You can simplify your approach to creating your online store by breaking down the experience into three phases: shopping, checkout, and follow up. Create an enjoyable experience for customers in all of these phases by adhering to the following do’s and don’ts of building an ecommerce site:
Initially, customers are simply browsing your products. They haven’t decided whether to purchase, or which items they want. Entice them, inform them, and let them have fun.
- Do focus on photography. Use unique angles and backdrops to photograph your products. Make sure your space is well-lit, and capture the details of the item. Utilize the detailed view capability of your CMS, so that users can zoom in and see the item more closely. Provide multiple images for each product, and if the item is very small, add something next to the item (like a coin) to indicate scale.
- Do categorize products. Categorize your products to make it easy for your customers to find what they’re looking for. Generally, you’ll want to start with broad categories and then narrow in on specific products. Group items by large differentiating factors such as gender, then move to more specifics such as style or function. Your categories will vary significantly depending on your business—discover how your customers browse by doing a quick competitive analysis.
- Do keep shipping costs as low as you can. Research indicates that customers often abandon their shopping carts during checkout because of unexpected shipping costs. Studies have also shown that users are two times more likely to respond to free shipping offers than price discounts. Take into consideration that shipping costs can be a major deterrent—or enticement—to online shoppers, and determine a shipping cost strategy that offers the lowest shipping costs possible.
- Don’t inflate product descriptions. Be detailed when writing your product descriptions, but avoid hyperbole and exaggeration. Add details such as product dimensions, materials, weight, color, sizing, origin, and manufacturing specifications. Be transparent during the early stages of your customers’ shopping experience.
CheckoutAt this phase, customers have added the items they want to purchase to their shopping cart, and are ready to purchase. They want to pay you, receive confirmation, and quickly move on. Make it easy for customers to pay you—checkout should be a breeze.
- Do emphasize security. Offer safe and secure payment options that shoppers know and trust, such as Paypal. Display security certifications throughout the checkout process. You can add links to detailed security information that appears in a pop out window.
- Do simplify the checkout process. If you can, add a function so shoppers can see where they are in the checkout process. Keep the number of pages a customer has to navigate through as small as possible. Require customers to provide only the essential information you need to process the order, and make all other fields optional.
- Do list your policies. Clearly list your return, exchange, and shipping policies. Be detailed and forthcoming about any timelines for returns, final sales, and an estimated shipping date. Provide contact information for customer support as well.
- Don’t use the checkout process as a promotional opportunity. Keep the shopping cart and checkout phase for that purpose only. Add easy navigation back to product landing pages so customers can access last minute items, but avoid using this space to promote your latest blog post, or cram in unnecessary information. You don’t want to distract customers from completing their purchase.
Follow upStay in touch with your customers and gain their loyalty. Build a relationship with your audience, and take pride in seeing how it grows.
- Do incentivize customers to come back. In your follow up communications, whether with your confirmation page or your email newsletter, encourage your customers to come back. Offer discount codes during holidays or sales. Give loyal customers sneak previews of new merchandise, and offer presale opportunities. You want your best customers to feel appreciated.
- Do suggest popular and trending products. Position yourself as a thought leader by telling users what’s trending and which popular products you think they might like.
- Don’t spam. Having your customer’s contact information is a privilege, and one they will quickly revoke if you overwhelm them with emails, social media posts, print mail, or catalogs. If you’re not sure how frequently you should be reaching out, check out my social media engagement guidelines for helpful tips.
Is your ecommerce site designed with the customer in mind? Share it with us in the comments section below so we can check it out.
Adrienne is a web marketer and freelance writer in San Francisco with a focus on content marketing and earned media. She loves the internet, every single animal on Planet Earth, sticking her nose in books, and running in the park. Catch her if you can.