It’s been an awfully long time since retailers were prepared to count brick & mortar as their sole sales outlet. Amazon, the undisputed industry leader, boasting a staggering $261 billion in online sales, has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is gold in them there hills.
But setting up a successful online store is more than just a few million lines of code and some merchant services from the local bank. If you're going to get ahead in the dog-eat-dog-world of eCommerce, you're going to need an ace in the hole. Here are a few ideas to get rolling in the right direction:
1. An online store needs to “feel good”.
Any user experience (UX) expert will tell you that, irrational though they may be, the shopper’s visceral feelings about an online store will a) take control in the first couple of seconds, and; b) become the deciding factor in whether she will continue on through the shopping process.
It stands to reason, then, that the best thing you can do is create an online shopping experience that “just feels good” to the shopper. Giving a customer those good vibes needs to include things like the feeling of professional level security for her ID and payment information, superior customer service, including links to vital information and a way to contact a human being, and the aesthetic qualities she’s used to seeing from big name, trusted brands like Amazon and Walmart.
2. Solve shopping cart abandonment issues.
Getting a shopper into the shopping cart and getting her through to the end of the checkout process are two very different animals. Once she’s inside the shop, the trick is to help her make it all the way through to the end of the transaction without walking away. Most experts agree that the top reason for shopping cart abandonment is unsatisfactory shipping costs (read: too high).
Now, let’s just cut right to the chase. There’s only one number people truly want to see when it comes to shipping costs: zero. Your job is to understand the implications of choosing free or paid shipping, and choose the right path, whatever that may be in your specific situation. This may even involve including the cost of shipping in the sale price of the item so the shipping cost seems free, even if it really isn’t.
3. Create a personalized shopping experience.
The model here again has to be Amazon; no one does it better than they do. Customers returning to that site will invariably be greeted by a selection of suggested products that genuinely make sense to the customer as potential buys. Producing an automated system that rewards return customers with helpful suggestions and information will help to increase your user base, as well as conversions (the process of turning a visitor into a customer).
And, while Amazon’s engine is designed from the ground up at great expense—and is arguably second to none—the barrier for entry needn’t be that high. For every popular shopping cart software solution, there is a selection of customizable add-ons and plug-ins you can employ to suit the market your shop is catering to. Smart use of these tools will put your shopping experience above the others and help them succeed where so many others stumble.