The Rise of E-Commerce
It is widely known how much the web has revolutionised how we live our daily lives and perform regular tasks, from we communicate with peers, how we find information, and notably, how we shop.
The popularity of online shopping has risen ten-fold in the last few years, in fact the UK e-retail market grew 16% in 2011, and is forecast to grow a further 13% in 2012 and e-Retail now accounts for 17% of total retail sales in the UK.
It’s no wonder that many retailers are now finding most of their revenue is generated from online sales, it is convenient, you don’t waste time traveling to shops, items are less likely to be out of stock, and e-commerce stores often offer bigger discounts on their products. Plus if you’re anything like me, you’ll find the best time for shopping is 3 in the morning, which is fine because online shops are open 24 hours a day!
With more of our clients requesting e-commerce software, we have needed to research around the subject before jumping into projects. We’ve set ourselves some guidelines and tips that we would think about before designing and developing an e-commerce system for a client.
These guidelines include;
Make the Interface Simple & Intuitive
This means not over-complicating the main navigation, and instead separate products into clear categories and using sub-menus and bread-crumbs to assist the user when moving through the online store. From choosing a product, to the final checkout, we want the consumer to have a pleasant, easy shopping experience.
It’s also a good idea to have the products in multiple categories, to make it easier to find them. Having a search function is necessary too.
Give Consumers Assurance
Providing a contact number in an obvious place on your website will assure them that you’re only a phone call away if they have a question or if there’s a problem with their order. We would also ensure the pricing is clear so there’s no issues arising later, and display return policies near the shopping cart and product information. You want to offer the consumer the same assurance they would feel when purchasing in an offline store.
It’s fundamental to make payment processing easy too, online shoppers need a way to pay online. Paypal is an ideal solution, huge online retailers such as Amazon and Ebay take advantage of this way of accepting credit/debit card payments. It’s also worth looking into setting up an online merchant account to deal with transactions.
Customers don’t have to luxury of being able to see and feel the product in person as they would in a shop, so we need to find a way to let them know exactly what they’re getting. This means using plenty of product photos, so photos of the product from different views, for example, the front and back of a dress in your clothing store. It’s also important to show the variations of the product, so if a t-shirt is available in different colours, make sure to show exactly what they look like. Keep descriptions short, so catchy titles for products accompanied by summaries around 40-70 words is advisable.
Your Marketing Counts
Once your online store is live it is essential to promote it to existing customers via newsletters or ezines. With so many retailers online, your competition is not just restricted to other local retailers, as you’re now competing with overseas sellers too. This is where marketing really makes the difference in securing new customers.
Adapt your online shop window to the season or period. So if it’s summertime, it’s a good idea to showcase the products wanted this season. Make discounts and savings as obvious as they are in-store a retailer by the use of colour and graphics. This is really important since consumers use online shopping to take advantage of the wide selection of offers available online only.
This point branches from the marketing point. Think about how online users share things they like these days.. Yep, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus.. By having links on your site to ‘like’ your online store on Facebook or to tweet about a product, you’re expanding the number of potential viewers and users a lot. So don’t just leave a link your Facebook/Twitter page, invite users to click ‘share.’
One final point I have to make, with one half of all internet searches being performed on mobile devices it would be crazy not to make your website mobile friendly.
28% of all smartphone users make purchases on their devices, but by overcoming mobile-buying barriers such as over-complicated processes and a non-secure feel to the store, we can increase this percentage.
Avoid Flash and text heavy pages, instead look forward to responsive design to make using your online store as easy to use on a mobile device as it is on a desktop computer.