Download the FREE e-Commerce Best Practice Checklist
Creating and maintaining a successful e-commerce website is a non-stop evolving process. Increasing conversions from your website is the hardest challenge.
Below is a best practice guide to evolving your website into a successful e-commerce business. If each of these best practices are followed you should see an immediate lift in your conversion rates.
To help you along with this process you can download the FREE e-Commerce Best Practice Checklist that is attached to the left. Use this checklist as you are updating your site to become a strong converter and watch your conversion rates increase.
Before you begin this process be sure to benchmark your existing traffic and conversion rates and the plot your success over time. As always we recommend A/B testing, multivariate testing and usability testing. Test everything. The more you test the better your results will be.
- Take the 5-second test – Get someone who’s never seen your website. Bring up your site for them and count to 5 and then close the site. Ask them who the company is and what they are selling. If they can’t answer either of these questions your website has some serious issues that need to be fixed immediately. Ask them anything else they may have noticed. Ask them if they would buy from this site.
- Logo – Display a nicely designed logo that is easy to read and communicates who you are.
- Tagline – Display a tagline under your logo that communicates what you sell and why your company is different from others.
- Show featured on-sale products – Show several on sale products on your home page. Don’t show more that 10 or so.
- Have a feature billboard – A rotating feature billboard at the top of the page should display new products or sales you’re having.
- Show a prominent customer testimonial – On the home page feature one or rotating testimonials. Include a link to a page with all your testimonials. It will add an additional level of comfort for shoppers.
- Use Google Analytics – Tag each page and add a conversion tag to the final page after checkout.
- Know your conversion rate – Always track your conversion rate. This way you can track all the improvements that you make to your site.
- “Why shop with us?” information page – Include a page that lists all the reasons why someone should buy from your site and not a competitors.
- Offer FREE shipping – Free shipping is an excellent way to increase conversions.
- Offer same day shipping – Show that you will be sending out the customer’s order the same day.
- Increase trust with supplier logos – Trust is huge. Getting consumers to trust your company versus your competitors is key to conversions. Show logos such as SSL logos, McAfee, shipper logos (UPS, FedEx, USPS, etc.), PayPal, credit card logos, etc.
- Clear and consistent navigation – Make sure users can find what they’re looking for quickly and easily. Provide multiple ways to find your products.
- Use breadcrumbs – Breadcrumbs help users find where they are in your navigation. They also are good for SEO.
- Company logo in header should link to home page – This is a basic one but many sites still don’t do this. Trust us, users will click on your logo to go back to the home page so make it linkable.
- Easy to find contact information – Show a large phone number in the header of the site. Have a contact us page in your main navigation that includes, phone, email, address and any other means of contacting the company.
- Have a site search – Include a site search somewhere at the top of your site. If a user gets lost they will have a tendency to search for the item they are looking for. This will make it easy for them.
- Show clear call-to-actions – Whatever your call-to-action is “Add to Cart”, “More Details”, or “Buy Now”, make sure your buttons are easy to see and click on.
- Social networking links – Show your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media icons. This will let shoppers know that you are active in communicating with your customers.
- Return and exchange policy – Can an easy to find link to a return and exchange policy. Make your return policy easy to understand and easy to execute.
- FAQs page – An extensive FAQs page is a must. Try to answer as many questions on this page as you can. Think of the questions you have while visiting other ecommerce websites.
- Have a site map – A site map will help shoppers get a better idea of all the products that you have available. It’s also important to search engines so they can easily crawl all the pages in your site.
- Easy sign up to newsletter – Make it very easy for interested shoppers to sign up for your newsletter.
- Provide excellent customer service – This sounds obvious but it’s not. The customer is always right. Be sure to keep that saying in mind at all times and execute your business around it.
- Provide easy to find contact information – Make it extremely easy for shoppers to find your contact information.
- Large phone number on site – Have a large phone at the top of the page in the header and at the bottom of the page in the footer.
- Have a human answer the phone – I know I hate those automated systems that you get stuck in, so does everyone else. Have someone answer the phone. It will increase your chances of making a sale.
- Offer a chat feature – A chat feature is another option for shoppers to contact you. Many shoppers like this option.
- Offer free return shipping – Offering free shipping on returned items one more way to make your shoppers feel comfortable in shopping with your company.
- Easy return policy – Make sure your return policy is easy to read and understand.
- Thank you calls after purchase – After someone has received your product give them a call to make sure they receive the product and that everything is fine. You will be amazed at what this can do for your company.
- Thank you emails – Send a thank you email after the purchase.
- Guaranteed email response time – Guarantee that you will respond to someone’s request within a certain amount of time, generally, 24 hours is a good start.
- Personalize everything – Be sure to include the shoppers name on everything you send them.
- Create unique landing pages – To help increase your conversion rates build unique landing pages for each keyword you’re targeting. This works especially well with PPC campaigns. Create these landing pages and test them to find which page(s) convert the best.
- Target keywords – Always select keywords to target for each of your product pages. Start with short-tail keywords and then add long-tail keywords.
- Have a blog – Be sure to have a blog attached to your ecommerce site. Be sure the blog is hosted off the same domain name as your ecommerce site as you want all links coming into the blog to add link value to your domain name. Be sure to update your blog at least once a week. Be sure to target keywords with your blog and link to your product pages with those keywords.
- Follow up surveys – Send follow up surveys to find out how a shoppers experience went.
- Send an email newsletter – Send an email newsletter to existing customers and interested shoppers. Include sales promotions, coupons and other special offers in these newsletters. You can also highlight new products and features. This is a very affordable way to communicate with your customers and prospects.
- Create a Facebook fan page – Creating a Facebook fan page will give you an additional avenue for traffic. This will also give you an excellent way to communication with your prospects and existing customers.
- Create a Twitter account – Twitter is a quick way to communicate with prospects and existing customers. Use Twitter to announce one-day-only sales and see how this converts.
- Test in multiple browsers – Be sure that your site works in IE, FireFox, Safari and other browsers. Check this often.
- Have multiple sorting options (by color, brand, style, etc.) – Allow shoppers to find your products using several different sorting options. The more options you give them, the better chance they will have of finding the product they are a looking for.
- Keywords in title tag – Be sure you write a title tag that includes the keywords you’re targeting. Keep the title tag less than 65 characters.
- Keywords in meta tags – Include your targeted keywords in your meta description tag. Keep this tag at no longer than 260 characters. And include your keywords in your meta keyword tag. Although, search engines don’t really use this tag any more, it is still advised to use it.
- RSS feeds – Include RSS feeds to your products and your blog. This will allow shoppers to subscribe to your new products and to your blog posts. This is especially important for your blog posts.
- Easy to understand URLs – Do not use URLs that a human can’t read. Don’t include random strings of numbers and letters in the URL.
- Include keywords in URLs – Do include your targeted keywords in your URLs. Be sure to separate them with a dash “-“ and NOT an underscore “_”.
- Optimize your images – Make sure your images are as small as possible without degrading the quality of the photo. If you’re showing a photo use a jpg image. If you’re showing a logo use either a gif or png image.
- Use “title” attributes in your link code – When creating links in your code, include a “title” attribute. This will give you another opportunity to include your keywords and will help with usability.
- Use “alt” attributes in your image code – When creating an <img src=> tag be sure to include the “alt” attribute as is will give you another opportunity to include your keywords and will help with usability.
Product Category Pages
- Allow for multiple ways to get to your products – Divide your products into easy to understand categories. Allow users to click on these product categories to view product category pages.
- Have nice clean photos – Your product photos should be nice and clean, and be easy to understand what the product is.
- Have minimal amount of description text – On the product category pages have minimal if any product description text. The cleaner you can keep this page the easier it will be for users to click through to the product page.
- Have a Buy Now button – Make sure each product has a “Buy Now” button. Make the button big enough that users can see it, but not too big that it competes with the product photo.
- Have a Get More Details button or link - Make sure each product has a “Get More Details” button or link. Make the button big enough that users can see it, but not too big that it competes with the product photo.
- Create compelling product copy – Be sure that your product copy is interesting enough that a shopper is going to want to read it. Make sure it’s not too long. Be sure to include your targeted keywords in the copy.
- Clear inventory indicator (“in stock” or “out of stock”) – Be sure to include an easy to see inventory indicator. Either show “in stock” or “out of stock”, or show an actual number of items currently in stock.
- Show several product photos – The more quality photos that you can show of your product the more opportunities your shopper will have to better understand the product. Include as many quality photos as you can.
- Include a photo zoom feature – Allow shoppers to easily zoom into your photos to see product details.
- Include a photo gallery to display all photos for a product – If you are showing a lot of photos be sure to include a photo gallery so shoppers can quickly see the photos.
- Show people using your products – Some of your photos should include people. Of course this depends on your products, but in most cases showing people with your products will help the sale.
- Have a large “Add to Cart” button – This is huge. Be sure that your “Add to Cart” button is very visible. Test different sizes and different colors to see which works best for your site. Make sure it is place toward the top of your product page and not at the bottom.
- Suggest related products – At the bottom of your product page it is a good idea to suggest other related products. This will give the shopper an opportunity to see other similar products that you offer.
- Tabbed product details (Features, videos, reviews, specifications, warranty, etc.) – On the product page include tabbed product details functionality. This will condense the length of the page so shoppers don’t have to scroll through a long page.
- Product reviews – Including product reviews is a very strong way to convert shoppers. Allowing shoppers to read other shoppers experience with your store and products will give them an addition comfort level to purchase.
- Product videos – Demonstrate your products using short videos. This will help shoppers better understand your products by seeing them in action.
- Product demonstrations – Showing videos or slide shows of how to use your products will help sell your products.
- Product reviews by media – Add credibility by having the media or bloggers review your products. Include a link to these product reviews and be sure to include the media logos to add more credibility.
- Warranty information – Including a strong warranty program will put shoppers at ease. Warranties such as a limited lifetime warranty are very beneficial.
- Include social links – Be sure to include links to “like” functionality for sites like Facebook and Digg.
- Show items in cart – When a shopper adds an item to the shopping cart be sure to take them to the shopping cart and show them the item in the cart.
- Show thumbnail photo of items – Be sure to show a thumbnail photo of the product they placed in the shopping cart.
- Have links back to the product page – Be sure the product name has a link back to the product page. This will allow shoppers to easily go back to see what product they placed in the cart.
- Cross sell other products – The shopping cart is a great opportunity to cross sell other similar products. Be sure to include 2-6 similar products at the bottom of the shopping cart.
- Up sell products – The shopping cart is another great opportunity to up sell add-on products to the core product being purchased. Again, show these at the bottom of the shopping cart.
- Don’t require registration to purchase – This is one of the biggest hurdles of checking out. DO NOT require registration for shoppers to purchase a product. This has been proven time and time again in testing.
- Large, easy to see Checkout button – Make sure your Checkout button is clearly visible and is a bright color. We would suggest testing different button sizes and colors.
- One page checkout is preferable – Many usability tests have confirmed that a one-page checkout converts more than multiple-page checkouts. If you’re a shopper, isn’t filling out one page easier than 4 pages?
- If using multiple page checkout, show a progress bar – If you do decide to go with a multiple-page checkout (we recommend against this) be sure to use a progress bar at the top of the checkout page.
- Easy to find shipping options with pricing – Once a shopper has filled out their ship to address, be sure to clearly display your shipping options (Ground, 2 Day, Overnight, etc.) along with pricing. Allow shoppers to add the shipping costs to their shopping cart to see the total costs.
- Easy to find payment options – Be sure payment options are clearly displayed. Show payment logos such as PayPal, VISA, Mastercard and American Express.
- Offer PayPal and Google Checkout – Be sure to offer as many payment options as possible. PayPal is a huge one that many shoppers use. You will see an immediate lift in sales by offering this payment method.
- Easy copy billing information into shipping information fields – Don’t force the shopper to fill out their address twice. Be sure to add functionality that copies billing address information directly into the shipping address information fields if needed.
- Email customers with abandoned carts – If your ecommerce software allows you to track abandoned shopping carts, then contact those shoppers via email to ask why they left and didn’t purchase.
- Emphasize security of the shopping cart – Be sure to show SSL logos and other security logos that your ecommerce software may offer.
- Email list opt-out – Be sure to include the option for shoppers to opt-out of your email list. This means that you cannot email the shopper outside of this purchase.
- Track order information – On the final page after checkout be sure to include a way for the customer to track their order and to contact you if they have questions.
- Wish List functionality – Give shoppers the ability to create a “wish list” of your products. This will allow you to see what people are planning on purchasing and gives the shopper a nice added convenience.
- Email me when back in stock functionality – Be sure to include functionality that will allow users to sign up for an email when a product comes back in stock.
- Gift wrapping – Give user the option to have their order gift wrapped. This may be something your fulfillment center offers.
- Affiliate program – An affiliate program is a great way to drive additional traffic and sales to your store. Many ecommerce packages offer this functionality.
- A/B test your landing pages – An A/B test is a test where you compare the conversion rates of one page to another page.
- Multivariate test your landing pages – Once you have selected a winning page from an A/B test we recommend multivariate testing on that page. Multivariate testing is where you test specific items on a page. For example, button sizes, button colors, different headlines, different photos, etc.
- Usability test – If you want to know how people are using your website, conduct a usability test. There are several ways to do this, from a simple usability test where you ask a friend or colleague to go through the purchase process on your site, to a full usability test performed by usability lab. Both testing methods will provide you with excellent insight into your ecommerce site.
- Heat mapping test – Heat map testing is a process that allows you to see what shoppers are clicking on in your site. The results are displayed in visual representation that looks like a heat map. These tests will let you know where your shopper’s attention is being focused.
If you need help with any of these items within the e-commerce best practices guide, please contact us as we would love to help you achieve your highest online conversion rates.