully consider what your typical customer’s experience is going to be like navigating the site and looking for products, and try to organize things accordingly. Don’t hesitate to do some testing and get feedback from your customers.

2. Fast Load Time

If your site takes more than three seconds to load, congratulations, you’ve just lost 40% of your customers. That may seem harsh, but internet shoppers are an impatient and unforgiving bunch. While slow load times should be a concern for any website, again, this effects ecommerce sites even more.

People have expectations that pages should load instantly, so when they don’t, it isn’t just disappointing, it lowers your customers’ confidence in the entire shopping experience. After all, if your product catalogue has trouble loading, what’s going to happen when they give you their credit card information?

3. Mobile Experience

There was a time when the majority of people’s interactions with online stores from their mobile devices was for “window shopping” or price comparisons. No longer.

Now, over 50% of people shop on their mobile devices as opposed to from their desktop computers. While you should already have a responsive, mobile-friendly site, that doesn’t mean your store’s shopping experience is also good on mobile. Make sure the product images still look good, the product descriptions show up the way you want them to, the browsing experience is still clear and easy, and the checkout process works just as well on mobile as it does on a desktop.

4. Simple Checkout

Speaking of the checkout process, this is such a crucial part of the online shopping experience. And while you may be using an external payment gateway to process payments such as PayPal or Stripe, ensure that you’ve controlled and optimized every part of the checkout process that you can. Otherwise, your customers are liable to abandon their carts before they finish checking out (a problem MarketingSherpa estimates affects nearly 60% of buyers).

If there is an account signup process or form fields to fill out, make sure everything is presented clearly and labeled properly so your customers don’t encounter error messages.

5. Detailed Product Descriptions

Obviously, you know your products backwards and forwards. But don’t assume that your customers do as well, or that anything about your product is obvious. In fact, it’s best to assume that your customers know next to nothing about your products.

Product descriptions are your opportunity to give your customers all of the information they could possibly need about your products on the front end so that they don’t end up confused, making wrong assumptions, or having unnecessary questions about what they are (or aren’t) buying. This is also your opportunity to really make a sales pitch about the product and talk about how great it is, just like a salesperson in a brick-and-mortar store would.

6. Quality Product Photos

Excellent product photos are probably the thing that most separates premium and professional seeming online stores from crummy, amateurish stores. In fact, you could have the greatest site design in the world, if your product photos are bad, your store is still going to suffer.

Show your products in a good light (literally, lighting is a big deal). When possible try to show your products in a fitting contextual environment as opposed to something that looks super staged. When in doubt though, you’re always safe with a simple white backdrop. If you can, try to also show a few different angles and close-ups of your product so that your customers can get a good feel for what it looks like all the way around.

7. Search Bar

If your customers are coming to your site knowing what they are looking for, they have to have the ability to find it quickly without clicking through pages of navigation. This becomes especially important if you have a large product catalog. The bigger the catalog, the better your search should be, and the more search options and filters you should offer.

8. Security Certificates

If you are asking customers to give you things like their address and credit card number or banking information, you need to let your customers know that you take that responsibility seriously and that you are committed to protecting their personal and financial information.

Computer security company Avira found that almost 30% of people shop online, but worry their information might get compromised. You’ll never be able to address this fear in its entirety or offer 100% guarantees of security, but you can put fears at ease by obtaining security certificates from providers like Veri-Sign and GeoTrust.

BONUS. Newsletter Subscriptions

When shoppers come to your site, make sure you get them to sign up for your newsletter so that you can thank them for their purchase, send them future freebies and promotions, and tell them about future products.

All these details matter. If we can help you, let us know.