Maintaining an e-commerce website

by Gary on November 22, 2007 · 5 comments

in E-commerce

The primary focus of every e-commerce website is to make a sale, whether it is a product or a service. Every aspect of an e-commerce website is to encourage the visitor to go to the buy or subscribe page and make the payment. An e-commerce website is fundamentally different from a normal website. A normal website acts as a branding tool and as a promotional exercise. An e-commerce website on the other hand does the actual monetary business. It must have already established a brand or generated trust among its visitors to convince them into buying a product or a service. There are two broad categories of e-commerce websites:

The known brands have an advantage but still it matters a lot how the design their interfaces and make purchasing seamless. The advantage that the known brands enjoy is the recognition and trust: they don’t have to establish trust among the visitors so they can straightaway get down to doing the actual monetary business.

On the other hand the unknown or the lesser known brands have to first establish trust, convince the visitors, keep them interested and focused, and keep holding their hand until they have made a purchase or bought a subscription.

In order to achieve that an e-commerce website should have the minimum of distractions. Additionally, an e-commerce website should have convincing copy that educates and informs the prospective customers and clients so that they can make an educated decision. Instead of hard-selling you should lay out the overwhelming benefits at the very beginning. Inform in as simple a language as possible, use the selling prompts like “buy now” or “subscribe now” strategically without scaring them and then leave the choice on them. Educate your buyers or subscribers as much as possible.

Make all the necessary information needed to make a purchasing-decision prominent on every page or at least have all the important links present prominently on every page. Don’t cramp your pages with lots of information and organise everything in such a manner that it is easily visible or linkable.

Another extremely important information that you must have on your e-commerce website is the testimonials from your existing customers or clients and your clearly-defined contact details. Your business addresses, telephones, and emails should be there for everybody to see. Your legal policies and statements should be present on every page. You should also assure your visitors that all the transactions that take place on your website are totally secure and encrypted and the personal details are never shared with any third parties.

Stick to these guidelines and you will see a significant increase in your sales or paid subscriptions.

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Marc Levy November 27, 2007 at 5:32 am

For the ‘unknown’ or ‘unbranded’ e-commerce sites another important factor is design (at least it is with me). If the design looks unprofessional, most people straight away think “dodgy, unreliable or fake”. Because it is unbranded it needs to look professional – add that to the factors Gary already mentioned above i.e. good product information, good product images, good prices, easy shopping cart etc and the sale will be yours.

SEO Carly November 30, 2007 at 7:06 am

An E-Commerce site i worked on recently i tripled their sales in a few days. What did i do? Well not much.

They were getting great traffic but very few sales, and on a deeper analysis of their stats i noticed a massive bounce rate at the cart.

So i went in their as a Shopper and not as a SEO, and done some dummy run purchases and the cart was horrible. It was very difficult to go back and add more items to the cart, and checking out one item was confusing.

All i done was tweaked the layout, and added CLEAR step by step instructions with some shiny graphics walking them through the entire process.

People like step by step easy as 1-2-3 type processes with the least amount of complicated forms, input fields and steps to reach the final destination.

The site went from $80 days to $300 days overnight, not huge money but a massive increase and ROI for the company.

So in addition to what Gary said, pour through your stats every day and understand your visitors, what they are searching for, how they navigate and most importantly where they are leaving your site.

Make it your goal to rework your top 5 exit pages each month and reduce the volume of traffic exiting from these pages. If you do this every month, eventually your top exit page will be the “Thankyou for purchasing, your item will be dispatched tomorrow at 9AM” page.

Also get friends and family to do dummy run purchases, or even offer a group of people a few dollars or a small gift to do a trial purchase and fill a short questionaire on the positive/negative of the process and how it can be improved.

Sometimes we get tunnel vision on our own websites and just don’t see things from a customers prospective, or what we think is great really might be a nightmare to others.

Also look at the shopping process of successful sites and emulate a similar experience.

Marc Levy November 30, 2007 at 1:27 pm

Carly – Some great points. Researching exit pages and re-working them until they improve is some great advice, especially for e-commerce.

SEO Carly December 2, 2007 at 5:47 pm

Thanks Marc, the way i see it is every page is like a link in a chain and as the saying goes “A chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link”.

This is especially true with e-commerce sites. Pages with the highest exist rate are the weakest link or the point of failure where you loose the most sales.

I use this approach on “all” websites, but especially e-commerce sites.

It’s very simple to fix, and not to mention a very cost effective solution. Sometimes the high exit pages may just contain a lack of information or lack of links to other related content on the site so it becomes a virtual “dead end” and people bounce.

It costs nothing but a bit of time to add more information, links and illustrations and make that page go from the highest exit page to one of the lowest. You can use it to channel traffic where you want it i.e. to your cart or purchase pages.

I strongly recommend doing this “before” investing in expensive advertising campaigns, because if the site isn’t making maximum use of it’s current traffic then alot of the traffic from the advertising campaign will be wasted.