Ecommerce Essentials for 2017

There’s a lot more that goes into creating a successful online business than simply crafting brilliant content and incorporating a flexible, scalable foundation. These days, the market is as saturated as it gets, and experts predict that competition is only going to get fiercer in the coming years.

As you look for ways to increase your visibility, consumer base and ultimately your profit, you need to consider various aspects of the online shopping experience and notice what is required to stay competitive in the modern marketplace.

1.    Shopping

Links – Before you can start selling products, you need to get customers to your site. Part of this challenge includes keeping the conversation going with your customer base in various locations throughout the web. Find out which sites your consumers frequent most often and get active on those platforms. From there, you can start creating links between your customers’ favorite products and sites, which will drive more traffic to your own ecommerce site. Not only is this good advertising from a trusted source associated with your demographic, but it’s also a sign to Google search algorithms that your site is high-quality and worthy of a shopper’s attention.

Experience – With ecommerce marketplaces like Amazon creating an insanely competitive online atmosphere, it’s essential to stand out in whatever ways you can. Creating a personalized experience for your shoppers is one way to accomplish this feat. While there are many factors that go into personalizing your UI, simple changes like using a repeat customer’s first name in the header of your site or suggesting products he or she would gravitate toward are perfect for making your shoppers feel welcomed and valued. For more advice on personalizing your site, check out our article on Cart Abandonment.

Navigability – A well-placed search bar and clearly organized drop-downs are huge requirements for the modern ecommerce site. Customers expect the search bar to be located in a certain place, and they count on your menus to contain the categories they need to accomplish their tasks efficiently. A search bar should sit in the upper right-hand corner of your home page and be accessible through the recognizable magnifying glass icon. It’s also a good idea to include an auto-fill feature that will suggest products as your site visitors begin to type.

When it comes to drop-down menus, make sure that your categories include your best-sellers and consider creating a separate category for “New Arrivals.” This way, your repeat customers have something to check out each time they visit your site, and newcomers will know where to find the most popular products right off the bat.

Speed – While we hate to beat a dead horse, we can’t iterate enough how competitive today’s marketplace is and how important it is to stay current when it comes to quality. That said, consumers today are extremely likely to give up on your site completely (even abandon a cart they’ve spent hours cultivating) if your pages take too long to load. There are about a million tiny ways to make your site faster, and we suggest going out of your way to take advantage of as many as possible. While this topic would necessitate its own post to be covered sufficiently, here are a few general strategies to consider:

·       Consider moving to a VPS (best for smaller businesses) or springing for dedicated hosting (best for major enterprises)

·       Reduce image file size by cropping, changing the resolution or compressing

·       Cut down on JavaScripts

·       Minimize CSS, HTML, and JS files (check out the WillPeavy minifier)

·       Consider using a CDN (content delivery system) for PDF files

Automation – One of the best ways to increase your efficiency, customer experience and bottom line is to Integrate your backend systems through automated platform software. Making your customer relations management, analytics and financials completely automated is the only way to make sure you’re keeping up on the nitty-gritty while leaving yourself enough time to focus on generating new business.

2.    Paying

Going global – When you’re ready to start marketing to various regions on a global scale, you’ll need to consider catering to local languages, currencies and payment methods (PayPal isn’t the standard everywhere, after all). Checkout should include form fields that have been formatted for the country’s address setup, and prices should be adjusted to reflect round amounts in local currency. In addition, if possible, the site should be test-run by a local resident who can let you know if anything looks amiss.

Digital payment – The implementation of digital wallets will increase throughout 2017 both online and in-store as retailers seek ways to reduce checkout friction. With the rise of “wearable” technology, including bracelets and watches, mobile pay will begin to take the place of credit cards and other physical forms of payment. Merchants who wish to keep customer convenience at the forefront of their business strategy would do well to invest sooner than later in software that will allow for these types of payments.

Safety first – There is no doubt about the fact that you are going to lose business if you don’t have a secure site. When you possess an HTTPS or SSL (the secure protocol through which data is sent between your browser and the website to which you’re connected) your site visitors know that their credit card and other personal information will be safe against hackers. Sure, there is still a chance that your site could get hacked, but without these precautions, consumers won’t purchase goods on your site in the first place. Plus, any hacks that happen will result in an inquiry in which the public will find out you didn’t provide security measures. At that point you will have lost their trust—game over.

3.    Shipping

Speed – Because of Amazon and other ecommerce marketplaces, consumers have become accustomed to 2-day shipping as a standard and have even come to expect the option to receive same-day shipping. Retailers who fall behind in the ability to provide fast, easy—and in most cases, free—shipping will see a noticeable drop-off in the amount of online orders they receive. In order to stay competitive with big name sites, you will need to offer the same shipping options or at least compensate for longer waits with lower prices.

Returns and other options – Over half of all online retailers now offer the options to ship products from a store, buy products online and ship them to a store, and ship or bring returns to a store. These are very desirable options to consumers who value convenience and flexibility (i.e.: everyone). Just as many vendors also make their in-store inventory available online—an extremely attractive feature to those with busy schedules who don’t want to waste a trip to the store for an item that’s out of stock.

Customer service – The main drawback to online shopping is the lack of face-to-face interaction—not only do your customers lack the ability to ask questions about the merchandise, but you (the business owner or operator) lose the ability to make a personal connection and score feedback from your clientele. While there are many ways to handle this issue, two of the best are providing multiple means of making contact with the company, and providing the option to chat online with a live representative. The most important aspect of your customer service is making sure that the customer always feels as though their voice has been heard—the customer may not always be right, but they do deserve to be listened to respectfully and responded to in a prompt and professional manner.

Tip: After having revamped the areas of your ecommerce site that needed tweaking, it’s important that you make sure everything is running the way you intended it to run. Have friends test-drive your website to make sure that the speed, functionality and navigability are operating at optimal levels, and don’t be afraid of constructive criticism—if one person notices that something feels “off,” it’s likely he or she won’t be the only one to see it!

Need helping launching your new ecommerce site or revamping an existing one? Contact us today to discuss what is right for your business.