The web has transformed the way we shop. It’s also increased competition, which is a bonus for shoppers seeking a bargain but can prove a headache for online store owners trying to stay ahead of the game.
Price is an obvious factor in the battle for sales, along with the uniqueness of your products. But if you can’t compete with the big players on price, what can you offer your customers to ensure your sales continue to thrive?
The answer lies in the experience you offer. It’s long been acknowledged that people will pay more for an outstanding service. What’s more, great service leads to brand loyalty and an increase in word-of-mouth referrals.
With that in mind, here are our top tips for creating a great eCommerce experience that will leave a lasting impression on your customers.
1. All about the products
It’s important to have a good overall design for your online store, but when people rock up to your page they shouldn’t be distracted from your products because you’ve succumbed to the latest design trend. Your products are the main focus of your store—that’s non-negotiable. Opt for a minimal design that complements your offerings, or make your product images the main focus when people land on your site. But don’t let the design overwhelm what you’re selling. First impressions count – make yours good.
2. Demonstrate your value
On the subject of first impressions, your unique selling point needs to be immediately obvious in the design and organization of your store. What do you offer people that your main competitors don’t? Faster shipping? The largest range of a specific product? Unbeatable prices? Know why you’re the best, and leave your customers in no doubt about your position.
3. Responsive web design
People shop on the go. Advances in technology mean they can do their grocery shopping on the train to work, or shop for gifts on their lunch break. And they do this on their mobile devices. So if your online store is clunky and difficult to use on a smartphone or tablet, guess what? Yup, they’re going to shop elsewhere. Even if you’re not ready to invest in an app for your store, it’s crucial that your eCommerce store works across all devices and browsers, otherwise you’re missing out on vital sales. Your design must be responsive.
4. Speedy load time
Advancing technology has brought the world to our fingertips. It’s also made us an impatient bunch, and never is this more accurate than when we’re shopping. If a physical store has long queues, shoppers are likely to walk away and make the purchase elsewhere. The same goes for your online store—if it takes three seconds or more to load, customers will simply try elsewhere. And if they find a better experience with one of your competitors, they may never return.
5. Keep it updated
An old, dated design suggests you don’t care about the appearance of your store (and therefore your customers could conclude you don’t care much for your products either). And it’s not just appearance you need to consider here. Feature new and popular products on your landing page, and make sure it’s updated regularly to reflect new stock. If you have a blog, update it frequently to maintain customer engagement and keep your Google rankings nice and high to boot.
6. Thoughtful navigation
Often shoppers only have a vague idea of what they want, and they’re too busy (or too lazy) to hunt through a load of products to find the perfect item. So they need a little guidance. Ensure your initial navigation is logical and clear so they land at the right place, then offer some possibilities based upon their search. Make sure these featured items have good customer reviews to help with their decision. This offers the perfect user-oriented experience; it will save them valuable time and stick in their minds next time they need something.
Grouping products to show other makes and models, and different sizes and colors will make their shopping experience that much easier. Suggesting accessories, or even bundling items frequently sold together will save them time and ensure they have everything they need.
7. Easy search options
Linked to navigation, but worthy of a mention in its own right, is an integrated search engine for your store. Search options should be straightforward and obvious, but sometimes it can be difficult to determine which category something falls into. So an integrated search engine provides excellent customer service and is a no-brainer.
8. Original product descriptions
Avoid using the manufacturer’s product description on your site. Aside from the fact there’ll be nothing to distinguish you over your competitors, it’s likely to be fairly bland and because it appears on every website that sells that item, it won’t do much for your SEO either. Use the product description as a way to stand out from your competitors. Be original, tell the story of the product, and ensure the customer can see the benefits it will give them. You can also use this as an opportunity to pre-empt any questions people may want to know before purchasing. If you sell clothes, give as much information about the sizing as you can.
If the product is unavailable or sold out, don’t remove it from your site, as you may end up losing valuable traffic. Instead, make it obvious it’s not in stock as soon as a customer lands on the page—there’s nothing worse than waiting until checkout to find out you have a six-month wait in store—and offer alternatives instead.
9. Quality product photos
Before the days of internet shopping, people would wander into stores and look at items, pick them up, and examine them. While internet shopping has made our lives more convenient, people often still want reassurance they’re buying a quality item that will meet their needs. Your product pictures need to do that job for them.
Use high-quality images with a clean, modern look, and show the products from a variety of angles and in use—so people can picture themselves using it. If it’s available in a variety of colors, have a picture of each one so they can see what it looks like rather than struggle to imagine it. If you can, a zoom function really allows customers to check on the details before clicking the buy button.
10. Live chat
Good customer service is essential to any eCommerce shopping experience, so people need to be able to ask questions easily before making a purchase. If they have to make a call, it’s likely they might not bother, and email can seem like a slow solution if you want to get on with your purchase. This is why Live Chat is excellent. It’s instant, hassle-free, and will impress your time-poor customers.
11. Useful information
Word of mouth is an important element of making a sale—many people will trust what other customers have to say over a glossy sales description. So ensure confirmed purchasers of items can have their say on your website, and make the reviews accessible to your other customers. Hearing how the item has solved a need for somebody else can help others picture what it will do for them.
If you receive lots of questions about the same aspect of an item, or about how your online store works, include a list of Frequently Asked Questions. Your customers will be grateful and you’ll free up time for your customer service staff to deal with more important issues.
12. Easy checkout
Finally, when your customers have added all they need to their shopping carts, make their checkout experience a pleasurable one. Don’t make them click through a long list of ‘have you forgotten?’ suggestions, and keep their path to checkout clear. This is one area to pay special attention to—if you find lots of people are abandoning their sales at the point of checkout, you need to work out why.
One thing people dislike is being forced to sign up in order to make a purchase. This is time-consuming, and many people are worried about storing their personal data or being bombarded with constant emails. Of course, you can give them the option of signing up—if they’re likely to purchase from you frequently, this will save them valuable time on future purchases. But give them the option of checking out as a guest as well, so they can decide.
The uniqueness of your products and the prices you sell them for both play a part in the success of your online store. However, the experience you offer your customers will determine whether they become loyal to your brand and pass on that all-important word-of-mouth recommendation. Using our tips, you can create a great eCommerce experience that will help your loyal customer base to grow.
How do you ensure a good customer service experience at your eCommerce store? Do you have any great tips to add to our list? Tell us in the comments.