Before you sell anything online, it’s crucial that you fully understand the current best practices in ecommerce web design. With billions of purchases occurring on the Internet every year, competition for online customers is fierce. Top-selling retailers are always searching for new ways to eke out an advantage. They are relentless. And, because there are so many participants in this lucrative arena, ecommerce design has become extremely optimized. Because of this, it can be incredibly difficult to gain a foothold in competitive markets.
Difficult but not impossible.
To position your company aggressively within an existing online market, your website needs to be more visible, more engaging, more convenient, and more efficient. You’ll need to improve on everything your competition is doing. You’ll need to anticipate your customers’ desires and exceed their expectations. You’ll need a professional web design that leverages the latest technologies to get your company in front of more people. In short, it doesn’t matter what you’re aiming to sell, you’re going to need to employ a handful of proven tactics to ensure that your site is successful.
Shop your competitors before you build
If you’ve done your research, you may have already seen an ecommerce web design that you like. But, if you haven’t done your research, start now! The best way to discover what works is to scout what your competitors are doing. Depending on how long they’ve been in business, your competition has likely spent a lot of time refining their ecommerce experience. They’ve probably restructured their categories, tweaked their product descriptions, and reworked their checkout process countless times. Their website is the result of years of research: pay attention!
A successful competitor’s website is a clear window into what the market wants. It’s a Cliffs Notes that tells you what works. Don’t just take a page out of their book: take the entire book, highlight the important bits, dogear the pages, add new chapters, and rewrite the ending. It’s your book now. But, don’t be too afraid to alter their process. As much as online sales is about emulating the success of others, it’s also about identifying areas where you can do better. Use your industry knowledge to find ways to make the sales track shorter, the shopping experience easier, and the customer’s journey more memorable.
Pay attention to these things on your competitor’s ecommerce site
- Shop navigation. Online shops must be easy to navigate. They need categories, filters, and – above all else – search functionality. If your competitors are missing any of these essential components, you may be able to capitalize on their oversight by delivering a better experience.
- Product pages. Product pages are a delicate balance of in-depth product information and sales-focused language. Buttons that encourage visitors to ‘add to cart’ and ‘checkout’ should always be highly visible. Additionally, these pages also provide an opportunity to cross-sell related items and upsell to more expensive products.
- Payment types. In general, you want to accept as many payment types as possible. While this isn’t always practical, you should – at the very least – offer the most common: credit cards and PayPal. While PayPal does take a larger percentage of your sale, it’s a trusted option that can make new customers feel secure.
- Shipping methods. If you deal with international buyers, your shipping methods will be extremely important. And, even if your customers are all located within the U.S., shipping options may factor into their buying decisions. Do your competitors offer free shipping or next day shipping? You’ll need to consider these options if you want to be competitive.
- Website speed. Slow loading times are one of the main reasons shoppers abandon websites. To ensure that you’re not losing sales due to website speed, use tools like PageSpeed Insights to identify problematic elements on your site.
Properly brand your ecommerce website
Branding is the lifeblood of your ecommerce store. It’s what connects you to your customers. It’s the essence of who you are. Every word, video, and image on your site serves to convey that essence and communicate your company’s core values to potential customers. You should be using your branding to tell prospects who you are, what you value, and what separates you from your competitors. Most of all, you should be aiming to build connections.
By focusing your branding on building connections with your site’s visitors, you’re establishing yourself as a company that can be trusted. At heart, people want to do business with companies that they like. And, more than anything, people like companies they can trust. If you haven’t defined your company’s branding yet, think about the companies that you trust. How did they gain your trust? How do they maintain it? How can you use this information to earn a similar level of trust from your website’s visitors?
Helpful brand development questions to inform your design
- What is my company’s target audience? Understanding your target audience is the first step in connecting with them. Once you know who they are, build your site’s content to cater to that audience by using words, phrases, and images that appeal to them.
- What does my company do better than anyone? If you use higher quality materials, offer faster shipping, or source from reputable vendors, highlight that! Your company’s strengths and benefits are an integral part of its brand identity.
- What makes my company different from its competitors? Part of your branding strategy should focus on differentiating your company from competitors. Without disparaging the competition, try to identify why customers prefer you over them.
- What do customers like about my company? In a similar vein, ask yourself what existing customers like about you. If you have multiple locations, 24-hour customer service, or guaranteed on-time delivery, make those a core part of your branding.
- What is one thing everyone should know about my company? You want to be certain that everyone who visits your website learns the most important thing about you. Work out what that thing is and, wherever possible, weave it into your site’s content.
Only use interesting, high-quality images
If you want people to buy your products, you’ve got to have high-quality images. You have to show people what they’re buying. But, you can’t just rely on a handful of low-resolution images. In ecommerce web design, pictures are one of the most effective ways to sell people on your products. A good photograph, more than anything, will serve to convey your products’ qualities, construction, and benefits. Be sure to feature your products at different angles, in different lighting conditions, and in different contexts. As a basic example, if your company sells shovels, you’ll want a clear image of it in its entirety, a picture of its blade, and a photo – or video – of someone using it.
Even better, product images are a great way to cement your product in consumers’ minds as the ideal version of an object. When people think about sneakers, they often picture Nike. When they think about cell phones, they often think of iPhones. We say ‘Kleenex’ instead of ‘tissue’ and ‘Saran wrap’ instead of ‘cling film.’ With high-quality pictures, you can achieve the same effect… even if it is on a smaller scale. And, if you can get customers to use your products as the standard by which all similar products are compared, you’ve already won their business.
A good ecommerce web design is skimmable
As we’ve mentioned before, the best websites are skimmable. And, when it comes to product descriptions, this advice is even more important. Writing long, flowery product descriptions is – at best – a waste of time. At worst, it disorients visitors, keeps them from the information they want, and forces them to find what they’re looking for elsewhere. After you complete your product descriptions, follow Coco Chanel’s advice: ‘Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.’ Reduce, organize, and simplify things so that the most important information is always front and center.
On the subject of organization, you’ll want to structure your content so that it can be skimmed. Most people don’t actually read websites, they skim them. By using short sentences, bulleted lists, bolded text, infographics, and large headings you can guide visitors to the most relevant bits of information. More importantly, you can use these elements to subtly guide visitors through a proven sales pitch.
How to use structural elements on your ecommerce website
- To ensure that your content is easy to absorb, you should use H2 and H3 tags to break up the flow of longer descriptions.
- When you need to communicate a lot of information, you should use short, punchy sentences to cement smaller bites of information in your readers’ minds.
- To highlight benefits, product features, usage recommendations, and dimension, you can use bullet points to break up long lists of similar items.
- If it’s essential that your customers understand something about you, your products, or your store, use bolded text to highlight critical information.
Eliminate unnecessary steps before checkout
In the world of online sales, it’s all about shortening the checkout process. From the minute a visitor adds an item to their cart, you’re on a clock. Your ecommerce web design should strive to eliminate as many steps, stops, and obstacles as possible between the shopper and their purchase. Adding ‘buy it now’ buttons, implementing one-touch payment, and using databases to auto-fill address fields are just a few of the ways that your store can shorten the time between product selection and checkout.
But, more than anything, you should consider the flow of your website. How do shoppers move from one product to the next? Are you pushing visitors to related items? Have you anchored a checkout link at the top of every page? With so many variables to consider, it pays to seek the advice of a professional website developer.
A few ways to promote faster checkouts
- Software integration. By integrating your sales system and your website software, you can ensure that your store’s inventory is always accurate, which can reduce the hassles – and heartaches – involved with maintaining two separate inventories.
- Accounts and saved payment methods. Encouraging customers to create accounts lets you save their address and payment methods, which allows for a much faster checkout process when they place orders in the future.
- Free shipping. Many shoppers get to the very end of checkout and abandon their carts due to unexpected shipping costs. By including shipping in your products’ pricing, you eliminate one of online shoppers’ most common objections.
Need help creating an ecommerce website design that sells?
As the only Kalamazoo web design team that specializes in ecommerce web design, Creative Marketing Group has helped countless businesses – both local and national – launch their online shops. With the ability to grow alongside your store, we can provide your company with a top-tier website design. And, as you grow, we can support you with comprehensive software integration, marketing automation, and pay-per-click advertising. We are an experienced one-stop shop that boasts a full team of digital marketing professionals capable of handling all of your needs.
We understand the challenges that small businesses face when trying to transition their products online. To best serve our clients, we’ve assembled a group of Kalamazoo’s leading Internet experts. We have marketers, copywriters, graphic designers, and developers on staff, all ready to help you achieve your goals. So, if you’re considering launching an ecommerce website but are intimidated by their complexity, we encourage you to contact us today to discuss your vision.