Despite the economic downtown, online sales are still growing. The shoppers are out there, but are they buying from you - or your competitors? If your ecommerce website doesn't make the grade, it could well be the latter...
The survey, conducted by market researcher GfK shows that more than two in five people believe that internet shopping helps to reduce their carbon footprint.
Another piece of research conducted by Capgemini indicates that the recent 'credit crunch' is encouraging consumers to shop smarter by going online rather than to the High Street so that they can compare prices more easily, save money on petrol and parking costs and will be less likely to make impulse purchases.
With such strong evidence in favour of online shopping, retailers must realise that a web presence is vital if they are going to enjoy future success and business growth. But this web presence has to be a good one; successful online sales only happen when a website meets all the official accessibility guidelines, is fully optimised for the search engines and has the usability factor: i.e. it provides the user with a straightforward, pleasant shopping experience.
There are several features that constitute website usability. Firstly and probably most importantly, is security.
Website users need to feel safe when shopping online; if they don't, they won't disclose their payment details and you won't convert the enquiry into a sale. Customers these days are highly aware of what to look for to check that a website is secure so make sure that your site complies. Another factor that inspires trust with website users is the provision of full contact details: many customers refuse to buy from websites that do not display a landline telephone number and full postal address; two things that are in fact required to be displayed by law. If your website designer doesn't mention this to you, then perhaps you should check their credentials!
Making the shopping experience as easy as possible is another important factor. A well designed search function is vital for customers who already know what they want to buy from your website; whilst a straightforward browsing system with clear categories and options is necessary for those who are yet to make their decision.
When customers buy goods in a shop, they can touch, feel and try them, look at them from all angles, and in the case of clothing try them for size. When shopping online customers need to be given as much information as possible to try and mimic the in-person experience. Many shopping sites now offer a variety of interesting ways to showcase products such as 3D imaging, flash videos and panoramic photography to allow zooming, rotating and multi-angle viewing. Combined with a good product description, these features can really help increase the sales conversion rate.
Once a customer has decided to make a purchase, the checkout process needs to be as streamlined as possible. Any sign of complication could result in a lost sale. Research has shown that customers prefer to have the option of registering when buying online; not everyone wants to divulge their personal information so websites with compulsory registration will often be shunned in place of those offering the option.
Ensuring the checkout and payment process is as basic as possible is imperative; remember your customers will have widely varying levels of computer knowledge so aim your system at the lowest level to be on the safe side.
Before your system is approved you should ask a number of people from varying backgrounds to test it for you and give you honest feedback on their findings. Make sure they check everything, from the search and browse functions to the wording of the confirmation e-mails received when their order has been placed or there has been a problem with their payment - cover every aspect of the online shopping experience!
The best ecommerce websites are the ones that enable a business to perform and develop, even in the face of an economic downturn.
Retailers should never assume that as long as they have an online shop, customers will find it and buy from it. They simply must offer shoppers a secure and straightforward experience with plenty of product information and innovative ways of showcasing their goods.
The shoppers are out there and they are still buying, so just make sure it's you they are buying from and not your competitors!
Core Media Design specialises in optimised, accessible and fully usable ecommerce website design. If you are looking for an ecommerce solution that ticks all the above boxes, contact them today to discuss your project!
Core Media Design Ltd
Cumbria, CA10 2FF