In the 1989 movie Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner is told by his corn field (yes, you read that correctly) that “if he builds it, they will come.” Well, sorry for the spoiler alert if you haven’t yet seen this flick, but as you might expect: he does indeed build it, and they do indeed come (“it” is a baseball field, and “they” are old time ballplayers that dream of one last chance to play in front of a roaring crowd).
Well, fast forward nearly three decades, and we can see that a number of businesses running ecommerce sites are of the belief that if they build it (an ecommerce site), then they (hordes of happy customers) will come. Unfortunately for them, there’s no screenwriter to ensure a happy ending, because their site is fundamentally flawed in one area or multiple areas, and as a result, customers are not beating a virtual path to their door.
If your ecommerce site is not generating the high quality converting traffic you expect or need — or if you’re about to launch an ecommerce site and want to head out on the right path — then here are 5 practical and proven design tips to stand out from the crowd:
Design for Customers — not Visitors
Many ecommerce sites are visually appealing and have fancy graphics, fonts, widgets, and other things that add esthetic appeal. And most of the time, all of these elements are a total waste of space and money, and a big mistake in the first place.
That’s because you aren’t interested in visitors: you’re interested in customers. That means your design must help customers hit the ground running, and fulfill their agenda of quickly learning about product(s) of interest, putting them in a cart, making a purchase, and going on their happy way.
To that end, you want to use design elements that create a visual hierarchy so customers know exactly where to go, and ensure that your font choices are both readable and large enough — don’t forget, many of your customers will be using tiny smartphones with even tinier screens.
Take a Product-First Approach
You can pat yourself on the back for having a product-first approach when all of the following boxes are ticked: your product photos are professional-grade, your search functionality is easy and fast, your best sellers and reviews/ratings are easy to find, and all basic information is clearly listed (price, colors, sizes, materials, technical information, etc.).
Don’t Bury Your Shipping Info and Returns Policy
Some ecommerce sites bury their shipping information and returns policy; not unlike some home sellers try and prevent folks at their open house from browsing the “scary rooms” like the guest room that time forgot, the attic where mortals fear to tread, and we won’t talk about that room next to the washing machine that may or may not be part of this dimension.
However, trying to hide these pages because they might somehow diminish momentum on the buyer’s journey — say, because shipping isn’t free or return policies are somewhat restrictive — is a mistake. Customers loathe and resent spending time searching for this information. Even if you don’t have free shipping or the marketplace’s best return policy, make the information easy to find. Otherwise, customers will bounce away — and they’ll slam the virtual door on their way out.
Automate Your Fulfillment
Customers really, really get mad when they spend time choosing product(s), and only find out when they’re ready to checkout that one, some or all items are out of stock. Even though this may be a perfectly legitimate fact of life, customers perceive this as a kind of bait-and-switch (i.e. they think the business deliberately withheld the information to get them further into the purchase process).
The way to avoid this shock and rage is to have a flawless back end ecommerce order fulfillment system, that not only tells you well ahead of time when you need to order more stuff (i.e. when the inventory threshold is met), but lets you race online and tell customers that only a few items are remaining — or that an item has sold out.
Go Secure (or Go Home)
You already know that your ecommerce site must be extremely secure — since few things damage a reputation more these days than headlines that scream “Data Breach.” But just in case a reminder helps: you should use HTTPS, leverage DoS and DDoS protection via firewall integration, and work with a payment service provider that has PCI DSS certification. And of course, make sure your staff is part of the security solution and not the problem.
The Bottom Line
While having a great ecommerce site that captures all of the above won’t singlehandedly take your business to the Fortune 100, the fact is that flaws and failures in any of the above can — and almost certainly will — put a big, gaping hole in your sails and make it much harder and more costly for you to reach your profit potential. The good news is that you use the above advice to patch up any tears, and hit the open ecommerce waters full speed ahead!