Good e-commerce sites should be as smooth-running, aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate as their bricks and mortar counterparts.

Here we look at how to make the most of the possibilities of online retail, by looking at a few key areas which can be addressed by good design:

 

1) Streamline the order process

From searching through to checkout, the shopping experience should be as seamless as possible.

An efficient and functional search facility that shows relevant results is an essential first step of this process.

A buyer searching for a specific item on your site will have a high probability of purchasing, and needs to be able to find it straight away.

Intuitive positioning of a shopping cart that matches the expectations of your target market, for example in the top right hand corner of every page, will encourage visitors to follow up their browsing with a purchase.

When adding items to the shopping basket, it is important that the visitor is aware they have added an item to basket successfully, and it must also be cleat exactly how to begin checkout.

Some sites have a mini cart embedded in the page, keeping visitors on the page they were looking at when adding an item to cart (eg. Pickett).

Other sites instead take the user to a separate cart page with a prominent link to begin checkout.

You may way to test and then decide which works best for you.

The checkout is the crux of the order process and is where the most abandonment takes place, but you don't have to lose out as a result of poor design.

Adding a numbered index of stages to the order process lets users know what to expect, and can help reduce this.

Keeping the checkout process short and visually appealing, with as few distractions as possible, will also help to reduce your site's abandonment rate.

 

2) Build user confidence

Although 37 million now shop online in the UK, designing a site which reassures visitors and makes them feel safe is still vital.

Giving customers a degree of choice in how much personal information they enter, whilst ensuring your contact details are clearly visible on every page will help contribute to this.

Ideally, offer potential buyers a variety of ways to contact your customer service team, as well as a number of recognisable payment options.

Transparency when it comes to shipping costs and reviewing the cost of your order is a good way for your website to instill trust in your e-commerce site and company.

Racking and storage provider Bristol Storage achieves this by clearly stating their shipping and handling costs, and only requesting necessary information from visitors.

Money-back satisfaction guarantees, and a clear returns process can also help to carry wavering shoppers through to checkout, and emphasising the security of payment facilities is another important way of boosting shopper confidence.

 

3) Focus on the product

Any added feature on your website should aim to support, not distract from what is on offer.

Video marketing company Aspect heads its pages with video sequences showcasing their work, but keep other forms of media to a minimum in order for the videos to stand out.

Give as much information as possible: accurate dimensions, colour, and where appropriate, additional information such as material and washing instructions, or advice on other compatible products.

These will help customers to make an informed decision, boost sales and reduce refunds.

It can also help to reduce time-consuming pre-sales enquiries.

To maximise visual impact, consider adding a zoom feature and multiple views of the product.

A detailed visual display is particularly beneficial for certain applications such as selling clothes and fashion online, with large sites like Net-a-Porter and ASOS now including video clips of the clothes on the catwalk.

For any site, giving information on other products with a 'related items' and 'customers who bought this item also liked' function is a great way of generating further sales.

 

Return to Part One: 3 Marketing Tips for E-Commerce Sites