When it comes to running an ecommerce website, there are thousands of things that could go wrong, interrupting a potential customer on his journey from engagement to conversion. Though many of these issues are difficult to anticipate, there are a few which are so common it’s hard to believe they’re still so prevalent on the Web today.
When creating an ecommerce website, be sure to identify the following possible trouble spots which will ultimately lead to customers hitting the back button and heading to a competitor’s site.
1. Too Much Flashiness
In a world in which our cell phones, TVs, laptops, and more are constantly bombarding us with flashy graphics and over-the-top noise, most of us yearn for simplicity.
Think about it: If a person is voluntarily checking out your ecommerce site, you already have their attention. There’s no need to go overboard trying to impress them with in-your-face multimedia, extraneous menu options, or any other superfluous addition to your site that delivers flash with no substance.
In fact, science has proven many reasons why a simpler site is actually more user-friendly. When you eliminate “fluff” from your site, you allow your customers to focus their attention on what they intended to do in the first place: shop. If they’re constantly being distracted by media that auto-plays whenever they click over to a new page, they’re more likely to interrupt their train of thought – and possibly leave your site altogether.
Though it is not an ecommerce site, and is really more of a model of what not to do when creating a website, check out The World’s Worst Website Ever. Obviously, it was created in a tongue-in-cheek manner, but it is a great example of how including flashiness for the sake of flashiness will ultimately detract from the true purpose of your site.
On the other hand, footwear site ETQ Amsterdam is about as minimalist as you can get. Customers looking for a new pair of walking shoes will be able to find what they need without having to deal with popup ads, unwanted multimedia, and a complex user interface.
Though it may be tempting to create a site that is more attention-grabbing than your competition, doing so may actually do more harm than good. Think of your website as a machine: It shouldn’t have any more “parts” than is necessary to make it run well. Toss out any feature or function you included on your site just because you thought it looked cool.
Better yet: find a practical use for a previously extraneous feature. As your ecommerce site – and your business – grows, this will become easier and easier to do.
2. Non-Responsive Sites
There used to be a time when you could all but guarantee your customers were viewing your site on a specific machine using a specific browser.
Of course, those days are long gone. We now have PCs, laptops, mobile devices, and smartphones with which to browse the Web. And each of these machines likely requires you to use a different browser, as well.
Knowing this, you have to ensure your site is responsive to all of these machines and browsers. Otherwise, you’ll lose customers before they even have a chance to check your product out. If your website doesn’t run properly, or formats poorly, on a given medium, anyone who uses that medium will be unable to engage with your services.
It’s hard to believe, but even large, successful companies are guilty of creating non-responsive ecommerce websites – especially when it comes to mobile devices. However, these companies are able to afford to have apps developed for these devices, eliminating the need for users to visit these companies’ actual websites on their phones.
Your ecommerce site likely does not yet have this option. Instead, you’ll need to ensure your site is responsive on all platforms. Otherwise, you’re actively losing customers with each passing day.
3. Poor Search Functions
When it comes to searching for what we want, we’ve gotten lazy.
It’s not really our fault; Google has made it incredibly easy to find exactly what we’re looking for on the Web with minimal effort. Google’s algorithms have become so sophisticated that it seemingly understands our intent when searching, rather than simply combing the Web for a specific and exact search term.
Since your customers have grown accustomed to the luxury of having search engines do all the work for them when browsing the Web in its entirety, you need to ensure they have the same luxury when visiting your ecommerce site.
Research shows customers who utilize a site’s search function are twice as likely to convert than those who come to a site to simply browse around. Quite simply, if a customer comes to a site searching for a specific item, you can be sure they are intent on buying it. Of course, if the site’s search functionality isn’t functional at all, they won’t be able to convert – and you won’t make any money.
But consider those who are looking for a specific item, but are unsure of exactly what it’s called. Whether they heard about the product in passing, or they’re looking to buy a gift for a friend, your customers might have a good idea of what they’re looking for, but will need a little extra assistance. In a physical store, this would be easy – they’d just describe the item to a staff member who would help them find what they were looking for. It’s much more difficult online. This is where a fully-functional search engine within your site will truly come in handy.
By implementing a search function that goes beyond simple search terms, and understands your customers’ needs and desires, you can optimize your chances of creating conversions with every visit your site earns.
4. Lack of Immersion
Whether you run a physical store or an ecommerce website, your goal is to do everything possible to get your customer to make a purchase. The best way to do this is to create an atmosphere that allows them to forget about the “real world,” if only for a moment, and focus their energy and attention completely on the products you offer.
The goal of an ecommerce site is to simulate the real-life shopping experience as best as possible while the customer shops from the comfort of his own home. You need to provide as much information and evidence to support a customer’s potential purchase as you possibly can in order to make them confident that they’re making the right decision.
When a customer clicks on a product’s page, he needs to be able to learn as much as he can about the product while not being able to physically touch it. It sounds simple, but if not properly attended to, product pages can completely turn a customer off to your entire company.
Take a look at this page from Yahoo’s Shopping section. The list of reasons this page would turn off potential customers is shameful:
- There’s no “buy” or “put in cart” button
- There’s no listed price for the product
- There’s only one picture of the product
- There aren’t any available sizes listed
- The product description is poorly formatted
- There is one “5-Star” review that doesn’t have any commentary to go along with it.
Compare that to this product page from Gap.
- The “Add to Bag” button is clearly defined
- The product price is prominently featured
- There are multiple pictures of the product available – both in isolation and in a real-world setting – and you can zoom in on each of these pictures
- It lists multiple sizes and colors for the product
- The product description explains how the pants will fit on different body types
- There are multiple reviews, most of which are accompanied by explanations as to the given rating.
Which of these two pages make you feel as if you’re actually in a store?
The more “real” you make the online shopping experience for your customer, the better your chances of landing a conversion.
5. Dysfunctional Functions
That should go without saying, right?
Unfortunately, with so many functions going on at once within an ecommerce website, ensuring the entire service is bug-free can be a Sisyphean task. Once you manage one problem, another one will surely arise.
If your site doesn’t run properly, your customers won’t trust your company with their hard-earned money, and will take their business elsewhere.
You need to continually be on the lookout for dead links, missing pictures, and formatting errors that will turn customers off to your brand. These simple mishaps will give your audience the impression that you don’t perform routine maintenance on your page – leading them to think your company is unreliable.
It’s even more necessary to ensure your contact forms and email links function properly. If customers have questions about your service but are unsuccessful in their attempts to contact a service representative, they’ll simply find a competing business who can assist them more effectively. Make sure your contact forms are connected to an active email account and not a “catch-all” account that never gets checked. If you list email addresses for different departments on your page, make sure there aren’t typos within the “mailto:” links. It sounds like something that should go without saying, but…well, you’d be surprised.
Most importantly, you absolutely need to ensure that checkout forms are fully functional at all times. If a customer goes through the entire process of shopping on your site and filling up their virtual shopping cart, but is unable to actually go through the payment process because a glitch on the site, you can be sure they’ll never trust their money with your company again. If you do nothing else regarding your site’s functionality, make sure the checkout process is seamless for your customers. If you get them that far and are still unable to convert, the rest of your efforts have gone to waste.
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Guest post by:
Tony Messer is a the Co-founder and CEO of UK web hosting company Pickaweb. Having worked with thousands of small businesses, Ecommerce retailers and startups, Tony knows what it takes to grow an online business. He is the author of two books on online marketing.
You can find Tony on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter.