If you are the proud owner of an online store or are thinking of having one built for your business then it goes without saying you want to get the best possible return from your investment. There are a number of ways to make an ecommerce website stand out and get better sales and conversion rates and these are the top 5 I have come across in my many years building online shops for people.
There are two options when starting an online store.
1. You can get an off the shelf package like Magento, X-Cart or OS Commerce which may already include a couple of these. If they do not there are typically modules (additional programs) that you or a web designer can plug into the site for you to achieve it.
2. You can have one built for you from scratch. This is usually the more expensive route but you will get EXACTLY what you want from your store rather than having to fit around the system that comes out of the box.
Both work well and I have seen multi million turnover business using both so do not get too hungry up on one or the other.
OK, here come the features you should look at getting on your store, why they are so good and what they do for you and your site visitors.
1. Product filtering systems
There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to find what you want. Filter systems allow the site visitor to narrow their search once they are in a category on a website. Take TVs as an example here. A good filter would allow the visitor to narrow the TV category down by plasma or LCD, screen size, input types on the back, built in Chanel decoders, audio and video outputs, dimensions and the list could go on.
Now as a browser on your site looking for a 28 "plasma with built in Freeview decoder you have just given me the power to narrow your selection of 200 TVs down to just the 10 that meets my exact criteria.
You've given me exactly what I want and fast which is one large key to unlocking increased sales. Show the customer what they want to buy!
2. Zoomable images
I can not touch anything on your website and it's just like looking through a window of a shop. If I'm going to buy I have to have all the information I need and no unanswered questions. If I have a doubt I'm going to have to think. If I have to think I'm not buying right now!
Zoomable images allow the user to see more detail of a product. Take a dress as an example here. I'd like to see whether the hem of that dress is double stitched or not. That tells me how good the quality is and if it's worth what is being charged on the site. By allowing me to zoom in and see the detail on that hem you've answered my question, taken away my doubt and helped me get that one step closer to clicking that "buy now" button!
3. Recently viewed products
This is a really simple idea that many sites do not utilize enough. I'm browsing your store and I've seen 3 or 4 things I like the look of. I'm flicking through and suddenly decide "yes, that red shirt is the one I like best". OK now where was it?
Yes, you can navigate back to it but on larger stores that might require anything up to 3-5 click to get the product again. That's not too bad is it but what if I spot something else while navigating back to the product? I've just gone off on another tangent and have not made that purchase. Now I'm in jumpers looking at those and can not decide what to buy! I think I'll have a think and come back later.
We've all done it have not we.
The recently viewed system is just a little box usually in the bottom area or left column under the navigation that just shows the last 5-10 products a visitor looked at. It allows simple one click navigation to the products they have been interested in and probably want to buy. Give visitors that ease of navigation that they want and help them buy faster, it really will increase your sales.
4. Upselling extra products
Very simple but very powerful if done correctly. This is just another step you take people to when they shop. When you add something to your cart you are typically taken to the cart page and told you just added the item. Sounds silly but it's actually quite important for a shopper to get confirmation they ordered the right thing. This page is often underused and does nothing more than just show them what they added. Why not say "hey, you might also want to take a look at these" while they are on that page. Select related products that might be of interest to the one they just added to the cart and give them the option to either checkout or buy something else. What's the worst that can happen? They can either buy more from you or just that one item. It's a win-win for you.
5. Single page checkout
This is the big one. If you have a store that has statistics on how many people make it to checkout and bail out you will know it's high. I've seen stores with a 70% and higher customer bailout (leaving the store at checkout) just before they enter their card details.
Why? It's just because the checkout is too complicated.
Many stores utilize a 3 or 4 stage checkout system. You go to your cart, hit checkout, enter your address details, confirm the order details are correct, enter your card details and then you are done. I've seen stores with even more steps like select your shipping method separately.
It's just too long winded and every time you present me with more information or more forms I'm just going to get annoyed and think "I can not be bothered"!
Single page (or one page) checkouts are exactly what they sound like. You have one large form split into 3 or 4 sections and the visitor works through it one section at a time. Never taken away from the page until they have completed it and hit that complete order button. This way there are no distractions and they know what they have to do right from the start.
This can be the trickiest to implement on some off the shelf store systems but will be the one thing that changes your store from a failing one to a profitable one. Do this today!