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10 Keys to An Effective E-commerce Site

So you want to sell products online? Well, let’s cut to the chase and tell you what you need to succeed.

1. Think “Strategy” First. Website and everything else second.

e-commerce-website-developerGetting started with web design and e-commerce can be difficult enough, but without a strategy to promote your website and get your products in front of potential customers it’s definitely an exercise in futility. Ask yourself how people will find your products online and in search engines. If you’re just crossing your fingers and hoping that people just show up then you’ll probably be disappointed.

When developing an e-commerce site you need to focus not only on your website but on how it will be found in the search engines. It’s surprising how many people consider how the site functions and looks before they ask this question. E-Commerce marketing involves research, website optimization, proper coding, ongoing search engine optimization, conversion testing and promotion. Work with a company that is known for internet marketing first and e-commerce and design second. You’ll find yourself in a much better position with many more orders in your inbox. At Sanctuary Marketing Group our e-commerce solutions are optimized by experts, including world renowned SEO expert Arron Wall.

2. Present the customer with a professional and reputable image.

Have you ever heard someone say that “it is what’s inside that counts?” Well, that simply doesn’t apply for most e-commerce sites. Consumers have such a wide variety of options available to them these days that you could lose them simply because your competition looks more reputable and professional than you. Despite how many people make purchases online, customers are still leery about using their credit card online. Having a site that looks great will go a long way in making that all important first impression and instilling confidence. Take the time to have your website designed by a professional and it will return your investment many times over.

3. Clearly tell customers why you are the site to buy from.

This may seem obvious but it’s surprising how many sites miss this effective and easy to implement idea. Make it clear why people should purchase from you. Simply tell them that you’re the obvious choice and explain your “up-front value proposition”. Why should they purchase anything from your website? Do you offer the low prices in your industry? Can you ship their purchases quicker? Do you have testimonials or positive product reviews? How about the largest supply of product options? Are your products hard to find and always in stock? Develop your up-front value proposition. This can be integrated into everything from your site tagline to promotions on the homepage and throughout the website. This is the core value that’s integrated into everything that you do on the entire website.

4. Make it EASY for customers to find what they are looking for.

It’s surprising how many sites make it hard for customers to find what they need. Their basic navigation is confusing. The search options don’t return relevant results. Options to search in different ways are limited. Offer flexible options for searching and sorting and navigation like some of the following: “Did you mean?” spelling corrections when searching.

Search suggestions while typing. Related searches list. Advanced search options. Filtering by price. Filter by availability. Filter by free shipping. Search tips and advice. Shop by brand. Shop by price. Saved searches and views. And by all means, make sure that your basic search functionality returns relevant results for keywords in the title, description, options and even the product ID. At this point you actually have someone looking at your site. Don’t lose them because they can’t find what they want.

5. Keep it simple.

It’s funny how many sites put up roadblocks for their customers. In my experiences I’ve seen everything from not being able to figure out how to add a product to the cart to simply not being able to checkout. Make the purchase process PAINLESS. Again, you have someone on your site that wants to make a purchase. Don’t make them abandon you for the competition because you made their task difficult. Many people cite overly complicated navigation or too many pages in the purchase path as reasons they don’t complete their online sale or abandon their shopping cart. Here are some basic recommendations:

Provide an easy and clear way to add multiple items to a shopping cart. Provide a one-page checkout system. Give them shipping quote estimates. Do not require customers to register and provide a guest checkout option. Successful eCommerce sites simplify the checkout process and display clear pricing and shipping information and then they make it quick and easy to pay and finalize the order.

6. Make your products easy to scan and read.

Have you ever been on a website and just didn’t feel comfortable while looking through the site? It’s possible that the site was designed in such a way that made it hard to digest the information on the page. Headlines should be 8 words or less, shoot for 9-12 words on a line (people don’t want to read across the entire screen), keep sentences short (15-20 words) and try to keep summaries under 30 words and hold paragraphs to 40-70 words. This will help customers easily scan information and digest whether they want to purchase or not.

7. For God’s sake, show them the products!

I can’t count the number of sites that I’ve been to that don’t let me see the product in detail. They provide small, low resolution images or one fuzzy view of the product. I want to see pictures! People don’t read on the web, they scan information and pictures are a great way to sell your product instead of babbling on for paragraphs about how great the product is. Focus on photos, keep text to a minimum unless it’s secondary. Add photo galleries if you have pictures available so the customer can see many views of the product from different angles. Allow the customer to use photo zooming to see detail and even consider embedding videos into product description. Don’t lose a sale because the customer is unclear about exactly what they’re buying.

8. Offer many payment options.

Your customers are all different and they all have special needs and preferences. When you have them at the point of sale, don’t lose them because you don’t provide enough ways for them to pay. Some customers will use a Visa, some will want to use Mastercard. Paypal and other services are becoming extremely popular as are secondary credit card companies like Discover. But after all these options, customer may still not want to put their credit card number into their web browser. Allow people to pay over the phone or to (God forbid) mail you a check. If you have an e-commerce site you can also consider selling world-wide. Allow payments in multiple currencies! All of this factors into why your site makes sales or doesn’t. The more options that you have for payment, the less chance you’ll alienate your potential customers.

9. Make your customers feel comfortable and secure.

It’s a reality that customers still don’t feel comfortable buying online. Especially if you’re a small business on the other side of the country or world. Sometimes people won’t buy because they don’t feel comfortable. You could have exactly what they want, at the right price and have it shipped out for free the next day. But if your customers don’t feel comfortable they might shop elsewhere.

Make your customers feel comfortable by prominently stating the following throughout your site and during the checkout process: Online security information, privacy policies, your guarantees, additional charges, return policies, shipping policies, order status updates, contact information, how you handle store credits, provide comments and reviews from past customers, integrate live chat so you can answer questions immediately. Give your customers access to customer service and differentiate yourself from the competition in every way possible. Give them your phone number! Yes, this is e-commerce but people still use the phone. Especially if you sell something that’s expensive and/or complicated. Past studies suggest that consumers feel more confident knowing you’re just a phone call away if they have a question or if there’s a problem with their order. Make them feel comfortable and they will buy.

10. Sell your customers more than what they came for.

Now that you have someone interested in buying, make sure to take it to the next level. This is a critical differentiator for sites that make a lot of sales and those who just survive. Sell your customers more “stuff”. Most of the time this is easier than you think. By simply recommending options and/or additions to a purchase, customers will see what’s possible and available and increase their purchase. Integrated recommendations, up sells, internal promotions, popular products, customers who bought also bought, customers who viewed also viewed, list your new products, display your top/most popular products, list BOGO options, provide free shipping when they spend a certain amount of money (just a little more than the average cost of your products). Find ways to let them know about everything that you have and what might be a good addition to the purchase they came to make.


11. Have a marketing strategy for those who don’t buy.

Yes! Even though a customer doesn’t buy during their first visit, there’s no reason why you can’t get them to buy in the future. Many times people will simply be shopping around with no immediate ambition to make a purchase. They want to EVENTUALLY make a purchase but they have no intention to make a purchase today. If this is the case, there’s a good chance that they’ll leave and never come back because they didn’t bookmark your website. (I do it all the time and I feel that I have a pretty good system for bookmarking interesting sites.)

Provide them with easy options to stay in-touch and remember you. Integrate a quick and easy way to sign-up for email specials and reminders, integrate social media like Facebook so you’ll show up in their feeds in the future. Provide quick links to bookmark the site in their browser or on Delicious. Making the effort to do the little things like this are how successful e-commerce sites differentiate themselves from those that fall flat.

Where to Get Professions E-commerce Help

Call us. If you’re looking for an e-commerce website designer and system that fulfills all of these important requirements and so much more, Sanctuary Marketing Group can provide it. Call or email us today for a free quote regarding your strategy, e-commerce website development and ongoing internet marketing.

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About Chris Auman:

Chris Auman is a veteran digital marketer with over 25 years of experience in the trenches. As Sanctuary’s founder and President, Chris has successfully guided online marketing efforts for companies large and small.

Learn more about Chris.

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