There are a lot of tips and tricks out there on how to turn your online shop to a sales machine, but today I'll focus on ecommerce user experience features that are an absolute must-have. No excuses!
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)
If a shopper decides they want to make a purchase on your website, they need some form of assurance that their credit card data will not be intercepted, sold, or otherwise misused. You can’t control their computer and ensure the 100% security of their credit card information, but you can control your website and the interaction between your website and the consumer. You do this through use of an SSL certificate. An SSL certificate is used to encrypt the data between your website (the server) and the consumer (the client) to ensure no outsiders can tap into it and get the credit card data. There are numerous ways hackers can intercept data, but encrypted data is of no use to hackers as it’s just a bunch of jargon.
If a website URL contains “HTTPS” instead of the original “HTTP”, then it is secured with an SSL certificate. Larger websites also use SSL that really don’t sell anything, such as Google:
Google uses an SSL certificate for other reasons, mostly privacy-related issues.
Google recently stated that they will begin considering website security when ranking sites, so SSL may be beneficial from a search engine optimization standpoint as well.
Call to Action (CTA)
If there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s that you need a call to action on each and every page at least once. The CTA should be clearly identifiable and should encourage the shopper to enquire further. There are a few purposes of a CTA:
- To make a sale – When a customer clicks a link that says “learn more” or “buy now”, it usually means they are interested in what you have to say. Interest can mean sales and you certainly don’t want to miss out on a sale merely because you didn’t make it easy for the shopper.
- To inform them – Moving a visitor throughout your website is ideal. Movement through a website means they understand the product better and shows a greater deal of interest in your product and your company. Sometimes a call to action is all it takes to get someone interested in something.
- To gather information – The more they move throughout the site, the more you understand what exactly it is they’re looking for. For example, a page containing all of your shoes with filters will only tell you that they wanted shoes. However, a page dedicated to dress shoes, casual shoes, kids shoes, etc. can help you decide just what exactly they were looking for. Popular products should be easier to find than less popular products.
Take a look at some examples of calls to action:
As one of the largest names in electronics, Sony uses calls to action everywhere, sometimes more subtle than others. Most often, they use them to guide users through the website while the design and features in the text are what really grab your attention. This is a popular e-commerce strategy that has proven very successful.
Apple shows us that a call to action doesn’t necessarily have to be to a shopping page or the shopping cart. Instead, they use the primary call to action on their homepage to bring you to a film meant to advertise the iPhone5s. The new iPhone is the targeted product here, but to get you interested they decided a short video should spark some interest.
Basecamp is a project management tool that provides easy-to-use tools such as to-do lists and project organization tools. It’s a paid service and Basecamp’s goal from the start is to make a sale. They do this through a 2 month free trial, which is very easily found the moment you land on the website.
Savings and Sales
If we know anything about shoppers it’s that they crave sales and any form of savings. Most customers that are even remotely interested in something are more than happy to read into it if there is a sale going on. Black Friday is a core example of this; people buy large electronics all the time, but when Black Friday rolls around it seems like everyone in the US is interested in that new flat screen TV. Prices do make a difference, and advertising sales and other forms of savings from the start are an ideal way to make a sale.
There are a few forms of savings that are often used to attract new and returning customers:
- Shipping Deals – As an avid user of Woot!, I speak firsthand when I say shipping prices are an attraction. No matter how much or how many things you buy, the shipping costs come out to a total cost of $5. If you’re buying a pack of pens, this isn’t ideal; however, buying a TV, a pack of pens, the TV mount, and a new speaker system could add up to some serious shipping and handling costs! Besides Woot, I shop very often on Amazon because their prices are cheaper or nearly the same as most other places with the same product. But Amazon has free 2-day shipping for Prime members, making it yet another opportunity to save.
In case you were wondering, I did not buy this order. It was merely an example! However, on Woot you can manage to buy 2 laptops, a projector, and an 18-piece container set with just $5 shipping.
- Blowout Sales – Major sales, also known as “blowout sales,” are essentially mini-Black Friday sales. In these blowout sales, you offer products at a significantly cheaper price than average. In most cases, these sales come out as over 50% off an item. Blowout sales can of course bring in a lot of customers, and many of these customers will browse items that may not be on sale, but are still of interest to them. Last but not least, blowout sales should only happen occasionally. Timing could mean everything.
- Deal(s) of the Day – Deals are steals, or at least that’s the hope. If possible, providing “deals of the day” every day are ideal to encourage customers to check your website every single day. On this same page, it’s useful to place calls to action for other pages on your website you’re looking to promote. For some businesses, it could be a deal of the week or 1 deal of the day instead of multiple. As a major retailer, Sears can afford to host over 300 deals a day.
Easy-to-Use Shopping Cart
Picture yourself in line at the store with what you want picked out and ready to buy. You’re so ready you have payment in-hand. There’s just one problem: the cashier seems to be having some troubles with the computer system. Actually, all of the cashiers are having this problem. The frustration can build up and many customers decide to leave. So many e-commerce designers are so focused on the shopping experience that they forget the checkout. Grabbing interest and getting the shopper to actually be willing to purchase the product is, of course, the most difficult step, but keeping them on your website is also difficult.
All shopping carts should be easy-to-use. One core thing to keep in mind when designing and developing a shopping cart system is users do not like filling out forms. They despise forms and will avoid them wherever possible! Only make them fill out what is absolutely necessary to make the purchase. At the end of the purchase, you should even ask them to make an account on your website for faster purchasing and less forms at the end of the checkout process. You’d be surprised how many shoppers will sign up for this just for the ease-of-use. In fact, some companies cut out the shopping cart altogether, such as Amazon and their 1-click purchase feature. Also, if you plan to use a store builder, I suggest Shopify for best results.
Upon filling out the checkout information, it should be easy and fast to create a free account with your website. Profiles with recommended products for the user on the home page can be ideal for making sales as well.
Last but not least, the cart itself shouldn’t be the only part that’s easy-to-use. Using a clean and easy payment gateway is a necessity in e-commerce. If possible, try to keep it on your site for faster processing and navigation. Only use reputable companies that your customers will recognize, such as PayPal.
Search and Navigation Features
In order for someone to buy something they first need to be able to find it. A search box is the ideal way for someone to find what they’re looking for fast.
The search feature is the easiest way to navigate a website; however, there are other navigation features that should help shoppers narrow down exactly what it is they are looking for. Most often, these features are called “filters.” One of my commonly-used websites is Newegg.
As probably the master of organization on an online store, Newegg has managed to take its thousands of products and make them easier to narrow down and buy what you really want. You have a variety of filters and can search before or after using them. If you are still unsure, you can add more items to view per page, or even make it a list style for easier and faster scanning.
When starting and running an e-commerce website, there are 5 core things you must use:
- Savings and Sales
- Easy-to-use Shopping Cart
- Various Search and Navigation Features
Your goal is to create a safe and secure website that’s meant to be the go-to in your niche, meaning it’s easy-to-use and is constantly changing and offering freebies, sales, and other deals.
Author Bio: Ryan Gavin is an associate of Ignition72, a web design agency in Baltimore, MD. He loves finding new websites with great designs and other designers that do their job well and love it. He feels that without a web designer, a website is rarely successful.