Electronic Commerce, commonly referred to as E-Commerce, has beginnings that date back to the early 1970′s. While most people think that E-Commerce is simply transactions conducted over the Internet, in reality it’s the buying and selling of products and services via electronic systems – the Internet being one of several such technologies.
With a 40-plus year history, it’s inevitable that both buyers and sellers have become increasingly savvy as it pertains to establishing, researching and conducting business electronically. Technology, marketing, purchasing power, and consumer influence have changed dramatically. Therefore, those looking to launch, grow and/or successfully operate an e-commerce business need to be equipped with fundamental “must haves” to effectively compete in this trillion dollar industry.
In this piece, we’ll explore the 8 E-Commerce Must Haves. Take a look at the following list to see what attributes your e-commerce site may be missing.
1. Search Box
Whether you’re a small-, medium- or large-sized business, chances are you have more than one or two products on your site. A Search Box is an essential element in creating a positive, more effective shopping experience for your customer. Online sellers can see increased sales and conversions when users are able to quickly find what they need/want. In addition, when the user experience is positively influenced, additional product purchases, better customer satisfaction and repeat business are often the results. Often time the search data from your onsite search tool may shed some light on the taxonomy of your site. If you continue to see the same search queries you should review your merchandising strategy and ask yourself if this particular SKU is difficult for your audience to find.
2. Site Personalization
A healthy, successful, long-lasting relationship requires getting personal; your e-commerce site is no different. Addressing site visitors by name, offering personalized incentives and providing tailored product purchase suggestions gives the customer the impression that they are valued and important – two things that help generate brand loyalty. Your e-commerce site needs to be as unique as the traffic it receives. With website bounce rates exceeding 55% and average e-commerce site conversion rates purportedly hovering around 2%-3%, you’re doing yourself (and your consumer) a disservice by adopting a “set it and forget it” static model. Ignoring site personalization will undoubtedly place you in the bottom percentile of those metrics.
3. High-Res Product Images
It may seem too obvious to mention, however it must be said that high resolution product images are a staple of any successful e-commerce site. It’s not enough to just have great product photos; consumers want options. The use of multiple photos, from different angles shown contextually (i.e. the product in action/use) has been shown to increase sales conversions by as much as 9%. Conversely, the use of stock images showed a decline of visitor engagement according to a 2010 study by the International Journal of Electronic Studies.
4. Standout Product Pages
Hand in hand with great photos and graphics are great product pages. What makes a product page great? A few components of standout e-commerce pages include:
- Well written, SEO-friendly content
- Sensible product categories
- Responsive design
- Organized and uncluttered page layout
- Prominent calls to action
- Trust badges (i.e. TRUSTe, Verisign, BBB)
- Payment processing options (i.e. Google Checkout, PayPal, Visa, Mastercard)
- In/out of stock details
- Fast page load times
- Product Video
- Inclusion of product or company policies (i.e. return policies, payment options, customer service details, and shipping and handling information).
In other words do all of the work for your customer so they can focus on completing their purchase.
5. Product Reviews
Provide for and allow customer reviews (both good and bad) on your site. This accomplishes a few things. Firstly, it increases the unique content on your site which is an SEO win. Secondly, it establishes credibility. If you’re the only one talking about your product there is a decrease in trust for the consumer because you’re a biased commentator. Letting your customers give their own opinions and feedback regarding your products or services is a display of Social Proof. Other visitors to your site will see that people have purchased products from you before and will, in turn, see validation in this.
6. Product Recommendation Engines
As its name implies, Product Recommendation Engines serve up relational products via algorithmic calculations. These calculations are based on past or popular purchases or browsing patterns of other visitors as well as products that naturally complement each other. By providing these alternate recommendations you have created opportunities to:
- Increase revenue
- Collect valuable preference and consumer behavioral data you may not have otherwise received
- Initiate further communication with your consumer about additional product recommendation or offers.
7. Guest Checkout
Providing product recommendations in order to drive orders means that it’s imperative for your guests to have a fluid check-out experience. This includes making sure your site is technologically set up to provide a great user experience but also serves to avoid consumer shopping pet peeves. For example, there are quite a few online shoppers who don’t like being required to register on your site in order to complete a purchase. In fact, User Interface Engineering reported that there was a 45% increase in purchases when consumers weren’t required to login or register in order to check out. In addition, 25% of shoppers abandon their cart if website navigation is too complicated, 21% if the check-out process takes too long and 18% if website security checks are too excessive according to Shopify, an ecommerce solutions provider.
8. Usage of a CDN
Hand in hand with a seamless checkout experience is your site’s security and stability. With 15% of consumers giving up in their purchase if the website times out and 24% calling it quits if the website they’re shopping on crashes; your site’s speed and stability is crucial. A Content Delivery Network or CDN is a network of servers housed in multiple locations around the globe. The job of a CDN is to efficiently serve up your website to users. This means, it increases page loading speed by:
- Usage of several servers
- Proximity to users in varying geographical locations
Its benefits also extend to SEO since search engines factor in site speed into their algorithmic equations for ranking. The above list is a great starting point, though it’s not inclusive of every must have for an E-Commerce site. Feel free to leave a comment for what you feel are must have tools to stay ahead of the competition in today’s extremely competitive world of E-Commerce.