There is more to creating a successful online store than just the quality of the products or services you provide. A reliable and secure e-commerce platform, a creative marketing plan, powerful tools, helpful statistics and an attractive presentation of your online store are all important in achieving high conversions. We’ve put together a list of 14 essential e-commerce tips to boost your online sales through 2018 and beyond.
Optimize your store speed
Your online store has to work fast and look good on a variety of screen resolutions, browsers, and operating systems. Pages have to load quickly because every extra second your site takes to load loses you sales. There are a variety of ways to make your store faster. This includes decreasing the first byte load-in times, image and content caching, better image optimization and the use of content delivery network (CDN).
You can run the Google Insights test to see where your site stands as of now. You want to have a “Good” overall score in the green. Anything below that and you should consider making some changes. If you are in the red, you need to seriously consider fixing the problems. Google will make some suggestions on what to do. If that doesn’t help, reach out to us and we will help decipher the results to figure out how to get your website in the green.
Invest in proper web hosting
Faster server load times, less website downtimes. The attention span of online shoppers is very limited due to the vast amount of choices and options they have. If your store is taking a while to load, they will simply go somewhere else. If your site is down, well, then they will likely never be back. Downtime and slow server response times can alienate even the most loyal customer so definitely invest in a proper web host. We use state of the art Rackspace or Google Cloud data centers to host all of our client online stores. And you should too!
Make sure the store is mobile-friendly
This is a big one. Online sales have now reached revenue of over $1 billion a day and will only continue to climb. Mobile sales will overtake desktop online sales very soon which will reward those who run a tightly optimized mobile version of their online store while those who did not optimize for mobile will flat out lose more and more potential profits. Mobile optimization is a must and should be on top of your priority list. Use the Google Mobile Test to see how your site holds up on a mobile device.
Show users your online store is secure
Don’t just secure your store, show everyone who visits that all their information will be safe. Keep all your scripts up to date for all the latest security updates, use a quality SSL certificate, and put quick notes around key areas of your website that reassure the customer the website is safe, the products are legit and their information is protected. Use HTTPS URLs for all the pages in the store, not just log in and checkout because all new browsers show a warning now if any page is not secured.
Use the right tools
The most obvious tool to use is Google Analytics. It allows you to track and map all kinds of data on your website which can greatly increase your understanding of your customers and visitors. There are also great alternatives like Parse.ly which collects loads of data from content and articles.
Beyond analytics, you can use something like Hotjar which creates a heat map of your web pages and shows you where users click more and what areas could use more attention. If you want to try out something new from overseas, give metrica.yandex.com a go – it will give you free advanced features like heat maps, forms analytics and scroll maps. These tools will help you collect invaluable data to improve your chances of successfully reaching the potential buyers you are looking for with your message and products.
Collect and organize the right data
With all these great tools at your disposal, you need to make the best of it by compiling all the useful data you can and using it to your advantage. Based on what your click hotspots are, see if your calls to action are being used. Use smart shopping cart extensions to see why users leave once they look at their shopping carts to determine what prevented them from making the purchase. Explore the most popular pages and content on your website to help you focus more on what people are more likely to purchase.
Implement a modern website design
Clean, fast and simple is the trend for today’s website. People don’t need to be dazzled with fancy animations or intricate designs, especially if it is an online store. Light on filler content, more focus on quick info like infographics, large easy to read font and efficient website navigation will all result in a better browsing and buying experience for the customer. Skip the fluff and just give them the meat and potatoes to save everyone time. And, please, drop the homepage slideshow and any other switching, rotating or flashing banners – it’s so last year.
Use professional high-resolution photography
Modern website designs often feature large high-resolution images as centerpiece items. Having images like these on your website is an easy and effective way to give your store an interesting look without anything intricate in the design. You can always take your own photos of products and lifestyle shots, though we would recommend a professional camera and not a phone. If you have the budget for it, you can also hire a professional photographer or invest in a portable photo studio – it will pay for itself in just a few months. You will also be able to use and reuse these images in all your marketing materials in the future, so this is a worthwhile investment.
Include calls to action
Make sure you have clear calls of action presented to users throughout the site. This can come in the form of a nice banner, a checkout button or a contact form. However, make sure you don’t overdo it and blast the user with too many calls to actions. Balance is essential and smart positioning is key. Instead of putting too many calls to action, make the few that you have stand out by interesting imagery or colors that pop and stand out from the rest of the page.
Think of the ideal action you want a customer to perform on every page. For example, on the top category page, you probably want your customer to click on a subcategory they are interested in to narrow down the selection (instead of showing the list of hundreds of products related to that top-level category). On a product page, do you really want a customer to click on “50% off on all hats” banner flashing at the top if that customer is currently looking through the jeans section? Calls to action need to be smart, not just visible. In fact, a simple “add to cart” button can sometimes be the best call to action, so consider using them where you can.
Prioritize what’s displayed above the fold
Users will be looking at the top area of your website (above the fold) 80% of the time. It is important to put all your essential information and best looking images towards the top of the store to catch a user’s attention. Once they are hooked, they will go down the page and get the information they need. If the area above the fold on your website does a poor job of creating interest, it can cost you a lot of users leaving to go elsewhere.
As an example, we recently did an ecommerce fitness review for a store which showed a huge photo showing an out-of-focus girl in a background and man’s ba the k in foreground taking up the whole screen. The photo was great quality, sure, but you had to scroll 2 screens down to see anything else – not the best use of the prime real estate of the home page unless you are a photographer and that picture is your Mona Lisa.
Easy to find live chat and contact information
Users often have simple questions that they can’t immediately find answers to. In many cases, they will just leave your store and move on because they don’t want to click through the site. The easiest way to retain these potential buyers is adding a floating live chat or contact button that follows a user on every page. Saving your customer time by getting them quicker answers to their questions and personal attention will go a long way toward getting and keeping loyal customers.
Publish relevant and helpful content
Everyone loves free stuff. While you may not want to give away any of your products, you can definitely provide helpful and insightful content to your users. This content will bring potential buyers to your website just because they are looking for answers on this specific subject. Existing customers will also have more incentive to come back to your website to read new content and to continue purchasing your products.
Content and articles are great for SEO, will show your website is active, and that your staff are knowledgeable in the industry, adding to your online store’s credibility. New product reviews and how-to articles and videos give you an unlimited source of ideas for content.
Take advantage of advanced features and plugins
We covered advanced search extensions in our last article which is a great example of advanced features and plugins a lot of online store owners don’t realize exist. Advanced search plugins play a big part in increasing conversion because they not only show the user multiple options for what they are trying to search, but also takes them down the sales funnel by suggesting alternatives and additional products for upselling.
There are plenty of other interesting advanced features and plugins for most popular ecommerce platforms. If you find that your online store is lacking a specific feature, search online or ask us because there’s a good chance that feature can be implemented into your store.
Offer free shipping and discounts
Discounts and free shipping are two straightforward ways you can influence a potential buyer to pull the trigger. The more creative you are with these, the more you will sell. Most store owners will participate in major season sales like Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but discounts can also be used to lead visitors to buy certain items. For example, big brands like UnderArmor will put identical price tags for the same workout shirt with 10 styles. They will then put indefinite sales on the less popular styles to even out inventory and push all 10 styles, even though the shirt itself is the exact same material and fit.
Free shipping can also be used in some creative ways to add more incentive to buy multiple or more expensive items. Online stores that offer bulk protein, for example, will give free shipping automatically on any order over $99. Buying the $80 big bag of protein is the best bang for buck purchase as the price per pound is very low. But once users see that if they just spend $20 more, they will not have to pay the $15 for shipping, they will also order a side of protein bars. This makes sense as that money would be basically spent on shiping anyway, so in that case the user might as well get the bars and pay the same price. Just try to keep that process simple so your visitors do not have to be rocket scientists or IT professionals to figure out how to activate a discount.
So there you have it!
These tips are not listed in the order of importance and some may be more practical or important than others in your store. However, implementing the above will help your online store boost conversion and a create more efficient ecommerce experience for your customers.
Feel free to get in touch with me with any feedback, questions or requests for more tips. As always, please like and share this article if you found it helpful or know someone who might.
FinestShops is among the best and most complete e-commerce solution providers in the world. We use Magento 2, X-Cart or WooCommerce e-commerce systems for new store deployments and re-platforming as well as state of the art Rackspace or Google Cloud data centers that serve 60% of Fortune 500 companies. Our account managers are knowledgeable and innovative; our support engineers and developers are outstanding and customer satisfaction is second to none.
Whether you are looking to upgrade your current online store or create your first, Finestshops has you covered! Visit www.finestshops.com to request a complimentary performance test of your current store or to sign up for a free trial and create your new online store completely free of charge with no commitment.