Best Practices for E-Commerce Website Design
When creating an E-Commerce website, your goal is to attract visitors, but it does not stop there. Once you get them to your site, your mission is to get them to take action, make a purchase, and then provide their credit card information and submit the order. Each of these tasks takes work to accomplish and you must pay attention to each one. Surprisingly, a large percentage of visitors will abandon the shopping cart before completing the transaction, so you want to make sure you do some hand-holding through every step of the way.
Show and Tell
An E-Commerce website can be functionally equivalent to, or even better than, a brick-and-mortar store. But when designing it, keep in mind that you're selling physical items in a virtual world, and your customers lose that ability to pick things up and touch them. You can compensate for that in two ways: with accurate and descriptive text accompaning each item with realistic photographs that show every detail of the product. Take the time to write a description that includes all the necessary details-but also a description which is creative and enticing. For photographs, take pictures of the item from all directions, and consider integrating a video presentation of it so the visitor can see the item from all angles.
Shipping and Handling
Because of the sheer volume of E-Commerce operators, online prices tend to drop to their lowest possible point. There is a temptation to make up the lost margin on "shipping and handling" charges, but consumers have gotten wise to that- it just does not work. Keep your shipping and handling fees realistic and in line with actual cost, and do not try to turn "shipping and handling" into a profit center. Customers will comparison-shop not only for items and prices, but for shipping costs. Provide this information where it can be readily accessed prior to checkout, so customers know what to expect.
If you do not have a merchant account or a way to accept credit card payments, then you're not ready to have an E-Commerce website. Do not expect to get much business by requiring customers to mail you money orders. However, you do need to offer multiple payment options. While most of your customers will pay by credit card, debit card or PayPal, there will be some potential buyers who do not have a card and prefer not to use PayPal. Give them the option of sending payment the old-fashioned way.
Cross-Sell and Up-Sell
This will take a little back-end programming on your end, but it's worth the investment. Take a look at Amazon-notice that when you look at an item, you will also get a custom display that tells what people bought and when they bought that particular item. Other sites have similar functions. For example, if a customer is looking at an inkjet printer, show them inkjet cartridges. If they're looking at sweaters, show them scarves, too. If they're looking at the lowest priced item in the category, show them the item that's a little more money but has more features. It's a great way to increase your sales.