The Essential Elements of Building an E-commerce Website
Having an e-commerce plan is just as important as your original business plan if you intend on selling something online. In the beginning stages of your e-commerce plan, you need to consider what kind of experience you would like your online customers to have not only today but 2-5 years down the line.
These plans start with your e-commerce website goals. Who is your target audience? What are its needs? Are customers currently receiving only information or can they buy products on your site? By asking and answering these key questions early on, you will be able to determine how much time and money you will need to create and maintain an online presence.
Next, consider the products and services you will be offering. How will they be positioned and displayed? Will they be available for purchase both online and offline? What about shipping and returns? Also, do not forget to include a toll-free number that a customer can call to speak to a live person. It should be displayed prominently on your website so that your customers can call any time to get their questions answered by a live person.
If you are planning on selling online, then naturally you will need a shopping cart component. This means that you will be handling credit card information and organizing an order fulfillment process.
Outlining Your E-commerce Website
A well thought outline should include the following elements:
Content: This one of the most important elements of your site. Content gives your visitors lots of interesting information, reasons to visit, a method of contacting you and ultimately buying your product. Be sure to continuously update and add fresh content to your site to keep people coming back over and over again.
Structure: Decide on how many pages you would like to have and how they will be linked to each other. Be sure to include graphics and icons to enhance your content.
Design: Now that you have the content and structure in place now is the time to consider the design of your e-commerce website. Focus on simplicity, regardless of whether you are using an in-house designer or bringing in somebody from the outside. Everything that you do should be in line with what you would like to accomplish.
Navigation: Give your visitors an easy and enjoyable browsing experience. Never use more than 3 links to a major area and do not lead your visitors to a dead end.
Credibility: This issue should not be ignored as you are trying to create your e-commerce website. It should reach out to every visitor and explain to them why they should buy your product or service. The design should be very professional and provide the same type of confidence your users would get with a phone call or a face-to-face meeting. Remind them that you do not only exist in cyberspace. This means having your company’s full contact information should be displayed on most if not all of your pages.
An outline will help you get the most out of your budget. It will also help you determine whether or not someone in your company can design certain parts of your website or if you will need to bring in help from the outside. This way you will only spend money on the parts that you absolutely cannot do yourself.
Common Pitfalls to Avoid
Since developing an e-commerce website is not as easy as posting pictures of products along with their descriptions it is almost impossible to get everything right the first time. Here are the main stumbling blocks companies face when creating an e-commerce website.
Poor Shopping Cart Design: Even though this aspect usually gets overlooked, it is very important in terms of conversion rates. A good shopping cart experience should allow your customers to add several products, preferably without leaving the main page, review and adjust the number of products inside the basket and see the shipping costs. Your shopping cart must be clear and simple, yet it should be advanced enough to optimize user experience. For this reason, be sure to do a lot of research before deciding on which software to use about for your shopping cart.
Convoluted Checkout Process: If your checkout process is too long or confusing, it can not possibly end well. Remember, the longer it takes the customer to complete their order, the more likely they are to leave halfway. This is why the entire checkout process should be limited to a single page so that the customer can wrap things up quickly. Consider adding a progress bar or prompts to make the user aware of time expectations.
An Ineffective Search Function: Most people who visit your e-commerce website already know what they are looking for and would like to find out whether or not you carry the product. For this reason, you need an effective search function with additional filters built in to narrow down the search results. It can be very irritating for the consumer to be buried under hundreds of products, especially if they already know what they are looking for.
Inadequate Product Details: While this may be surprising, providing too little information about products is one of the most common mistakes online retailers make. On an e-commerce website, it is not possible for customers to have their questions answered by a store clerk. This is why you need to provide as much information as possible about your products and include information such as color, size, weight, instruction, functions and any other information that will help the customer make an informed decision.
The points mentioned above may seem obvious and straightforward, these e-commerce website mistakes are all common and negatively impact your site. A well-designed and thought-out online store can deliver a pleasant shopping experience, increase sales and provide a sizeable contribution to the success of your retail ventures.