eCommerce is one of the fastest growing sectors in retail, and is on such a roll, that global sales are expected to hit $1.5 trillion this year alone. It is an attractive option for established retailers looking to enter the multichannel fray, as well as for smaller businesses selling niche products. But, while the initial costs may seem smaller compared to setting up a brick and mortar operation, online retailers often combust as quickly as they set up. Not every retailer has the head start and resources of Amazon, nor can everyone can make niche work as well as Net A Porter or Etsy. Here are the 5 critical factors that affect long-term success of your ecommerce website.(Click to Tweet!)
At the end of each section, you can give yourself points based on the performance of your site, and tally it at the end to figure out where your site stands.
Conversion rate refers to the percentage of visitors who actually make a purchase, and complete the transaction. Conversion rates are typically as low as 2% – 3%, so don’t get disheartened by low numbers. A majority of customers are researching before a buy, so it’s only natural that they may not convert immediately. But, preventing “leaks” is the best way to gain immediate results. This refers to customers who are on the verge of buying, but abandon the site due to reasons like hidden shipping costs, the inability to find the exact product they are looking for, or a long checkout process.
The thing about conversions rates though, is that it is also a measure of the overall effectiveness of your website. That is, you can judge how your eCommerce site is functioning as a whole, based on it. But do note that a good conversion rate varies, depending on your product, the target audience and what the ideal end result is. Here’s a good article on how to effectively read conversion rates.
Here’s how to mark your site:
Site speed and load times majorly impact the level of traffic, and the eventual conversions a site receives. A site that is even one thousandth of a second slower can cause a potential customer to jump ship. Site visitors will tolerate slower load times for videos, but not search results. So, balance the fun elements with quick load times.
Check the load times for the following pages. Give yourself one mark for each page that loads in less than a second.
To appeal to customers and really sell, you need to invest in a well-designed storefront.
It is critical to keep your homepage updated regularly. Information (about new products, deals and general info) should be accurate and easy to decipher. The homepage serves as an entry for many visitors, so it should clearly showcase the brand and its message. The search should be easy to find, along with links to popular products. This is also where special offers must be prominently displayed. Here’s how cool eCommerce websites look.
Give yourself 1 mark if the search bar is prominently visible when the home page loads, without any scrolling or eye-scanning required.
Shopping online is a wholly visual experience, and your images need to speak to the customer. Low-quality photos in a poor layout will drive visitors away. Large, well-styled photos, displaying the product from every angle are a must.
This one is hard to rank. But if you’ve got at least one large photo on your home page, and every product has at least 3 photographs, give yourself 1 point.
The trend among retailers, is to embrace more complicated coding like HTML5 & CCS3 which support animation and dynamic effects. But, if your design is over the top, it will distract the visitor from what they came to do in the first place- shop!
Remember, beauty lies in simplicity, and perfection lies in the details. So ensure a clean layout, with light design to improve speed. Product details, availability, shipping details and CTA buttons need to be prominent. You also need to take into account that some may be browsing on older versions of browsers. Here are some Awwward winning eCommerce sites you would do well to learn from!
If your site has been redesigned less than a year ago, and has a look and feel similar to the sites your prospects hang out on, give yourself a point. That is, if your target audience is in the 20 to 25 age range, an MTV, Playstation, or Coke look would qualify. But if your target is the older – rich, then a site that appears to match golf / yacht / luxury sites, will work.
Navigation & Browsing
Shoppers need to know where to go next, what to do, and find what they are looking for – easily. A few levels of navigation are imperative, as well as easy broad categorization and practical filtering options based on price, size, availability, brand and color. Too many options are also dangerous, so use only what is helpful to the customer.
If a user can get to each product in your catalogue within 3 clicks, you’ve earned a point!
Customers want a flexible shopping experience – they may not always be on a PC. In fact, people expedite the buying process – right from research to payment – over multiple devices. That’s why mobile and tablet compatibility is a must.
1 point if your site is compatible across devices. And a ‘-1’ if it is not!
If there was one factor that must be given more importance than the rest, it is Search. Just like walking into a store and expecting the salesperson to direct you in precisely in the right direction, online search must be accurate. In addition, it must also be intuitive. Here are 7 easy ways to improve your site search.
Search must autocorrect miss-spelt words, offer options when the query is vague, display pictures, and move more profitable items to the top of the search results. Advanced search, and sorting of results as per user preference is also a must. We won’t go too deep into this topic as the internet already has an overload of info.
Let’s go straight to rating your site:
Now, customers, especially B2C, expect free or minimal shipping costs. Doing the math between order volumes and rising fuel prices is the only way to work out a shipping model that leaves you with some change in your pocket. Here’s an interview that sheds light on cutting costs. While free shipping may not be possible for every single order, offering your customers multiple shipping options and displaying costs clearly before checkout will give reduce the chances of cart abandonment.
Indicate flat rate shipping on the first page, as well as minimum purchase amount for free shipping. If you can offer different shipping speeds at different prices, you give customers more choice. Express and in-a-day shipping for an extra fee also adds to the options.
When it comes to fulfillment and delivery vendors, being a multi-carrier platform is a huge advantage. And a manifesting software system, which returns the costs associated with various providers, allows you to offer the best option to customers. In fact, such a system will even deliver ‘hybrid’ options, which involve a combination of vendors to deliver a package.
Here’s how to mark you site:
20- 25 points: You’re the cream! Does your company name spell ‘Amazon’?!
15-20 points: Your site is very good. A bit of improvement though, and you could taken on the biggies!
10-15 points: Average! And in internet terms, that’s almost an insult. It’s time to get sharp, or the competition will take over.
0-10 points: Unless you’re like the sole retailer in a place like Fiji, it’s time to introspect, and go for a drastic makeover!