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The e-commerce space is a booming retail avenue. Statistics gathered over the last few years show the dominance of e-commerce in the retail industry. In 2021, online purchases accounted for nearly 20 percent of the total retail sales worldwide, generating $4.9 trillion in revenue.
The number of digital buyers is on the rise, too. Every year, billions of people prefer shopping online to visiting physical stores. The main reason for this is simply convenience. Instead of taking the time to visit a store, the buyer can have a product delivered right to their doorstep with just a few taps on a phone or clicks on a computer.
These figures point to an easy and lucrative way to sell products and services. But the truth is, the e-commerce space is fiercely competitive. The online market may be vast, but there are millions of entrepreneurs competing in every imaginable niche for a share of buyers. For a business to make it in the e-commerce space, it has to really stand out. Entrepreneurs take many different approaches, such as social and digital marketing, to try and rise above the noise. This is all well and effective, but a big part of online success comes down to the e-commerce website itself.
Your marketing and business strategies might be hitting all the right spots, only for a poorly designed e-commerce website to let all that effort down. That’s why we’ve decided to share these basic web design best practices for e-commerce platforms. Here’s what it takes to build a successful online store:
Fully responsive, mobile-friendly design
More than half of all web traffic comes from smartphones, tablets, and handheld computers. This means that most online shoppers are more likely to purchase goods and services using mobile devices.
An e-commerce platform should accommodate both mobile and desktop users equally. To achieve this, some entrepreneurs run dedicated mobile sites or smartphone apps alongside the main desktop website. But creating and managing two different e-commerce platforms for the same business can be unnecessarily expensive. The best way to serve both mobile and desktop users is by building a site that automatically adapts its look and feel, features, and functions to fit the user’s device. This is known as responsive web design. A fully responsive site preserves usability, functionality, and user experience across different devices, screens, and browsers.
Google openly prioritizes mobile-friendly sites in its SERP ranking, and it’s been doing so since 2015. So having a responsive platform not only improves accessibility but also complements search engine marketing in a big way.
An e-commerce website needs to have a smooth path to purchase. Potential buyers will abandon the site if they can’t find what they’re looking for easily and quickly. A complex or lengthy navigation course to the checkout button can frustrate users, resulting in few conversions, abandoned carts, and high bounce rates.
Create an intuitive navigation tree where users can quickly find and purchase what they need. One way of doing this is to build the site upon popular web layouts that many online shoppers are already familiar with. Yes, you can make your site look and feel unique, but try not to stray too far from the norm. You should also remove all unnecessary obstacles in the buyer’s path to make the purchase process as straightforward as possible. For instance, requiring an account sign-up too early in the customer journey can put off potential buyers. Many online shoppers are not prepared to make such commitments until they’ve decided on a purchase.
Virtual customer support
Online support is a crucial customer touchpoint and a great way to promote a positive user experience. Readily available customer support agents can help shoppers find their way around the site, resolve technical issues, and get helpful information. Some customers actually contact support for purchase recommendations to get a more personalized shopping experience.
Nowadays, online customer support has evolved into virtual assistants. These are more than AI-powered chatbots; they can guide buyers, answer their questions, and recommend personalized purchases. Intelligent virtual assistants can also collect valuable customer and performance information for business analytics. Chatbots are not meant to replace, but augment, the support team. Instead of hiring a large customer support team, you can have chatbots take over most support tasks, leaving just a handful of agents to handle high-profile tickets.
Multiple payment options
Ensure your site supports as many payment methods as possible and allows customers the freedom to choose between different online payment options. Multiple payment avenues provide a more seamless purchase experience. Plus, redundant payment systems reduce the risk of total checkout failure, even if one or more channels go offline.
It’s not possible to add every available payment system to a single checkout; there are thousands and thousands of them across the globe. But you can at least incorporate some of the more popular payment options in the business’s target region, demographic, or market. Generally, you’ll probably need to support traditional card payments, various e-wallets, bank transfers, and mobile payments. Just ensure each system is reliable and secure.
Cybersecurity is a priority concern for any e-commerce platform. Cybercrimes such as data theft, ransomware exploits, and DDoS attacks are universal threats to any online business. According to the ITRC’s 2021 Annual Data Breach Report, there were 1,862 cyber-related compromises reported in 2021 within the US. The retail sector accounted for 102 compromises, which affected over 7 million individuals.
Cybercriminals can use various attack vectors, including vulnerable externally facing resources such as an e-commerce platform. Common web security measures include firewalls, access control, data loss prevention, application security, encryption, bot mitigation, and intruder prevention. These ensure your site can safeguard the business and its customers against the prevalent cyberthreats. And remember to check compliance with the necessary data safety and privacy standards.
High-quality content is a must in every e-commerce website. You need various kinds of content to inform and direct buyers, improve the site’s visual appeal, and facilitate marketing. Ideally, an online store should have:
- A well-structured products/services catalog full of captivating, high-resolution images and informative descriptions
- Testimonials, reviews, case studies, and ratings to promote social proof
- Blog posts to demonstrate brand authority, educate and engage visitors, and raise SEO performance
- An FAQ page for SEO marketing and passive customer support
- CTAs and announcements about deals, discounts, and offers to entice buyers
This may seem like a lot of content, but it’s all necessary for e-commerce success. Luckily, the days of managing each bit of web content manually are long gone. All you need is an integrated Content Management System (CMS) to effortlessly control all visual, written, and documented content throughout the site.
Search and filtering functionality
The products/services catalog usually forms the bulk of an online retail store. This is where buyers spend the most time on the site and make final purchase decisions. So, the catalog section should be easy, efficient, and convenient to use. Adding relatively simple features and functions to the catalog page, such as a search bar, sorting menu, and item filters, can mean all the difference in the shopping experience. These make it easier for buyers to quickly find relevant items through in-web searches and filtering/sorting items by price, popularity, ratings, brand, specs, and so on.
You can even take this a step further by having the catalog show curated or featured items based on the user’s browsing behavior, past purchases, and viewed items. This is an easy and effective way to personalize the customer experience for each buyer.
Clear and consistent branding
One of the purposes of an e-commerce website is to represent the underlying business. You can think of it as the online equivalent of a storefront. As such, it should clearly communicate the brand’s character, voice, and image.
Branding an e-commerce platform involves a lot more than fixing a company logo onto the homepage. Each webpage must carry a consistent theme, tone or voice, layout, and general appeal. And this extends far beyond surface elements such as color schemes and typography. Branding is built into the very core of the platform during web programming and design. Every unique function, feature, or process can be regarded as part of the branding.
Strong, uniform branding builds recognition. And with recognition comes familiarity, which fosters trust and confidence. Unique branding is one of the easiest ways to stand out in the overcrowded online marketplace.
Inbuilt marketing strategies
Like branding, digital marketing is another thing you have to think about when designing an e-commerce website. Branding and marketing design play a big role in web optimization for the target audience and desired business outcomes.
Determine how you want to market the online business and to whom. Organic SEO is always a good marketing option, especially if you’re hoping to reach a massive audience while keeping overheads low. In such a case, you want a site designed with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines in mind for the best SEO performance.
An intriguing survey conducted by Baymard Institute shows that 68 percent of online shoppers abandon their carts at checkout. Cart abandonment is a crucial success metric for online businesses. Many of the reasons for cart abandonment revealed in the survey point to fundamental web design issues such as performance, navigation, reliability, and convenience. This reinforces the importance of making all the web design considerations we’ve discussed above.
A great developer knows when to include or dismiss certain web design features, concepts, or functions, depending on the website’s purpose. Web development is not just about designing and coding skills; it also calls for creativity, problem-solving, and making sound judgments.
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