Web design and development can be tricky at times - it's not just about having a pretty website, there are various things to consider in tandem. From UI and UX to content and performance, website design has multiple facets.
On top of this, different types of website need different approaches. The design and development process for eCommerce websites is different than, say, designing a corporate website or a portfolio website, because they have their own intricacies and challenges.
eCommerce websites also require more regular attention and long-term maintenance, simply because the products, prices, offers, and trends are constantly changing. So, we've pulled together 8 key elements to bear in mind when it comes to building eCommerce websites...
1. Establish the brand identity of the website
This is one of the top points in our post about why customers might hate a website. The visual identity of your site needs to match the expectations of your customers.
If you sell toys, you probably want to create a colourful and cheerful design. If you sell high-end or expensive products, you’ll want to create an elegant website. Or, if you sell sporting goods, you probably want to create a dynamic and sporty website. Match your website with your brand identity and stick to it. Easily recognisable brands have much better exposure and brand awareness.
That immediate visual identification is vital - if any website has a disconnect between its appearance and its content, customers will likely be put off. But if you've got a eCommerce site that doesn't quite match up, your visitors are less likely to trust you, and therefore less likely to buy from you.
2. Calls to action (CTAs)
Nothing confuses customers more than trying to find where to click next. If it's not clear how they move onto the next stage in their purchase, they won't waste time, they'll just leave. Very few sites sell something so unique that customers have no other options, so if your site is confusing or difficult to navigate, they'll go and find one that makes their life easier.
CTAs give your visitor a hint as to what to do next. It could be an 'add to cart' button, a link to their cart/basket, a button to click to continue shopping, and so on. They should be easy to see, and follow a sensible path through to purchase. Don't make people think - let them complete their transaction without any fuss. If you don't make it easy, you'll lose out on sales, especially from impulse shoppers.
If you want to upsell customers, CTAs can allow you to do that. Say you're selling a battery-operated toy... A button that shows up offering to add batteries to the basket is a quick and simple opportunity to increase the value of that sale. Make your upsell CTAs helpful and relevant - something that makes sense in the context of the purchase they're making - that way you look helpful rather than as though you're trying to wring more money out of people!
3. Guest checkouts
Checkouts are obviously the goal of a eCommerce website. So making it as easy as possible for your visitors to reach that goal, and complete a purchase, is essential.
One of the best way to do this is to not require people to start the process with a lengthy sign-up form. Sure, having customer information for marketing and nurturing purposes is important, and turning people into repeat visitors through targeted follow ups is great. But if you reduce the friction by taking out that sign up process, you offer people a chance to buy even if they're in a hurry or don't want to join yet another website. According to data found by nchannel, 23% of shoppers abandon their baskets if they are forced to register an account.
A guest checkout option allows people to see something and buy it without having to become a member. As you'll need to get their billing and shipping details, name, and email address in order to fulfil the order, you could do what other sites have found very successful - allow a guest checkout but add a tick box at the end of the process to create an account.
Instead of stopping the visitor's flow from seeing the product to buying it, you let them complete that process before they decide if they want to sign up. A smoother process is a happier process.
4. Good UI and UX
Building any kind of website should include a focus on user experience. Building a eCommerce website is a situation where that experience is even more important.
The thing about eCommerce websites is you have a specific target: to get sales. Your website’s success is not just measured by the number of visitors coming to your website but also your conversion rate and revenue. Ultimately, you have to dictate the customers’ journey; you have to imagine if you are the customer and review your flow critically.
Is it easy to find the information you need? Does the site appear trustworthy? Is it easy to look around? Is the checkout process simple and secure?
One of the biggest mistakes in eCommerce websites is overwhelming customers with too much information. Good UI and UX design should guide customers to their goal without overloading them with information.
The information available should also be relevant to the page they're on and the needs they have before moving to the next page. What information might someone want before they decide to add that product to their basket? Don't overwhelm with irrelevant information, but make sure you include what's necessary. For example, don't hide shipping costs - Shopify reported that 56% of online shoppers abandoned their baskets due to unexpected costs at the checkout stage.
5. Security and accepted payment methods
This is one of the essential attributes that differentiates eCommerce websites to any other website. eCommerce websites must build more trust with customers - if you want someone to willingly provide their payment and personal details, you need to have a website they feel comfortable and confident with. Especially as eCommerce websites are the top targets of cyber attacks.
All eCommerce websites should have an SSL certificate, without question. SSL encrypts and secures information, and makes sensitive details like passwords and card details unreadable to protect against theft. In addition, security is required to meet PCI compliance for any business that accepts credit card payments.
Using alternative checkout and payment methods - like Paypal or Amazon checkouts - is another way to increase the likelihood of a visitor completing a purchase. If someone can use a system they already know and trust, they will be more confident in making that purchase - especially if they know they can get their money back should they never receive their items. Having that extra layer of backup can make a wavering visitor into an actual customer.
6. Responsive design
Statistics show that mobile traffic has surpassed desktop traffic, and Google now focuses on mobile responsiveness as a key ranking factor. So, it's no surprise that mobile usability is an essential component for any website.
In 2017, more than 30% of the world's population owned a smartphone. According to eMarketer, nearly 59% of ecommerce sales happened via mobile in 2017. In the UK this year, it's expected that 18% of all purchases will happen online.
However, reports show that only a small fraction of people - 12% - find shopping on mobile to be convenient. So, fixing the design and making it easier and more convenient for your visitors to actually browse and buy will put you ahead of the competition.
Going back to our point about payment methods from earlier, including Apple Pay and Android Pay as options can make a big difference to mobile eCommerce conversion rates, especially for impulse purchases. If a customer simply needs to use a fingerprint rather than type out all of their details on a tiny keyboard, it's much easier for them to convert and buy.
Don’t focus on just the website itself, try looking at other aspects that support the website as well. When you're designing and building your site, include Google Tag Manager, so you have deeper insights into what people do while they're looking around, and where they might drop out of the process. Include the appropriate cookies and pixels, and you'll be able to set up targeted remarketing campaigns that highlight your products directly to the people who have already shown an interest in them.
SEO is one of the key ways to grow your site's traffic - you want to make sure you're visible online. If you have a eCommerce store, you need to think carefully about how you're going to structure your site - avoiding duplicate content is important, for example, and a sensible architecture will help search engines crawl your site.
Do you want to include a blog? You'll find many eCommerce sites do, simply because that content provides ample opportunities to rank for relevant keywords and provide useful information to your potential customers. A site with a well-maintained, insightful blog will have more credibility than one without.
8. Reviews & feedback
Reviews are one of the ways that online shoppers help decide between different products or different providers. How else can they be sure that what they're buying is legit and does what they want it to?
In fact, 55% of shoppers say that online reviews influence their buying decisions.
eCommerce websites should include reviews and feedback sections, displaying your customers' opinions about the product. Reviews and feedback are imperative to function as part of your credibility as a brand. They also force you to build a good and honest relationship with customers and not just sweep the bad reviews under the rug.
All businesses are likely to get a bad review at some point but use it as an opportunity to resolve the issue by replying appropriately and offering assistance. Remember, the more reviews you’ve got means there are people actually buying your products which means your products are seen as legitimate.
In addition to your own review section, you could include links to external review sites like TrustPilot or Feefo. These sites provide more credibility, because you as a business have no control over which reviews are posted - so visitors know that whatever your star rating is, that's an accurate reflection.
If you’d like to find out more about building eCommerce websites, reach us out at SpiderGroup so we can help you create the right site - one that’s profitable for your business.