7 Essential Tips To Create A Successful E-commerce Website (BCAMA Blog)
Updated: Jun 4
*This article was a contribution to BC Chapter of the American Marketing Association's blog.
Did you know that 97% of e-commerce businesses fail?
It's a shocking but true reality of online commerce.
One of the biggest challenges that prevents success in e-commerce is the website itself. In this article, we will explore seven essential tips to help you build a profitable e-commerce website that retains traffic and converts visitors into buyers.
Selling online takes competition to a global level.
With over 1 billion sites in the web, online businesses need to strategically differentiate themselves to effectively attract customers. Besides the fact that now buyers have lots of online options, due to the readiness of information that the Internet provides they also are more conscious about price and quality.
To survive in this competitive environment, a well-developed website becomes an essential tool for any e-commerce venture. Although this may seem obvious, many of the e-commerce stores launched will fail because they don’t follow these elements.
Let's dive into the 7 essential elements for e-commerce success!
1. First of all, the user!
When designing your online store, it is essential to have a user-centred approach. One of the biggest customer challenges in e-commerce is the inability to touch, feel, smell or see the products.
This means that you need to give all the tools necessary so that customers feel confident when making their purchase decision.
For this, you need to know the buyer’s needs, motivations and the way they interact with technology. By applying user experience (UX) principles, you will create a website that is easy to navigate, useful and trustworthy. Some of the main UX best practices are:
Follow conventions to make the website easy and intuitive. Don’t make your users think.
Keep it simple! In UX projects, the simpler option is almost always the better one.
Ensure your website looks trustworthy and legitimate. Fix errors, have up-to-date content, keep your links updated, ensure all links are to credible third-party references, provide an informative and personal ‘about us’ page, etc.
2. Be on top with SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) is an essential tool to help online stores stand out from the crowd. After researching your key phrases, build your successful website integrating on-site SEO. This means that your pages will be optimized for search engines and your site will be easily found by customers.
One effective SEO tactic for e-commerce is to optimize the main menu navigation for internal linking value. Since the main menu will be displayed on almost all of the site pages, the menu is most likely to index in search results.
3. Don’t forget to get social
Social media is everywhere. The buying decisions of new customers involve social interactions more than ever; they are now even buying through this channels (a.k.a. social commerce).
Businesses need to be aware of their role in this environment and take action to attract these social customers. This way, working closely with social media becomes an essential tactic for any e-commerce.
When building your website it is important to keep in mind in which touch-points your customers will interact with your social networks. And remember, people buy experiences rather than things.
This means that your products need to be actively integrated with social media in order to give customers the ability to share them with their peers. One way businesses can do this is by incorporating social elements into the website through:
Share plugins on product pages
Social sign-in options
Sharing user-generated social content on-site
4. Include authentic testimonials
Going along with the previous tip, including testimonials and product reviews is a great way to integrate with social media and reduce buyer anxiety.
As mentioned before, since e-commerce does not allow users to experience the products in person, providing authentic customer reviews is a very effective way to help visitors overcome the fear of buying online.
Businesses can do this by encouraging customers to give feedback about their experiences or by integrating social media comments on the products page.
Customers trust other buyers more than they trust a company’s product information. Social proof is a crucial element in encouraging visitors to take a step towards the checkout page.
5. Eliminate checkout barriers
Once the visitor is on the checkout page, you need to ensure that there are no barriers for he/she to complete the purchase.
Reducing “abandoned cart” rates is one of the biggest difficulties for online retailers. The friction that causes customers to leave the website at the moment of the payment can be reduced when building the website.
The best way to ensure that your checkout process is effective is to make it as simple as possible. Businesses can do it through many approaches:
Eliminating the need for account creation
Reducing the number of screens the customer has to go through to complete the purchase
Requiring only necessary information in form fields, and using auto-fill whenever possible
Saving billing, shipping and payment information
Providing different payment options
6. Go mobile
A recent study about mobile e-commerce shows that 62% of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their mobile device in the last six months.
Mobile commerce (m-commerce) is growing and retailers should not ignore this trend when building their website.
Along with tip #1, being mobile-responsive is part of a user-centred design strategy. Businesses need to know how their buyers are getting to them, and they should strive to make this journey simple and intuitive.
Focusing on a design that is totally responsive – from the home page to the thank you page – is crucial for online business success. A profitable e-commerce website today has to be adaptable to whatever device is accessing it, in order to provide a user-friendly experience that retains and convert customers. Online stores that do not follow the mobile trend will soon disappear.
7. Test, test, test…
You have set up your website and it is looking good.
Is that it?
Now is one of the most important steps towards success: testing. Before, during and after the launch of your online store, you have to spend time testing and analyzing the effectiveness of your site. Again, you need to put customers first and think what is working and what could improve their experience.
There are different elements and ways to test your e-commerce website. However, it is primarily important to conduct these tests:
Although testing the whole website is important, it's most efficient to focus on the checkout journey, which includes all the steps that users go through when buying something on your site.
Finally, constantly testing, analyzing and improving these parameters will guarantee that your website will stand out from the competition.
As you can see, building a successful e-commerce website isn’t easy; it requires a lot of work and attentive dedication to all steps.
However, all the effort will be worthwhile when your online sales machine is ready to launch and when it’s providing the amazing results you deserve.
E-commerce is expected to make up 14.6% of total retail spending in 2020. There's a world of opportunities out there for those willing to do the work so don’t let the challenges in this industry prevent you from being a successful online retailer.