Thursday, 22 March 2012

The 4 Main Ingredients of Successful E-Commerce Websites

There are many who when designing or re-designing their websites want to re-invent the wheel.  This can be an extremely dangerous practice.  Retaining your individual handwriting is a must, but playing it reasonably safe and following already proven guidelines is also a must if you want as quick as possible a return on your investment.  And who doesn’t?

These are the 4 main ingredients of successful e-commerce websites, with success meaning the return on investment that everyone is looking for.

Navigation/Usability

Website usability, a frequently used term, means making it as easy as possible for your customers to get around, or to navigate your website.  This may sound obvious, but there are many sites out there who make it far more complicated than they should do, and lose orders as a result. 

If you’re using an external developer, which you probably are, take a look at what they have already designed and compare with some of the bigger, well established sites such as www.johnlewis.com and www.thewhitecompany.com.  It doesn’t matter what type of product you are offering, the design template is the same as we read and use websites in the same way.

More about your home page/website usability here

Search

There are two types of search.  Firstly being found by the search engines, and more about that next, and your own search box.  Make sure that your internal search engine is as fast as possible, and that everything on your website is clearly set up to be found so that whatever the customer puts into your search box is what they get.  Watch the conversions rise when you do this.

Also make sure that your search box is clearly marked and preferably on the top right or top centre of your header area as this is where we automatically look for it.  Don’t try and hide it for aesthetic reasons anywhere else.  It will be to your website’s detriment.

Read more about your search box here

Images

Make your images as clear as possible.  Make your zoom as large as possible, and offer alternative views.  Consider such add-ons as video which is becoming more and more common, and a great selling tool provided it is high enough quality, and 360 spin.

Allow your customers to get right up close you your products, you will not regret this. 

More about your images here in a previous post.

SEO

There are so many websites out there that are not properly optimised for search, thus losing out on the free online marketing that it offers.  The most important aspect is spending the time identifying the key words and phrases that are most relevant to your products and service using a tools such as the Google Keyword Tool and then creating, in the correct format, your title tags, meta descriptions, category names, headers and online content.  All of this matters hugely.  You can do it in house or get an external company to do it for you.  It will either be time intensive for you or costly if you use a large company to do it for you.

SEO also includes off-site optimisation/online marketing, getting inbound links to your website from other sites.  This can be via articles, blogs, press releases and web directories.  Again it has to be done properly and there are those out there who would sell you their services offering links from 1000’s of external sites fast.  Be very wary about these.  Google and other search engines are much more quick to spot bad practices online.

Either way this is a key element forming a cornerstone to online success.  One of the problems is that SEO is often sold as a dark art, which it is not.  It is a series of very logical steps that need to be taken to establish your website out there and this will generate you both traffic and revenue stream.


When you start off designing or re-designing your website, consider the above.  Getting it right from the start will bring huge benefits, in terms of ROI and avoiding having to make costly changes later.


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