Key features to make your online store stand out
Online shopping is a boom industry, and if you want a slice of it you need to make sure that your store not only looks good, but that it works effectively too.
The big players in ecommerce, like Amazon, have had a lot of years to get things right, but that doesn’t mean there is no space for new entrants, provided you also get it right.
The shop window
Just as bricks and mortar stores spend a lot of effort on their window displays, so for an online business it’s vital to have a store that attracts visitors. It also needs to be easy to use and, crucially, easy for you to change and customize with new products and seasonal sales or when you need to give it a make-over.
There are many templates available for building online stores; products like Shopify, for example, offer you the flexibility to give your store its own unique look and feel. For your site to look professional it’s vital that you apply the same design standards across all of its pages. If clicking a link goes to a page that looks completely different, consumers will quite rightly distrust the site and take their spending power elsewhere.
Of course, it’s also important to showcase your products in the best way. Good quality photographs and clear, well-written descriptions are essential. Allowing buyers to post reviews of items they’ve bought can also help to attract more custom. Online buyers place a great deal of trust in the opinions of others.
Safe and secure
Breaches of online security regularly make the headlines, so making sure that your shopping site is secure should be your top priority. If you’re using one of the major ecommerce platforms the security on offer should be at least the equal of that employed by major corporations.
When choosing a platform you should look for one that’s compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). This ensures that the software follows industry best practice for handling sensitive data, such as user details and payment card information, in a secure way.
Ease of use
While you want your payments to be handled securely, you also need to make sure that the checkout process is a smooth one. Consumers will be put off if they have to deal with a complex or multi-stage shopping cart process. Ideally you should look for a system that allows the final checkout and payment process to be completed on a single page or which has a clearly defined sequence so that users can see at a glance exactly how far they’ve traveled through the process.
Service and support
The last thing you want to do is have potential shoppers leave your site because they can’t find what they want. It’s essential that, firstly, the site is easy to use, that product categories are easy to navigate and that there is a search feature to help people find the things they want.
Effective navigation means having layered menus or breadcrumb trails that allow people to see exactly where they are on the site and can find their way back to other sections. It’s useful to allow grouping of products by price, size, color and other features.
If there is a problem, you need a way for people to get in touch. These days email probably doesn’t cut it any more – although that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t offer it; access to a live chat function will give visitors a quick and easy way to acce