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Ecommerce Website

Do You Understand the Building Blocks of a Good Ecommerce Website?

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Slap together a catalog of products, a shopping cart, and a payment gateway! There you have it -- a complete ecommerce website!

I guess you can see that I am being sarcastic. That is because many ill-designed ecommerce websites miss out on critical components. Here are some of the must-haves in an ecommerce website.

Product Description
Successful advertisers have known the secret forever -- compelling copy makes the sale. Make sure that your product description informs, as well as persuades the customer. All along, make sure that you follow the basic principles of SEO copywriting.

Images
Most products have visual appeal. So images are at the heart of an ecommerce website. But, not all images are created equal. For instance some goods need to be displayed on a model. A shirt would not look as attractive if it were lying on a table. But if the right model was sporting that shirt, it might look more appealing.

Similarly, some products look good only in the presence of other products. For instance, if you were selling a waist-belt for men, it may look good only if looped through a pair of trousers.

And it is not just about what you choose to include in the image, it is also about the quality, size and number of images you use. Some products need to be viewed from multiple angles to give customers a fairer picture. Remember the front and side view pictures of the iPhone when it was first released? That side view was critical to make customers understand the product.

Transparent Pricing
A low-priced product coupled with an exorbitant shopping or packaging price sounds like a scam. Naturally, there might be overheads that you would want to add to the price -- shipping, packaging, gift-wrapping, taxes, and the like. But it is important to remain transparent about the pricing, throughout the purchase process.

Going through the purchase process, without so much as a hint that there would be additional charges, leads to a bitter shopping experience when such charges are eventually added. And bitter experiences do not lead to loyal customers.

Navigation
I have come across ecommerce websites where searching for a specific product is quite like a treasure hunt -- you know it is there, but it keeps eluding you. On many occasions, I find myself using the "site:" command in Google, to look for a product on an ecommerce website, as the internal search engine of the ecommerce website is unable to locate the right product!

It is not just about the search. All your navigation options: drop-downs, sidebars, menus, and the like, should be intuitive and user-friendly.

Try and avoid undue prejudice about your customer's thought process. For instance, as explained in the article about the canonical URL, a customer looking for a Mickey Mouse umbrella might begin their search from any of the following categories:
  • Raingear
  • Children's Products
  • Disney Products
  • Seasonal Products
Helpful Suggestions
Not all customers come to your site after making up their mind about the exact product they want to buy. Your ecommerce website should be intelligent enough to make relevant suggestions to the shopper. Based on the user's behavior, you should be able to figure out what they are looking for, and make helpful suggestions.

Contact Information
If you are at a physical retail store, you already know its location. And usually there are many opportunities to know its phone number as well. But when it comes to an ecommerce website, there is always the possibility that there might be no contact information available. Unless you have good reason to avoid it, you should make all of these easily accessible to your customers:
  • Street address
  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Fax number
Customer Service
Customers certainly need to be serviced -- before and after sales. Some need more information; others need to discuss their specific requirements. Your ecommerce website should make it easy to contact your customer service people.

Returns Policy
Some of the goods that you sell will be returned to you. This could be because the wrong goods were delivered, or the goods were damaged during delivery. Of course, you are not expected to accept all returns on a "no questions asked" basis. But there should be some reasonable rationale behind your decision to accept/reject the return, and that rationale should be captured in your returns policy. This policy should be easily accessible on your ecommerce website.

Privacy Policy
Unlike some other types of websites, a customer usually reveals a lot of information to an ecommerce website. Since the purchase experience culminates in payment and delivery, the ecommerce business knows the customer's street address and credit card information. In addition, information about habits and preferences may also be captured.

The more the information, the greater the potential for its misuse! As a result, every ecommerce website must make it a point to unequivocally declare its privacy policy.

Rapid Checkout
Once the customer has finished browsing, and is ready to checkout, your ecommerce website should enable rapid checkout. Shopping cart abandonment is a serious problem for ecommerce businesses. Rapid checkout helps reduce abandonment.

Shopping Cart
A shopping cart is as essential to an ecommerce website as the very products it seeks to sell. It presents visitors with the means to purchase the goods that you are selling.

Payment Options
Credit cards present a common payment option on ecommerce websites. But they are not the only means of payment. An ecommerce business could also accept checks, debit cards, direct debit to bank accounts, and payment on delivery. And then there could be an option to pay in installments; with or without interest. As an ecommerce business, it should be your endeavor to offer as many options as possible, without making administration infeasible.

Shipping Options
Some shoppers can wait; others want their goods delivered yesterday. Some are located at places that are not serviced by your usual logistics partners. And those are only a few of the reasons you need to offer multiple shopping options on your ecommerce website. After all, the customer must be treated like the proverbial king.

Conclusion
Every aspect of your ecommerce website should be well thought out. With ever increasing competition, only user-centric ecommerce websites will succeed.

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