You have your great idea for an eCommerce business. Now you need to make it a reality with a website that gives your customers a stress-free and positive shopping experience. In this article you will discover all of the key features that will help you to develop a website that enhances your brand and will drive forward sales so that you can keep moving in the right direction. Twenty-five of the most important features are outlined here along with a basic comparison between three of the most popular hosting platforms. By the time you have finished reading this, you will be primed and ready to give your products the platform they need to make you some serious money!
25 vital eCommerce website features
Any potential customer is looking for a friendly user experience, and if this is not what they find, they will lose interest fast. In an eCommerce site, it is important that customers have a stress-free experience so that they don’t seek out rival online retailers. You want happy customers, and in order to help achieve this, you can have key features on your website such as a search bar and a high quality homepage that is easy to navigate, clearly listing product categories and making sure that your web page is responsive.
Nowadays, consumers view e-commerce websites via their mobile devices rather than computers most of the time. When making an online purchase, many customers find it more convenient to use their mobile phone. One of the must-have features for your website is to make it compatible for mobile users because this reflects the modern customer journey. Different devices have different screen sizes and shapes, so you have to make sure that your web design is automatically modified to encompass all of these.
It is vital for any online business that you ensure your web pages load quickly, as customers will definitely lose interest and take their business elsewhere if a site is taking a long time to load. Modern consumers like the convenience of fast online shopping at the click of a button, but if this is not what they experience from your eCommerce business, they will quickly lose interest.
When navigating your website, customer satisfaction will come from the ability to search quickly. Autocomplete search is one of the primary features that enables this; it basically works by making suggestions based on what the customer is typing into the search box and saves time. It will use the data from your featured products as well as use previous customer searches to help find what they are looking for.
Different filters can be applied to products based on what you are selling. This could be product pricing from highest to lowest or vice versa, or for an online clothing store, this could be size, gender, color, etc. Online stores can be difficult to navigate without the sorting of quality products into different categories that make sense to the consumer.
When making a purchase decision, your customers will need to be able to easily browse the categories that are of interest to them, and breadcrumb navigation makes this straightforward. It basically involves the organization of a list of categories into a drop down menu, for instance, from the home page. This will make for a smooth customer experience.
Many customers feel wary of purchasing a product online, especially if it is a smaller brand that they haven’t heard much about before. One of the advantages of a brick-and-mortar store is that you can view the products. Consumers like to be able to see and feel the item before deciding on whether or not it is a quality product, which is why detailed product descriptions are crucial for eCommerce stores. Make sure you also include a high quality product image along with a descriptive product title, all of which leads to a seamless shopping experience.
All of the best eCommerce websites will provide quick and easy links to related products, meaning products that may be of interest to a customer based on their purchases. These can be sorted into different categories or sometimes can be based on the products that other consumers frequently purchase together. When a customer has product recommendations, they will see that your business appears to be knowledgeable and will be likely to return to make further purchases.
An essential element of eCommerce website designs is a well-designed shopping cart. Make sure the cart button is in a prominent location so that it can be accessed easily. With one of these, your customers will be able to add or remove individual products until they are ready to complete their purchase. Other key features of a shopping cart should include various shipping options, the ability to alter product quantities, choose different payment methods such as credit card or Paypal, and enter promo codes when they are available.
When designing the shopping cart, aim for simplicity and make sure the theme fits with your branding. Also, make sure that the checkout button is nice and clear so that your customer will be able to complete the payment process.
As the business owner, you are looking to build a base of loyal customers. For this to happen, one of the most important factors is for the checkout experience not to be too stressful or complicated. There is a high cart abandonment rate when the checkout process is not smooth, and it can have a negative impact on your business when the consumers are being driven away at the last minute because of a difficult experience. If you want to build the customer relationship, here are a couple of tips to ensure the check out process does not have the opposite effect:
- Make it simple – Only ask for the basic information that you will need from your customer to complete their purchase, such as email address, shipping and billing address, and payment method. If you make this process too complex, your customer will be more likely to get fed up and abandon their cart out of frustration.
- No unnecessary extra pages – Keep everything on the same page for the checkout. Customers become frustrated or anxious when new browser windows open during checkout. A one-page checkout extension is the way forward and is a vital consideration in the design process.
11. Why Include a Wish List?
A good idea for your eCommerce website is to include a wish list so that your customers will contemplate returning to the site in the future. It is a perfect opportunity to build trust with the consumer as the wish list enables them to earmark products they’d like to buy at a later date. This way they can be sure it is a purchase they really want to make and is not on impulse. The psychological aspect of this is to encourage the customer to visit the website again and again to keep track of products they have saved for later. Making the wish list shareable is an added bonus as it may draw additional traffic to your site.
When looking for trust signals on a retail website, a consumer will first look toward product reviews and ratings; knowing they have the option to write these shows that the site is legitimate. When the products cannot be reviewed, this can have a negative impact on trust. On websites such as Amazon, the user reviews themselves can be rated so that the most useful ones will be displayed first. People are more likely to buy something for which there are product recommendations as this helps them to know that what they are buying will be of good quality.
Social proof is more difficult when it comes to online shopping as opposed to physical stores. This is because the customer can only see an image of the product and cannot use any of their other senses to determine whether or not it is for them. This is why it is vitally important that you include informative product titles and extensive product information, as well as the reviews that were already mentioned.
The growth of the internet means social proof is becoming less of an issue for eCommerce. Nowadays, influencers will often review products on their social media profiles or make blog posts that can potentially be seen by a huge audience, so this is another way to bring the product to life for shoppers who are thinking about buying your product. Provide links on your website to your social media channels as this is an extra way of keeping your customers connected to your brand. The most important thing is that the customer has as much information as possible about the product without actually being able to hold it in their hands.
Many eCommerce sites nowadays have a live chat option to replace the traditional call center model. This is a popular business niche for many retail websites as it provides swift answers to customer queries without the stress of being on hold when making a phone call for support. This is a very successful customer service channel, but you should be mindful that in order to implement it you will need dedicated staff, as well as IT support should there be any issues.
Promotional offers are a powerful marketing tool as customers find them hard to turn down. Coupon codes, seasonal discounts, or having a bundle of products on offer will have some of the following great benefits:
- Increases conversion rates
- Builds customer loyalty
- Maximizes sales
- Enhances awareness of eCommerce brands
Special offers can become regular when your brand is successful, and you can offer discount codes to loyal customers through email marketing to ensure that customers remain interested and keep coming back.
Any experienced company will tell you that equally important as attracting new customers is rewarding long-term ones. One of the best ways to do this for eCommerce companies is through a loyalty program. This could include additional products that are only available to customers on the program or an email list for special offers to those who frequently buy from you. When designing a loyalty program, remember to make it fun, and communicate with the customers so they feel like they are valued and have a connection with your company. Basically you are offering a bonus for customers who keep coming back.
A valuable feature for getting products to customers via your website is an online inventory that allows them to see in real time whether or not a product is in stock. Obviously, to maintain such a system requires some hard work from the IT department in order to make sure it is accurate, but it is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal when it comes to enhancing the online shopping experience. It can be majorly frustrating when a product is ordered online and then that dreaded email comes through saying it is out of stock. This tool makes for a smoother shopping process and will likely lead to less customer complaints.
Arguably most important for your customer is to know that their shopping session will be secure. Without robust security for your website, identity fraud and the leaking of personal information can easily happen, which can be incredibly harmful for your brand. A few important features include:
- When choosing the platform that will host your website, make sure it has a good security rating. It is worth spending time making sure you choose the right one that will offer the most protection against things like malware and SQL injections.
- It is actually a mandatory PCI security standard for all eCommerce websites to have an SSL certificate so you must ensure that you obtain one. This also shows customers that your website is recognized for its safety.
- When asking for personal data, make sure only what is truly essential is kept—this basically means the bare minimum. Choose a payment gateway that is encrypted so it will be a very difficult target for hackers.
19. Multiple Payment Methods
There are a number of popular payment methods today, and in order to ensure you don’t miss out on potential sales, your website will need to offer as many of them as possible. Everyone has their preferred payment method, and if it is not available, they will most likely go elsewhere. Paypal and Stripe are two of the methods most commonly used other than debit or credit cards so make sure you include these. Also, some extra button placement can incorporate modern innovations such as Klarna, which allows a customer to pay in installments; or, there are plug-ins that allow for a buy now, pay later option which will appeal to customers of all budgets who might not otherwise consider making the purchase there and then.
For businesses that process a high volume of monthly sales or deal in international transactions, there are some advanced payment gateways available. You should only consider these if they are absolutely necessary as there can be significant monthly subscription fees or set up fees in order to use them. It will usually only be large multinational companies with a very high annual turnover who need to consider these options, but it is good to be aware of them for possible future reference.
If a customer likes the look of something you have on offer and the product price seems good, you are most of the way toward securing a sale. However, if there is a significant additional payment for shipping, they may be put off, and so it is important to be transparent about this from the very start. Cost is not the only factor that is important to include; you must also let the customer know when they can expect their purchase to arrive. Do you offer next day delivery? How long should it take to arrive by a standard shipping method? The more clear information you give, the more likely you are to still secure a sale and increase the number of satisfied clients.
Advances in eCommerce website development have allowed for customer service to be available around the clock through the use of artificial intelligence chatbots that can process information from customers’ questions to find helpful answers. Of course, during office hours you can have a live web-chat option, but to staff this for 24 hours a day is unrealistic. For a small fee, there are plug-ins such as Zendesk and Liveperson that will allow you to add this useful feature to your website. Good customer service makes consumers feel valued and increases the likelihood of them becoming loyal customers of yours in the future.
Nowadays, eCommerce businesses can present themselves in different ways—via their website, social media, etc., and these will be accessed across multiple devices. The customer will be looking for a consistent experience across all of these, and so it is a very important consideration which requires a strategy to ensure that this will be achieved. When it comes to the contact page, you need an action button that will take you to the same online form regardless of the source. This is an important aspect of sales as the customer will need to see that your company is consistent across all platforms that make up your overall image.
Another good way of incorporating user-generated content into your online retail store is by including a page of frequently asked questions that may help customers to get answers quickly and without the stress of having to make a phone call. This will benefit you as much as the client as it will decrease the amount of time your customer service has to spend answering questions for which the answers could easily be found on your website. This will also increase sales faster by answering questions that customers may have about your products. There can be an FAQ page both for the individual products that you sell and the store as a whole. If you take a look at websites like Amazon, you will see that there is a question and answer page that is interactive to customers, allowing them to ask questions, give answers to others, and vote on the best questions and answers to ensure that the most frequently asked ones appear first. Allowing customers to be involved in the FAQ is a good idea as they are the ones who will most benefit.
Part of increasing trust is to include a return policy that appears generous to the customer and to make sure the information on it is displayed clearly next to the product. This gives the buyer confidence that they will not have wasted their money should there be anything wrong and shows that you as the merchant are trustworthy. As with all aspects of your website, keep the content simple and easy to understand so that your customer will be reassured that returning the item, should they need to, will be a straightforward process.
By this point, you should have a very good idea of all of the important features needed for your eCommerce website. Now you need to choose the best host platform for the services that you require. Here is a little information on three of the most popular platforms:
Magento offers far more customization opportunities than the other platforms, but the possible catch is that you or someone on your team needs to have a degree of knowledge of coding in order to get the best out of these. There is much more flexibility on offer, and if you or your team do possess some coding skills, there is no limit to where you can go. In this way, the main strength of Magento is also the main drawback. However, there is a large user community that will be able to help you with any difficulty you might have. Something else to consider is that there are a number of setup costs rather than a fixed monthly fee.
Magento is the best option for businesses that already have some cash behind them and can either pay a third party IT consultant to code their website or have these skills in their team already.
BigCommerce has all of the eCommerce website essentials but does not require coding knowledge to set up or maintain. You can choose from a range of templates and create your site with minimal fuss. This will work very well if you are happy to stick to a formula and only require mostly basic functions, but if you are aiming for a dazzling eCommerce website user experience, this platform may not have the flexibility to truly deliver on that score.
BigCommerce could be a good option if your digital skills are limited and you are looking to get your website up and running quickly. This is quite a similar platform to Shopify, and the pricing plan is fairly identical as well.
Shopify is the go-to option for businesses that are just starting out and have little capital or technical skills to call upon. It is used by a vast number of businesses, and there is a fixed monthly charge with options to purchase additional apps that can add to your store in various ways. If you are looking for something basic that requires little specialist knowledge or effort to maintain, then this could well be the option for you. However, if you are looking at the bigger picture, this platform may not be the best option should your company expand.
Setting up an eCommerce website does not have to be stressful. There are some very user-friendly platforms that will help you get started, but if you are ready to take things to the next level, there are great options there too. Just make sure you keep all of the key features that we talked about above in mind. A happy customer is a customer who feels valued, well-informed, and is able to use your website with ease. This article has explained the ways in which you can ensure this happens so that your business will thrive. Never forget to look after your loyal customers while you try to increase your customer base.
If you want to explore more options, then speak to an eCommerce consultant from Jamersan. We can give you friendly advice based on years of experience.