Online retail, like most innovations in the business world, brings both benefits and challenges. The benefits are eye-catching: you can set yourself up as a merchant without pouring funds into a physical store, warehouse space, staff, or much else beyond hosting and marketing. And you can keep operating in tricky conditions: even a pandemic-induced lockdown can’t stop you.
As for the challenges, well, they all stem from one very simple truth: everyone has easy access to the same benefits. Assuming they’re able to cover the significant startup costs and establish operations with compelling value propositions, traditional retailers can stay competitive through dominating high-value locations and offering items that are hard to find elsewhere.
Location means very little for online businesses since they all reside in the same digital landscape. And they can’t easily offer attention-grabbing items since it’s really hard to provide something that can’t be found in myriad other places (unless you manufacture your own items, of course, but that massively ramps up the cost of operation). So how do you get ahead?
Well, you make your website the standout feature. Through a strong commitment to website optimization, you can get your pages ranking prominently, keep visitors browsing your content for lengthy periods, and achieve a highly-profitable conversion rate. In this post, we’re going to run through some core tips for building a great store site in 2020. Here are my top 5 tips to build a great website for eCommerce!
Work with a dedicated web developer
Firstly, most importantly, and most relevantly given the context of this blog, you should start by giving serious consideration to how your development process is going to work. You could develop your own site, perhaps, using convenient tools and figuring things out as you go. You could use a template-based store design tool to come up with something basic, then make some minor alterations as needed. Each of those approaches is viable — but not ideal.
Instead, you could outsource the project to a dedicated web developer with the expertise to deliver a superior result. This will cost you more upfront, inevitably, but building a truly great website requires investment — and the expense will pay off in the long run when you’re making more sales and achieving greater profitability.
Maximize the overall value you’re providing
The ultimate goal of an eCommerce site is to yield value, but it isn’t a good idea to go directly to that point. Your prospective customers don’t care about making you richer: they want to reap value for themselves, so you need to focus first on the value you’re providing. The more you can do for them, the more they’ll be ready and willing to spend their hard-earned money.
In addition to selling products, excellent eCommerce merchants commit to selling their expertise and general guidance. The more they can establish themselves as valuable resources, the more page visits they can earn, and the more trustworthy they’ll seem. Given that eCommerce shoppers like to return to brands when they know they can rely on them, this is extremely important for winning lucrative long-term customer loyalty.
A core part of this is creating content — and the type of content you create should depend on the nature of your eCommerce business model, as there are many different types to choose from these days. If you’re offering unique products that you manufactured yourself, then you can offer great insight into the development and production processes: concentrating on creative innovation and operational sustainability will help to justify your high profit margins.
At the other end of the spectrum, you could be selling generic products with low profit margins (most commonly through dropshipping, but also possibly through white-label selling), in which case you should aspire to serve more as a curator. Your content should be about helping shoppers pick out the most suitable products and make good use of them. The better you understand the role your shoppers expect you to play, the more you can cater to it.
Cover all your bases for technical SEO
Technical SEO is all about ticking the boxes that allow websites to be found and ranked by Google’s search crawlers. It’s possible to make a great site that fails to tick those boxes and see it fail to perform as expected in the SERPs. So what goes into technical SEO? Well, each of the following things requires some time and effort:
- Metadata. The pages on your site need to have accurate meta titles and descriptions, because Google will use them to determine the content of your site and how to frame it in the SERPs (respectively).
- Speed. The faster (and more reliable) you make your site, the less likely it’ll be to attract a speed-based penalty from Google — it only wants to recommend websites that provide great user experiences, after all.
- Responsiveness. Just as your site needs to be fast, it also needs to look good whether it’s viewed using a desktop computer or a smartphone. It’s best to design for mobile views first, then ensure that the content can scale up.
- Structure. By ensuring that each page features appropriate headings, subheadings, and other structural markers, you can make it much more digestible and easier for search crawlers to parse and usefully categorize.
Put time into polishing your product copy
Copywriting is an area that often gets short shrift in eCommerce. This is due to a mistaken assumption that price is really the only thing that matters. In actuality, presentation is vitally important: the same product presented in different ways can achieve wildly-different sales figures (this is shown again and again through the dropshipping method mentioned earlier).
Great product copy is succinct, getting to the point quickly and concentrating on readability. It covers the benefits and features of the products (there’s no reason not to have the latter accessible through expandable sections). It meets or exceeds shopper expectations. It finds interesting ways of being distinct from copy for similar products on other sites. And it uses top-notch product photos: when shoppers can’t physically inspect products, helping them to understand exactly what they consist of will prove very effective at overcoming reluctance.
Make the checkout process seamless
Lastly, but certainly not least importantly, you need to make the checkout process seamless and as easy as possible to navigate. It’s notably common for shoppers to add items to their carts and proceed to the checkout stage only to think again and bow out. Think about how many times you’ve bought things on impulse, and how many times you’ve almost done so.
The smoother you make your checkout, the fewer drop-offs you’ll see. A great checkout ensures that the shopper always knows the previous step and the next step. It offers convenient login options (using social logins or even allowing people to order without creating accounts). It provides strong shipping choices and makes it clear how quickly orders will be fulfilled. Make your checkout process free of any irritation, and it’ll reliably deliver conversions.
There you have it: some of the most important tips you can follow when building an eCommerce site that can compete in the tricky online marketplace of 2020. It can be difficult and costly to create a truly great eCommerce store, but it’s worth it in the long run, so take the process seriously.