If you didn’t already think e-Commerce was serious business, think again. An astounding USD2.04 billion worth of revenue was transacted on Cyber Monday this year alone, with overall global B2C figures projected to hit USD1.5 trillion in 2014.
But just how big a slice of that massive pie is your online shop capturing at the moment?
With competition heating up by the day, in particular from huge global players like Rocket Internet with their seemingly limitless resources – retaining your audience, let alone growing it is becoming an increasingly difficult task.
Optimizing conversion for the audience you have is definitely a critical aspect of the decision-making process. But sometimes, it might be good to go back to the basics, and ensure your e-Commerce shopfront has the requisite solid fundamentals in place to be able to even attract that audience in the first place.
Here’s 8 of the top mistakes commonly made by e-Commerce sites – and how you can go about correcting them.
1. Power of visuals
Should the only differentiating factor between two competing offerings be how much better one looks than the other – the more visually appealing one will almost always win out.
Especially when it comes to e-Commerce, this importance of visuals is only further amplified – for it takes just 50 milliseconds (or about 0.05 seconds) for users to form an opinion about your site, determining whether they’ll even stay for further browsing.
Unlike a traditional brick-and-mortar retail operation, your customers have lost the tactile ability to physically pick up and inspect a product, with the entire consumer buying process from the awareness stage right up to the purchase decision made purely online. It’s a fair bit of trust one expects from even the most loyal of customers, and one you should not misplace.
Display multiple angles, in high-quality and high-resolution. Provide the ability to zoom in and out, alongside options to alter variables such as color, sizing or even background.
It’s still impossible to replace the physical sensations of touch and feel (not yet anyway) – but as the saying goes, a picture paints a thousand words. And with research showing that consumers are 64% more likely to purchase online when a video was included in the shopping experience, perhaps a video paints ten thousand.
2. Lack of credibility
Earning the trust (and hard-earned money) of your prospects is often a task easier said than done. Consumers still have real fears surrounding e-Commerce, and easing their online shopping anxiety requires addressing numerous factors to help you earn that credibility with the visitors you’re eventually hoping to sell those products to.
Ensure you have proper company information, to give your potential customers an idea of who they are dealing with. Provide comprehensive product detail, to instill confidence in your range of offerings.
Create clear-cut, transparent channels of communication for these very customers – to let them know that there’s actually somebody available to speak to should they need on the other end.
Consider investing in security, and or industry accreditation/certification. Clear trust indicators such as SSL digital certificates can and will go a long way towards communicating to your customers that your site is trusted, and that their valuable private information is secure.
3. Poor customer service
The old age goes “The customer is always right” – and that almost certainly always applies in the e-Commerce world as well. With such fierce competition within the market these days, sometimes all it takes to cement not just an initial sale, but a loyal, long-term return customer is the sense of value that customer perceives he or she to have from the e-Commerce retailer.
A great experience with customer service through email, or a timely live chat session right when the customer requires some assistance – it might come across as a point almost too obvious to highlight. But the truth is many companies these days have put too big a focus on the bottom-line, and have ignored the e-Commerce holy grail of fantastic customer service for far too long.
A great example would be American-based shoe and clothing outlet Zappos, legendary for its pledge towards encouraging customer interaction for as long as they like.
4. Stock product descriptions
Never, ever use the stock descriptions from your manufacturers for any of your products.
You want to set yourself apart from not just your competitors, but more importantly, to the various search engines crawling your data – which is often the first place a potential prospect would typically start in their journey to becoming a customer.
Creative, custom copy would not just greatly boost your rankings with Google or Bing, but also your customers – they add content, vibrancy, and personality to your offerings and your brand.
Chances are, your competition might not have taken the effort to craft custom descriptions either, and as previously highlighted every single point of differentiation matters hugely.
5. Bad search functionality
I’m sure we’ve all stood frustrated in the middle of a large departmental store or supermarket, unable to find the product you want, despite knowing the exact product is stocked there.
It’s the same exact frustration consumers get when they might have seen a product of yours they liked from an advertisement or a newsletter you’ve placed – but which is then impossible to find or search for on your e-Commerce shopfront itself.
Often one of the most neglected features on e-Commerce sites, statistics have shown that intuitive internal search functionality is a key factor heavily influencing customer experience – and in turn, conversion rate, customer retention and loyalty, and even branding in the long-term.
Work closely with your developers to optimize how your search functions work, and focus on getting the best results to your customers as fast as you can. A key priority would be clear transparency over the availability of your stock, a by-product of good inventory management. It’ll save both you and your customers a lot of wasted time otherwise.
In addition, utilize tactics such as targeted key words, ensure your search bar is positioned in a clear and easily accessible manner, or even go further in-depth to play around with options such as auto-complete, dynamic or suggested results – although such detailed customizability might be subject to the limitations of your out-of-the-box e-Commerce platforms themselves.
6. Inadequate mobile optimization
Here’s some eye-popping statistics – consumers spend more time shopping on mobile devices than start ups, two out of three customers prefer shopping over mobile websites than mobile applications, and 75% of mobile shoppers have used a mobile coupon.
Just as e-Commerce has exploded, mobile shopping is huge, and optimizing your e-Commerce site for a smooth mobile experience is absolutely critical to the success of your business.
Create an app-like user experience with native, intuitive navigation. Utilize mobile coupons, which are a great ‘pull’ factor and a sound strategy to improve buy-on towards your products and platform. Initiatives like these can all only lead to increased conversion rates, and growth in affinity for your brand as a whole.
7. Complicated checkhout process
Are your analytics showing substantial traffic to your front site, individual product pages, and even the shopping cart itself – before dropping off drastically?
There might be a real problem with your site’s check-out process, which is turning off prospects from completing the purchase cycle and losing you customers before you can even close a sale.
Typical problems within the process might include the need to input too much personal information, perform too many repetitive actions, or forcing your customers to click through too many separate pages before actually being able to spend his or her money with you.
Don’t let this become a problem. Always remember the basic mantra of helping your customers purchase your products as fast as possible, and as easy as they can.
8. Long load times
Last but not least, always ensure that your site loads in double-quick time, and that a visitor can start browsing and even literally make an actual purchase in a matter of seconds.
Ask yourself, would you stay on a site if it takes half a minute to even load basic functionality, let alone before you are even able to start browsing or make an actual purchase? The answer’s definitely no.
So make sure that your customers never click the “Back” button, and move on to a competitor of yours – for a basic reason so easily solvable such as their frustration with how long it takes for your site to load.
Now, your site looks (and works) great, and you’ve created great credibility for your brand and products. It’s still no guarantee for success, but at least you know you’ve avoided (or rectified) the common pitfalls many make.
Hopefully, it’ll be the catalyst towards driving substantial growth in traffic, conversion, revenue and ultimately profits for your business in the long run.