Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Best 101 Tips To Build A Successful eCommerce Website


1. A user should easily and quickly reach the preferred product. The home page should include a search bar, browse by category, special offers, shipping and credit card/payment option logos, discount segment, popular items, time saving "fly-out" menus and customer service links.

2. Navigation should be as simple and pleasant as possible. Structured and unambiguous paths through your cyber store can charm the customers and boost the purchase rate.

3. Filters cut down customer's search time. Sufficient filter options specific to various product categories should be provided to help customer quickly shortlist the products.

4. Allow sorting in as many ways as possible to help user rapidly decide on short listed items.

5. Page with intended product Details is where the customer would spend most the time. Invest in a differentiating experience- high quality photos shot at multiple angles if required. Maximise user interaction by adding zoom, rotate, expandable interactive images, flash, interactive tours, videos and presentations with ample technical details. Preferably put in a 360 degree product view.

6. Promote your Face/Featured Product by presenting it in an impressive and attention-grabbing manner. Display them on various pages like suggestion, product reviews, clearance areas, coupons and featured products sections.

7. Provide an exceedingly fast shopping experience. Display a progress indicator to inform them where they are, guide them through check out process and be very clear and obvious in labelling buttons, e.g. using "Add to cart" instead of "Save this product" or "Shop all departments" instead of "Products Home" make more sense to wider range customers.

8. Examine your competitors and decide on an attractive price point. Next store may be just a few clicks away!

9. Disclose your Shipping policies before hand. Reduce your shipping prices and offer free shipping if the margins permit.

10. Promote the website by enhancing the visibility in search result pages by utilizing paid inclusions, paid placement, contextual advertising.

11. Send e-mails to current or previous customers to improve relationship, loyalty and repeat business. E-mails can also help acquire new customers or convince current customers to purchase something immediately. You can add your advertisements to e-mails sent by other companies to their customers.

12. Use 'Display Advertising' with web banners consisting of static and animated content.

13. Divert sizeable traffic to your site by publishing reviews of products and services in popular websites.

14. Rewards your affiliates for each visitor or customer brought about by them for their marketing efforts.

15. Get listed on Business advertising firms that use telephone, snail mails, magazines, news papers etc as their medium. This will help attract customers new to internet world and not yet exposed to your competitors.

16. Consult usability experts. Implement a highly user-friendly and easy-to-understand interface for consumers of diverse age groups, global locations etc

17. Remove complexity. Keep pruning any such 'feature' that reduces simplicity or dilates consumer purchase time. For instance, rethink customer registration. People don't visit shopping sites to create accounts, answer surveys, questions or enter 'mother's maiden name'. They visit to buy things.

18. Product search results should not span over too many pages. Increase products displayed per page and you would be saving your customers time and effort!

19. Provide your buyers with independent customer service ratings in order to gain their confidence and persuade them to purchase from your online store.

20. Study purchaser's buying pattern, display additional products bought by similar customers and offer a one-stop destination for buyers in search of the best shopping deal online.

21. Offer price comparison assistance for multiple products selected. Ease to put side by side various features and price on single page can expedite decision making process and hence reduce consumer purchase time.

22. Offer useful tools like sales tax calculators, quantity and currency converters etc.

23. Allow the purchaser to be in command of his or her own shopping fortune: give a good amount of content that answer most of the expected questions, comparable features and freedom to choose- you can make the buyer feel happy about his or her decision.

24. Provide 'edit' button for personalized products. Using this, the customer may edit item details, selected product options besides quantity right from the shopping cart, anytime.

25. Find your best competitors and research which of their latest features has pulled most of the traffic. If they have, for instance, put up high quality videos that people love spend their time on, make sure you have better ones.

26. Offer added price comparisons from multiple partner sites. Buyer should be able to view competitors' products with comparable features, and eventually feel convinced to buy your product. And all this, without having to leave your website!

27. Research which of your competitors have been loosing buyers. Learn from others mistakes- It could be lengthy sign up procedure or site performance issues.

28. A Poor site performance can considerably impact your revenues. Keep a track of slow pages and unplanned outages. Capture the true customer experience and beware of the false sense of security synthetic approaches provide.

29. Adopt tools and techniques that allow you to measure the experience of real users across all web pages to value the true business impact of poor performance. Watch out for availability measures and your ecommerce-website speed, and tune your system accordingly.

30. Gears Up For Holiday Shopping seasons and presents buyers a safe, secure and comfortable shopping experience.

31. Analyse comprehensively why carts have been abandoned. Set up powerful stats system to track where your visitors dropped out of the purchasing process. A report on cart creation, modification & deletion, with date and time, quantity of items in the cart, total value of the cart etc can help decide adjustments and pick up lost sales.

32. Be aware of statistics and numbers over a week, month, quarter or year. Some of them are revenue, number of orders, shopping cart abandonment rate, average order value (Revenue/Orders) etc. Also scrutinize Top 10 exit pages and top 5 opening pages to your online store.

33. Cut down the number of clicks it takes for consumers to get from main screen to final purchase. Ease and reduction in time to buy helps achieve higher conversion rates

34. Over 50 percent of online purchasers discard their shopping list, also known as 'shopping cart abandonment'. Focus on simplifying checkout procedure by introducing, for instance, a single-page quick checkout feature.

35. Providing the additional convenience of storing consumers' payment and shipping information, eliminating the need to resubmit basic data with every purchase

36. Diversify checkout processes by including variety of ordering options such Gift Certificates and Wish Lists, Discount, Gift Wrap Options, support for Google Checkout and Pay Pal as alternate payment methods, instalment Payment Support and multiple Shipping and Tax Options.

37. Offer added convenience of storing customer's shopping cart, preferences, payment and shipping information. This does away with the need to resubmit basic data with every purchase.

38. Identifying return customers by retrieving details such as shipping address, phone numbers etc and assist then through purchase process without having them to login to your online store.

39. Allow return customers to edit & customise their details & preferences at anytime. Present a favoured dealing by greeting customers once their identity is verified by shipping address or phone numbers etc even before they login.

40. While using paid advertising, route your prospective purchasers to the relevant product page (or custom landing page) that is tied to the keyword being advertised! Don't show them your home page instead.

41. Set up your shop on Facebook, Orkut, Twitter and other social networking or blog sites. Show your products, item of the day, question of the week and prizes, etc. Take part in discussions and queries.

42. Don't build your site for the search engines. Build them for the end user. For instance, abstain from over usage of certain text on products details pages.

43. Change the name of your products popularly sold on other websites. This prevents people searching same product elsewhere in search engines and hence brings down price shopping.

44. Host your website on a server and IP located in the country of your target audience. This helps load pages fast, enhances search engines rankings in 'country specific' searches, and prevents your site from being filtered out if buyers use the search filter for sites only from their country.

45. Stay away from dynamic URLs when possible. eCommerce stores are at most risk of losing search engine positioning due to dynamic URLs.

46. Promotional Offers are very important. Planned them for first timers, repeat buyers and special offers for top customers.

47. Offer 'Referral schemes'. For instance 'Refer two friends and get x% additional or discount!' can work wonders.

48. People like the look of clean URL's (current page address in address bar). Buyers often snip them to mail to friends in order to refer them to a particular product to purchase. So keep them short, clean and simple. Do not append sessions to them.

49. Make everything clean and fast- remove clutter. Rethink decision to keep 'Wish Lists' or 'Tell a friend'. Remove all non essential navigation elements, hyperlinks and un related advertisements from the checkout process. Have a single page checkout if possible.

50. Make form filling easier.

51. For instance while entering credit card numbers, after field 1 (with first few credit card digits) is filled, let the ongoing numbers get typed into field 2 without need for a Tab press. Customers look at their card and their keyboard alternately while typing without looking at screen. Again, while entering date field, customers do not have time to read explanations on date format. Make it more obvious and/or smartly reformat. In case of some incorrect/incomplete information, let the user know this without them having to type in all the details again. Also, don't make the customer fill in the Credit Card billing & shipping address fields when they're the same.

52. To aid toolbars that have an 'Auto fill' Function, take care that forms use familiar and commonly used names for fields.

53. Accept international address, telephone numbers, and PIN codes. Remember that your site could be accessed world over.

54. Do not list a country at the top if you've got a country drop-down box. Always list it in alphabetical order. Don't preselect.

55. The user should get to what they seek in two to three clicks. Ensure there are multiple methods of getting around. No two pages on your site should be more than two to three clicks away from each other.

56. Make sure site search works better than expected. For instance, it should search more than product names- it should look for products by SKU, Model Number or even misspellings.

57. Make sure your item search can also filter by size and color. If buyer is considering a green shirt or blue trousers, make it easy to find other stuff that would match.

58. The 3 P's: Product name, Price and Purchase link should all be visible without having to scroll. Place them appropriately on a product page.

59. Don't waste visitors' time by requesting questionnaires and feedback forms. Have points of re-assurance such as bbb, bizrate or other ratings near the buy/add to cart button.

60. If you have a sizable user base make use of a product rating. Don't forget that user-generated comments can be great, but they also need to be closely monitored for fake entries.

61. Pick the right product to sell. Something people actually want to buy. If possible something lots of people want to buy.

62. If you sell software, allow immediate access to the full version and allow unlimited upgrades

63. Page with intended product Details is where the customer would spend most the time. Invest in a differentiating experience- high quality photos shot at multiple angles if required. Maximise user interaction by adding zoom, rotate, expandable interactive images, flash, interactive tours, videos and presentations with ample technical details. Preferably put in a 360 degree product view.

64. When a picture of the product is displayed with a link that says 'enlarge', essentially enlarge the photo rather than have it open in a new window with exactly the same size. Many popular sites do the same and it irritates the buyers.

65. If you sell the same item in different colours, offer separate pictures of each colour.

66. Simply letting purchasers know that item is also available in "Blue" is not helpful because there are numerous shades of blue.

67. Customize product item descriptions. Avoid identical text provided by suppliers which everyone else uses.

68. Ensure the title tag on product pages has product name first, and is unique and reflects what is on the page. Don't just display company name in the title tag of product pages.

69. Make available a "best sellers" or "most popular" listing. The sales improvement from this is noticeable. Select few products to feature on home page and rotate through them.

70. Display a list of "suggested products" and "Other customers also bought" with each item.

71. Understand that some of your competitors might have little understanding of retailing, buying into the outdated notion that losing money for first few years will bring in a lifetime of loyalty. Don't forget to actually turn a profit.

72. Before proceeding with checkout gather name and phone number as the first 2 fields and ring all the customers that give up before completing the checkout.

73. Let the customer view the shipping charge, preferably on the basket or a easy-to-find 'shipping charges' page

74. Tell the buyer the truth about your Shipping policies before hand. Place links to your shipping policy, privacy, returns & exchange policies where the customer can easily find them. Say, if you only ship to UK, say that right off and several times.

75. Hold enough stock and ship fast. Same day shipping ensures 'Wow' mails and guaranteed re-orders.

76. If the product ships via a carrier, send an email to the customer with the tracking number with a link to the carrier website to check order status.

77. Let the buyer navigate through your site, add to cart, view prices, shipping charges, and if possible, purchase without having to register. Eliminating lengthy registration process makes buying easier and quicker.

78. Always support alternate payment methods. Many people have had bad experiences with one and may prefer to use alternative simpler payment methods.

79. Do not list uninhabited and scam destinations in a ship-to standard drop down country forms.

80. Reply to any email queries promptly. If you answer the emails within 10 to 30 minutes, buyers will always thank you for a quick response, and will remember and talk about your great service. Never leave an email unanswered for over 8 hours. If emails are left unanswered for over 48 hours, you risk losing your customers

81. Newsletters can go a long way in building customer relationship and keeping them well informed. Have a newsletter sign up and send out newsletters.

82. Also, ask customers to sign up for your newsletter advisably after the payment is processed. After the payment is through, and buyers are looking at the "Thank you for your order" screen- it is the ideal moment to get them to sign up.

83. Always have a person answer the phone, not a recording. And have them answered promptly.

84. The internet is a cold, anonymous place. Do everything to bring a sense of personality and assurance to your website. For example live chat or a phone call with customer service can help greatly and give the customer a sense of who you are.

85. "About Us" page with nothing specific about the seller can prove a sure shot exit page for most buyers. Provide all necessary details, together with phone, fax number, a real 800# (not 886 or 875), a reachable and clear-cut address and possibly a picture of your office.

86. Keep the customer informed about the status of their order before they ask. Show prudence and foresight.

87. Unnecessary details like "Mission Statements", "Company objectives" etc need not be displayed. Display only what a customer wants to see. Every inch of your site and every moment a buyers spends reading them is precious. Spend them judiciously.

88. Act on what you learn from listening to customers, their comments and criticism. And act immediately.

89. Be patient with the difficult customers. Follow-up by whatever means you can and satisfy them. They become the most loyal.

90. "Problems completing your order? Call 800# now!" -Try adding this, possible to every step of the checkout process.

91. Have a "Help" link notably displayed. Visitors should have a place to go if there is a concern.

92. Sign up for Hacker safe, Verisign and Add as many credibility seals as you can. Display their logos to improve credibility.

93. It is advisable to not mention things like "Since 2002" or "Here's a picture of our new head office." Talk big about something that is really worth being told.

94. Instils immediate trust by calling your customer to thank them and confirm their order.

95. Have existent contact info. Do not hide your identity and location - many sites do.

96. Try to put the contact number somewhere on every page to instil confidence.

97. Rewrite your content in case you cannot exceed the expectations created by your site. Remember- under promise and over-deliver. For instance, deliver before promised date.

98. Guarantee matters. Offer a strong guarantee. Don't provide the numbers, like "This product is guaranteed x months".

99. Instead rephrase tastefully: "Try this product risk-free for 3 months. If you don't see improvements in results - if this is not the best you have ever owned - return it to us for a full refund."

100. You may get a few returns, but a strong guarantee can help increase overall sales figures.

101. Get the most web un-savvy person you know to test your site. You will have an insight into what needs to be done on usability front. Also, Spelling and grammar must be perfect. Have employees' proof read old pages on slow days.

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