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Online shopping is second nature to all of us, and even more so in the current climate. And as new research shows that “meaningful shopping experiences” play a key part in ensuring customer satisfaction, it is worth looking at your ecommerce site to ensure it is working as hard as it possibly can for your business.

An online shop has two primary goals:

  1. To make it easy for your customer to find what they are looking for,
  2. For them to want to buy it from you.

There are a lot of factors to consider so your online shop achieves these goals.

First of all, your online shop has to be well structured and clearly organised. Consider the fact that shopping online is a completely different experience to shopping in person. Your customers can’t easily ask you questions about a product during the process. It’s up to you to anticipate their behaviour and provide enough information so that they can buy with confidence.

It is also really important that you are able to build trust. It is a challenge to convey via your website the passion and enthusiasm that make small shops so wonderful to buy from. Your customers should want to support your business rather than buying cheaply off Amazon. This means effectively selling your personality and values, not just your products.

Organising your products

Products that are listed first are more likely to get more views, which increases the likelihood of a sale. Therefore, it’s important to position the products you want to sell the most in prominent places on your website (as you would in a brick-and-mortar shop).

Consider moving products which already receive a lot of traffic to a slightly less prominent position in order to make others more visible. If a high-demand product is positioned on the second row, customers will have to look over the products on the top row first (just like how supermarkets put eggs and bread at the back so you have to walk past everything else first).

The Beerstork shop listings feature a series of filters to easily find drinks, including searching beers by type, brewery, country and whether they are vegan friendly.

You can also help your customers find what they need by visually grouping similar products together (similar to placing products on a shelf) so they can compare the product images before choosing which one to click into.

Of course, a big advantage that online shops have over physical retail is that you can group products in multiple ways which can then easily be navigated using filters. Think about how your products could be grouped and use your categories and tags to facilitate search.

When I built the website for online beer retailer BeerStork, products could be filtered in a number of ways, including category (e.g. pale ale), brewery, AVB percentage and whether they are vegan or gluten free. This provided a multitude of ways for customers to find a drink they would enjoy.

Creating a strong product page

Online shoppers need to be confident that they will order the right products and that they won’t need to send it back because it’s unsuitable. As the retailer, you need to earn their trust enough so they are willing to pay for their goods in the knowledge you will deliver them safely.

Great photography is key. Your main product image should be clear, and you should offer additional gallery images to show alternative angles and ‘in-use’ shots.

Product pages (like this Furbellow & Co example) should have high quality photography, provided here by Whitby photographer Ceri Oakes , and a detailed product description to allow customers to buy with confidence.

Investing in a good product photographer will pay for itself in the long run, or if you’re on a very tight budget, it’s worthwhile learning how to improve your own photography skills.

Whilst your images will spark your customers’ interest, it’s the product description that will ultimately provide them with the confidence to commit to a purchase. In addition to describing the product in as much detail as possible, think about any other information your customers might want to know.

What would they look for if they were considering your product in a physical store?

For example with clothing, it will help to link to a clear sizing guide to help them choose the right fit. You might also want to offer care instructions and articles or blog posts showing how to get the most out of the product. A good example here is gentleman’s store Furbellow & Co who provides grooming tips and advice such as How to Use a Safety Razor to support their products.

Explain your delivery and returns process, so your customers are completely clear what they can do if they order the wrong thing.

Also make it easy for people to contact you with questions. The last thing you want is for them to abandon their shopping and leave without even engaging with you!

Finally, it is really important to include relevant and varied keywords in your product descriptions to help boost your SEO.

Review your analytics

Understanding how people use your website is super helpful to work out which ongoing improvements to make. Whether you are using a tool such as Fathom or Google Analytics, or the built-in tracking on your site, there is plenty of data you can study to make your website better and improve sales.

Online shops should consider the experience people have when they look at physical products. Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

For example, check which products are most viewed and see if this correlates with sales figures.

  • Products with high views and low sales should be highlighted as pages to improve. Do you need better photos or a more useful description?
  • Product pages with low traffic might need to be moved to a more prominent position on the site. You might also need to improve the search listing data (meta title and meta description) to attract more traffic from search.
  • Pages that have high traffic and high sales (hurray!) should be studied to see what makes them work well and how this can be implemented on the rest of the site.

Also look at which marketing channels bring in the most traffic. How does this correlate with the amount of time you spend promoting on each platform? Is one social network more effective at bringing quality traffic than the others? Does your newsletter convert to sales?

Study your search

Your ecommerce website’s in-site search is another powerful tool. Not only does it help customers find products quickly, it also gives you a further insight into the needs of your customers.

Work out if the most popular searched items are easy to find. Do they need to be put somewhere more prominent on your site?

Alternatively, are people looking for something you don’t currently sell? Another success with the BeerStork website was when we discovered people were predominantly searching for glasses to drink their beers from. Having learned this, owners Dan and Pip were able to start stocking beer glasses and they quickly turned into one of their most popular purchases.

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Test on phones

Make sure to regularly test your site on phones, including your checkout process. As of April 2020, mobile traffic accounts for 55% of online activity in the UK. This is typically significantly higher for ecommerce sites selling directly to consumers.

Always test your ecommerce website (like this one I built for AC Computer Warehouse) on phones as the majority of your customers will be shopping using them.

Test your site on screens of different sizes and on different browsers to make sure it works simply and effectively across all devices.

It really is a worthwhile exercise to regularly remind yourself of the goals of your ecommerce website and the people you are trying to serve. If you put yourself in their shoes and interact with your site, you’re bound to uncover various ways in which you can improve the experience for them.

Unless you don’t want to do this yourself, in which case you could get in touch with me to chat about how I can help you with a website review.

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