eCommerce Website Checklist: What’s Missing From Your Site?
Most eCommerce stores you’re likely to encounter will vary wildly: different product ranges, different appearance and different strategies.
Despite the lack of similarities at first glance, most eCommerce stores follow the same set of underlying principles—a blueprint for success, if you like.
Today, I have looked at a number of the Internet’s biggest eCommerce stores, and put together a checklist of twenty “things” they all had in common.
Learn from the experts, and give yourself the best opportunity for success.
Let’s dive straight in.
If you want to succeed in the eCommerce world, you need to build your website on a set of solid foundations.
1. The Brand
Perhaps most important of all, your eCommerce store needs a brand. This is how you’ll differentiate yourself from the competition, and stick in the mind of visitors—generic stores just don’t cut it in today’s climate.
Your logo, your colour scheme, your images, your tone of voice and the products you stock all contribute to the way your website is perceived by visitors, and therefore your brand.
2. High Speed
The current generation have been brought up on instant gratification, and this seems to be rubbing off on the rest of us—according to some researchers, 40% of eCommerce visitors will abandon the website after only three seconds. Yikes.
Speed really is of the essence, so make sure you do everything possible to ensure your website is lightning-quick to load: a good web host, caching plugin and a content delivery network (CDN) can help with this.
3. Mobile Friendly
A visitor won’t spend time on a website they can’t view properly—would you?
Given that users will land on your website on devices with vastly different screen dimensions, a responsive website—one that adjusts to the screens of mobile and tablet users—is the minimum requirement for a website in today’s mobile-friendly age.
Think this isn’t important? Recent estimates show mobile and tablet users make up the majority of many big UK website’s traffic. Can you really afford to turn half of your potential customers away?
Of course, beyond looking nice and working properly, users should have no problems using your website.
4. Functional Design
How easy is it for a visitor to find their way around your eCommerce website? If they can’t find the products they are looking for, they will look elsewhere—after all, everyone knows where the back button is.
Your website must be easy to navigate: intuitive categories/subcategories, clean product grids, easy-to-follow navigation menus and a search function will all help customers to find their product.
5. Quick Start
But some visitors don’t know what they’re looking for! Even with the most intuitive navigation, if someone is completely clueless about your niche, they won’t have any idea where to start.
Point these people towards specific products—a simple widget listing brand new products and/or your best sellers is a proven solution.
6. Related Products
A visitor will often stumble across a product they like, but that doesn’t quite fit the bill.
In this scenario, making them start their search from scratch is counterintuitive. Make things easy by pointing them towards related products on each product page.
Product Page Optimisation
Your product pages are where you do the selling: great product pages will make or break your eCommerce store. Here are a number of things all product pages should have—make sure that your most persuasive elements are placed above the fold.
7. Unique, Persuasive Product Descriptions
Every product should have a compelling product description that highlights the benefits to the end-user—it is this sales copy that converts a visitor into a paying customer.
It’s also worth creating a unique set of product descriptions, rather than simply copying what your competition is using. Not only will this make you stand out, but there are also SEO benefits to this—and that means more traffic from the search engines.
8. Stunning Images
Of course, every eCommerce store will also require a good set of images to showcase its products. Depending on your products, your images could be more effective at selling than your product description.
To maximise sales, your images should be clear, detailed, and show your product in the best light. If you include an image-zoom function and shots from a number of different angles, that’s even better.
9. Product Specs
At first glance, a long list of product specs might appear boring for your customers.
However, today’s consumers are increasingly spec-savvy. They like to be fully informed before making a purchasing decision, and a product’s specifications are an important part of this. Make sure the specs are easy to find—many eCommerce stores include them on a separate tab on the product page.
10. Customer Reviews
Your product write-ups will provide customers with a lot of details they need—however, customers realise you’re hardly impartial.
Adding customer ratings and reviews is an ideal way to present an unbiased verdict, and this can be far more persuasive. In fact, Internet Retailer found customer reviews boosted eCommerce conversions by 14-76%—and that factors in negative reviews.
11. Shipping Details
A customer is unlikely to commit to buying a product before knowing the full cost involved. Make sure your shipping costs—as well as all relevant shipping details—can be easily accessed by visitors, by displaying them, or linking to them, at the bottom of the product page.
Always be as transparent as possible—shipping costs are a sensitive issue.
If you want a customer to buy your product, the process has to be as frictionless as possible—now that you’ve convinced visitors to make a purchase, don’t give them a reason to change their mind!
12. Intuitive Checkout Procedure
Will your least-technical visitor have any problems with your checkout process? If so, you’ll lose customers.
First, from the product page, the Add to Cart button should be highly visible. Next, the shopping cart should be easy to locate—usually positioned in the sidebar, or the top-right. The checkout page should be super-easy to access, and never more than one click away, allowing a visitor to bypass the shopping cart if they want. Finally, the checkout fields should be logical, and kept to a minimum.
13. Payment Options
Remember: You want the checkout process to be as frictionless as possible. The more payment options you offer, the less resistance you will meet from potential buyers.
Some people flat out will not hand over their credit card details—so offer them PayPal.
Others hate PayPal—so offer them card payments (I’d recommend Stripe).
Then there’s a group of people that strongly support cryptocurrencies—so accept Bitcoin.
It’s all about giving your customers one less reason to say “no”.
14. Guest Checkout
This same rule applies to the checkout.
You might think that forcing a visitor to register an account with you will encourage loyalty—for some, it will, but for others it could be one hurdle too many.
The best solution: let users that want to become members sign-up—always offer an incentive—but offer a guest checkout, too.
15. Trust Symbols
Online consumers are inundated with warnings of online scams and frauds. While much of this is nothing more than scaremongering, can you really blame someone for approaching a new website with their guard up?
If a person doesn’t trust you, they will not buy from you. Simple.
If you want to make a sale, you need to convince visitors that you are trustworthy. Displaying familiar trust symbols adds some much-needed credibility to your website: well-known logos (VISA, MasterCard, and PayPal) and secure checkout symbols are instantly recognisable and trusted.
Don’t just list your products then forget about them: a compelling promotional strategy is an effective way to encourage additional sales.
16. Compelling Deals
The modern consumer loves a bargain, and the Internet has made it easier than ever for bargain-hunters to find deals.
If you can convince your customers that a purchase represents outstanding value for money, they will have far less objections to making a purchase—take advantage of human psychology by offering discount codes, free shipping and regular cut-price sales.
17. Upsells/Cross Sells
When a customer is in buying mode, it doesn’t take much to persuade them to spend more.
Most successful eCommerce store have mastered the art of pushing customers towards higher margin products, with an effective upselling and cross-selling strategy.
For example, if a customer wants to buy a 16GB iPad, why not try to upsell them to a 32GB model? Why not try to cross-sell them a case and a stylus, which they will probably need? Why not bundle some related items together and offer them at a discount, like a PS4 with a few games?
Make sure your upsells and cross-sells are clearly visible on the product page—Predictive Intent found that 4.25% of customers will spend more as a result.
18. Wish List
A customer might love your products, but be in an unsuitable position to buy today. Don’t just let that person go, potentially never to return—let your customers add the products they like to a wish list.
You can send friendly reminders to these customers, and notify them when their products go on sale. When they are able to make a purchase, they are more likely to do so.
Alternative Traffic Sources
Becoming too dependent on the search engines is highly risky. eCommerce stores should always try to diversify their traffic sources as much as possible.
19. Mailing List
One of the staples for success online, eCommerce stores should look to build their own mailing list.
This gives you a highly targeted list of potential customers—ones who are more likely to buy your products—who are never further than an email away. This makes it a cost-effective way to drive repeat traffic to your store.
Place a sign-up form on every page of your website, as well as an incentive to subscribe.
20. Social Integration
Social media is an effective traffic source for eCommerce stores.
Make sure you place social sharing buttons on every page of your website, so that people can share your products with their friends. Adding social follow buttons to your sidebar, too, is a great way for you to stay in touch with your social media fans.
Now, nobody in the world can guarantee you success.
However, having analysed a number of the biggest eCommerce stores on the Internet, there were a number of recurring themes cropping up again and again—these have all been included in today’s guide.
If you include everything featured today on your website, I think you give yourself the best possible chance of achieving success with your eCommerce store. And the great news is, with an open-source WordPress eCommerce platform like WooCommerce, it’s highly likely that you’ll be able to find all the extensions, plugins and educational resources you need.