The 5 absolute must-haves for an awesome eCommerce site

If you are an eSeller looking for advice about making your e-commerce site as awesome as possible, you have likely already encountered at least some contradictory suggestions on the Web.

One site may advocate displaying social proof on your site, whereas another might suggest that social proof simply clutters your pages and muddies the path to consumer purchase. One site may indicate that changing the color of your CTA button makes all the difference, while another site suggests that color is not that big a deal.

Why is there so much conflicting information out there? The simple answer is that the correct way to optimize your e-commerce site is dependent, in large measure, on your target audience. What works well for one audience may fall flat with another. If you want your users to have a hand-in-glove experience on your site, then you must dive deep into the psyche of your users and find the trigger points that prompt conversion.

Does that mean that there are no standard rules that apply to designing great e-commerce sites and that you must depend largely on luck or happenstance to stumble on the right design? Thankfully, luck has little to do with it. There are, indeed, some absolute must-haves for any great e-commerce site. Here are a few of them:

1) Easy navigation

While playing “Where’s Waldo?” may be fun when you are a kid, it is less fun when you are searching for a particular product online. When customers land on your e-commerce site, they are not generally interested in meandering around in search of their desired product.

Rather, customers want to see quickly how to navigate through your site with minimal effort. You can address this desire by locating your navigation tools prominently at the top of your page. Give careful thought to what items to include in your navigation pane. For instance, many e-commerce sites find it useful to provide an “About” link, a “FAQ” link, and a “Shopping Cart” link to the top of their pages.

2) A clear explanation of what you offer

This may sound like a no-brainer, but a quick look at e-commerce sites indicates that many eSellers are missing the mark when it comes to explaining their value proposition.

Generally, your core product should be featured prominently above the fold on your e-commerce site. High-quality photos are always an absolute must, as users are apt to be visually oriented. If your product lends itself to explanation by video, your video should:

  • Be of high quality
  • Explain your product clearly and succinctly
  • Provide the viewer with all pertinent information for decision-making
  • Prompt engagement with a strong call to action

Think carefully about how much information to include about your product. You can use below-the-fold space for additional details if needed, but keep the above the fold content clear and concise. One good option here is to use bullet points rather than expository paragraphs to describe product features.

This is an area in which research is vital. Use your web page analytics, customer feedback, market research, and consumer surveys to find the perfect balance of information to provide.

3) Well-defined path to purchase

Just as clarity is needed in your product descriptions, simplicity is the standard for defining your customer’s path to purchase. Resist the urge to include multiple calls to action on your page.

Moz.com notes that many eSellers fall into the trap of trying to emulate Amazon when defining their customer’s path to purchase. Amazon uses many calls to action and includes a huge amount of information on their product pages. This works for Amazon, largely because Amazon has optimized its pages over decades to appeal to its customer base. The Moz article states: “That is fine for Amazon. It is almost definitely not fine for you unless you are extremely similar to what Amazon does.”

So, what should you do instead? Your goal is to make it as easy as possible for the user to make a purchase. To that end, you will likely need to pare down the information you provide, distilling it to just the details that your customer wants in order to make that purchasing decision.

For example, you will need to provide pertinent options about your product, such as color or size, but you may find it helpful to leave out extraneous information. Eliminate clutter; clear the path to purchase. Just as you would do if you were actually talking to your customer, answer the pertinent questions, and then stop.

4) Strong call-to-action

Your calls-to-action must be clear and unequivocal. A weak call to action can douse the flame of interest in your viewer quickly and negate all the work you have done to get the viewer to a conversion point.

It pays to test your CTAs regularly. Sometimes, removing or adding just one word can make the difference between a conversion and abandonment. Likewise, experimenting with the positioning and the visual design of your CTA can yield some surprising results.

The key is to find what elements of your CTA impact the actions of your particular audience, and the only way to do that is through testing and studying your webpage analytics. Making continual adjustment and improvement to your CTAs will likely yield a bump in your conversion rates.

5) A convenient way for customers to get more information

One last absolute for your e-commerce site is to provide an easy way for your customers to get additional information if needed. While your web pages should give the average customer everything needed to make a purchase decision, there will always be customers who want or need a bit more in the way of information.

Providing a chat option, a phone number, or a link to an additional FAQ page can help you meet that customer need effectively. Such options signal to your customers that you strive to provide superior customer service at every turn, making it more likely that those customers will develop a strong relationship with your brand.

Convenience at every juncture

When analyzing your e-commerce site, it is best to look at it from the perspective of a customer. Which areas are unclear? Which customer pain points are not being addressed adequately? Where are the bottlenecks in the purchasing process?

Finding and correcting any deficiencies you find will help ensure that your site is optimized for your audience. Keeping an eye on ways to provide convenience to your customers at every turn will help you build a loyal customer base over time.

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