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Running an e-commerce business can be tough. Even with a solid marketing strategy, strong brand presence and good customer relationships you can still experience stalls or dips in revenue as well as high rates of cart abandonment. E-commerce is made more difficult by the fact that you’re not in a physical location with customers, so getting feedback and understanding the cause of sales issues can be challenging, especially if you’re not reviewing detailed analytics or using quality custom e-commerce software.Want to turn up the volume on online purchases made through your site? Follow this guide on optimizing your Ecommerce website.

Improve User Experience

Reduce the number of clicks needed for everything

Customers don’t want to get lost in shopping cart hell, and making them click through multiple pages as part of a checkout process leads to higher cart abandonment. Stick to the conversion rule of thumb where possible: 3 clicks or less to checkout. Click to the product > click to “buy” > Click to complete checkout.

Feature popular products in prominent areas

Use e-commerce software that gives you the ability to feature some of your products. This can be products you want to push, or your featured product listing can be the products that are most often purchased. Even a system like what Amazon uses (“other customers who bought this item also purchased…”) is a method that helps people find products they may not have known you offered.

Improve site navigation

Make sure the customer knows where they are in the store if there’s more than one sub-level of navigation. This is accomplished with headlines, sub-headers if necessary and breadcrumbs (e.g. Home > Category > Sub-cat > Product). Your site analytics can even show you where people are exiting your site if navigation is an issue, so you can easily correct this through your e-commerce software.

Allow visitors to sort and refine every which way

If you can provide the user with a useful refinement option, you’ve made their experience better. In the instance of sizing, this is particularly important, as users loathe finding that “perfect” piece of apparel, only to discover you don’t carry it in their size. The standards are “Price – low to high,” “Price – high to low,” “Popularity,” aka “Best Selling,” “Featured,” “User Rating” (or “Editor Rating” if you don’t have users rate products), and “New” or “Latest.” You can eliminate “Featured” if you’ve got nothing to push, but all the other sorting options are expected by consumers to exist

Make search easy

Your e-commerce software should let you work with an advanced search system so that customers can easily find what they’re looking for. Let them set prices, colors, sizes, model, brand, etc. Customers often rate “search functionality” as the most frustrating part of shopping online. When tackling the issue of search in your store, start by making sure your search bar is super easy to find.

Focus on Mobile Friendly Design

It used to be that three columns of category images on the home page was standard and top left navigation was required. Now e-commerce stores are getting into mobile friendly e-commerce designs that lay everything out like a product catalog. Sites feature product videos, virtual tours, and more. Having a dated website makes you sink in the shadows of tech-savvy competitors so be willing to invest in web development services to stay relevant.

Don’t ask for too much information

It’s tempting to want to gather as much information about customers to fill your database, but this can fatigue a shopper. Gather only the information you need to complete the checkout process. Your e-commerce software should make it easy to gather name, shipping and billing info. That’s all you need. If you want more data, give the customer the option to save their log-in information and complete a larger profile AFTER checkout.

Have useful web copy written by a professional

Getting your products in front of more customers and getting more of them to buy often comes down to the content. Spend the money on a copywriter who can write search engine optimized content that is detailed and filled with benefits and value statements. A perfect example of this type of content is Brookstone. Professionally written and optimized content not only sells better but it’s far more likely to appear in search results when people are digging for their next purchase online.

Use a Platform that has Built-in E-Commerce Features

An e-commerce site can only be as good as the e-commerce software that it uses. A consumer facing platform such as an e-commerce site needs to be updated regularly in order to stay ahead of competitors and draw in customers. The best e-commerce software solutions on the market can ensure that your site provides a great shopping experience for end users and generates sales.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tools

An e-commerce site could be selling genuinely useful products, but, without an SEO strategy that attracts people to that site, it isn’t going to be receiving the kind of traffic it deserves. When upgrading your e-commerce software, consider a solution that has integrated SEO tools such as customizable meta-tags and alt text – this will enable your site to be as Google friendly as possible.

International Language & Shipping Options

The beauty of e-commerce is that your target market is not restricted to your neighborhood or your city. Everybody online around the globe is a potential customer. By updating your e-commerce software to a package that supports international trade with international shipping options and international label printing, you open your e-commerce store to a much broader market.

Multiple Payment Methods

If your current e-commerce store only makes transactions via card payments, you are limiting both your customer experience and your sales revenue. Upgrading to an e-commerce solution that supports many different forms of payment gateways such as Google Checkout, PayPal, Online Checks and Verisign, will improve the online sales experience for your customers and increase your conversion rate.

Robust Website and Transaction Analytics

To be successful at online retail, you need to know exactly how your customers behave and your e-commerce store performs. Advanced e-commerce solutions should provide analytics such as product performance reports and sales tax reports.

Optimize for Mobile Visits.

Creating a mobile optimized online store for your e-commerce business is vitally important, as more and more consumers now expect to be able to shop from home with their mouse and a web connection, but merely having an online store is no longer enough. Millions of those consumers now want to shop with just the tap of a finger on the screens of their mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets. Businesses in every industry are now recognizing the importance of providing seamless payment capabilities to enhance the overall mobile experience of their customers and to improve mobile e-commerce.

These startling statistics help shed light on why offering mobile e-commerce is so important:

  • Nearly 90 percent of people report that being able to access information on a mobile device makes them more open to discovering new products and more spontaneous when it comes to shopping.
  • In 2013, 15 percent of online sales came from e-commerce purchases made on mobile devices.
  • Over 60 percent of people plan on shopping with their mobile devices more often in the coming years.
  • 30 percent of mobile shoppers will not complete a transaction if the payment experience is not mobile-optimized.
  • In the next three years, mobile shoppers will spend $90 billion through their devices.

Mobile payments create a unique opportunity to deliver value and connect with customers both old and new. This is not another hot tech trend of the moment that will fade in the future. The numbers already prove the growth and importance of mobile payments, and customers now expect to be able to shop using their favorite devices.

Offering mobile payments keeps your current customers happy while attracting new ones, opening your business to a whole new market.

Be Smart about Product Pricing

If you operate an online store, it can be difficult to find your ideal pricing strategy. Many retailers rely on trial and error to find the right price for their items. They base their prices on a specific profit margin, reducing prices on selected items if sales are slow. However, there are other ways to determine the right price for the products you sell.

Offer personalized pricing.

Based on factors such as customer loyalty, purchase history, customer preferences and the type of device used to access the site; algorithms can suggest the appropriate price to offer each visitor. This strategy can be ideal for repeat customers, sites that introduce a number of new products on a regular basis or retailers that have enough profit margin to discount prices at any time.

Free products can entice customers to visit your site to claim the gift.

Once there, you can encourage them to upgrade or purchase additional items. For example, you might offer a free holiday ornament to drive sales of other holiday merchandise. This strategy can be especially effective if you sell both consumable and durable components that the customer can only purchase from you. This is a strategy often employed by companies that manufacturer razors and the only blades that will fit those razors. They will give away the razors, knowing that the customer will have to purchase their blades.

Incentives can encourage customers to purchase additional items.

Suppose you sell gourmet coffee beans for $9.99 per pound and charge $4.95 for shipping. If you were to offer free shipping on all orders of $20 or more, some customers would likely purchase three bags of coffee to take advantage of the free shipping.

Determining your company’s market position can help you decide on a pricing strategy.

If you offer a unique product that is sold only through your site, your market position is much different from a retailer who offers an array of products that are available from thousands of other online stores. However, in addition to knowing your market position, you must also determine what the market will bear.

Be willing to try unusual strategies.

For example, you might offer selected products with a name-your-price option, encouraging customers to name higher prices by donating a percentage of sales to charity or offering incentives if the price is greater than a specific threshold.

About the author

Joe Lewis is the owner and president of PhaseAlpha, a custom software company that develops solutions for businesses of all sizes in all industries. We can help you build a successful, high performing e-commerce store. To learn more, email info@phasealpha.com or call (888) 559-5673.