5 Essential eCommerce Tips for Online Store Owners

At this moment in time, online sales are at an all-time high. I’m currently writing this at a time where lots of high-street shops are closed due to the social distancing measures put into measure by various countries to help suspend the spread of Covid-19.

We’ve put together our top 5 tips for ecommerce sites, which will hopefully give you a little brain-food to mull over during a time that we’re finding ourselves which more time to ourselves than we’re used to.

 

1 – Categorisation is key

Categorising products is one of the best things e-commerce store owners can do to try and climb rankings for category keywords. We’re going to use an example of a company who sells drinks online to try and give you some advice on how you can properly categorise your products to have maximum effect.

So, let’s start with chat categorisation is. Categorisation is taking an attribute of your product and creating a category where users can find specific items that fit within that particular category. Keeping it in-line with our example above, if you were a business who was selling drinks, you may have 100 different bottles of wine. Each bottle is different, so let’s start with just two basic categories; manufacturer and colour. You will likely have three colours (red, white and rosé) and many manufacturers (for example: Gallo, Blossom Hill & Jacobs Creek) there’s many other categories we could touch on here, like origin, grape variety and so on – as you can probably tell by the three brands I’ve picked above, I’m clearly not a wine connoisseur.

Taking the categories above, you would create the following categories and add products to said category, should it have attributes that fit.

Let’s say your site is called finewine.com. Your category pages may look something like this:

finewine.com/red-wine

finewine.com/white-wine

finewine.com/rose-wine

finewine.com/brands/gallo

finewine.com/brands/blossom-hill

finewine.com/brands/jacobs-creek

There’s going to be some cross-over within the categories, but that’s fine – it’s more bites at the cherry to gain SERP for keywords within each category.

After you’ve added your products, your page should be structured to have plenty of rich detail about wines within that specific category – this is normally at the bottom of the page, as it’s not so important for the user-experience, but is more to ‘feed google’ with content to help the page rank. Don’t go into detail with regards to a specific product, as you want these pages to try and rank for more ‘generic’ keywords than ‘product specific’ for example ‘Gallo Wine’. Your bottom of page description may look something like this: https://www.winesdirect.com/wine/wine-brands/jacobs-creek/

Think of how much content you can generate from proper categorisation using the example above.

 

2 – Filtering

How often have you been frustrated with an e-commerce site because you can’t find the product that you’re looking for?

This hooks directly into the previous point, and if you’ve done a thorough job of properly categorising your products, you should already be in good stead to set up a robust and extensive filtering system.

Using the example previous, we’ll use wine again for consistency. I may be looking for a nice bottle of red, my favourite is Châteauneuf-du-Pape – but I may not remember it’s name. I know it’s a red, from Rhône, has a corked closure and is quite expensive.

The site we’d used for the previous example also has a filter. It’s a little clunky, but it worked perfectly to help me find the product I was looking for. I simply set my criteria for the wine and sorted the results by price. Et voilà! There’s my Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Using the filtering system will allow me to filter out a lot of non-contenders and help me get to the product I want. This creates a great user experience and allows your customer to pin-point specific attributes they like to help make their selection.

 

3 – Cultivate relationships with your customers

Let’s be clear: unless you’ve got a pre established brick-and-mortar presence on some front street with a ton of foot traffic and a great big flashing sign and a well-designed or otherwise memorable logo and shop facade–unless you’ve got one (or preferably, all) of these, your website is both the face and lifeblood of your business. Without your site (and, again, assuming you don’t have much of a brick and mortar presence), you’ve got no income, and with no income, you’ve got no business.

But the website isn’t the alpha and omega of your business assets. You’re not just the combined value of your website, your assets, and your turnover. Those are parts of your business, but consider all of the other manifest parts of your business: your packaging, your promptness of delivery (more on that in a bit), and the ways that you actually interact with customers, for a few. The public image of your business is just as valuable, if not more so, than your actual capital. Consider companies like Twitter, Uber, or Tesla, who generate massive popular appeal while haemorrhaging money quarter in and quarter out.

Now, Twitter, Uber, and Tesla have titanic budgets to spend on all manner of PR shenanigans, so we’re not making a one-to-one comparison here. But it’s worthwhile to take a look at how you can cultivate some of these non-capital assets.

Imagine, for example, a hiccup in your purchase flow. Maybe a customer wasn’t satisfied with a product you sent, or maybe something broke, or maybe something was delivered late. But the point is that now you’ve got a customer with an opinion about your business.

An emotional response to your business is huge, whether it’s good or bad. But it’s up to you to leverage it into something more.

This can be as simple as having an instant chat portal on your site. These days, they’re a dime a dozen, can be integrated with as little as a `<script>` tag, and play nice with your favourite chat application like Facebook Messenger or Slack. If a customer can’t find what they’re looking for, or if they’re unhappy with a product, or if they’re actually really happy with a product, give them the option to reach out and tell you directly. Make the customer feel their opinion is being heard. Now your business isn’t just a collection of hypertext and delivery promises: it’s a relationship.

You can take this a step further with a little more effort and a little expense. If a customer isn’t happy with something you’ve sold, offer to send them a new one. Obviously this doesn’t work if you only sell high-definition televisions or precision-machined parts or some other high-expense, low-margin products. But you’re cheating yourself if you can’t think of some small way to ingratiate yourself materialistically with the customer.

Take for example: I’ve got a fancy vacuum flask water bottle that I carry everywhere. I’m always hydrated and my water is so cold it hurts my teeth. And this water bottle has a little rubber gasket in the lid to keep it nice and leak-proof. One day I noticed a little black spot on the rubber gasket that I couldn’t remove except for with high-octane thick bleach. So I reached out to the manufacturer to ask them if they knew of anything to keep little black spots from appearing on rubber gaskets. Within an hour and a half, they emailed back asking for my address because they wanted to send me a 10-pack of rubber gaskets. It probably cost them a little to send me the gaskets, but they won me over, and the following Christmas, I bought more of these fancy vacuum flasks for my close friends.

Or another: I accidentally ran over my backpack with my car a couple of summers ago, and it tore one of the shoulder straps a bit. I sent an email to the maker of the backpack and they asked me to send the bag back to them for repairs. I packaged it up and they reattached the strap free of charge–and included a little velcro patch inside when they sent it back! The patch just had their logo on it, but I felt somehow like I had come out richer for having run my backpack over with a 30-year-old Volvo.

Always remember: your brand is more than your bottom line. Your website is where money exchanges hands, but your business lives and dies in the interactions between it and your customers.

 

4 – Consider the purchase story

Now, this concept of ‘stories’ is more of a UX consideration, but it’s worth looking at within the context of an e-commerce getup.

What we’re talking about when we consider a purchase story is: what sort of experience does the user have between the product page and the thank-you-for-your-purchase page? Forget your about page. Forget your ‘hot new products’ page. How does the user get from the product page to a completed checkout?

There’s a ton to be said for the UX of a cart page, how to navigate different delivery methods, and how best to validate your checkout forms. But I want to focus on two key questions you ought to ask yourself:

  1. What do you want the user to do after clicking Add to cart?
  2. How to you get the user from there to clicking Place order?

What do you want the user to do next?

This is more difficult that it seems. Consider what happens when a user adds a product to the cart. Do you reload the page? Do you show a modal giving the user the option to proceed to the cart? Do you display a small animation in the menu as the cart icon goes from 0 items to 1 item?

What do you want the user to do next?

It depends on what you’re selling. Are you selling expensive products that most people buy one-at-a-time, like a pair of glasses? Or are you selling a ‘bulk’ product, like stickers? Is a user liable to want to purchase more? Or will they be satisfied with their selection and want to check out?

How does the user get to where they want to go?

Every owner of an e-commerce store knows all of the ways a user can get turned around and lost. You’ve probably been on the receiving end of a couple of disgruntled emails claiming that the cart icon disappeared or that the user couldn’t find the checkout.

For that reason, as soon as a user is trying to check out, put the big primary-colour button right in the middle of their face so they can’t miss it.

Consider the Big Yellow Amazon Button:

Do all of these buttons strike you as having something in common? Here’s a hint: they’re all asking you to do something.

Amazon is extremely judicious about where and when to deploy their Big Yellow Amazon Buttons. For example, you won’t see a single Big Yellow Amazon Button on either the home page or on the search page (the exception to this is in the modal asking you to log in, in case you’re not logged in yet). But as soon as you hit the product page:

Not one but two Big Yellow Amazon Buttons above the fold, both asking you to step up and make a purchase.

(To say nothing of the fabled Big Orange Amazon Button that seals your fate in a single click.)

As soon as you’ve shown an interest in a product, Amazon tries to railroad you towards the checkout with Big Yellow Amazon Buttons. In fact, every single page from here on out has at least one Big Yellow Amazon Button leading you towards the thank-you-for-your-purchase page (and a handful of Small Yellow Amazon Buttons urging you to add more to your cart). The Big Yellow Amazon Buttons only let up when the order is complete.

Once the user seems ready to buy, take away all of their choices and hit them with the big easy buttons to help them move onward.

Over the last 15 years, amazon have never removed the big yellow button. They haven’t changed it since they know it works.

 

5 – Dispatching Products & Communicating

One of my biggest bug-bears with e-commerce is processing and shipping time. If you’re running a business, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your customers receive their products as soon as physically possible.

We’ve had clients have a wonderful e-commerce site built by us, but miss out a key part of their business – despatch and communication.

As a customer, you want to know that your order is important. This means that at each point of your processing and fulfilment procedure, you should be letting your clients know where they are in your pipeline. A simple way of doing this is via email. It doesn’t have to be manual, any good e-commerce solution will have statuses on orders (received, processing, shipped) and at these key points, your customer should be notified of where their product is. I’d strongly advise you to build this into your fulfilment pipeline and ensure that communication is key when customers buy from you. A good experience is likely to lead to repeat business, which is so important in e-commerce.

What’s more important is making sure that your customer has their product as soon as physically possible. Don’t sit around and procrastinate when you need to pack and ship products, process them as soon as possible.

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