Online shoppers can be impatient and unforgiving, so your success depends on the functionality and usability of your website. You need to offer a smooth and enjoyable user experience if you want to convert visitors into customers.
Here are 10 simple features that will help you do so.
1. Responsive design (i.e. desktop- and mobile-friendliness)
In December 2016, 48% of UK internet-browsing took place on mobiles and tablets. In December 2012, only 21% did. This huge shift in user behaviour means that your website must now provide a smooth user experience on every type of device – and responsive design is the way to achieve that.
If your website is responsive, it has a full desktop version and a mobile version. This means it can automatically adjust to the size and shape of each user’s screen, thereby presenting the most suitable version of the website. Here it is in action:
a) Amazon homepage on a regular Dell desktop (Google Chrome)
b) Amazon homepage on an iPhone 6 (Safari)
The mobile version of a site is usually a simplified and scaled-down version of the full desktop site. To illustrate why, here’s what the eBay homepage looks like on an iPhone 6 when you manually choose to view the desktop version of the site:
2. Well-placed navigation menu(s)
The easier your website is to navigate, the longer your visitors will stay.
Some users will enter your site knowing exactly what they want to buy, whereas others will want to browse. You can accommodate both types of user by implementing logical and thorough navigation menus.
You may want to put a horizontal main navigation menu in the header of your site, with drop-down menus coming off each item. The eBay homepage is one example:
On the other hand, a vertical sidebar menu might be better for your site. Many clothing retailers use them because the positioning allows the shopper to filter their search as they go along. Here it is in action on ASOS:
3. Prominent search function
Some shoppers will arrive on your site knowing exactly what they want to buy from you – especially if they’ve already visited during their research. In this scenario, an on-site search function will be very helpful for the user, who just wants to find it and buy it as quickly as possible.
4. Well-taken, high-resolution product photos
Prospective customers like detailed product photos. Remember: they’re shopping online, which means they can’t pick the products up and examine them with their own hands. Therefore, the more you can show them, the better.
Large, well-focused and zoomable images will help you sell your products. Whether it’s a kitchen appliance or a winter jacket, the premise is the same.
That said, you need to make sure these high-res images load quickly and don’t slow the rest of the page down – because a slow-loading page is a massive turnoff for users. Thankfully, the solution is simple enough: compress your image files before you upload them. Many photo-editing suites have web-friendly compression options (Adobe Photoshop is one of them), which compress the file size as far as possible without lessening the quality of the image itself.
5. Unique and well-written product descriptions
Although it is time-consuming, you should write your own product descriptions. Don’t just copy-and-paste the manufacturer’s description, and definitely don’t steal a competitor’s, because duplicating content can result in penalisation from Google and other search engines.
Be as detailed and helpful as you can with each description. List the product’s key features and USPs, and – most importantly – tell the customer how it will enhance or simplify their life. There’s an old marketing proverb that says you should “sell the sizzle, not the steak”. Your product descriptions should aim to sell both the steak and the sizzle.
6. Search-optimised meta titles and enticing meta descriptions
The world of eCommerce is highly competitive. The average online shopper is willing to have a good look around for a product before they buy it from one particular site, and Google Web Search is where many of them start the hunt.
Of course, you probably won’t be the only retailer that offers the product in question, and will therefore be competing with several other websites. As such, you need to make your search result stand out from the rest. Crafting your own meta titles and meta descriptions will help you do this.
What are meta titles and meta descriptions?
The meta title is the clickable blue text at the top of each search result. Its primary function is to say what the page in question offers, and this should be worded in a way that attracts the user’s attention (although block-capitalisation and keyword-stuffing are big no-nos). Importantly, the meta title is a confirmed Google ranking factor; as such, you should incorporate the most relevant keyword phrase in there, but in a way that reads naturally.
The meta description is the grey text at the bottom of each search result. Its purpose is to give a more detailed summary of the page, and it should be worded in a way that encourages users to click through. The meta description is not a Google ranking factor – it is said to have no influence on rankings whatsoever, and is purely for the user’s reference. Every meta description should include some sort of call-to-action (CTA), whether it’s “Click through to view the product”, “Browse our selection”, or something similar. The Discogs example above contains three, and they work nicely together.
7. SSL certification
Online shoppers automatically trust eCommerce giants like Amazon and ASOS without thinking. The same goes for well-known brands and high-street shops. Your website probably isn’t quite that big (yet), so some new visitors might be wary and suspicious at first – and that’s understandable, because online fraud is still prevalent.
As such, you’ll have to convince visitors that you are a legitimate retailer. SSL certification is the first step here. ‘SSL’ stands for ‘Secure Socket Layer’, which establishes an encrypted link between your web server and the user’s browser. An SSL certificate tells the user that their personal and financial information is safe on your site.
8. Convenient checkout experience
Some shoppers are apprehensive about providing their credit card details online, even on websites that look (and are) perfectly legitimate.
PayPal is one of the world’s most widely trusted payment gateways. It tells even the most suspicious of shoppers that their money is safe.
On top of that, PayPal is often quicker and more convenient for the customer – especially on mobile devices.
9. Real customer reviews
Customer reviews will work alongside your photos and descriptions to help sell your products. Some shoppers need the reassurance that they are indeed buying a good product, and the opinions of other shoppers can provide that.
They don’t all have to be unanimous 5-star reviews either. In fact, it’s probably better if you have a few 4- and 3-star reviews, because they’re still positive overall.
The less negative product reviews you have, the better, but having them on your site can work in your favour, because it reinforces that you’re an honest retailer who’s open to feedback and constructive criticism. Furthermore, negative reviews probably won’t repel customers who’ve already done their research – or who’ve bought the product elsewhere previously.
10. Prominent contact details/options
If you can demonstrate that you’re a helpful and honest retailer, you should find that users reward you with their custom. Remember that the world of eCommerce is fiercely competitive, and reputation is everything. In most cases, you’re not the only company that stocks the item in question – if a customer doesn’t like the look and feel of your website, they can quite easily go elsewhere.
Make it clear that you’re happy and ready to help with customer queries. Have your contact details prominently placed in the header of your site (perhaps link to your ‘Contact Us’ page on your main navigation menu), and incorporate contact-us-focused CTAs throughout your product pages (“Any questions, drop us a line”, and so on).
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by Gemma Tomlinson on 02/02/2017