Every online store owner knows how cutthroat the competition is. No matter what your product niche, you’re always swimming in a vast sea of challengers. When you want to make money, you have to stand out — across all sales channels. So, you need to continually educate yourself about the latest consumer trends and solutions to common eCommerce problems.
You’ve heard the saying, “there are a million fish in the sea.” Do you want to be the fish that looks just like his brothers and goes along with the rest of the school?… The answer has to be ‘no.’ You want to be like the Regal Blue Tang: visible, stunning, and display-worthy (aquarists love them).
Apply the above to your online store:
- Your products should be visible by prospects and customers.
- Your website’s design should be stunning with a high level of aesthetic appeal and functionality — user experience (UX).
- People should be proud to put your brand on display — wear your swag, brag about your promotions, tell their friends and colleagues about their experience, etc..
So, here’s what you need to increase the ROI of your online store.
This is What You Need to Ensure Your Store’s Visibility
First of all, eCommerce is a lot like brick and mortar retail, but all transactions take place online. Unless you’re somehow exceptional, an offline retailer will never get far being tucked away in a dark corner of an alley or hundreds of miles from the nearest city. Likewise, an eCommerce store will not thrive without search engine visibility. So, you need to learn how to make yourself known online.
One of the most important ingredients in the recipe for online visibility is search engine optimization (SEO). You need both on-page and off-site SEO if you want search engines to deliver your products to the people who want to find them.
On-Page SEO Essentials for eCommerce Stores
In The Beginner’s Guide to On-Site eCommerce SEO, Mark MacDonald highlights the central on-page components to set you up for high search rankings.
- Competitor research
- Homepage SEO
- Site architecture
- Product page optimization
- FAQ content
You need to check out your competitors’ sites to get an idea what they’re doing and how you can do it better. Next, your store’s homepage needs to show up first in search results for at least your company name. Then, the internal linking structure of your site needs to make sense. After that — probably the most important and intensive piece — your product pages (descriptions, titles, images, ALT tags) need to be optimized. Finally, to fully-enhance your site, on-page reviews should be enabled, and FAQ content should be honed for search-friendliness.
Off-Site SEO Basics for eCommerce Stores
On-page SEO is the first part of a strong search presence, but you can’t forget the off-site work. Backlink building is one of the most important aspects of valid SEO success. Search engines definitely give priority to websites with other authority sites linking back to them.
Many people claim that “organic” links are the best kind, but have you ever tried to build… er… waited for organic links to appear? I have yet to meet someone with who successfully built backlinks while only creating “share-worthy” content.
The truth is, organic links come naturally after years of building content or when content goes viral; in the eCommerce industry, this is a rare phenomenon. So, take action and build high-quality links to your website and product pages or hire someone to do it for you.
Here are the Fundamentals of Sales-Worthy eCommerce UX
The secret to providing a user experience that gets shoppers’ attention is to have the foresight to anticipate potential problems before they arise. So, walk yourself through the entire shopping process and consider what could go wrong, then make sure it doesn’t.
Here are some of the most common eCommerce UX problems you might face.
Common eCommerce UX Problem #1: Slow Page Load Speed
The first thing online shoppers expect is a website that loads. You only have a few seconds to capture their attention before they navigate away and never return. So, you must make sure your website speed is optimized for mobile and PC browsers.
Fortunately, there are tools to make your job easier. Google PageSpeed Insights is the most popular, user-friendly tool available to check and optimize your page load times, and it’s free.
First, you simply enter the URL of your site and wait for the tool to work it’s magic. Then, if you’re in the green zone, there’s nothing left to do. But, if your score is medium or low, it’s wise to read more and follow the steps to optimize your website.
Common eCommerce UX Problem #2: Not Optimized for Multiple Browsers, Devices, & Sales Channels
Modern online shoppers browse and shop from their mobile devices, PCs, and offline. Some prefer to add items to their cart from their phone and checkout later from their PC and vise versa. Others prefer to shop online and purchase in-person. And, some even like to shop on a branded website then check out sites like Amazon to see if the product is available for a lower price or with promotional shipping. You’re smart if you cater to all of them.
Here are some tips for making the shopping experience better for all types of shoppers:
- Make sure your website is responsive so that shoppers who like bouncing between devices have a great experience.
- Make sure your product stock management operations are optimized for sales across multiple channels.
- Make your products available in popular marketplaces. For example, if you sell books, you want to be listed with major retailers like Amazon and B&N; if you sell electronics, Amazon, Walmart, and eBay might be worth looking into.
- For omnichannel (online and offline) sales, use a POS card reader that integrates offline transactions with your website and inventory tracking.
Common eCommerce UX Problem #3: Complicated Checkout Process
The third common problem I see with eCommerce UX is a super-complicated checkout process. One of the most dreadful conversion-killers is an abandoned cart. There are several reasons why this happens, but over complication of your shopping cart is one you have control over.
The bottom line is that you need to create a trustworthy checkout process designed to move shoppers through the transaction process quickly. Here’s what your shopping cart experience should include:
- Simple login/ registration — social media login provides an effective solution for this.
- Trust signals — badges, card processing brand logos, etc..
- Delivery & payment information — of course you need to know where to send your products and how to get paid.
- Order details verification — give customers a chance to confirm their order to avoid returns and cancelled orders.
- Submission button — Duh!
- One follow-up email — this is standard with most modern checkout systems. Remember, you have a chance here for an upsell.
Anything more than this during the checkout process is too much. Too much time spent trying to check out or janky-looking design will drive customers away at the worst time — after they’ve qualified.
What Makes People Proud to Put Your Brand “On Display?”
Your brand evangelists are your true fans: people who want to talk about you and get involved in sharing your brand message. They are the satisfied customers who will spread your brand message via word of mouth. You need them.
Fortunately, there are common, effective tactics for getting people excited about your brand:
- Run Contests and Giveaways
- Check Your Feedback to Find Out How to Deliver a Better Experience
- Read and Respond to Reviews
- Share User-Generated Content on Promotional Materials
- Encourage Your Team to Promote Evangelism
- Ask Satisfied Customers for Reviews
- Focus on Providing Outstanding Customer Service, and Continue Making it Better
- Make Sure Your Employees are Taken Care of (Happy Staff = Satisfied Customers)
- Maintain an Ever-Evolving Business and Product Strategy
By participating in all of the above tactics, you will see more brand evangelism than if you stick to a basic eCommerce business strategy. Remember, not everyone is on the path to online sales success — only those who stand out will float in a sea where competition is so fierce.
Implement SEO to make sure your products are discoverable by those searching for them, give attention to the user experience of your website, and intentionally nurture brand evangelism. If you do this, you will be well on your way to a Hollywood ending in no time.