Grow Your E-Commerce Business with the Right Website Design
COVID-19 brought with it a lot of changes: wearing masks in public, eating outdoors, remote work, and thousands of other things (we’d keep you here all day if we tried to name them all). To say that the world has changed a lot in the past year would be understating things a bit. If you’re reading this article, though, you’re probably most interested in the massive uptick in online shopping that experts predict is here to stay. With more and more consumers doing their shopping far away from brick and mortar locations you’ll want to make sure your website is well equipped to handle the online traffic you receive! We’re here to help.
Use the tips below to help you grow your e-commerce business!
B2B or B2C
First off, let’s answer a very important question: Does your business sell products/services to other businesses or to consumers? Depending on your answer to this you’ll want to adjust the way your website appears and operates! The way you get another business to buy your product could be very different from the way you’d get a consumer to buy your product. To get the best website possible you’ll want to make sure you’re gearing it toward the right audience.
If you’re selling to another company, you can expect the nurturing process (sales cycle) to last for much longer than if you’re selling to a consumer.
Businesses have a lot to consider before they make a purchase: will this benefit all my employees? What will stakeholders think? How will this help me to get more customers? Will this hurt my bottom line?
There’s a lot to consider there.
Whereas, if you’re selling to an individual consumer, you just need to convince that one person that your product will make a difference in their life. The selling process with an individual consumer is much shorter and is often based more on emotion and perceived need than a well thought-out plan.
But what does this mean for your website?
If you’re a B2B company, you’ll want more comprehensive information available on your website to address the variety of people involved in the decision-making process. Sales in a B2B landscape can be very high-touch, especially if your website doesn’t answer all the necessary questions. You don't want to be answering hundreds of questions every day - you want your website to do most of the heavy lifting.
Your website should be a resource for potential customers to better understand how your product can help them reach their end goal. You’ll want information on how their end-users will interact with your product, comprehensive information about different pricing options, and resources to help your buyers sell to the decision-makers in your company. Your B2B site should be focused less on making an immediate sale and more on nurturing potential leads to get them to the point where they feel comfortable buying your product.
If you’re a B2C company, the pipeline to sale is much shorter. Consumers are likely pretty far down the path once they find your website. Let’s say your consumer has just moved into a new apartment and needs to stock up on household cleaning supplies. They go online and search for the best broom. By the time they click on your website they’re likely already pretty far along in their buyer journey. Your website just needs to nudge them along with those last morsels of information that will sway their decision. You should make sure your users can quickly and easily find what they’re looking for and buy it without hassle.
Okay, so now you know how to use your website to effectively target your audience. But what else do you need to make sure your website stands out?
What do you need to build a great website?
No matter the size of your organization, and whether it is B2B or B2C, you need to get set up on a website that handles the traffic well. An e-commerce platform is best equipped to handle your online sales.
So, what is an e-commerce platform exactly?
An e-commerce platform is how you’ll manage selling your products or services in the online sphere.
Your customers should be able to use your platform to look around, discover new products, and shop - similar to the way they would if you had an actual physical location. There are three different types of e-commerce platforms.
• SAAS platforms, or software as a service platforms allow you to get off the ground running! These platforms let you get going without putting too much effort in. They’re great to get you started, but keep in mind that customization is harder with SAAS platforms. You’ll likely have fewer options to choose from and you may not get everything exactly as you like. You’ll also need to factor in the cost. SAAS platforms often come with a monthly or yearly fee.
• Open source platforms are what they sound like! You’ll have open access to the source code which means you can change pretty much anything about how your website appears or how your users interact with it. There are drawbacks though! With that much free reign, you’ll need to know what you’re doing to get your website off the ground. If your website needs a high degree of customization but you’re not exactly sure how to handle it, you can always hire a web developer to fill in the blanks.
• Headless commerce platforms separate the front end and the back end of your website, allowing you to make changes/customize frequently. This is great if you know your shoppers will be using different sorts of devices other than just viewing your website on a traditional desktop computer. This type is flexible and can adapt to your changing needs. Your front-end developers will need to be on top of it though, as they will need to build the entire experience from scratch. While that gives you a huge amount of freedom, it also may take some time and money.
So we’ve covered the types of platforms there are - is there anything else you need to consider when choosing/building/designing your website?
In this day and age, more and more of our lives are happening on screens (and that’s not limited to one screen per person!). 80% of people have smartphones and use them to do a variety of things! Whether that’s scheduling their next dentist appointment, leveling up in that addicting game, or buying something from your website. So you’ll want to make sure your website works well on all devices, not just on computers. Imagine one of your customers trying to buy something from their phone. What if the screen isn’t sized correctly or the buttons don't seem to click? What is to stop them from visiting a competitor’s site?
And that’s why it’s crucial to make sure your user experience is stellar from the desktop experience to the smartphone experience to the tablet experience! It shouldn’t matter what device your customer is on. Part of your job is to make sure they have a positive experience no matter where they end up. Building your website so that it responds to the changes in device is hugely important and it can cost you customers if you don’t prioritize this correctly.
You’ll also want your site to look good! It takes only .05 seconds for a user to decide whether or not they like your site. With opinions formed that quickly, shoppers are judging books by their covers - so make sure your cover looks good!
Okay so it’s important that your website responds and looks good on any device. But it can’t just look good. Your website needs to be intuitive, easy to use. You want your users to know exactly how to use your website without really even needing to think about it. Any time they spend thinking about how to use your website is time your competitors could be stealing them away. It sounds overdramatic, but it’s true! If a user can’t figure out how to add an item to their cart or change the quantity, why wouldn’t they go find what you sell somewhere else? User experience is foundational, and if you want to be successful, treat it as such.
So those are the basics, but are there specific pages you need to be successful? How can you be sure your website looks professional and is ready to handle any business that comes your way?
Homepage: This is perhaps the most important page for your journey (though they all carry a lot of weight). Have you ever heard the phrase “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”? Well, it’s true. And when your consumers have so many options, you can’t afford to let any potential customers slip through your fingers because of a bad homepage. You’ll want your homepage to make it impossible for users to leave! Make it exciting for them to peruse like they would a brick-and-mortar location! Okay, so you know it is important. But what does a good homepage have? If users are visiting your site for the very first time, you’ll want to make sure they know that you’re credible, responsive, and supportive.
• Have contact information at the ready and make sure your shoppers know that you have support on hand to help if needed.
• You’ll want to make sure that your website is very clear on what you bring to the table! If you have a unique value proposition, let your customers know before they leave your site and start searching somewhere else!
• Give your users something to do on the page! A lot of successful homepages offer previews of products so that users can click on anything that catches their eye.
• Oh, and you’ll want a search bar too! This helps users get exactly where they want to end up. You can enhance this experience by adding different filters to your search bar, like categories or pricing filters.
Product pages: Of course, hugely important is a product page! You want to show off what you’re selling.
• Show it off in the best light with stellar pictures and videos so that users can’t help but imagine your product in their life.
• Include specifications and measurements so that users will know if it is right for them.
• Include reviews and related products so your customers can make informed decisions about whether your product is right for them and find alternatives if it isn't.
• Then to make sure your user can easily buy your product, have an add to cart button. And if you want to get really fancy, you can add a save for later or even a buy now button! Buy now lets users bypass navigating to their cart and pressing the checkout button. Buy now removes roadblocks that might force your customers off the road.
Checkout Pages: You want this stage in the process to be as simple and easy as possible. This is the last step before you make the sale, don’t lose them now! But what goes into a successful checkout page? How can you avoid an abandoned cart? There are a lot of reasons why a user might abandon a cart: maybe they think you charge too much for shipping or maybe they don’t want to create an account! Don’t let those things cost you customers.
• Keep customers informed of any shipping costs by placing that throughout your website, if you have minimums you require for free shipping, make sure they’re aware of that before they make it to the checkout page.
• Offer users an opportunity to check out as a guest! Creating an account can be the nail in the coffin when it comes to shoppers jumping ship. You can still get their email with a guest account and you can minimize the number of shoppers who abandon ship at the last minute.
• You also want to make sure you’re cognizant of how many forms you’re making your users fill out. And we know, most of these are mandatory forms. You can’t get the product to the customer without them. While you may not be able to cut down on these fields you can make it less onerous for the user by visually breaking up the information they need to input. Instead of having card information, billing and shipping information all on the same page make it three different pages. Studies show that asking for this information as your user’s progress, rather than all at once, will help you to keep customers on board till the purchase has been completed.
• About us: While it can seem silly, having an “about us” page is hugely important in this day and age. Why? Does it matter who you are if you are selling products that your consumers want to buy? Yes, it does. It matters a whole lot. Today’s consumers are very conscious of where they put their money. Their purchases are often well-considered and weighed against your competition’s product. Having an “About us” page can tip the scale in your favor. Consumers want to know who they’re buying from. They want to know how something was made, where the materials came from or what went into producing those materials. For millennials and Gen Z especially they need to know who they’re buying from. While B2C consumers are already pretty far along in their journey by the time they get to your website, having a page like this can help change the tides in your favor.
So these are some staples but there are tons of things you can do to make your website eye-catching and effective in converting leads!
• Landing pages: Setting up landing pages is a great way to get your customers to buy-in. Depending on where they are coming from, you can target them with different landing pages! Say you’re a shoe store and a potential customer has just been perusing Columbia or Patagonia, you can throw up a landing page featuring your sale on hiking boots! That’s probably what they’re there for anyway - if you can simplify their journey from the homepage to the cart then you’re winning the e-commerce game.
• First-time buyers: If a user is just visiting your website for the first time you can offer promotions to get their email address. This is pretty common practice. We’ve all seen these types of promotions! They offer you 10% off your first purchase if you give them your email address. And this is great for a variety of reasons. If your offer is successful, not only do you get a sale but you get an email address to send your marketing materials to! If for some reason your customer doesn’t make a purchase, they have an incentive to come back in the future (10% off) and you get their email address!
• Shopping Cart Abandonment: Hopefully, you should not see too much of this if you use our tips, but you’ll likely still encounter the occasional shopping cart abandonment. While there are a variety of reasons a shopper might abandon their cart, you still may be able to win them over! If you’ve got their email address, you can let them know the items are still in their cart. This is great if they accidentally clicked off of the page or left it, planning to return, but never got around to it. Or, say they decided it was just too much for them, you can reel them back in by offering discounts to them based on the items they had in their cart!
If you read this article you know there’s a lot that goes into making a successful e-commerce website. You want your page to look nice but be functional and informative, to attract new users and retain existing ones, to engage users and keep them coming back for more! With these tips and tricks, you should be set up for success.