9 Tips for Enjoying Success With Your E-commerce Site
Starting an online store is a business decision and a bit of a leap of faith.
Will your carefully researched target audience respond to your offers? Will customers buy what you think they’ll buy, as often as you expect they will? Will your order, checkout, and shipping processes run smoothly? Will customer reviews boost or tank your online reputation?
There’s no single formula for online store success, but there are some best practices that can raise your chances of success. Here are nine of the many things successful online stores do, and why they matter.
1. They make their stores easy to navigate on smartphones.
By now almost every online store has some features to make it smartphone-user friendly. But that just means the bar for a great mobile user experience is now higher.
One of the best and easiest-to-use mobile retail sites is BlueNile.com. The heavily visual menu and build-your-own ring tools make it easy for users to pick up a $5,000 pair of diamond stud earrings or build a custom $42,000 engagement ring while they’re waiting for the train or taking a lunch break. I was able to create a fabulous looking diamond solitaire ring to my specs for next day delivery in under two minutes. That ease of use is something shoppers are coming to expect in every store. For a store that sells high-value items as Blue Nile does, it’s a must.
2. They suggest other products shoppers may like in real time on the site.
Product recommendation tools can boost your store’s sales by reminding shoppers of other items they meant to get, spurring impulse purchases, or encouraging shoppers to buy items that work with the product they’re viewing. The best recommendation algorithms are based on personal details like customer location and purchase history, but your shop can make recommendations for brand-new customers, too.
For example, if you visit Sephora’s site as a guest to snap up your shade of Fenty Beauty foundation before it sells out, you’ll also see Use It With recommendations for Fenty foundation primer and brushes.
3. They make their shipping and return policies clear and fair.
Shoppers don’t like surprises when it comes to shipping charges, so put your shipping policy in simple language on every page in your store. More than 80% of shoppers surveyed in the last quarter of 2016 said shipping costs had caused them to ditch their online carts before buying. Confusion about return policies can lead to lost customers and negative reviews, so spell out that policy clearly, too.
Nordstrom Rack summarizes their shipping and return policies with a simple statement at the top of each page that links to more details.
4. They offer more than one shipping option.
It’s no secret that consumers love free shipping, even though they understand that the price is built into the cost of the products they buy. But you should also offer options for people who are trying to beat gift-giving deadlines or who just want their items sooner. Whatever shipping menu you offer, make sure that every option includes tracking. Tracking can cut down on customer complaints and false claims that orders weren’t delivered.
You can find more shipping tips and information on holiday season surcharges here.
5. They follow up on abandoned carts.
From one end of the internet to the other, millions of items languish in shopping carts abandoned by customers. Whether they changed their minds, forgot, or had to get back to work, shopping cart abandonment is the rule rather than the exception – as of November 2016, 78% of items put in online carts by mobile users were just left there. Successful retailers follow up with reminders when established customers abandon items.
For example, if I leave a dress in my ThredUp cart, I’ll get a reminder email with a picture of the item and a checkout button embedded in the email. A Magento extension can help you recover some of those abandoned carts and raise your conversion rates.
6. They make checkout as easy as possible.
Hassles at checkout are a big reason many shoppers ditch their carts. Requiring shoppers to key in a credit card number on a mobile device is practically asking them to go away. Your shop’s payment options should include log-in-and-go choices like PayPal, Apple Pay, and Visa Checkout. And now that Amazon’s patent on 1-Click checkout has expired, this relatively simple code can work for your store, too.
7. They request reviews from satisfied shoppers.
Good reviews can boost sales, because consumers see customer reviews—even those written by strangers–the same way they view recommendations from friends and family. And because nearly 90% of consumers read reviews when they shop online, your store is at a disadvantage without reviews. Encouraging customers to review their purchases can be tricky: it’s unethical to offer incentives for reviews, and consumers get review requests for most of the purchases they make these days.
You can tailor your review request strategy based on your customers’ preferences, your brand voice, and these do’s and don’ts for small business reviews.
8. They take customer feedback seriously.
You may not like what you read in every customer review. But all customer feedback is information you can use to improve your products, your site, your checkout process, and your shipping. Before you get offended (or worse, angry) about negative feedback, remember that you can use it—even if it comes from site visitors who haven’t yet made a purchase. Ryan Holmes, CEO of HootSuite, wrote that a profane tweet from a free user made a good point about the early product’s usability.
9. They’re constantly improving.
It can be daunting to read through a list like this and compare it to your fledgling online store, but here’s a habit for success you can adopt right away: Great online stores are always refining their site, based on customer feedback, sales, and traffic. You don’t have to tackle everything on this list right now, but by continually assessing your shop’s performance and user experience, you can make incremental improvements that lead to bigger gains over time.
Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.