MARKETING: Basics Of e-Commerce
Tips and Tricks inspired by latest run in with a poorly designed online store.
It’s another day, another addition of the Frolics
I’m, as always, Ellen “Jelly” McRae, the writer/solopreneur/content creator/whatever you want to call me, with the goods.
By trade, I write ‘💜 1 Lovelock Drive 💜’ and romanceship articles using my experiences.
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I can’t say the website I was on, but during my latest fight with Covid (I’m still suffering post-symptoms at the moment), I went online shopping. It’s all I could do.
But like all online shopping experiences, at some point, I faced extreme disappointment in the form of a poorly designed website.
The look of a website is one thing. An ugly website, one that isn’t visually appealing to me, I can get past if the functionality is right. But if both don’t line up, it’s impending disaster for all.
As a consumer, the lacking functionality meant I didn’t buy from this website and found it elsewhere.
Yep, bad website = no shopping from the customer.
It’s this latest encounter with a bad website that has brought out the former designer in me. Some aspects of the online experience aren’t acceptable in 2022 and beyond.
Common Problem #1: Extreme* difficulties in completing the checkout process
*I use the word extreme in this context because any struggle for a customer to check out online feels extreme. When you’re trying to do something that should feel simple, but you can’t, the task itself, no matter how simple, becomes impossible.
Everyone has been to a big-ass shop
Have you ever walked around a department store holding an item you really want to buy? Stupid question. Of course, you have.
Your search for a counter manned by a staff member is futile.
You can’t find anybody to hand your money to.
You know the feeling of wanting to throw the item to the floor and march out.
With the same experience online, a customer is less willing to wait.
If they can’t work out how to check out within a matter of seconds, they will leave the website. Here are the areas of an eCommerce store that need to be easy to navigate:
Cart Access — Some websites position the cart icon in obscure locations. Places like the footer or a pop-up aren’t convenient nor convention for most websites. The cart icon is also paramount, with merit in using the word ‘cart’ as well. Just to be safe.
Payment Options — With the dominance of layby-style payments, like Afterpay and ZipPay, customers have more options to pay online than ever. They’re offered payment flexibility. The more options they have to pay, including platforms like PayPal, the more likely the customer will proceed.
Broken Payment Gateway — Whether in your backend or that of your payment avenues, something is stopping payment processing. Site testing is paramount. This includes regular maintenance and continual monitoring of issues with your gateway providers.
Common Problem #2: Confusion Over Click And Collect With Delivery
Have you ever shopped online to discover your favourite item is only available through click and collect? Or that it’s not available online and only in-store?
Another anger-inducing moment. And cart abandoning moment.
The theory why makes sense why an online store takes this approach. Any opportunity to get the product in front of the customer, right?
But this comes with significant risk.
Adding difficulty to the buying process doesn’t encourage shopper loyalty. There are plenty more options for the same option available with other retailers.
If your product offering is inconvenient to obtain, your customer will shop elsewhere.
Here are the parts of your website that need to reflect the two sides of the shopping experience:
Delivery As A Priority— For the majority of your products listed online, prioritise online shipping. This is more about remaining competitive than anything else. If your customer can access shipping through other avenues, they will use it.
Separate Click And Collect — Create a separate section for click and collect items. A different tab or entire division of the website would alleviate confusion and promote sales.
Be Transparent — Don’t hide the fact your items are click and collect only. Or don’t divulge the issue only once the customers have reached the cart. Promote this item with the click and collect feature as an obvious distinction. The earlier the customer knows, the less frustration occurs.
Common Problem #3: Delivery Excuses And Execution
Delivery issues aren’t acceptable for eCommerce stores. It’s:
The fundamental of what you offer, especially if you don’t have the surety of an in-store presence.
It’s why people have to come to you - to avoid getting off the couch and having visit the store.
You have to get it right if you want to survive.
Whilst your delivery isn’t specific to website design, it’s paramount to the success of your eCommerce store. The two are intrinsically linked. And with one not operating as it should, the other is virtually useless.
But how do you manage the postal service? You don’t work for them, you’re a customer like everyone else.
And whilst that is correct, your customer won’t accept the blame game. They haven’t made a contractual purchase with the delivery company. They made it with you, and it’s your responsibility to meet the contract.
Here are the elements of the delivery process you can control:
Your Choice Of Delivery Company — If your delivery company is slow, get rid of them. If your delivery company is experiencing issues, it reflects badly on the business. Rarely a customer remembers what delivery service caused the delay. They only remember the business they purchased from.
Your Excuses — Your customer doesn’t care if your delivery service has let you down. That’s not their fault. As you chose that delivery company, you wear the responsibility of how they do their job. Save your excuses and fix the issue. And don’t pass the excuses onto your customer. Pass on solutions instead.
The Packing Time — Package and process your sales as quickly as possible. The quicker they enter the delivery system, the faster it gets to the customer.
Communication — With your delivery times, under-promise and over-deliver. If you know your products take three days to arrive, promise a five-day delivery. You will cover yourself for the unforeseeable issues and keep your customer happy. All your delivery options and time frames need detailing on your site.
Common Problem #4: Hidden Product Prices
Very rarely do we invent a product that is completely unique or is without a competitive market.
Perhaps you may need to read that again, to let it sink in.
Very rarely do we invent or develop a product that stands alone, and a product won’t even care about the price tag, they will buy it. Even Apple, for example, knows, despite their unique operating system, hiding product pricing breeds the opposite of trust with the customer.
Customers use the online space to price match, too. With the Google shopping feature, it’s easy to price match before even going onto a brand’s website.
Here’s how to approach displaying your pricing on your e-Commerce store:
Don’t Hide Your Pricing - Some sales strategists will tell you to place “Contact for pricing or quote” instead of a figure amount. This forces your customer to guess (the lazy option) or contact you (the active option). Customers are lazy; don’t underestimate how much this option will force them into the apathetic option.
Reveal Your Currency - You know what currency your store is in but you’re the only one. Make sure you list your currency clearly all over your website, including your the header, footer and anywhere your pricing is displayed.
Common Problem #5: Neglect For The Fundamental Product Description
A picture speaks a thousand words. But it doesn’t make a thousand sales online. In fact, it can cost you a sale.
Your customer isn’t a mind reader. They don’t know what you know about the product, nor do they want to guess. What they rely on are your product descriptions and specifications to guide them.
A customer should be able to determine what package is arriving and what the product will look like before buying.
Descriptions also protect you from complaints and refund demands. A customer can’t complain that the product is ‘too small’ if you’ve outlined the measurements clearly.
The onus is now on the customer.
Always answer the following things in your product descriptions:
The Product ‘What’ — Pretend your customer can’t see the product image. Describe how the product, looks, feels, smells (if necessary) and the design. You may want to reference shapes in the design, or eras that influenced the style.
Size Options — What is available in each size and the range you carry. Though the manufacturer offers sizes 6 to 14 in the dress, you only stock 8 to 12.
Your Sizing Charts — What does your ‘small, medium, large’ mean to your offering? Be specific. Add centimetres, inches, actual measurements that mean something to people.
Dimensions (H x W x L) — Especially for furniture, electronics, sporting equipment and the like. Images that reflect what you mean by height, width and length also dispel any confusion.
Package Size — The package and box size of the product as it arrives. This is especially true for click and collect items. Will the box fit into their car or do they need to hire a van? How annoyed will your customer be when they arrive without knowing this?
Colours — Believe it or not, black, for example, isn’t the same for everyone. And black doesn’t look the same in all lights. Describe the colour, and add lighting cues to help distinguish. Consider the way the imagery portrays the colour variations and how lighting impacts the hue.
Materials — What is the product made of? Think about it from the point of view of someone with allergies. Can they use this product? Will you face legal action if the product contains undisclosed materials or ingredients?
What’s Not Included — If your product doesn’t come with batteries, for example, outline this. Let the customer know so they aren’t surprised or disgruntled when the product arrives.
Where — The location of the product and where it ships to. Don’t hide it away in subpages for your customer to hunt. Because once they click away from the product, they’re unlikely to come back. The location helps determine any likely delays.
Who — Address who the product is for. A picture of a t-shirt, or the title ‘t-shirt’ doesn’t define who it’s for. Is it child-sized? Is it plus-sized? Is it a petite male fit? Address who the buyer is.
Who’s the problem in the e-Commerce space?
You can do everything right to create an online store worth visiting.
You can spend thousands on website development. You can have the most beautiful products, but you’re still not making sales online. And you can blame everything in the world for your falling sales.
But the reality is bleak.
The reason you’re not making sales is you. Yes, it’s you. And it’s because you’ve made it too hard for your customer.
As a retired website designer, I’ve seen it all before. I’ve met business owners who don’t know what their customer wants online, nor what they need to convert interested lookers into paying customers.
I’ve fought with my clients about this point. I’ve tried to convince them otherwise. But many assume they know better, despite their declining sales.
The online customer is fickle and easy to please; fickle in the sense they have high expectations. Yet they are easy to please in that it doesn’t take much to get it right.
So why do businesses continue to get it wrong?
The crux of the issue lies in the basics. The straightforward elements are commonly overlooked and ignored for more complex solutions.
Before you start overhauling your entire design, ensure you’re not making the basic mistakes.
Pick My Brain
I hate to say it, but I write about my experiences in business because I’ve worked in a lot of different businesses, and owned several myself. Writing, website design, freelancing, administration, retail, hospitality.
If you have any questions about the solopreneur or business life, drop them here! Anything you would to know, I will do my best to answer. 😎
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