There is no doubt that e-commerce is a big thing. Numbers don’t lie: According to Statista, US e-commerce sales reached $396 billion in 2016 and is predicted to grow to $684 billion by 2020. American customers spent $5 billion online during 2017’s Black Friday only. However it’s China that is the biggest player. Chinese e-commerce revenue was estimated to be $672 billion in 2017, which makes up more than 40% of the global retail e-commerce revenue. European markets are obviously smaller but e-commerce is also a significant part of their economies. Especially in the UK which is the biggest e-commerce market in Europe, with a value of $99 billion. In Germany, the e-commerce market has increased by 11.4% in 2018 and then its value stood at 65.10 billion euros.
Although huge e-commerce players such as Amazon or Alibaba have won the lion’s share of the market, there is still room for new online retailers. Online shopping is not a novelty anymore, but an everyday routine of billions of people. Millennials make 54% of purchases online and this number will likely grow, Globally, it’s expected to be nearly 2B online buyers in 2019. It all means that starting an e-commerce business still has a lot of sense, however it’s not a piece of cake. Let’s take a look at a few more numbers: Less than 3% of e-commerce website visits convert into a purchase. In other words, only 1 in 34 website visitors actually buys something. What is more, 69% of shopping carts are abandoned. It all means a lot of missing sales opportunitites. That’s why it’s crucial to optimize your e-commerce website. Without the right steps you won’t be able to compete with international giants.
UX & UI
Simple, intuitive and user-friendly interface is the fundament of every e-commerce website. You may be tempted to cut costs and not to hire a UX/UI professional but then you’ll likely end up with high bounce rates and abandoned carts. Of course, some reasons behind it are not connected to the interface: Some customers use shopping carts as wishlists and never buy all the products they add there. Others find a better offer in another shop. However, according to the Baymard Institute’s research there is a clear list of issues that refrain people from finalising the purchase. The issues flagged by the majority of customers include:
- requiring an account,
- extra costs that are visible only after adding a product to the cart,
- unclear pricing,
- not enough payment methods and lack of trust when it comes to giving credit card info,
- too long and/or too complicated check-out process,
- too slow delivery,
- site errors.
Each one of them can be solved with good UX/UI design made by a professional who takes usability testing seriously. Keep your website simple – especially navigation must be clear and easy to get through. Don’t overwhealm visitors with too much content, avoid unnecessary pop-ups and push notifications, include only one strong CTA (a call-to-action) on one page. Usability testing requires time and attention but there are tools that come to the rescue: Livesession allows for recording what visitors do on the website and analyzing the recordings to identify issues based on various segments and parameters.
SEO and Content Marketing
According to a Wolfgang Digital study from 2017, 43% of all e-commerce traffic comes from organic Google search. This data speaks for itself: a good SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) strategy is essential. You should start with identifying kewords that are also the names of your products (Google Keyword Planner is a basic and very useful tool) and increase their visibility in search results. Here comes content marketing – a corporate blog full of tips, insights, statistics, and other types of valuable content is a must-have of every e-commerce website. Different types of ‘how to…’ articles, gift ideas, buyers’ guides, trends, and articles that compare similar products can work wonders, They will not only improve the visibility of your website in search enginges, but also attract visitors. Don’t neglect the images! They have to be properly tagged and described – both in terms of increasing accessbility for visually impaired customers, but it also improves the website’s visiblity in search engines.
The way the website is created also plays an important role in SEO. Search engine algorythms promote websites that load fast, that have a clear structure (headlines, links, navigation) and that are mobile-friendly. You should pay a close attention to all these factors.
Trust is the fundament of every deal. You may have a beautiful website full of content but you won’t turn visitors into clients if they have even the smallest impression that they may not trust how you handle their personal data, credit card information, and transactional info. Start with making sure that your website is secure. Implement HTTPS, encrypt passwords, keep your website updated and cooperate only with third-party services that treat cybersecurity seriously. Then, add features that ensure your visitors that everything is secure – add security-related badges, testimonials from happy clients, detailed FAQ. Implementing rating systems such as stars or points is also a way of building trust. It’s not easy to get stars and testimonials but there are ways to convince clients to leave them – offer a discount, give a small gift or find another reward that is suitable to your business and clients’ needs.
If your customers are EU citizents, make sure that your services are GDPR complaint and inform about it a visible place. If you cooperate with reliable partners, don’t hesitate to add their logos. Always emphasise that your payment and shipping methods, and the way you deal with personal data are reliable and 100% secure.
Make sure that an overall shopping experience is flawless. Apart from abovementioned user-friendly interface, mobile-friendliness, accessibility, and building trust, there are more factors that should be taken under consideration. Make your website beautiful. Nowadays the less the better – clients expect clear and minimalistic design. Get to know their needs and expectations before – for example, websites that sell luxury products look different than those offering SaaS products. Cultural differences are also important – customers from different countries and cultures may also prefer slighly different colors and interfaces. Usability testing will help you identify such issues and to make sure you will offer not only great products or services, but also perfect shopping experience.
Content is another fundament of shopping experience. It’s not just about writing a corporate blog but also the way products are discribed – copy should be interesting, clear, and persuasive. Don’t neglect images, infographics (if they make sense in your business), and video. A good explainer video can work wonders.
Remember that sales doesn’t end with making a purchase. A customer support is a crucial part of any e-commerce and one of the most important reasons why clients return to the shop or why they don’t. Over 80% of customers look for another reseller after dealing with a bad customer service. On the other hand, satisfied client is a returning client.
As you can see, running an e-commerce business may be profitable and satisfying but also challenging. Unless you operate in a niche, you probably deal with an enormous competition: it’s estimated to be between 12 to 24 million e-commerce websites in the world. The good news is there are proven ways to stand out from the crowd, to attract visitors and to turn them into happy and returning clients.