Getting your online business off the ground or improving your existing eCommerce website can be a challenge. The following guide will walk you through 22 of the most important eCommerce website features that top performing online stores share including fundamental elements, backend capabilities, and communication features.
Having a mobile-friendly eCommerce site is essential. According to BusinessInsider, mobile device shopping will account for 45% of online shopping by the end of 2020. A poorly designed mobile site could make a huge dent in your sales. Thankfully, many web design services like WordPress make optimizing your site for mobile devices simple. Your mobile site should not only be pleasing to look at, but also fully functional from the moment a user enters the site to the completion of the purchase.
The quality of your product’s photos can make all the difference to a potential customer. Your users want to be able to see detailed images of the products they’re considering. Make sure the quality of your graphics is consistent throughout your website, from the homepage to the product pages to blog posts and other content. On the product pages, allow users to zoom in on products so they can get an idea of the quality and design of the items they are considering purchasing.
When a user has a product in mind, finding that product quickly can make or break a sale for your online business. Including a search bar on your store can help customers find exactly what they’re looking for. If possible, design the search bar to autofill with product suggestions based on what the user is typing to smooth out the search process even further.
Allowing customers to review their purchases works for your eCommerce company on several levels. Direct feedback from your customers is invaluable to the product development process and gives you the opportunity to amend any issues or thank the customer for their positive feedback, making them feel valued. When a new customer sees honest reviews, they recognize and respect the brand’s transparency and have the added opportunity to learn more about the product they may purchase.
A “Related Products” section on product pages is a great function on an eCommerce store. If a customer has a product in mind for purchase, an easy-to-find related product can enhance their experience and even add to the revenue you receive from that purchase. Related items sections can be placed on product pages or in the shopping cart view where the user can easily add the similar products.
Catering to the casual browser on your online store is an excellent eCommerce strategy. Allowing users to create wish lists will encourage them to return to the site when they are ready to make a purchase. Further, wish lists typically require an account to build, allowing you to collect contact information and use the items on the wish list to tailor your marketing strategy to that customer’s tastes.
Offering users discounts and special offers is a great way to motivate purchases, especially to first-time buyers who are likely to become repeat customers. However, offers and discounts can be applied to other situations, like a known customer who has not made a purchase in a certain amount of time. Special offers make customers, new and existing, feel valued and keep them interested as they consider making purchases.
Loyalty programs are another way to implement special offers but are also a great eCommerce feature on their own. Customers like to feel rewarded for their support, so using a loyalty program that applies points or “stamps” for each purchase is a great way to connect with existing customers and to draw in new customers.
A user-friendly checkout process is essential for an online store. This process should start at the shopping cart and end with a clear order confirmation. In between, make sure you offer payment methods like major credit cards and PayPal, which are easy for users to enter and often help them fill in information like shipping and billing information quickly. Additionally, make sure you have options for shipping so that every customer receives their products when they want them while sticking to their budget.
From a backend perspective, understanding the actions that potential customers take on your eCommerce website will help you land more completed sales. Google Analytics is free to set up and has excellent functionality to track and report users’ actions in real time, like how users came to the site, how long their visit was, details about conversion rates and more. Beyond basic analytics, predictive insight tools, like Apteo, can help you extract deeper insights to predict future sales.
Another backend feature that will support your eCommerce website is a Content Management System, or CMS. A CMS will help keep your site organized and appearing at the top of search engine results. With a CMS, creating and editing website text is a breeze. A CMS also typically includes a library feature for your image and video assets and gives you full control over cropping and placement of those assets on your website. Additionally, you’ll be able to set website elements like URLs, meta descriptions and other elements of search engine optimization that will keep your site ranking well.
Keeping your website optimized for search engines goes beyond content management. The scoring algorithm that Google uses to determine website rank factors in page load time, off-page text (like HTML tags and meta text), website security via SSL certificates, quality of internal and external links and more. The scoring algorithm is also constantly changing, so optimizing your online store to rank well on search engines is an ongoing process.
Creating a landing page or homepage that resonates with your audience will increase conversions and improve engagement. To get to the ideal landing page for your eCommerce website, A/B testing will help you make crucial website design and copy decisions. Free and paid A/B testing tools are available including Google Website Optimizer. As you build out an A/B test, consider differentiating your landing pages by changing the copy or size of the call-to-action, the graphics used on the page or the product descriptions. A/B testing is an ongoing process that will make a gradual but significant difference in engagement and conversions.
Google’s digital advertising platform, Google Ads (formerly AdWords), is second to none. To make the most of your pay-per-click advertising, understanding how to track and analyze conversion events (the actions the user takes after clicking your ad) will give you a clear picture of your eCommerce company’s sales funnel. You’ll see when a customer signs up for email marketing, calls your business or makes a purchase all in relation to clicking your ad.
Of all digital marketing tactics, email marketing boasts an incredible ROI. Having a fluid sign-up process for users to join your mailing list will improve success in reaching your customers and ultimately making conversions. One of the most effective ways to build your mailing list is with a simple pop-up as a user enters the site. To encourage the potential customer to join, consider offering a discount for signing up and make sure you establish contact soon after the user registers.
Communicating with your customers works best when it’s a two-way street. Help your customers talk to you with an easy-to-find contact page with different options to get in touch, like email addresses, phone numbers, social media accounts and addresses of brick-and-mortar locations or any other method your brand has available.
An option for customers to contact customer support should be easy to find, even off the Contact Page. Make sure the appropriate phone number or live chat assistant is prominently displayed on the site’s homepage. The last thing a customer in need of immediate assistance wants is to have trouble finding a way to make contact.
Even if a customer doesn’t need a customer support representative during their visit, an all-inclusive live chat feature is great for an eCommerce store. With live chat available on your site’s homepage, a bot can answer common questions quickly or direct the user to a rep to help them with in-depth questions like product recommendations. Additionally, monitoring the queries from users in the live chat can give insight into your customers’ behaviors and help you make strategic decisions about your sales approach.
Text message marketing for eCommerce is similar to email marketing with the additional perk of immediacy. People tend to check their phones more than they check their email, so your message is more likely to reach your potential customer. Building a text message mailing list can be tricky when consumers are wary of sharing their phone numbers, but by offering special discounts for sign-ups and making their privacy a known priority, you can grow your contact list.
If your company has physical stores, include an easy-to-use store locator on your website. Depending on your product or your market, your customers may be more likely to convert if they visit a brick-and-mortar store. This doesn’t mean you should neglect your online presence. Instead, use your eCommerce site to enhance and simplify your customers’ journeys. A store locator feature that allows the user to visualize where your stores are by sharing their location or zip code is an easy way to bolster web-to-physical store conversions.
One of the most frustrating parts of sales and eCommerce is preventing potential customers from leaving your site before they understand the value of your brand. Implementing an exit intent pop up gives you the opportunity to make a strong pitch before the user leaves the website. Exit intent pop ups can provide additional information about your products, ask for contact information from the user, offer a discount on their next purchase or ask why the user is leaving the site. When applied well, exit intent pop ups can not only prevent users from exiting the site, but can also bolster later conversions by encouraging the user to return to the site later.
Surveys are one of the easiest and most effective ways to get feedback from website visitors about their experience shopping on your eCommerce website. Design surveys for a number of events such as the checkout process, website navigation, how the user found your store or any other information your brand may find valuable. Keep surveys brief if they are triggered by site actions and consider adding in-depth voluntary surveys with a reward like a small discount or gift with purchase.
The list of important eCommerce website features above may be daunting, but there are eCommerce website solutions for online businesses of any size. Consider using a website builder like Shopify with built-in eCommerce functionality, and look into plugins to enhance your website features. Services like WooCommerce integrate easily with WordPress. You can also use a standalone service like Adobe’s Magneto, which can be integrated with an Amazon store.
If you’re looking for ways to take your eCommerce marketing insights to the next level, schedule a demo with us to learn about how we help teams understand which factors influence purchase behavior.
Shanif Dhanani is the co-founder & CEO of Apteo. Prior to Apteo, Shanif was a data scientist and software engineer at Twitter, and prior to that he was the lead engineer and head of analytics at TapCommerce, a NYC-based ad tech startup acquired by Twitter. He has a passion for all things data and analytics, loves adventure traveling, and generally loves living in New York City.