Ten E-Commerce Practices to Take Your Business to the Next Level
The world of e-commerce is more mobile-oriented, social-focused, and visually compelling with each passing day, and it can be difficult for business owners to keep up with the cutting-edge practices that will drive conversions and help their business thrive.
With the right foundation in place, your business will have the important bases covered from day one but can scale intelligently as it grows. Brian Honigman of social media analysis company SumAll has shared ten best practices for improving your e-commerce website, and we’ve synopsized them under three main headings: Usability, Visibility, and Conversions.
Showcase beautiful photography to make your products pop
The role of appealing images for your products and services in attracting customers simply can’t be overstated. You don’t need to break the bank hiring Annie Leibovitz, or be the next Ansel Adams, but you should invest in your business by having clear, detailed, attractive photos of your products from all useful angles and with a consistent style across both the images of a given product and your entire website.
Merchandize your offerings for clarity and simplicity
Help your customers find exactly what they’re looking for as quickly as possible by grouping your products or services into categories based on common usage. If it takes a visitor to your website too long to discover that perfect product, they may not stick around. Keep the categories well-defined with all pertinent information right at eye level so that your customers enjoy their experience enough to come back again and again.
Structure your website for easy & intuitive navigation
Your website should be cleanly organized into a relative few high-level categories, which can then be broken down into sub-categories. This helps customers find what they’re looking for quickly and makes your site easy for search engines to understand. It should be a no-brainer for your visitors to get right to what they want to buy and see related products or services at the same time, with strong calls to action enticing them to add to their order.
Including a sitemap can help customers in need of some direction, and aids search engines in understanding your website layout. This improves search engine rankings based on usability.
Kill them with kindness: world-class customer service
A great way to stand out from the pack is by providing your customers with world-class customer service and support. If you sell great products via an attractive and intuitive website, going above and beyond with customer support will put you over the top and keep customers coming back for more.
Consider offering 24/7 support via phone and email, and make your contact information a part of the header on every page. Get your customers hooked right from the start by offering live chat to answer their questions and guide their purchase. When customers trust that they’ll get the help they need if ever they need it, they won’t hesitate to choose your site over all the other possibilities.
Use search engine optimization (SEO) to catapult your site to the top results
If you want customers to shop on your site, they need to be able to find you first! Search engines rate your site based on several factors and give preference to those with the highest scores. Writing product- and industry-related blog articles with the latest and greatest information saturates your site with pertinent keywords, and can greatly help increase your visibility in search engine indices and educate your customers at the same time.
When your site structure is clear, your original content is fresh, and your web pages use (accurate!) keyword-rich titles and descriptions, you’ll rise higher and higher in search engine rankings. Note that such titles and descriptions should reflect industry trends while also being useful for real humans (a.k.a. your customers) to understand and utilize.
Use search engine marketing (SEM) to complement SEO
Search engine marketing is paying to place highly visible ads on search engine results for keywords you select. The most widely known version is pay-per-click or PPC advertising, where your business is charged based on the number of web calls a particular ad generates. While SEO takes time to build momentum and yields long-term results, SEM works right away since you’re paying to be at the top of the search results for the keywords in your campaign. But once you stop investing in SEM, you immediately lose the rankings you gained via your paid ads. You can balance your SEO and SEM efforts by using SEM to drive clicks in the short term while your SEO tweaks increases your natural rankings over time.
Leverage social media to broaden your customer base
While social media is a fantastic means to interact and share with a large audience, it can be overwhelming keeping up with all the various and ever-evolving channels of communication. Again, creating a strong foundation of practices will create solid results in the short term and allow you to expand when you are able to.
Focus on promoting your brand through sharing your original content, providing top-notch customer service, and measuring the impact of your social media efforts. If your resources are limited, stick to the networks with large user bases such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn; a few posts (and responses to customers’ posts) per week, per channel should be enough to offer support and engage your audience. Finally, check in regularly to gauge which social media strategies are working and which can be left behind.
Build loyalty using e-mail marketing
You can entice existing and potential customers to sign up for your email list and build loyalty by offering exclusive specials, sales, and content that can’t be found on any other channel. Keep interest high by providing a variety of promotions, product and service updates, and engaging content, but keep an eye on which strategies generate the most click-throughs and boost conversions.
Because your messaging comes straight to their inbox (and as long as what you share provides real value), you’ll create a strong connection with your customer base, convert subscribers into customers, and retain those customers in the long term.
Always know what works and what doesn’t with A/B testing
A/B testing is the process of using two different versions of a marketing campaign or web page to analyze their customer appeal. You should regularly test emails, landing and home pages, and site features to see what users click on, what drives their conversions, and where they lose interest.
Limit your testing to one variable at a time, with the existing version of the campaign/page/etc. as a control. Clearly define your criteria for success and stick to one metric (i.e. click-through rates or conversions, but not both). Sometimes businesses become enamored with a new home page or site feature because they think it’s what customers want, but A/B testing will show you what really works and what doesn’t.
Create killer copy for a unique and compelling voice
Copy that converts speaks for your business and persuades readers to buy what you’re selling. It matches the tenor of your brand, makes your offerings stand apart from the crowd, and concludes with a strong call to action. Consistency is key, so your copy should reflect the same character and tone wherever you engage with your audience.
A/B testing will help you hone your copy to its perfect form: concise, engaging, and genuinely persuasive. Your social media channels are great for testing new copy by measuring response and engagement before expanding its use across your site, email campaigns, and so on. Eliminate superfluous details so that your copy is impactful and offers clear value with no ambiguity or wasted words, and watch your business soar.