10 Dec What Do The Best Ecommerce Sites Right Now Have In Common?
The online retail world may have started as a vast expanse of opportunity, but it’s rapidly filled up and started to approach the point of saturation in various areas. There’s no doing away with the competition, and simply outlasting it isn’t a good plan: even if your rivals fail, new ones will appear to fill the void. All you can do is make your business as good as it can possibly be.
In all aspects of your operation, you need to look for ways to excel: this ultimately encompasses everything from your marketing and advertising to your copywriting and user interface design. The main element, of course, is your website — as the hub of your online operation (and its front door), you absolutely must make it as good as it can possibly be.
So, what’s the best way to do this? You can review it from top to bottom and come up with improvements from scratch if you want, though I wouldn’t recommend it. Originality is a great goal in principle, but it isn’t very practical, and it’s often more about vanity than anything else. Instead, I recommend taking heavy inspiration from other thriving ecommerce sites, gleaning insight from the commonalities they share.
Though I strongly recommend that you do your own research at some point, we’re going to run through some of the top things that the best ecommerce sites have in common. By the end, you’ll have a solid grounding of what you need to work on. Let’s get started:
An excellent site needs an excellent platform underpinning it. Ideally, your CMS should be flexible, configurable, regularly updated, secure, as inexpensive as possible, and easy to extend. While there are various options on the market, the simplest is just to use WordPress (the most popular CMS in the world) and combine it with an ecommerce plugin such as WooCommerce. That will ensure that your site remains stable at all times.
Having top-notch copy is great, but visuals often matter more — particularly on mobile devices. Shoppers scroll through pages quickly and switch between sites almost as fast, and having arresting images is excellent for grabbing attention. It’s also vital for brand identity. You should put work into everything from your core brand elements (most notably your backgrounds and your logo — there’s no reason to have a low-resolution logo) to your product images (they should have neutral backgrounds, even lighting, and excellent framing).
Strong internal search
Once you’ve brought someone to your store, you want to keep them around for as long as possible, and that means making it easy to pivot between product pages. If the page they land on isn’t what they want, a strong internal search bar will let them filter without leaving, making them more likely to ultimately convert (if they leave, they may not return). Here are some plugin options for WooCommerce sites.
Fast and robust hosting
Choosing a self-hosted platform like WordPress gives you the freedom to choose the hosting you use, but don’t make the mistake of going as cheap as you can. That might work most of the time, but when traffic ramps up around peak times and holidays (e.g. BFCM), that hosting will struggle. Look for a host that can handle heavy traffic and works well with your CMS.
High-quality social media support
Social media is huge for retail, seeing users discuss products, promote them to their followers, and (all too often) complain about them. If someone complains about your brand on social media and you don’t do something about it, it can damage your reputation. That’s why the best sites have social media teams monitoring their mentions and engaging in damage control— and you can do the same, even if not on the same scale.
Generous return policies
Amazon has really led the way when it comes to ecommerce service, and by making it so easy to return items, it’s essentially forced other retailers into following suit. It isn’t unreasonable: when you order something online, you’re taking it on faith that it’s what you expect. If it isn’t, you should be able to return it easily. By offering a great return policy, you reassure buyers that they won’t end up stuck with products they don’t want, and convince them that you can be trusted.
It might seem obvious at this point, but there are still plenty of websites that don’t work very well on mobile devices, and this is about going beyond that to be mobile-first. This design approach is about starting with the mobile layout and extending it as needed for laptops and desktops. The mobile version of your store should be the slickest and easiest to use — if it isn’t, you have some major improvements to make.
Easy social login
Think about how frustrating it can be to order from a store you haven’t visited before. You pick out the item you want, add it to your cart, go to the checkout… and discover that you need to stop and create a user account before you get started. It can be enough to push you elsewhere. This is why you should be offering social login functionality, allowing a new visitor to log in using a live social media account (usually Facebook or Twitter) — they only need a couple of clicks to share the details, and you can create a guest account to process their order.
Not one of the features we’ve looked at in this article are beyond the reach of small retailers. It’s just a matter of investing in your website to whatever extent you can, because that investment will be returned over time through more conversions.
You can make improvements through the DIY approach to save money and pick up some new skills, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Alternatively, you can outsource the entire process to a creative development agency, taking some experts with bringing your website up to the necessary standard — so why not give it a try?