The online shopping sphere is increasingly becoming more competitive. Customers are consistently returning to the web to research and purchase products they otherwise would have left their home for. While this opens up opportunities for small online retailers that may not have the financial backing to run a brick-and-mortar store, they are also competing against big name brands selling their products online and online only giants, like Amazon.
For these smaller, niche online stores to set their company apart from large retailers, they’ll need to make the customer buying journey meet or exceed expectations for a completed checkout.
7 Features to Include on Your E-Commerce Site
1. Simplify Shopping Categories
There is nothing more frustrating to an online shopper than visiting a website and not quickly being able to find what they are looking for. Making your main navigation as easy-to-navigate as possible is key to keeping your customers on your site and shopping. A rule of thumb is to remember, the less clicks it takes for a customer to get to a product they are looking for, the better. Look at your reports and analytics to see where visitors are dropping off your website and then adjust your navigation accordingly.
2. Integrate a Site Search
The simple truth behind adding site search functionality to your e-commerce website is that it helps with conversions. In an article published by Econsultancy, they share that a site with search functionality converts visitors at 4.63% versus the average of 2.77% of sites that don't have a search bar. These additional purchases contribute to 13.8% of revenues.
A reason for the higher conversion rate? Visitors using the search bar are typically in the late stages of the buyer’s journey. They are finishing up product comparisons or are ready to make a purchase. That’s why it is imperative to find a search system that will return relevant results. Better yet, consider a search bar that provides an auto-finish feature to help generate products as the user is typing.
3. Utilize User-Generated Content
To set yourself apart from the big name box stores selling their products online, turn to your current customers and fans. User-generated content can showcase support for your product. It’s taking your social networks and tying them back to your website. A good example of a company using user-generated content is, Poler Stuff, a Portland based outdoor apparel store. With #campvibes in their main navigation, they encourage their customers to show off products across all social networks using the hashtag.
Another way to get customers involved in your brand? Let them decide which products go to production. Taylor Stitch of San Francisco allows their customers to crowd fund products and they'll deliver them to you in a month.
4. Create an About Page
An advantage to being a small online retailer is you can make your site more personal. In a recent blog posted on Moz, they mention the About page is one of the most trafficked pages on a website and should not only reflect the brand, but the brand’s customers.
View the About page as a chance to share your story, your roots and how you plan to grow. Tico Shaving did this perfectly with their multi-tab About page. From a timeline of their company history to their mission and raving testimonials, they’ve created a section on their site that promotes their goals and products, and sets them above their competition.
5. Offer Guest Checkout
In a Kissmetrics study, it was revealed that 23% of users will leave a shopping cart if they are forced to register. Providing users access to purchase products as a guest, will create less cart abandonment. More common than ever is an e-commerce site requiring member sign-up before even being able to access the website. This functionality may turn visitors away from your website before they even begin looking at products. Your goal should be to make the sale, even if the customer does not want to create returning login credentials.
6. Provide Exceptional Customer Support
Providing customer support is important for ecommerce websites of all sizes, but making it exceed shopper expectations is a must for smaller sites who are looking to build their reputation in the online retail space. Consider using several channels to offer support, including email inquiries, live chat and social media networks. In fact, according to Kissmetrics, “78% of customers believe that social media will be the next tier of customer service.” Making sure that you answer questions and complaints left to your social channels can help change the perception of your company and spread positive word of mouth for free publicity.
7. Keep on Blogging
Beyond the value that organic search brings with blogging, blogs can also build relationships with customers. It helps with product comparison, industry trends and answering questions your customers might frequently ask. You'll create valuable content for your customers to keep returning to your website.
While these are only seven ways to enhance a potential buyer’s experience, they can go a long way to help eliminate site or shopping cart abandonment. What other features help improve an e-commerce site? Let me know in the comments below.