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E-Commerce Best Practices: Make it pretty. Make it easy. Make it current.

August 8, 2017
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Why you? What makes your e-commerce site the one to go to when shoppers could easily go elsewhere? When it comes to the David vs. Goliath world of everybody vs. Amazon, you do have an advantage. You’re small. You know your customers and they have more of a connection with you than they do with Goliath over there. To further your cause and make sure you’re doing all that you can do to fight the good fight, let’s go over a few e-commerce best practices to see if you’re in need of a tune up.

First Impression, The Visual Message

The first communication you have with a prospective customer is visual. Yes, your brand story, product descriptions, and text are important, but font choice, background color and image size will say more at first glance than words will. In the world of visual communication, your website design will make that first impression and hopefully an emotional connection with prospective clients.

To connect with customers, send a clear message. While you have heaps of wonderful items for sale, clustering them all on the homepage will only do you a disservice. One large, simple carousel or hero image at the top of your homepage that slides to different featured products is the current e-commerce favorite. And by displaying your best sellers or most popular items, you will ensure A-List goods get seen first.

Be sure you’re displaying your content by category. That is the easiest way to help customers find what they are looking for.

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Keep Your E-Commerce Site Design On-Brand With Font Messaging

Fonts convey a very strong message, and let customers know what to expect during their visit. For example a military camo-themed font to sell a tropical destination resort (unless it’s for an episode of Survivor) isn’t consistent to most web-shopping experiences. Likewise kitten posters with motivational sayings should avoid using the Metallica font.


Unify fonts on your pages to let visitors know what they do. For example, all click-through fonts should be the same size and color while all product descriptions should be the same font, size and color.

Related: Your A-Z Guide on Running a Successful E-Commerce Business

It’s important for users to know where to go as they move through the buying process on your site. To make this easy for clients use clear obvious signals like “see more” and “buyer reviews”. Because the ultimate goal is customer conversion, your “Buy Now” link should be a visually strong and obvious button.

Keep A Consistent Visual Message

Recently I looked for summer board shorts on the website of one of the big surf brands. While searching around I noticed that in some of the photos the shorts were laid flat on a table and in others they were fitted around a mannequin torso. This, on the website of a multi-million dollar company with shareholders and more resources than you have.

As a small player one thing you can do to ensure consistency is make sure that when you photograph products the same lighting and backgrounds are used. Don’t use a grey drop cloth one day and a black one later on when your spring products launch. Likewise ensure products keep a consistent size in each photograph.

While on the subject of consistency also make sure your product descriptions are free of grammatical errors and misspellings. While most of us won’t immediately identify a comma splice or misspelling, it will resonate on another level that something isn’t quite right on your e-commerce site. Have a grammatically inclined source check your text.

Product Descriptions Should ALWAYS Be Simple And To The Point

Selling flat screens and electronics means lots of technical information will be consumed before buyers make a purchasing decision. If you sell these types of items provide as much written detail as you can. Likewise if your merchandise is something visual, like shoes, then sell it with photos. Text will tell some of the story, but the image will tell the most. Offer as many views of the product as possible. If you can use a 360 degree look, then do so.

Product Descriptions Should NEVER Be Simple And To The Point

While images help sell shoes and descriptions help sell electronics, consider telling more of your brand story in the product descriptions for unique items. If your brand is selling hand-poured candles using a 100-year-old family recipe brought to America by your great grandmother? While a photo may tell some of the story, a technical list of ingredients won’t excite your customers the way a history of the item would.

Do People Trust Your Website?

One way to assure customers that your e-commerce practices are on the up-and-up is to get a trust badge with a company like Trust Guard or SiteLock. For an annual fee websites subscribe to companies like these who will run a security scan through your e-commerce site to make sure there is no malware in the background or other security vulnerabilities.

Related: Tactics to Grow Lifetime Value of an E-Commerce Customer

Not everyone will be concerned about this, but for those of us who’ve been experienced online fraud online (or are just generally suspicious) it’s a huge deal.

Increase Your Conversion Rates

OK, now that your brand message is consistent and your e-commerce site is beautiful, let’s work on conversion rates.

First in your line to help convert visitors to customers is really simple: Site load time. Be sure your site is optimised and loading quickly. Data shows that customers will click elsewhere to buy if load times lag even by fractions of a second.

Have solid calls to action. Buttons with “Buy Now”, “Add to Cart” or “Get Yours” placed in high visibility spots on the page prompt visitors to do something.

You might also consider that people are likely to act if there are only a few items left. The “Scarcity Compels Purchasing” approach, while somewhat more complicated to implement, is a big factor in conversion rates for companies like Amazon.com and Booking.com. Also it’s important that If you are running out of stock, don’t wait till the checkout page to break this news to the customer.

Make the e-commerce shopping process easier for clients by letting them save items in their cart. I’ve actually gone back as much as six months later and made a purchase from an abandoned cart.

Keep the purchasing steps as simple as possible and add a progress bar so clients can see where they are in the buying process.

Finally, research shows that one of the biggest killers to conversion is shipping. Do you have prohibitive shipping rates? Consider tweaking your shipping offers then test to see whether this helps. You might also take a good look at your return policies. Are they in line or better than your competitors?

Fine Tune Using Analytics

Remember those Sunday newspaper ads, the glossy clutter of sale items from sporting goods stores didn’t have any analytics? The great thing about e-commerce is you can see what works by crunching data instead of just guessing. Analytics and metrics let you know what pages people are visiting on your site and when and where they are leaving.

Does everyone logout at the credit card information page? Perhaps you need a “shop secure badge” or an easier to navigate design on that page. Put on your detective hat and figure out why everyone leaves at that page. Likewise if you have a page that’s heavily visited, maybe a blog entry on healthy living tips or such, figure what you’ve done right to attract so much traffic there.

Related: 20 Best Incentives for Your E-Commerce Site

See where your traffic is coming from. Is there a link to your e-commerce site from a likeminded page with heavier traffic? Reach out and see what it is they like about your page and if you can offer more similar content.

Pages per visit on your analytics page will clue you in as well. If half the traffic bounces off your page within seconds of landing, your page might be too slow loading, or that page is not what the search engine referrals were looking for.

Evolve And Stay Current

Update your site. Take a good look at it with an expert at least once a year to make sure you are up to date and offering what your clients need. New apps and tech come out every month and it’s important you’re on top of it.

As we learned with the importance of visual communication, if the page looks crisp in design then the message is that your e-commerce site offers something that is fresh, relevant and exciting as well.


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