Every online retailer should ensure that their store performs at its optimum efficiency 24/7, as competitors are just a click away. Follow the steps below to ensure your store is always available and efficient to use.
As E-commerce has developed so has the expectations of online shoppers. Gone are the days when slow loading websites, filled with errors and broken links would be tolerated. Today, the net savvy consumer expects high levels of efficiency with every site they visit whether this is the site of a large brand or a small business.
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Research has indicated that only 13% of online storeowners are confident that their sites are error free. Simple things like spelling errors, poor usability and an inability to access some pages top the list of complaints that online shoppers make about the stores they visit.
The good news is that your business isn't powerless to act. With some simple changes to your workflow, you can vastly improve the efficiency of your online store with a corresponding increase in sales.
Content is still king
You may view your store as just a collection of goods for sale, but your visitors' only see content. If you can ensure your web pages are filled with engaging well-written content that is error free, your visitors will reward your store with their loyalty.
When you place an image, text, graphics or video on a page, ask yourself if that content is as good as it could be. Have you performed quality assurance checks for basic things like spelling errors, or ensured your images are optimised for the web? Most consumers will give your pages just a few seconds to load. If they do not, they will click to another retailer.
Content also needs to be interesting, but be careful not to fill your store's pages with flashy graphics, or other technologies that get in the way of your visitors' finding the goods they want to buy. Look at the major online retailers. It's not an accident their websites have changed little over the last few years, and are not filled with flashing graphics or other cutting-edge web technologies.
Their sites are simple and effective to use, they allow their customers to find the goods they want to buy quickly and they make the checkout process just as painless. Consumers are increasingly time poor, so making sure your store takes up the least amount of their time is a bonus to them.
A picture is worth…
Images play a huge part in the buying decision of online shoppers. Your business now has a number of technologies it could use to enhance the images it shows to customers.
Test these technologies first before rolling them out across your entire site to ensure they offer the enhancements you are looking for. Some of the technologies your site could use include:
- Pop-up lightbox effects light Lightbox
- 3D image viewers and rotators such as 3DREV
- Web Rotate 360
- Image zooming tools including Photo Zoom and Magic Zoom
And don't forget to ensure that every image that you do upload to your site is optimised. There are a number of online services you can use to optimise your images, or graphics programs such as Photoshop, PixelMator and Pixlr can also handle image optimisation.
Often overlooked when a store's efficiency is concerned is how the e-commerce components of a site operate. Today there is a plethora of shopping cart and checkout systems available, with an equally diverse range of payment options for your site's customers. Look at your store's checkout and payment system. As yourself these questions:
- Can my customers buy without having to create an account?
- Have I offered the payment options my customers want to use?
- Does the checkout system have the minimum number of steps?
- Is every aspect of the purchase explained in full to ensure there is no confusion about price, delivery costs or returns?
- Does your checkout system confirm the order via email?
Chris Barling, CEO at Actinic says: "Sometimes, small changes can have a dramatic impact on sales. An example is where sites force buyers to create an account. Removing this restriction alone will usually provide a major boost, as many people don't wish to create any more online accounts, and remember yet more passwords. The best thing is to ask some friends to try buying on your site, and observe them while they give you a running commentary. This will usually yield some great ideas for improvements."
Navigation and layout
When a new visitor comes to your site, they have a number of preconceived ideas about how your site should operate. Your site's homepage should offer intuitive navigation and a search option.
Steve Krug the author of Don't Make Me Think, has some good advice on navigation: "The point is, when we're using the web every question mark adds to our cognitive workload, distracting our attention from the job at hand. The distractions may be slight but they add up, and sometimes it doesn't take much to throw us. And as a rule, people don't like to puzzle over how to do things. The fact that the people who built the site didn't care enough to make things obvious – and easy – can erode our confidence in the site and its publishers."
Today's web savvy consumers have sophisticated needs that must be met by your site. Don't confuse them with complex layouts and navigation. Work to ensure each of your store's pages is clear and concise. If you confuse a potential customer, or frustrate them with long and complex checkout systems, it's unlikely they will shop with your business again. Luckily the opposite it also true.
The big winner in online retailing are those businesses that constantly strive to simplify their sites, yet ensure they still have engaging content. Build site evaluation into your routine and take a minute to think before you place any new content on your store's pages. Is this content the best it could be?