ECommerce merchants are operating in an increasingly competitive marketplace. An eCommerce website can be an off-the-shelf solution or a tailored one. For those eCommerce merchants launching a new business, an off-the-shelf solution is a fast way to begin. However, as the business grows and traffic increases, having a tailored solution that can be adapted as the business requires can be more profitable. For either choice, there are ten core features that all eCommerce platforms should have to support the customer experience, improve your business and grow your brand.
Why do you need these features to succeed?
The first place to start understanding your eCommerce platform is to create a list of the features you already have and what benefits you gain from those features. To understand the benefits of these features, you must also assess your business goals, needs, and objectives to determine the solutions that will support those ambitions. Taking the time to perform a cost/benefit analysis.
From the perspective of your front-facing features, your store needs to be inviting, move traffic towards purchasing, safe and attractive. Your content should be clear and inspiring to your target audience. Creating a platform that presents your brand, products and services in a clear and attractive way is important to attracting traffic, engaging audiences and converting sales. Off-the-shelf solutions are very effective in presenting eCommerce sites in user-friendly ways. Because so many people use these solutions, users are familiar with the same few layouts. This is helpful for businesses and users. A tailored solution is often still modelled on these same few template styles. This is because audiences are accustomed to these layouts and feel more comfortable navigating a design they know.
On the back end, your business needs fast, accurate and secure services that protect user data, process purchases and update inventory automatically, and maintain the functionality of your site.
When your site is operating at optimal functionality, your business is able to grow. Your eCommerce site must integrate the following 10 features:
- Product navigation
- Search box
- Shopping cart
- Diverse payment methods
- Trustworthy security
- Flash promo options
- Product descriptions
- High-quality content
Essential eCommerce Website Features
It is essential that all businesses have an online presence. For eCommerce merchants, this is their primary location for reaching consumers. Online shopping has been made accessible because of appealing features, like product previews, chatbots, free returns and swift delivery. Larger online stores are able to invest in technology that has transformed online shopping, such as animations, 360-degree product previews, dynamic product search, and advanced filtering. These features can drive traffic and conversions but are not affordable features for all businesses. There are essential features that eCommerce merchants require to compete online.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is essential to the success of your business. SEO links motivated buyers with the business that ensures it can answer customer pain points. However, most online businesses do not understand the importance of SEO and invest in social media and paid ads. Content marketing is the best way to ensure constant website traffic, increase site ranking, and improve domain authority.
It is important that your front end focuses on providing high-quality content that answers customer questions, promotes your brand and engages with your target audience. A strong content marketing strategy will focus on longtail keywords, linking the brand with other reputable industry leaders and structured data. Structured data is any data that lives in a fixed field within a file. Structured data is the markup that helps search engines understand how to interpret and display the content.
- Rich snippets
- Rich cards
- Knowledge graph
- Interactive search results
Mobile commerce continues to grow in popularity. Smartphone shopping is easy when businesses make sites responsive. Studies show that 30% of online shoppers abandon their carts during a shopping session if the website does not provide a mobile-friendly experience. Research shows that about 73% of all retail sales are mobile-based. Customers can compare prices, and read online reviews, move between sites and make fast purchases using loaded credit card data.
There are three choices to make your website mobile-friendly:
- responsive design
- dynamic serving, or
- dedicated mobile websites
Your eCommerce needs to be connected with social media platforms as well. People often transition to websites from social media channels when scrolling. It is important that your site be accessible on all devices at its optimal performance.
Products need to have all the information a buyer would seek out if they were holding the item in their hand. Individual product pages that offer detailed product specifications, such as size, colour, shape, material type, images, video and reviews, help motivate customers. Additional details such as availability, stock, delivery details and product recommendations help secure sales.
Call-to-action buttons like “wishlist”, “add to cart”, and “buy now” also drive traffic to closing sales. The addition and placement of these buttons are critical and should be A/B tested with focus groups that conform to your customer persona.
High-Quality Pictures and Videos
Images sell more than written content. People are less interested in reading and more interested in seeing authentic, high-quality photos and videos. All images on your eCommerce site must represent your brand and appeal to your visitors. Products should have a zoom-in feature and 360 degrees overview. Images and videos need to load fast. Traffic will leave if your load speed is too slow. Remember, people shopping online have many options and can always find an alternative, so your site needs to be fast, secure, attractive and easy to use.
Your site’s most important function is to display your products or services. To make it easy for customers to discover products, they need a landing page and to be catalogued in the right product classification. This is a vital step when creating your catalogue. A customer searches your site for ‘boots’ and has a reasonable expectation that the search will result in a landing page showing the boots your site sells.
Product navigation should be intuitive, easy, and direct users to the right products. Up to 70% of users rely on navigation, making search navigation a high priority for eCommerce sites.
Breadcrumbs can help people better navigate your website.
- ensure your menu is visible on smaller screens;
- put the menus in familiar locations, such as the top of the screen or on the left rail;
- make the menus clickable and interactive;
- use contrasting colours for the menu text and background.
Product navigation helps improve the user experience and increases engagement. Making your site easy to use increases the probability of converting traffic into buyers.
The shopping cart differentiates an eCommerce website from any other type of website. Making it easy to add or remove products, go back to the product pages, make adjustments or finalise purchases is essential to your success.
Complex checkout processes drive away more than 74% of shoppers before completing a transaction. Unexpected additional costs, such as extra taxes or shipping costs, also contribute to high abandonment rates.
A simple, single-page checkout that includes an image of each item in the shopping cart, the product details (size, colour, price, etc.) and the final cost, tends to secure high conversion rates. Shoppers should never be forced to create a login or registration to make a purchase. This leads to a very high cart abandonment rate because shoppers don’t want to share their data or be followed online.
Your online payments system is the pillar of your eCommerce platforms. Payment gateways should strengthen customer data security, streamline online transactions and prevent fraud. Payment options influence purchase decisions. If you do not provide your customer with a range of payment options, they will abandon the cart.
Payment options should include:
Credit card payment
If you choose online payments with low to no transaction fees and additional payment security features, cart abandonment rates decrease.
Search Box Feature
A search box is an essential site feature that allows traffic to navigate with speed and accuracy. Making your search box type-sensitive makes it easier for customers to find what they want. Allowing typos and showing results with the closest match is better than returning zero results.
If your site sells various products, the search should allow brand, category, promotions, etc. You can include additional filters such as size, colour, style, price, newest products, best sellers, etc.
The search bar should be on all pages of your website. It reduces the need for customers to click through pages or return to the home page to try to find what they need. If you create a seamless navigational experience, traffic will likely complete a purchase.
Hacking has been a major issue in the past few years. ECommerce sites are an obvious target for cybercriminals. Sites that handle large volumes of sensitive and financial data attract the attention of nefarious actors when it is clear that security protocols are weak.
Securing your eCommerce site is essential. While common security threats such as DDoS attacks, injections, authentication flaws, and cross-site scripting (XSS) are easy to protect against, adding more complex security will increase your traffic and sales because customers will be certain they can trust you with their data.
Adding extra layers of security or multi-layered security, choosing a trusted hosting provider, monitoring transactions, requiring address verification, CVV, strong passwords for customer accounts, scanning and updating your website regularly, and implementing an SSL certificate improves security and site performance.
Everyone loves a bargain. Entire sales models depend on overpricing products so they can sell that at a massive ‘discount’ or the price shoppers are willing to pay. Creating sales, promotions, and giveaways is a good way to drive traffic and motivate sales. Promo offers, such as discounts, gifts, bundle offers, free shipping, and giveaways, motivate shoppers.
Most eCommerce businesses use social media to market their business. Using social media channels, email, messaging, and other direct connections with special offers is a great way to drive traffic. However, overuse of promotions can turn customers away from paying full price for products, as they know they only need to wait a month for a discount.
Other Recommendations for Your eCommerce
The following features and marketing tactics can also help improve your conversion rate:
- Cross-selling – suggest similar items that might interest your customers. Between 10 and 30% of eCommerce revenue comes from cross-selling and upselling.
- Social Sharing – include social buttons on your product pages. The average eCommerce website has fewer than 500 likes on Facebook. However, websites that ask for likes do better than those that don’t push for attention.
- Delivery Options – multiple delivery options are a good way to close sales. Standard post, express post or courier delivery allows people to control prices.
- Return Policy – at least 30% of all products purchased online are returned, 67% of consumers check the return policy page before making a purchase, and 92% of consumers will buy again from you if the return process is easy. Have your return policy clearly visible at checkout with key points highlighted.
- Live Chat – helps people engage with your brand and product.
- Product comparison and user-generated reviews – 46% of customers want a product comparison feature, 42% of customers want to read testimonials, and 69% of online shoppers want to read reviews prior to making a purchasing decision. These elements help build trust.