The nostalgic days of brick and mortar businesses ruling the world of commerce are over. Stores and marketplaces have gone digital, which has given customers the ability to buy and compare products and services without ever having to leave their seats.
We refer to these transactions over the internet as e-commerce. To ensure you’re getting off on the right foot with your online store strategy, there are several things to consider when designing an e-commerce website that not only looks and feels good but drives conversions and boosts your bottom line.
While e-commerce has streamlined a customer’s buying experience, not all e-commerce experiences are the same. With the added efficiency of e-commerce comes an increase in customer expectations. Something as simple as website loading times can be the difference between a conversion and a customer taking their business elsewhere.
Having the highest ratings won’t always cut it. You’ll need to consider the customer’s experience from the moment they land on your website to the point-of-purchase if you plan on competing against other brands.
Know your competition first
Whether you’re stepping into the B2C or B2B e-commerce rings, customers will likely compare their experiences on your website with your industry’s top performers. But the goal isn’t to try and top these websites. Instead, you should examine each competitor closely to see what they do well and where they can improve. This is similar to benchmarking.
Maybe your competitors have a seamless live chat, but lack in regularly scheduled blog content. Maybe their calls-to-action (CTAs) are well placed, but the copy of their product offerings should be updated to make more sense. These are things you should take note of when considering the look and feel of your e-commerce website.
The importance of CRM integration
However you plan on building your e-commerce platform, we highly recommend checking out a CRM software solution to serve as its perfect complement. No, it doesn’t need to be a piece of expensive enterprise software, but you should integrate CRM for a number of reasons.
- If you plan on scaling your e-commerce platform at some point, it’s just not doable without CRM software. Why? In this data-driven world, those who are able to harness large volumes of customer data to personalize their sales experiences will see better conversion rates. CRM software helps to collect this data in real time from all your sales channels.
- CRM software gives you deeper analytics on your customers, their buying tendencies, and which channels bring them to your platform before making a purchase. Being able to attribute these leads helps refine your marketing and sales strategies outside the platform.
- Task management features on CRM software ensures your team is on the same page, allows for easier collaboration, and better-integrated marketing communications through the sales and marketing departments. Need to share analytics with your team or segment different tasks? CRM software gives you these capabilities and many more.
Layout first, design second
Let’s face it, nobody wants to spend time on a website that has a choppy layout. Yes, a visually appealing website will draw in customers, but the success of your e-commerce platform relies on how quickly a customer can find what they’re looking for and how quickly they can check out. This aspect of your website is called the user interface, or UI.
Below is a chart showing the hierarchy of UI, and which elements you should look to cover first:
Reliability and speed
Your platform needs to be able to perform under pressure and handle high volumes of web traffic. Issues with site crashes (reliability) and page loading speeds are immediate losses for your company, and will undoubtedly lead customers elsewhere.
Research by Google indicates that 53% of users will abandon a website if it takes more than three seconds to load.
Organization contains brand elements such as font size and style, color, icons, and more. If there’s even the slightest off-brand experience from one page to another, it could affect how a customer uses your platform. You might want to develop a UI style guide to serve as a reference when designing your website.
Order and Structure
Next on the hierarchy is order and structure. This is how your products are tagged, content of each product, how your menus/tabs are labeled, clear indications of costs and fees, and other elements along these lines.
Order and structure is the true nitty-gritty of your website, but it’s important because it needs to be logical for your customers in order to get them to convert. If a customer can’t find what they’re looking for, what’s stopping them from leaving your site?
Interaction is discovering intuitive ways for your customers to engage on your website. For example, implementing a long scroll feature on your mobile e-commerce site – since scrolling (and not clicking or tapping) is the most common action on mobile.
Interaction can also be things like strategically placing discount codes on areas where users commonly scroll over or using enough negative space around a product image to make your website seem neater. Get creative with interactive features!
While interaction focuses more on layout features, aesthetic is simply making sure everything is visually appealing and polished before launching your platform. This can be something as simple as adding high-quality product photos with zoom capabilities. Though aesthetics aren’t typically the deciding factor for customers, they’ll appreciate the attention to detail.
E-commerce website best practices
E-commerce has completely changed the buying experience, which means it has been meticulously studied to discover widespread best practices that can be helpful for e-commerce newcomers. Here are a few of those best practices.
CRM for shopping cart abandonment
How many times have you found yourself second-guessing a few items in your shopping cart? In B2C, shopping cart abandonment is very common. CRM software can trigger responses when this abandonment occurs, and follow up with customers for a product demo or a discount code. You won’t reel everyone back in, but with a bit of personalization, you’re sure to convert a few.
Utilize customer-generated content, such as reviews or forums. People not only enjoy writing reviews (both negative and positive), but have a high regard for other customer reviews. In fact, 92% of B2B buyers are more likely to make a purchase after they read a credible review!
To add to the personalization of your website while making customers feel more valued, consider implementing a live chat feature. Latest studies from MarTech show that 51 percent of customers are more likely to purchase from a website that offers live chat. Almost half of all customers would to return to a website with live chat that can resolve basic product or service questions. That’s more opportunities for conversions.
This should go without saying, but one of the most fundamental core values for an e-commerce platform should be prioritizing the security of customer data. How likely are you to shop on a website that is known for security issues?
Aside from following standard website security measures like sitewide SSL and encryption, it’s worth notifying your customers that their privacy is your top concern. For good measure, automate a follow-up email with your customers to confirm their purchases. They’ll probably ignore this email within a matter of seconds, but at least they have some reassurance.
Whether you’re buying a replacement part for your lawnmower or looking for new marketing automation software, chances are you’re going to hop online at some point to assist your decision-making process.
e-commerce in B2C, or e-retail, has become the preferred method for finding and purchasing products. The rise in customer expectations has put pressure on retailers to take their business online – which in hindsight, has created more competition. E-retail is growing so rapidly, that by 2021, its total annual sales are expected to near $5 trillion!
The B2B market has recognized the success of e-commerce in B2C, and more organizations are moving to replicate that experience for company buyers and researchers. According to insights from Google, B2B buyers have gotten younger, more tech-savvy, and expect a great online experience before picking up the phone to learn more about a product or service.
Customers have truly become empowered through e-commerce. With more options to choose from, easier price comparisons, and opportunities to review products and services quickly, customers are more involved than ever.
The combination of both engaged customers with more efficient ways to display your business is why e-commerce in both B2C and B2B is here to stay.