8 Best Practices for Designing Your eCommerce Website
So you’ve decided to create an eCommerce website for your business? Congratulations! The online market is growing rapidly, with retail eCommerce sales predicted to top $4 trillion by 2020. Now comes the hard part – designing an eCommerce site that will entice your customers to purchase. According to Canva, there are a number of scientific reasons that people respond to beautiful visual content. Did you know that 20% of your brain is devoted solely to vision?
With this in mind, creating a stunningly designed website is crucial if you want to capture sales. Whether you’re choosing your first Shopify theme or building a bespoke site from scratch, your virtual storefront is the face of your business, and how it looks will affect buyer’s behaviors and brand perceptions.
What exactly is an eCommerce website?
Before we get started, let’s take a quick look at what we mean by an eCommerce website. An eCommerce site is much more than just a conventional platform. It’s a place where customers conduct electronic transactions over the internet. Examples of eCommerce platforms include Shopify, WooCommerce and Magento.
The benefits of choosing an eCommerce platform for your business (whether it’s B2B or B2C) are endless:
- You can buy and sell 24/7
- It’s easier for your customers to find products
- Buying and selling is also a quicker process
- You don’t have any geographical limitations so your reach is bigger
- Lower startup and operational costs (when compared to a physical store)
- Quick and easy to get started
- Multiple design themes to choose from
You might think that only consumers are interested in buying online, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. These days, more B2B buyers expect to be able to conduct their business online. What’s more, by 2020, the global B2B ecommerce market will be twice as large as the B2C market.
So what can you do to make sure your eCommerce site draws in as much business as possible?
- Design considerations
Check out this helpful article on 7 Ways to Increase Conversion Rates.
From creating positive brand perception and customer satisfaction to increasing sales and loyalty, your online presence will be perceived as the virtual gateway to your business. If you want your customers to stay on your site and see what you have to offer, you need to make it a pleasurable experience.
Catching your customer’s eye isn’t about having a loud and flashy website. You want to have a design theme that speaks to your brand values, and gives a sense of trust, reliability, and professionalism. There are many design themes to choose from and it can be hard to know where to start. Luckily, websites like Theme Forest allow you to browse a wide range of design themes and filter according to your desires.
- Use whitespace to minimize clutter and create a visual hierarchy
- Custom fonts lend personality and are easier to implement than ever (thanks to Google Fonts) – just make sure your design theme allows you to customize fonts and that the text is readable
- It is worth putting effort into creating small design cues to tell your story from a visual perspective, so ensure your design theme allows for some customization
- Flashy carousels are never a good idea
- Long blocks of text are hard to read (Maximum of 600px wide for optimum readability)
- Overcrowding your home page with too much information creates distraction
- Responsive design
According to SimilarWeb’s The State of Mobile Web in the US 2015 Report, “56 percent of consumer traffic to the leading US websites is now from mobile devices”.
What does this mean for your business? Basically, in order to capture the most traffic and sales from mobile, you need to ensure that you choose a design theme which is optimized for mobile. The advantages of a mobile responsive site which has been optimized for various mobile screens are endless.
- Google uses mobile-readiness as a ranking signal in search results.
- Mobile usage is on the rise (58% of Americans own a smartphone) and mobile buying is only increasing.
- 61% of people have a better opinion of brands when they have a good mobile experience.
- Product first
Good product photography
Online, looks are everything, and there’s nothing more unprofessional than a product image that has bad lighting, poor focus, is too small, or is just low quality. That’s why it pays to ensure that any product photography looks clean and professional. Your ecommerce theme layout should aim to showcase your products without looking cluttered, so you need to make sure your products look like they are worth buying.
Search functionality is a must for any website. If you want your customers to buy your products, you need to make it easy for them to find what they want. Make sure your design theme includes text search options, filters by category, and provides structure your ecommerce site so that everything is clearly laid out and easy to navigate.
Mark out the best sellers
Choose design themes which highlight your best sellers with a banner or badge. This adds credibility and social proof to your ecommerce site. Product reviews and a star-rating system are also a good way for customers to verify the quality of your products.
Identify out of stock items
There’s nothing more frustrating for customers than spending precious time researching and choosing a product, only to find that it’s out of stock. If a product is not available, make it easy for your customers to see this on your ecommerce site.
Include all necessary information
Ensure that all the information that is relevant to the buying decision is right there on the product page. A customer is never going to phone you up and ask for more information, so make it easy for them to find what they need. Include information like:
- Materials used
- Technical information
- Included extras
- Returns policy
- Easily contactable
From your physical address to a phone number and your email address, you need to ensure that all of your contact details are on the homepage and in the footer of every page. Having verifiable contact details reassure your customers that they can get in touch if there are ever any issues, and show you have nothing to hide. You should include contact details like:
- Email address
- Phone number
- Physical address
- Postal address
- Social media accounts
- Shopping cart
Mechanisms that allow instant positive feedback as items are added to your cart, and pop-ups that encourage visitors to continue shopping, are a must-have. Ensuring that your customers receive positive and instant feedback as they shop is likely to increase both their trust and confidence in your company.
Keeping them on track
Even though ecommerce payment solutions have been around a long time now, most buyers will have doubts if the buying process isn’t going where they expected. Choose a navigation which is clear, clean, and trustworthy (i.e. uses a https URL for any pages that require personal details) at all times.
Certain shopping cart best practices have been around for years because they work. Don’t try to be clever and choose something completely different because this will just alienate your customers.
Choosing the right Shopify, WooCommerce or Magento ecommerce platform solution for your business is a great way to get your eCommerce store up and running efficiently, without spending unnecessary time or money customizing your own solution.
Shopping cart abandonment
Many of the latest eCommerce website design packages incorporate systems that register when a potential buyer has stopped short of making payment. This situation has become known as shopping cart abandonment and there are ways that ecommerce platforms are able to provide a solution. Apart from collecting valuable data relating to the actual point of abandonment, a well-designed system will also resell to the potential customer.
- Marketing considerations
Telling your story
According to Denise Lee Yohn, author of What Great Brands Do:
To create valuable, sustainable customer relationships, great brands don’t sell customers on contracts—they seduce them with connections. Impactful, memorable, emotional connections lead to true brand loyalty.
Forge a personal connection with your customers and tell them about yourself. Why did you set up your business? Why should they choose you? How are you different from everyone else? Rather than selling, tell the story from your personal perspective to get your customer’s buy-in.
According to a study conducted by Constant Contact and CMB, “50% of brand followers are more likely to buy from a brand after following them on Twitter.” Most businesses will already be on Facebook, but Twitter is a great platform to constantly update your customers on any business news, whilst instantaneously dealing with any customer complaints or queries.
Marketing emails VIP
Unlike social media, targeted EDMs (electronic direct mail) give you direct access to a customer. Having a customer’s email address (and other contact details) means that your business can directly market to your buyer and track their clicks. Utilising an on-page subscription form on your website means that customers can instantly sign up to receive news from your company. However, you have to make it worth their while. Offering a special discount or something useful like an eBook is a great way to entice customers to sign up.
- FAQs and general information
The more information you can provide about your products, the more chance you are going to have of making a sale. Once again, the aim is to make it easy for customers to make a purchase. Include clearly formatted information such as:
- Frequently asked questions
- Delivery information
- Information about returns and warranties
- Sizing charts (if you sell clothing or footwear)
Deciding whether to go with testimonials or reviews will depend on the structure of your business, the products that you supply, and even who your customers are. For example, reviews will be useful for a distributor, but brand owners might prefer testimonials.
The only way to see if reviews will help or hinder your business is to test, test, test. A bad review might hurt your business because customers will doubt the standard of your product. On the other hand, if you have a large percentage of good reviews and just a few bad ones, customers will see you as being open and honest. If you do receive a bad review, make sure to follow it up immediately so customers see that you will work to resolve any issues in a timely fashion.