RETAILER BEST PRACTICES
Nine Ways to Make Your E-commerce Site Better
By implementing best practices, you’ll maximize sales on your e-commerce site.
Online marketing experts say that you’ll get the most from your e-commerce site if you ensure it has the top features consumers are looking for. Here’s how to ensure your site has what it takes, according to top online marketing consultants.
Make Sure It’s Mobile-Friendly: Given that a majority of the U.S. population now appears permanently fused to a smartphone, ensuring that your website is mobile-friendly has never been more crucial. Besides offering effortless navigability, being mobile-friendly has the added benefit of ensuring that your e-commerce site registers higher in search-engine returns.
“Of all the factors looked at by Google when deciding how to rank your website on search engines, mobile usability is ranked as the third most important of all the factors,” said Erica Lovestrand, digital marketing strategist for August Ash (www.augustash.com). “If your site doesn’t work well or look right on a mobile device, studies show that people will simply stop visiting it in favor of a site that provides a better mobile experience.”
One caveat: Just remember that mobile-friendly represents only one dimension of site navigability. You also need to ensure that your e-commerce site is easy to cruise using a tablet or laptop and that it’s also desktop-friendly. The big mistake too many e-commerce site owners make these days is focusing solely on pleasing smartphone visitors and forsaking other users. The result is e-commerce sites that look horrible and are tough to navigate on other size devices—and lost sales.
Add Only Low-Resolution Photos: For retailers, the rule of thumb on images is that the lower the resolution on product photos, the better. The reason is that the web is designed to make low-resolution photos look great. And low-resolution photos translate into faster download times for your e-commerce site.
You’ll also want to be sure to title your product images with keywords that consumers use when searching for the products you sell.
Develop an Online-Reviews Strategy: Consumer reviews of businesses and products now have center stage in terms of determining whether or not someone will buy from you.
“The fact is, 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business, and 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations,” said Khalid Saleh, co-author of Conversion Optimization: The Art and Science of Converting Visitors Into Customers.
Consequently, all retailers need to continually monitor what people are saying about them and their products on all the major review websites. There are a number of online services that can help in that monitoring, including Yext (www.yext.com), Trustpilot (www.trustpilot.com), Grade.us (www.grade.us/home) and PowerReviews (www.powerreviews.com).
For a comprehensive view of what’s available, check out the following websites, which specialize in reviews of business software:
- Capterra: www.capterra.com/reputation-management-software
- Finances Online: www.financesonline.com
- GetApp: www.getapp.com
- G2 Crowd: www.g2crowd.com/categories/online-reputation-management
- Software Suggest: www.softwaresuggest.com/us/reputation-management-software
- Software Advice: www.softwareadvice.com
Capitalize on Your Social-Media Credibility: Besides reading formal reviews, consumers can get a good feel for what your store is like from comments posted on Twitter, Facebook and the like. Fortunately, you’re able to display what people are saying about you on social media with online services such as Flockler (www.flockler.com).
Flockler essentially lifts posts from social media and then repackages them as a “social-media wall” on your e-commerce site, blog or other digital property. You can also hide inappropriate posts that Flockler finds.
Offer Wish Lists: Many visitors to your e-commerce site will often stumble onto products and services they’d like to buy on another occasion. Give them an easy way to remember that intention with a “Wish List” tool that stores products and services they’re thinking about purchasing with the online store account they have with you.
Offer a Pick-up-in-Store Option: While many shoppers have simply abandoned brick-and-mortar stores with the advent of online ordering, there’s still a significant percentage of consumers who prefer picking up their purchases in the real world. That is especially true of people who simply need one of your products or services as soon as possible. It’s also true of shoppers who want to eyeball and handle products in person before they buy.
“In spite of what you might hear in the news about stores shuttering in the face of e-commerce, they are still far from passé,” said Rob Garf, vice president for industry strategy and insights at Salesforce (www.salesforce.com), a goliath in sales management software. “In today’s rapidly changing retail renaissance, brick-and-mortar locations can be seamlessly woven in with their virtual destinations as a point of competitive differentiation: tactile experiences bolstered by unique products, flexible fulfillment options, and personalized shopper-centric services.”
Offer Multiple Payment Options: Offering a spectrum of payment options does make your job tougher as an online retailer, but it can reap additional online sales for you. If you’re willing to add the additional overhead and maintenance that goes along with offering additional payment options, consider adding services such as PayPal, Apple Pay—and even Bitcoin.
Ensure That Your Return Policy Rocks: Offering easy and hassle-free returns is another hallmark of top-tier e-commerce sites. The best e-commerce sites clearly state how their return policies work, and they post their policies prominently on their websites. Such postings reassure consumers that there will be no games, dodges or head-fakes when it comes to replacing a product that did not deliver on its promise.
Realize That Shipping Is a Competitive Sales Tool: Shipping has become a major factor that web visitors consider before deciding to do business with an e-commerce site. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), 65% of consumers say that they look up the limitations on free shipping offered by various retailers before adding something to their online shopping carts.
Further, 39% of consumers expect two-day shipping to be free—and if you don’t offer it, consumers will shop somewhere else. Another 29% of consumers have backed out of a purchase because two-day shipping wasn’t free, according to the NRF (https://nrf.com/media-center/press-releases/nrf-study-says-more-online-shoppers-want-free-shipping).
Of course, it’s tough to compete on shipping with goliaths such as Amazon, which offers two-day, one-day and occasionally even same-day shipping, but you’ll still want to be as competitive and reliable on shipping as possible.
“A negative shipping experience can have an irreparable impact on your relationship with customers,” said Jullian Hufford, a marketing analyst at nChannel (www.nchannel.com) an online retail systems integrator. “All it takes is one mistake to erode your brand image and customer loyalty.”
Bulletproof Security: Unfortunately, one of the costs of selling on the web is the risk of a cyber break-in, so you’ll want to ensure that your you e-commerce site’s security is at Doberman strength. An easy way to handle that is to have your e-commerce site hosted by a cloud service provider, which will take care of all the security for you.
You can optimize sales on your e-commerce site by ensuring that it’s imbued with these features:
If you’re handling security in-house, you’ll want at minimum:
- A gold-plated quality firewall system.
- IT network security software.
- Regularly installed security updates for all of the software you use.
- Employee education programs that train staff to beware of suspicious emails, suspicious websites and suspicious phone callers asking for passwords and other network access information.
“It’s far harder to recover from a security breach than it is to prevent it in the first place,” said Sarah Elizabeth, marketing manager for Clearsale (www.clear.sale), a security company specializing in preventing online credit card fraud. “And it can be even harder for smaller, online-only retailers.”
Joe Dysart is an internet speaker and business consultant based in Manhattan.