First and foremost, remember your instincts as a retailer think hard about the customer, then design and organise your site around them.
It is important to ensure that your site is easy to navigate for all browsers. Creating the perfect site architecture will ensure site browsers become site users. Try to keep it simple, so that visitors can easily move around your site and not get lost or confused.
Always supply users with a breadcrumb trail so that they can pursue different journeys on your site, and go back to revisit certain pages if necessary. These easy-to-use shortcuts will create great usability for customers.
The search function is an important tool for your users, it can help them find exactly what they are looking for, so it is key that you do this well. A keyword search function on your page, should automatically check spelling, and offer alternatives that they may be interested in.
It is vital that your customers do not have to search for the shopping basket or other important information like contact details. This should be clearly displayed in the top half of your site so that customers can view what they have put in the basket with ease.
Ensure that any 'bells and whistles' will help the customer find what they want.
Show them suitable alternatives and 'sell in' appropriate related items as you and your staff would in your actual store. If the customer buys a nice new pair of walking boots, they might take some Grangers G-Max Universal Footwear Protector.
Offer a recently viewed feature - which lists the items viewed so the users can readily select the product/s they wish to buy from you.
Think about a product comparison feature so a user can compare product options based on the criteria which matter to them. Feature filters can help customers choose exactly the right product to suit their needs. This is valuable for customers who may not know what they need/want yet.
Ensure each product has its own dedicated page - where you present the product details.
Dedicated pages and dedicated page titles and content are loved by search engines.
By promoting a different product each week, you can make more of the space you have on your site. By creating a 'buy of the week' or special offers section, customers will be more inclined to keep checking back to the site each week, increasing loyalty to the site. Testimonials also work well, as users will feel more trust in your products if other people have good things to say about them and your service.
Share your knowledge and opinion on products.
This passion, insight and opinion is what sets independent retailers and smaller groups apart from their competitors - consider comments on your own site and explore suitable social shopping sites.
Select a credible web partner for the design and build and invest in search engine optimisation and link building
You should be looking for a company who wants to assist you with taking your ecommerce operation forward, month in month out (by looking at the stats, page visits, conversion ratios and instances of dropped baskets) and act as your eyes and ears when it comes to successful internet retailing - especially if you lack the time to really master the online aspect of your business.
By analysing customer journeys and looking at how they use your site you can begin to evaluate what is working and what isn't. This is a valuable process to make sure your site is successful and doing the most that it can. By analysing where you lose potential customers you can see where you are going wrong and make improvements - constantly building on your online service and capabilities. It is also important to evaluate key search terms and update your SEO with your findings to improve site rankings.
Be clear on stock, delivery and security on your websites.
Even though your site is online you still need to offer the same amount of customer service that you may do from your call centre, or retail shop. By ensuring that you reply to customer emails within 24 hours and deliver on all of your offerings, then your customers will be happy to come back and buy again from you. Building up relationships with your customers online is crucial to a happy and long relationship. Loyalty is key.
Flash and html can visually give your site the wow factor, but make sure that it doesn't mean pages take too long to download and become slow. This will frustrate users and may lose their interest.
Ideally, your site should take less than 10 seconds to load. By using small files and images and taking out unnecessary flash and html you can ensure fast downloads and happy customers.
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