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How to make the most of your e-commerce website

How to make the most of your e-commerce website

Maybe you have a shiny new e-commerce website or perhaps you have an existing one that you feel isn't doing as well as you would like.  How do you go about making the best of it and getting those all important sales?  Read our latest blog post for some ideas!

Choosing the best category structure

Think about how physical stores lay out and group different products - generally they choose to put similar products together and often related products near each other.  A clothes store might put all the jeans in one place and next to the jeans they might put some shirts to try and encourage people to buy a complete outfit.

Doing something similar can work well online as well, and if your e-commerce platform allows, using 'Related Products' displays can encourage visitors to buy something they hadn't originally been looking for.

Choosing a great product category structure also makes your e-commerce website easier to use - a visitor looking for a t-shirt probably doesn't want to have to click into lots of different categories to find them all, or be forced to browse your entire product listings and have to pick out all the relevant items.

Making the most of images

Images are a great way to show off your products online, but if they're of poor quality or too small then potential customers may be put off by not having enough to understand exactly what they are buying.  There's certainly a happy medium to be found here; if the images are too large then they could make your website slower to load, and too small means they're not much use, however if your website allows it, the use of clickable thumbnails which zoom out to a larger image is one way of making sure you give visitors the chance of looking at things in more detail.

Consider how you may look at the product if you were to find it in a high street shop - use photographs of the product to best fit how a customer may want to see the item from different angles or from closer up.

Set up easy navigation

How frustrating is it to walk around a high street shop and not be able to find the products you are looking for, even if you know they should be there?  As well as choosing appropriate product categories, your e-commerce website also needs to have easy to use and well structured navigation and menu features.

Consider at least one obvious menu feature that allows all of your product categories to be seen without having to visit them, and the use of a 'breadcrumbs' area means visitors can easily know where they are and how to get back to where they have been.

Having an easy to use website is critical for any purpose, but when your website is there to sell products and generate orders, it is possibly even more important.  You don't want to lose potential customers just because they can't find what they are looking for when the product is in there somewhere for them to buy!

Make sure your website is well optimised for search engines

Any e-commerce platform worth its salt should allow for some form of search engine optimisation.  The product description and name is only one area that is important - ideally your e-commerce solution should allow for:

  • Meta data description - somewhere to add that extra bit of detail for Google and friends to use when your product is shown in search results
  • Product title - the title is usually displayed in the words on the browser 'tab' when a visitor is looking at a product - again, this is a key area for search engines so setting this is a no-brainer
  • Image names - whilst many e-commerce platforms do some re-naming of uploaded images, they should allow you to use custom image names that contain the product name as well, again another easy win for search engines which will use this when ranking pages

Keep an eye on your competition

Unless you have found a one-off niche market, it is more than likely that someone else has a website selling the same or similar products as you but for less money or with cheaper shipping costs.

Identify and monitor your top competitors and if you can, make sure you at least match their pricing, postage and offers.  Being online means the customer can easily check a number of websites to find the best price, so make your site the best price with the best service and you are very likely to win their business!

Make the most of social media

Share your best and most popular products on the likes of Facebook and Twitter - make sure they shares link back to the product on your website.

Keep your followers up to date with news and information but don't bombard them with advertising, try to engage them with questions and posts which may be interesting to your desired website audience.

If followers get in touch through social media, either by messaging you or by posting on your Facebook page or Tweeting to you, make sure you reply back and don't ignore them.

Use discount codes carefully

There are two trains of thought about website discount codes.  Often they work great, encouraging visitors to come and buy from you as they feel like they are getting a bargain and saving money.  Sometimes though, a visitor might get to the checkout and spot a 'Discount Code' box and then spend a bit of time looking on the Internet to find one that works.

If they can't find a working code then there is a chance they'll not complete the checkout.  They may also find themselves forgetting where they have come from online, and not go back to your website at all.

Overall they are more often than not a great marketing tool and can help drive customers to you if you get the codes visible online so people know about them.  Try time limited offers so potential customers are further encouraged to visit as they will feel they don't want to miss out on some savings.

Ensure your e-commerce website has an easy check-out process

Lots of work has been done by most major e-commerce solution providers in recent years to ensure the check-out process they offer is easy and flexible.

Allowing for a 'Guest Check-out' where customers don't have to create an account or login means you don't miss out on those who don't want to store there details with you.  Also supporting account-based shopping for customers who want to create an account is worthwhile considering, though sometimes this route can be more complex and expensive for you to manage.

Using a single-page check-out is also a really great way of keeping things simple, as the less information a customer has to enter before buying, the more likely they are to stay engaged and see the purchase through to completion.

Support for both PayPal and credit/debit card payments is also a good way of making sure you allow for those who don't like to use PayPal or for those who do!

And finally...responsive e-commerce websites

More and more people are using mobile phones and tablets to make online purchasing.  Whilst many non-responsive websites can be browsed without major problems, some are just too large or complex to work well on touch screens.  Some menu styles also struggle to work at all with touch, instead relying on hovering a mouse cursor over them to activate sub-menus or check-out processes.

Having an e-commerce website which responds and works on all types of device is becoming almost an essential requirement to ensure you are not losing out on customers!

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Friday, 14 August 2020

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