The Anatomy of a Successful eCommerce Site

The eCommerce industry has become a gold mine of opportunity in the modern world. Without leaving your home, you can have access to the tools, connections, and resources that you need to set up shop and start running a business.

If you’re oblivious about how the whole thing works, yet you are determined to open your own eCommerce site, you can simply take courses from reputable websites and be equipped with the knowledge that you need.

According to Knowledgehut, “depending on the number of hours you can allot per day, you can learn the process of developing a solid eCommerce website in a matter of days through signing up on online courses.”

The process has become so attainable and affordable that the competition ballooned into the brutal war zone that it is today.

At such a high level of competition, having an ‘okay’ eCommerce site will no longer cut it. You need every facet of your business to be absolutely exceptional. And no – it’s not just about the storefront. It’s all about creating an outstanding shopping experience.

If you’re looking to learn the elements of what makes an amazing eCommerce site, then this guide (Read: 4 Tips to Building Your Ecommerce Brand from Scratch)  is what you need. Allow me to share with you the 10 characteristics of a winning eCommerce site:

1. Winning design

Imagine stepping into a grocery store that is poorly maintained. The walls have cracks, the roof has leaks, the floors are damaged with stains, and there is no clear sense of order with the way the products are displayed; will you seriously have the guts to buy their products?

Probably not. And I don’t blame you.

The thing is, if the store’s management couldn’t even handle things as basic as their store’s maintenance, it would make us doubt if they even did their due diligence to make sure that their products are fresh and fit for consumption?

The same idea applies to eCommerce sites.

If your site looks as if it is poorly maintained, or the design looks straight-up crappy, you can bet your family jewels that it will raise all sorts of red flags to your prospective customers.

(Read: How to Design an Ecommerce Store That Will Convert Visitors Into Customers)

Not only will they start to question your product’s quality, but they’ll also start to question your credibility as a seller wondering if you’re really legit or not.

2. Optimized for conversion

While making sure that your website looks fine and dandy is important, sadly, it just isn’t enough to succeed in this industry.

In addition to having a professional looking website, you also need to make sure that the design elements of your eCommerce site are optimized for conversion (Read: 4 Essential SEO Strategies to Boost Your Ecommerce Website). And by conversion, I’m talking about sales.

I mean, think about it. Is there even any point of you getting hundreds of thousands of visitors, if not a single one of them would buy from you?

At the end of the day, it all boils down to whether or not you can influence your website visitors to buy (Read: How Augmented Reality Can Boost Your E-Commerce Sales).

3. Transparent checkout process

One of the reasons why buyers end up abandoning their shopping cart is because of the eCommerce site’s hidden fees. Several eCommerce site owners have reported this.  Moreover the data gathered in surveys also agree on how hidden fees are the primary reason why people abandon their shopping cart.

In short, the lack of transparency can really hurt your eCommerce site.

A good way to combat this is for you to tell your audience early in the checkout process (ideally at the beginning) about the fees. Make sure that the fees are highly visible or highlighted so that they wouldn’t be missed by your audience.

Another strategy is for you to add the fees on your product’s pricing. That way, the first figure (or price) that they see becomes the actual amount that they have to pay.

4. Solid database Security

Whether you are running a small eCommerce site that carries just a few items, or you are operating a large-scale online retailer with thousands of products, all the critical information that you’ll obtain such as customer data and transactions will at some point be stored in your website’s database. In fact, it will likely store the details of every single one of your customers including their addresses, phone numbers, and their complete purchase history as well as the key financial details about your business like your total sales for the last month.

Of course, you wouldn’t want any of these sensitive data to be compromised or hacked.

If your eCommerce site’s data (especially your customer data) is stolen, it’s going to become almost impossible for you to rebuild the relationship and trust that you’ve established with your customers.

That being said, the question becomes:

  1. How do you protect your eCommerce database from potential breaches?
  2. What do you do if you cannot afford a full-time database security expert, or if you don’t have a full time Database Administrator among your staff?

The good news for eCommerce operators today is that there are companies offering on-demand dba services that can protect their website’s data. These companies usually offer pay-as-you-go options making their services more affordable for their customers.

Successful eCommerce sites understand the value of protecting their assets so they take the time and resources (Read: 4 Things Your Ecommerce Website Builder Platforms Needs to Have) to invest in database security.

5. Short and optimized checkout process

In addition to being transparent, you should make the entire payment process as seamless as possible for your customers.

That is why it is mandatory for you to integrate a payment system that accepts payments globally, and you need to support as many payment gateways as you can. Additionally, you payment process should work without needing more than one page for checkout.

A simple way to fulfill this is to utilize secure payment services such as 2Checkout. Of course, there should be plenty of alternatives depending on your shopping cart platform.

6. Email capture

Remember that there is more to running an eCommerce site than just selling your products, that is, if you want to gain an unfair advantage over your competitors.

In addition to selling, you also need to give ample amount of emphasis in generating leads. A good way of doing this (Read: 9 Airtight Online Selling Tips to Explode Your Ecommerce Business) is by capturing your web visitor’s email address.

When you have their email, you can easily nurture your relationship with them so those who haven’t bought from you yet will eventually buy, and those who have already bought from you will end up buying again.

There are several strategies when it comes to building your email list. The idea is to offer something of valuable – like a discount codes or free guides – in exchange for their email address. From there, you can start building your authority in your niche by sending the information your leads are looking for. You can also use your email list to promote any special offers or discounts, which we’ll talk about later.

7. Customer reviews

Incorporating reviews from your past customers is a great way to inspire positive emotions in your prospective buyers. They relate to testimonials and reviews, especially if it’s about how your previous customers were able to solve their problems by using your product.

Moreover, positive reviews help highlight your Unique Selling Points (USP). To stand out from the competition, you need to make your value proposition as obvious as possible, and customer reviews can help you with just that.

8. Good quality product photos

You will need to expose your products in their best light. Use only high-quality images in the highest resolution possible.

Keep in mind that the product image is probably the first thing your customer would see. Make sure it captures their attention. Also, try including additional details such as product dimensions to give them a clearer visualization of your product.

A reliable strategy is to use product photos in a plain background. However, it is also a good idea to use high quality photos of the product in action.

9. Special offers and promos

Everyone loves special offers.

A time-tested strategy to drive in sales is to offer discounts and other promos. Of course, you shouldn’t just offer these with reckless abandon. You should always be cooking up strategies on how you can maximize the benefits of using these marketing tactics.

One such strategy is to integrate automated promotional offers when your visitor tries to close the page. These are called exit offers and there are various tools out there that will help you accomplish this effect.

Also remember that you can always consult the customer data you’ve gathered from the increased sales. Review their purchasing behavior and their needs. This should help you optimize your product and your site for conversions down the road.

With any of the above methods, you can maximize the value you get from offering these special promotions.

10. Speed and navigation

What will a shopping experience be with a sluggish site and poor navigation?

Pay attention to your site’s loading speed if you want an optimal experience for your visitors. In fact, an average online customer is only willing to wait for a maximum of just 2 seconds before their buying mood is disrupted.  

If your files take a painful amount of time to load, then make sure you compress them into smaller formats. If you’re sending your customers PDF files and you’re looking to convert them to different ones test which types of files will load faster, then there are free tools that you can use for that too.

In addition to all these, the delivery of key information should also be your priority when planning your site’s layout.

For example, if it takes more than a few seconds for your visitor to find your value proposition in a landing page, then you’re doing it wrong. Make sure that they find it in an  instant when they open your landing page.

What’s next?

Are there tips or ideas (Read: 7 Tips to Manage Your Ecommerce Projects and Achieve Your Business Goals) that you feel should be added on the list above? If you answered that with a “yes”, then please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Photo credit – © vladimirs / Dollar Photo Club

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