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A-Z of E-commerce websites

Ever wondered if there is anything you’ve missed? Well here’s a roundup of 26 top things to get right on any e-commerce website. You’d be surprised how many top retailers don’t complete the list. How do you score? A Availability Is your stock availability absolutely clear? It’s simply not acceptable for a user to get to the checkout and then find out that their chosen product isn’t actually in stock.

B Blogging Adding a blog alongside your e-commerce website can be a really valuable feature. It can bring a number of significant benefit, including

  • SEO – Search engines love fresh content and a blog is a great way to add regular new content to your site.
  • Customer engagement – If you have customers who return to read your blog, or even better subscribe, it keeps them engaged with your brand and they are more likely to buy and repeat buy.
  • Personality – A blog can be the friendly face for your business where you can be a bit more personal and show a bit of personality, e.g. check out the howies brainfood blog.

C Calls to Action Making sure that your call to action button is sufficiently prominent on the page is really important. Making it really clear what the next step is will help users on their journey through to converting (e.g. add to basket, sign-in/register, checkout…)

D Disaster recovery What would happen if your site went down? What about if your hosting provider went bust? Have you got a contingency plan or at least a procedure and plan for recovery. What would a day of lost sales cost you? Does that figure make it worth investing some time in making sure your prepared for the worst even if the day never comes? Have you ever tested your disaster recovery plan?

E Email Marketing The power of email marketing to drive sales shouldn’t be underestimated. Email marketing can also be a great way of building engagement for a large number of customers who follow your brand and may be tempted by great deals.

F Funnels Using funnels to track the progress of your website visitors through key stages in the journey through to a sale or other conversions, will provide you with valuable insight about how you can optimise you sight for higher conversions.

G Goals For e-commerce websites, sales are nearly always the most important conversion that you want website visitors to complete, however setting up other goals, for example, email newsletter subscription, video play or an engagement goal (completed when a visitor views a certain number of pages or spends a certain amount of time on your site) can provide you with a wealth of conversion information.

H HITS – How Idiots Track Success Do you remember when every website had a hit counter? Fortunately the web has matured and today there is a wealth of information that can be collected and analysed. Don’t get hung-up on headlines stats like “hits’ or ‘all visits’. Fortunately we’re almost at ‘K’ for Key Performance Indicators. Phew.

I Internal Site Search The fact is that some people prefer to use website navigation and others like to search, so you should really account for both visitor types, particularly for larger sites or sites with lots of categories and products. Having site search also allows you to track what people are searching for and optimise your website or plan campaigns accordingly.

J Journey Have you thought about the journeys that you want your website visitors to complete? The most obvious journey for an e-commerce website is that from the basket page through the register/login page, delivery options, payment details and final checkout. But it’s also worth tracking earlier steps in the journey e.g. Homepage to Category Page, Category Page to Product Page, Product page to Basket Page, etc. Is your web analytics package set up to track these journeys. If you can it will be helpful when prioritising improvements to your website.

K KPI’s Taking time to define and monitor Key Performance Indicators for your website will help you to measure the success of your website and prioritise your effort on the most important features.

L Landing Pages Understanding the performance of landing pages (the first page that a visitor views) will give you important insight into visitors behaviour upon arrival and crucially, whether they stay. Building custom landing pages for campaigns or special offers enables you to create more targeted pages, e.g. for a specific keyword, and can improve bounces rates because the content is tailored to the visitor.

M Multi-Variate Testing Multi-Variate Testing or split testing allows you to test new versions or alterations to your website and collect data about the conversion rates of the competing pages. This is an essential part of optimising your website and understanding the impact of the changes. MVT testing results are the arch-nemesis of gut-instinct, bias and prejudice in design, and if done well should provide irrefutable answers one way or the other.

N Navigation “People won’t use your website if they can’t find their way around it” (Steve Krug, Don’t Make Me Think). It’s pretty obvious really, but shouldn’t be taken lightly. Helping website visitors to find what they need quickly and painlessly will help to keep uncertainty or frustration at bay and improve the visitors website experience, which ultimately should improve conversion rate.

O Order Values If your primary objective is order completion, your next priority should be maximising order values. Using product recommendation engines, carrying out category analysis and tracking and optimising for higher ‘add to basket’ ratios will help you to increase your average order value.

P Product Pages Providing that customers have made it this far, convincing shoppers that this is the product that they should add to their basket is probably the most critical stage in the decision making process. Increasingly a range of high quality images is a must, especially in the apparel sector. Some other key features are; an inviting product description, product specifications, pricing information, a call to action, ratings and reviews, delivery information, stock availability and colour & size options.

Q Questionnaires and Surveys As well as collecting qualitative data through your web analytics tools of choice, getting qualitative data through questionnaires and surveys can help you to make changes that improve the experience for your website users. Getting the ‘voice of customer’ will often help you cut straight to the big issues.

R Recommendation Engines A product recommendation engines that suggests products additional products to shoppers can increase conversion rates and can dramatically boost your average order value. Increasing conversion rates coupled with increased average order value is a great recipe for a competitor-killing sales increase.

S Search Traffic Driving the right traffic to your website optimised for conversion is essential. Search traffic, whether organic (SEO) or paid (PPC), will be a key traffic source for most retailers. It can be very competitive, but rewarding when done well. I you’re not already looking into branded and non-branded search and identifying opportunities you’re missing a trick.

T Targeting/Retargeting Retargeting has re-invigorated display advertising showing you recently viewed products in your webmail and partners in the search network. This is a great way of re-engaging people who have visited your website and tempting them with products in which they have already shown an interest.

U Usability/User testing When you work on a website day-in-day-out it is easy to become too familiar and lose perspective on how visitors actually use your website. Carrying out usability testing will show you what is tripping up your website users and or causing uncertainty, ultimately harming your conversion rate.

V Value proposition Having an online value proposition, often positioned in the header and near the logo, will help visitors landing on your website to know what it is that you do or sell. This is will decrease bounce rate and ensure visitors make it past the first step in the journey. If your website converts well, then the more visitors that enter the top of the funnel will mean more sales at the end. Here are a couple of examples to get you thinking: “The UKs leading online designer outlet” – “Your online luxury destination” –

W Web Analytics What is the behaviour of website visitors? Where do they come from? Which content works? Where do visitors exit the site? These are just some of the questions that you can answer with data from your web analytics tools of choice. The best tools will also allow you to segment the data by new vs. returning, traffic source, desktop vs. mobile and many more segments for valuable insight.

eX eXits Understanding where visitors are leaving the website will help you to focus on where there might be pain points in the websites usability, e.g. “is the call to action to move on to the next step clear enough?” or if a search results in no matches, “did we provide them with an alternative or help them to refine their search?

Y Yawn Filling in registration forms is dull. If you can provide a guest checkout for customers who know they’re making a one off purchase, i.e. a gift for someone else, you may well see a lift in conversion rate. However, if customers have to register, there are steps that you can take to help people get through it. Here are a couple of tips:

  • Only collect necessary information. It might be nice to have their D.O.B, but do you really need it?
  • Make progress clear – including a temperature gauge will stop visitors feeling lost in a string of endless forms to fill-in.

Z Zebra-like delivery details Delivery details have to be black and white upfront, like a zebra, get it? Unclear delivery pricing is one of the most common reasons for abandonment at late stages in the checkout process. Customers want costs to be transparent, so clear delivery costs are key. How did you do out of 26? Let us know. Plus, is there anything that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments.

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