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The Basic Elements to a Successful Ecommerce Website

By on 26 March 2010 @ 11:38 AM.

Tags: ecommerce tips, ecommerce, etail.

With more and more businesses looking to sell online, the ecommerce marketplace is becoming extremely competitive and in order for you to stay one step ahead of your competition, there are a number of key elements that when adhered to, give you a good a chance as anyone in maintaining a successful ecommerce website.

Design & Colour

First impressions make a huge impact on how long a visitor will stay on your website, typically, you have between 3 to 10 seconds to capture a visitors attention and keep it. The design and colour scheme of your website will be the first aspect of your site that they will notice and it is important to get this right, ensure that you aren't using loud colours that will potentially blind your customers, this is immediately a big put-off, unless you have an established brand with recognised associated colours, it is advisable to stick to web 2.0 colours for your site.

Whilst you may not be an expert at design work, it often can prove worthwhile to hire in a designer than can give you that extra edge with your website. A well designed logo is important, ultimately, you would be looking to build your brands online presence around this logo and it will be important to have a design that is simplistic, whilst visually appealing that your visitors will remember. If your budget won't stretch for design work, then just keep things simple, ensure the design of the website is easy on the eye, colour is all in sync and nothing is out of place and potentially substitute design work with imagery of your products/services instead.

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Layout & Usability

Following on naturally from the design and colour elements of your ecommerce website, it is critically important to build your site for your customers; without them, it's game over. Layout and the navigational aspects of your website enhance your visitors experience and if your site is easy to navigate, laid out nicely, then chances are, visitors that purchased on your site will come back again. When working on the layout of your website, put yourself in your customers shoes, what information would you expect to see and where would you expect to find it? How easy is it to find the product you are after? Do you know what page you are on at any given time? You should be asking yourself any questions like this.

  • Including a breadcrumb trail on your pages is a great way to show where your customers are on your website and the hierarchy of your pages. You will have seen this on many websites at the top of the pages (Home > Category > Sub Category > Product)
  • Including a search bar that is clearly visible on every page allows your customer to quickly search for what they are looking, most ecommerce platforms should include this but if yours doesn't, you can easily create a custom Google search to place on your website.
  • Implementing a simple navigation structure throughout your website allows your customers to search through categories and sub categories with ease, it is often common to include a top navigation bar with drop down menus at the top of your website and a side navigation with a hierarchy breakdown determined by the current page the customer is viewing, the benefits of adopting this structure ensures that on any given page, your customer can see all the categories available to them.

Product Pages

If you have got the first two elements stated above right, then the next major aspect of converting visits would be to create awesome product pages, this is where many ecommerce shop owners fail... With the latest technologies and web tools now available and the ever growing competition in the ecommerce world, it is simply just not enough to create your product page with a copied and pasted description, mediocre imagery and limited information. The standard of your product pages will really make or break the deal and all contributes to the visitors shopping experience on your website, remember - you want them to come back again!

  • Title: Creating descriptive product titles will not only improve your customers chances of finding what they are shopping for using your internal search function, but will also increase the chances of your product pages being triggered in search engine searches. Consider what search terms shoppers will search for when looking for the products that you sell.
  • Description & Formatting: Shoppers want to know everything about a product, include unique descriptions for your products and ensure the formatting and layout of your product descriptions are consistent throughout your website... There is nothing worse than navigating from product to product only to see conflicting styles and font between each one, it portrays a very unprofessional image of your brand and doesn't help you at all build any trust from your shoppers. Consider tabbed descriptions for features, specifications and anything else related to your range of products, this allows your customers to easily find what information they want whilst not making your description excessively long.
  • Imagery: Your product images are arguably the most effective selling point you have to offer. You wouldn't walk into a shop and purchase a product that you haven't seen so don't think it is any different online. Include a range of images that show your product from all angles, I would recommend taking your own photographs of your products and including the manufacturer or your brands logo on each. If your site displays thumbnails of product images, then ensure that it also includes full size images or a zoom functionality for your customers to view your product in more detail.
  • Options: If you have variations of the same product, then include these options on your website. Clothing and footwear is a common example of products that will have options; Consider colours and sizes. Show your customers all the options and varieties you have, it could result in extra sales.
  • Filters: Applying product refining filters is extremely effective if you have a large range within a specific category, shoppers don't like to spend ages browsing through pages of footwear products if they know the size they are after. Offer the filters for your customers to narrow down the products for which they are browsing, the more seconds you can shave off a customers shopping experience on your website, the more likely they will be to come back and shop with you again.
  • Sorting: Allow your customers to sort your products by relevance, price, popularity, customer reviews... Again, it comes down to options, the more customers you cater for, the more chance you have of converting the visits.
  • Reviews: Include customer reviews for your products, this installs trust in future customers not only for the product quality but also for your brand. Customers like to see genuine reviews before parting with their money... And if you receive a poor review, don't be frightened to enable it for others to see! You can always reply publicly to the review with your feedback, it takes a lot for a company to stand up and admit a mistake and if you do so, customers can see your not afraid to hold your hands up and apologise, it shows that your reviews are genuine and again, goes that bit further when installing trust in your customers.

Research Your Competition

It absolutely astounds me still with the amount of ecommerce shops I have worked with where the owners have not researched their competition, this should be critical to your efforts in maintaining a successful ecommerce website, if you aren't keeping up to date with the latest offers and promotions that others in your niche are offering, then consider the amount of potential sales you are missing out on. Very few shoppers will not just purchase from the first ecommerce website they visit, they will shop around, this is the joy of shopping online... They will compare prices, they will look for the best deals, they will see who is offering free delivery; Anything to get that wanted product that little bit cheaper.

If you haven't compared your prices to other ecommerce shops in your industry, then chances are, you are falling a long way short of ever being successful with running an online shop. Take time out at the start of each week to check out your competition, browse their website, monitor their prices, see what sales they have on... Do everything you can to stay one step ahead of them at all times.

There is much more to running a successful ecommerce website which I will cover in more depth soon but by getting these main four principles right, you are already well on your way to succeeding with your ecommerce business.

About the Author

Geoff is more commonly recognised online by his internet pseudonym 'zigojacko'. He is the Director of Search at Clubnet Search Marketing, founder of The Clubnet Group and has a huge involvement in the music, clubbing and entertainment sector where he also manages operations at Clubnet UK

Comments

Eduard Martinell

Posted by Eduard Martinell

Very good and useful article. It summarises most important key success factors valid for any website. Thank you for sharing your valuable know how. Could you supply us with a printable version, in pdf? Thank you again.

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