Nowadays, virtually anyone with minimal experience can set up a website, thanks to easy to use platforms. This has created a flood of competition in the eCommerce space, which, in turn, creates more options for shoppers. Want to buy a t-shirt? You’ll find thousands of online retailers stores to choose from.
So, how can a retailer differentiate itself from the competition? And how can potential shoppers decide where to shop? It’s all about who provides the best customer experience and the most value. That’s why giants like Amazon have been able to succeed and remain on top despite tough competition: They provide an excellent customer experience.
From having a user-friendly design to having a faster website, the more value you can add to your eCommerce store, the better. After successfully managing hundreds of eCommerce stores, we have compiled the ultimate list of how to add value to an eCommerce site right here. Use this information as a guide for your next eCommerce optimization. Let’s get started!
Have a Quick Loading Time
Did you know that approximately 40% of online shoppers will abandon a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load? No matter how beautiful your store may be, if it’s slow, your bounce rate will rise and your conversion rate will drop dramatically. Again, with so many eCommerce stores online, why would a shopper settle for the slowest website? Slow loading times can put you at a competitive disadvantage.
Additionally, slow loading times can hurt your organic rankings. Search engines like Google know that slow websites provide a bad customer experience, so they will lower your ranking in search results if your site speed isn’t up to par.
To avoid losing a huge portion of your customers, aim to implement a design that loads all of its assets quickly. Don’t worry—it’s entirely possible to achieve a beautiful store design without making all of your visitors tap their feet in impatience.
Between compression tools, content delivery networks, and platform-specific tweaks and plugins, you can ensure that even your largest images and graphic elements load straight away. Here are a few tips to speed up your load times:
Compress Large Image Files. Make sure your files have enough resolution to zoom in on the photo, but that they are compressed enough to avoid slow load times. Note that file size and file resolution are two different things. Using Photoshop, select the “save for web” option to optimize images. If you don’t have the program, there are plenty of free services online that allow you to optimize images in just a few seconds.
Make Sure Your Hosting Is Suitable. Consider chatting with your host about upgrading your plan if things seem a bit sluggish.
Look Into Content Delivery Networks. These deliver cached versions of your store to visitors from a local server. Companies like CloudFlare can help you get this done.
Rely on fewer 3rd party technologies. Overloading the site with 3rd party scripts will slow down any site. Consider leveraging suites with multiple features. Remember, slow sites don’t get used, so 3rd party features won’t matter if your site is slower. Use this link in Google Analytics to find the tools responsible for slowing the site down:
Make It a Mobile Enabled Shopping Site
Mobile shopping has been on the rise for quite some time, now. In 2013, 15 percent of all eCommerce sales were through mobile devices and, just in 2015, one-third of all eCommerce purchases during the holiday season were made on a smartphone.
The real wakeup call came in May 2016 when Google made an official announcement about their mobile-friendly algorithm that would give priority to mobile-friendly sites. Today, having a mobile-friendly site is not an option but a requirement.
So, if you don’t have the best mobile experience, it’s time to invest in incorporating a responsive website design. This ensures that users get an optimal experience, regardless of whether they choose to shop from a smartphone, tablet, or desktop.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when optimizing your design:
Make your buttons big and visible. Having buttons go across the mobile screen is a great idea because it makes them easy to see and click.
Implement a mobile-friendly menu. For instance, a menu that opens by tapping on a “hamburger” icon (the three lines parallel to each other)—see example below.
Use Multiple Languages
Having an English-only version of your site can make your international potential customers feel alienated, thus scaring them away and reducing your potential revenue. Even if your focus is not on building an international business, having different language options available adds value for ESL (English Second Language) users in the United States.
Offering an eCommerce site in different languages will allow your foreign visitors to read and navigate your site in their native language, helping them feel more at home. This is exceptionally important to utilize if your eCommerce site sells products that do well with specific cultures and ethnicities.
Fortunately, there are many plugins you can use to easily translate your site. For instance, Shopify has a plugin named Langify that translates a website in minutes. Although this can be a good solution, don’t forget to review all translated information to check for errors. Sometimes they can make a sentence seem choppy.
Offer Incentives to Create an Account
This is where having a creative strategy will help you excel. By default, visitors are going to be hesitant to sign up for an account unless they are offered an incentive to do so. These incentives should provide them some sort of immediate benefit, such as taking 10% off their current order.
The benefit of having your visitors create an account is twofold. From one side, you’ll get their contact information, which is key to nurture visitors until they make a purchase and, even after purchase, to encourage them to return. On the other side, having an account will allow your customers to check out faster once they are ready to make a purchase—their information is already stored in the system, so there will be less information to fill out.
Integrating social logins will further make it easier for loyal customers to buy from you. Facebook and Google logins account for more than 90% of social sign-ins. Since most people have the Facebook or Google apps installed on their phones, these users arrive at your site in a “logged in” state. This enables unique messaging opportunities with tools like AddShoppers to send automated messages to drive up order values and referrals.
Provide One-Click Checkout
Amazon released one-click shopping all the way back in 2000, yet this is somehow not the eCommerce standard for most small merchants. If a customer signs up for your site and has already placed an order, there is no need for them to have to re-enter the same exact information to make their next purchase.
While building a long-term relationship with your customers, you should constantly be taking down barriers in the checkout process. One-click shopping makes the entire checkout process smoother and more convenient for customers.
Amazon has had a patent for this one-click buying process for almost 20 years, and companies like Apple license it. Luckily for many retailers, that patent expires this year. It will be interesting to see what will happen in the eCommerce industry now that more retailers will have access to this technology
Offer Guest Checkout
As the name indicates, a guest checkout is the checkout process that doesn’t require the creation of an account—customers just check out as guests. This process can ease the purchasing decision by reducing the amount of barriers or steps to complete a purchase.
Many people are hesitant to create an account before they have enough trust in the business, or they just don’t want to bother taking the extra time to fill out a form. Guest checkouts allow for a faster purchase process that benefits both the retailer and the customer.
Create a Powerful Search Feature
Today’s customers are impatient. They don’t want to be bothered to click through the site directory to search for what they want. Having a search box on the site allows customers to find what they are looking for fast, and it also allows retailers to learn more about visitor’s preferences.
For example, if you find out that many people are looking for “summer dress” in your search box, you may want to consider adding a section in your store for summer dresses. Having a search box has become a basic requirement for any website.
Now, the trick is to account for typos, misspellings, or other types of human errors. In that way, you’ll make sure your visitors will get accurate results. Amazon accounts for this type of errors by offering suggestions to searches. It helps visitors discover new products and also helps them find the ones they are looking for.
Launch a Subscription Program
Product subscriptions offer many benefits for retailers. One of them is guaranteeing to sell a fixed amount of inventory. This can be helpful when planning how much inventory to purchase or have in stock while providing more financial security that such inventory won’t go to waste. This can help estimate inventory turnover, which is especially important when selling perishable products that have a short lifespan.
If you’re considering implementing a subscription program, now is the ideal time to do so. They have increased in popularity, thanks to subscription programs like Amazon’s Subscribe and Save. This program allows users to subscribe to a scheduled delivery in exchange for a discount of at least 5%. As long as you don’t plan on increasing your product prices significantly, this is a great way to foster a long-term relationship with customers.
Offer Free Shipping
If there’s one thing that online shoppers love, it’s free shipping. Offering free shipping is a guaranteed way to improve your conversion rate, but it could also drain your profit margins if done incorrectly. If you can make the offer profitable, only then should you consider offering free shipping as an option.
If you do offer free shipping, you shouldn’t hide the fact until checkout. Try including a free shipping notice in your header and see how conversions change. It is recommended to do some A/B testing first to establish a conversion baseline with and without the free shipping header.
“Free Shipping on Orders over $X.” If the numbers aren’t working out in your favor to offer free shipping on absolutely everything, you could set a minimum order value that customers would have to meet to qualify. This not only will save you from draining your profits but will encourage customers to buy more products from your site.
Even though shoppers would not receive their goods without shipping, it is still psychologically perceived as a drain on value. By giving shoppers the opportunity to add more items in place of the shipping cost, eCommerce merchants can add value to the entire transaction.
Offer Free Returns
Free returns have become a perk for many online retailers, and they are a great way to combat buyer hesitation. This value-creating strategy is not without its pitfalls, however, as, if not monitored, it can drain profits extensively. Although having free returns as an option is beneficial, merchants would be wise to try to prevent returns by offering excellent service, accurate product descriptions and sizing, and high quality prior to the purchase.
Provide Order Tracking
Customers appreciate any type of information that can help them better track their order. For instance, shipping tracking codes can help you keep customers informed every step of the way. Additionally, automated order confirmation emails and shipping notification emails can help you build your customers’ confidence in their purchases and in your brand.
Another way you can help customers track their orders is through Facebook Messenger. Many companies are using automated Facebook messages to send shipping alerts to customers. This last method can even give you an edge over your competition.
As long as you have some type of order tracking, your customers will be satisfied. With so many websites offering order tracking, it has become more of a requirement than an option.
Offer Discounts for Checking Out Within a Certain Timeframe
A highly effective means of pushing checkouts is to offer a discount if the customer completes the checkout within a certain time. This strategy can help you increase your conversions and prevent customers from delaying purchase decisions.
The massive discount online retailer Wish.com starting using a countdown timer that rewards visitors a 5% discount if they check out within five minutes. This gentle push also includes a monetary amount (save $1.55 on this order) to help trigger a purchasing decision. There are a few plugins that can help you accomplish this, such as Powr for Shopify. You can also use different platforms like AddShoppers for this. Test different offers and see which one works best for your business.
Include a Surprise Free Item to Encourage Checkout
Similar to the point above, the goal is to encourage checkout before shoppers get distracted or get overloaded with decisions or information.This is a great way to get creative and add value to your site. Not many merchants surprise their shoppers with free items, yet many are very eager to offer them steep discounts to check out. A pop up with a branded and relevant item is a great way to add value to the transaction and build brand equity with your shoppers. There are different ways to accomplish this, including platforms like AddShoppers.
Add a Wish List Option
Sometimes visitors just want to browse your site and are not ready to make an immediate purchase. Instead of giving the only option of adding items to a cart, which runs the risk of getting abandoned, you could create an Add-to Wish list option. This will accurately reflect your cart checkout rates to focus purely on shoppers and not browsers. This is something else that AddShoppers can add to your eCommerce store.
If your wish list is integrated with email, you could also kindly remind visitors of their wish list, and even send them content related to the products they were looking at. Also, make your wish list easy to share. In this way, you’ll encourage potential customers to share their wish list so others could buy their favorite products as gifts.
Offer Loyalty Programs
Merchants can build rapport and a relationship with customers by opening a loyalty program. Shoppers love to save, and they love rewards. Creating a loyalty program that allows customers to rack up points which could go toward something they want creates an incentive to continue shopping with you as opposed to your competitors.
Having a loyal customer base will help curb marketing and advertising costs, in the long run, since you would ideally have a list of people already familiar with your brand and products.
The sheer amount of online fraud and account hacks is astounding.Both eCommerce merchants and their customers get burned with ineffective security. Twenty percent of all small online businesses get hit by fraud every year, and sixty percent of those stores are forced to shut down within a few months. This makes it equally important to not only have great onsite security but, also, to showcase it to reassure your visitors their sessions are safe.
A few precautionary measures online merchants can take are the following:
Set payment limits from one account.
Monitor all transactions.
Use an address verification system to compare billing address entered to the one linked to the card.
Update eCommerce and security software regularly.
Require the CVV on the back of the card.
Require stronger account passwords.
In a survey conducted by Econsultancy, participants were asked which factors help them decide whether or not to trust a website. Trustmarks were the winning factor, providing the highest sense of trust to participants.
A trustmark can be any type of seal or logo that provides credibility to a site. For instance, some of the most popular trustmarks are the following: Better Business Bureau, SSL security, and Chamber of Commerce, among others. Note that they can be even more important for new businesses since they are the ones that need to build their reputation and gain trust.
Increase Types of Payment Methods
By accepting any type of payment method, you’ll make sure that no shopper is unable to purchase items in your store, thus potentially increasing your reach and conversion rate. For instance, PayPal is a great addition to a list of payment methods. Many people use it, and it helps them feel safe, knowing that their payment information won’t be stored in the system.
Allow for Real-Time Inventory Management
It’s a common complaint from those who frequent online stores—a customer goes through a lengthy process of placing an order, only to find out later that the item purchased wasn’t really in stock. eCommerce shopping carts should allow for real-time inventory management, which ensures that what customers see on their screen is currently available for delivery to their doorstep.
There are many eCommerce platforms that already have this solution built-in but, if you need more advanced solutions, there are plenty of third party providers online. You can also go a step further and show numbers for low inventory quantities. This increases the visitor’s urgency to make a purchase. As you can see below, Amazon currently uses this strategy for all its low-stock inventory products:
Add a Visible Sales Section
Instead of forcing your visitors to go on a detective hunt trying to find the best deals on each of your category pages, you can make a clearly outlined Sales Category. This category would compile all your discounted items and promotions into a single consolidated area. It will not only help inbound traffic navigate to where they want to go, but it can also be utilized in targeted social media posts and other content strategies.
For example, you could create landing pages that emphasize things such as 15 Best Summer Clothes Deals in 2017 which highlight your discounted items and link to the sales category page. If these pages receive traction and are optimized appropriately for search engines, you’ll be able to filter in shoppers looking for a great deal from new sources.
Make sure your sales section is properly categorized to allow users to efficiently find the products they are looking for. Otherwise, they would have to skip pages until getting to their ideal products, which creates a poor user experience.
Create Informative Landing Pages
Landing pages are not only an excellent way to generate leads and direct incoming traffic to appropriate sections of your site, but they can also be incredibly informative. Your landing pages should be one of the most value-creating aspects of your site.
They should clearly showcase why your eCommerce store is better than the rest and what sets you apart from your competitors. The easy way to go about building a smart landing page is by using a service such as Unbounce or Instapage.
If you choose to go your own route, and you have the design expertise, you should study your Google Analytics to see if your design and content updates are making a significant impact. Also, regardless of the solution you select, A/B testing different messages, images, or overall offering is highly recommended.
Create a FAQ Page
Many businesses have utilized a FAQ page to great success. By answering any possible questions visitors may have, you will be able to quell any purchase hesitations, redirect them to further content on your site to learn more, establish yourself as a helpful source, and minimize the number of returns and dissatisfied customers.
These are just some of the points you should address in your FAQs:
Shipping international or domestic. If you ship internationally, are there any countries you don’t cover?
Return policy. There should be an entire section for your return policy, but give a brief summary with the link to find the entire policy.
Quality of materials and care.
How to find an order status.
See Forever21’s FAQ section below to get some ideas. Each plus mark expands the section to related topics.
Create a Useful and Relevant Blog
As you know, content has become the new form of search-engine marketing. It’s estimated that over 80% of companies employ some sort of content strategy, but only 32% feel their strategies are effective. The truth is, content marketing is a tough animal to wrangle.
To outsiders, content seems simple: Write a blog, post an image, create a meme, and … presto! You’ve got a blog. It isn’t that easy. Companies must create highly targeted and high-quality content to receive the results they desire.
One of the secrets to powerful content marketing is making your customer the hero. For example, seek out your customers and get their stories. Ask them why they choose your brand over others, what your brand means to them, and how your brand makes them feel. Imagine the meaningful content you could create while putting your customer center stage.
Write Product Descriptions that Sell
Writing a product description seems simple enough until you realize that crafting a description that merely describes your products isn’t enough. Your product descriptions are not only a great way of delivering key information to your readers but can also help you outrank your competition, as well as convert shoppers into long-term customers.
An Aerial View of the Product Description Copywriting Process:
List all of your features and benefits. What is it that makes your product stand out? Don’t worry about being brief, here—this is simply a rough draft of information.
What are the core components of your brand that you want to showcase? Do you have a mission? Is your brand more fun or professional? Try a second draft of your product description in your own voice that is true to your brand.
What are your shoppers looking for? Be sure to address those specific qualities and solutions to their problems first.
Refine, emphasize for persuasion, use bold and italic fonts, and polish.
Read out loud.
Test and iterate.
Add Videos of Your Products
An excellent way to minimize customer dissatisfaction is to accurately showcase your products and all of their features. A high-quality product video is a great way to both demonstrate your products and keep visitors on your product pages for longer, which will help SEO.
A good product video will inform visitors of the product’s features, what to expect, and why this product would be a good purchase—in not too overly a promotional manner. If you don’t have the resources to commission a professional product video, it is very simple to do it yourself.
Even your DIY version will add tremendous value to your product pages. All you need is an iPhone and the physical product, and you are good to go.
Upsell Your Products
Upselling is a sales technique where a merchant tries to sell you a slightly more expensive product or add-ons to the product you are considering. According to Econsultancy, upselling is 20 times more effective than cross-selling online. Sometimes your customers don’t know that a better product is available, or they may be convinced that a different product may be a better fit for their needs. Upselling enables potential customers to discover new products and make a more informed decision.
Make sure you emphasize the difference and ask if the customer might be convinced to make an upgrade. Keys to Upselling:
Making your upsells related to the original product.
Being sensitive to the price range of your customers.
Keeping in mind that your product has to fit the original needs of your customers and that they may not be very enthusiastic about a higher price once they have an anchor price in mind.
Recommend Products Customers May Like:
Merchants can showcase similar products to the ones the customer has shown interest in by adding a product recommendation with suggestions. Merchants can effectively upsell complementary products, and shoppers will receive tailored recommendations based on items they are already interested in.
Zoom In on Your Products
By having high-quality images, you can allow your visitors to zoom in on your images. It’s essential to let customers see products in detail and let them zoom in on specific areas. It is so important that Amazon requires photos which are capable of using their zoom-in function.
Provide Live Chat
Customers may have questions about a product or some other part of the purchase process, so offering a live chat or a prominent contact number can be an effective way of saving a few sales. Statistics suggest that customers value live chat. Even if they don’t use it, it can provide a sense of comfort to know that help is available if needed.
Insert Social Proof
You may have seen a hot or best-seller graphic on some product pages or within a category list. Social proof tends to elicit a positive reaction from shoppers. For example, if you’ve seen that 15,000 people have bought a single type of bicycle pump, you are more likely to want to buy that bicycle pump over a similar competitor without any purchase history.
This social proof data can be extracted from purchase data, Facebook likes for specific products, or a few other methods, depending on your site and its social media presence.
Display Testimonials of Happy Customers
Testimonials are an excellent way to provide personalized social proof, but they are only utilized for purchasing products or services. However, this shouldn’t exclude merchants with less expensive goods from showcasing some sort of testimonial system.
There are ways to integrate a feed of positive tweets, Instagram posts, Pinterest pins, Facebook posts, etc. to rotate on your homepage or as a slider on every page.
Add Social Sharing Buttons
Social sharing buttons can encourage your visitors to share your products. In that way, your customers can become your very own promoters and allow you to reach a wider audience. Also, having your customers share your products instills trust in potential customers.
Insert Review System
If your site has multiple products with multiple variations, inserting an honest internal review and rating system could be extremely helpful for visitors to make a decision. It is critical to allow customers to leave honest reviews. It builds an atmosphere of transparency and credibility on your site.
The feedback from a bad review can be very enlightening market feedback, and it also allows you to open dialogue with customers to right any wrongs in their shopping experiences. If you don’t offer reviews on your site, your customers will look for them on other sites, anyway—so you might as well offer them yourself, giving you a way to review them.
Serve Content to Engage Visitors and Earn Conversions
A simple exercise: Name the three key reasons why someone should buy your product from you. Many retailers or brands will say things like product quality, sourcing, years of experience, quality of materials, etc. However, what do you do when a customer hasn’t consumed those key pieces of information?
Similar to how Facebook, Twitter, and other popular content sites notify the user and serve content, AddShoppers has proven that using native mobile-like notifications generates six times more engagement than traditional images and popups. These engagements capture visitor attention and enable the retailer to deliver key messages that assist the conversion path. Strategic placements around products lift conversion rates as well.
Like all types of personalization, A/B testing to deliver the crucial notification at critical points drives the largest results.
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Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.
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