cleatarn eCommerce Site Help Guide

eCommerce Website Design Help

Creating an eCommerce website that adds real value to your business requires a little detailed planning and we hope our guide below will help identify some of the decision points to ensure that your site meets your objectives. For more information on delivering a website project please take a look at our website design help.

Design and Speed

Design of the site encompasses not only the look and feel of the site, but also the structure of the product groups as both of these factors will impact on the speed of page loading and product search capabilities. As a general rule, simplicity and clarity are key as these will result in the fastest possible site navigation, product searches and page loadings. A good page load target is a maximum of about two seconds.

Product Selection

Products need to be organised in a sensible group structure. That structure should reflect what your customers would consider a logical order to be, which is not necessarily the same as a manufacturer’s product numbering system.

Where possible users should be able to navigate to products by:

  1. Clear product categories and sub categories
  2. Word searches
  3. Product brand (if applicable)
  4. Related products for a product currently being viewed
  5. Alternate / competing products to that currently being viewed

Generally Put things together that users would expect to see together, but be careful not to show too many alternatives unless you have say a tabular features list which will allow people to easily compare products.

Product Display Pages

Product pages are where your site conveys information to potential customers to enable them to make a purchasing decision. Pages should:

  1. Be clear and unfussy
  2. Contain excellent quality images – possibly with enlargement options or videos
  3. Have easily locatable technical information / specifications
  4. Contain links to download product manuals, user guides etc.
  5. Show price including VAT if the site is dealing with consumers rather than other businesses
  6. Product feature comparison table
  7. Customer reviews and / or star ratings

It is worthwhile having a check list of things which should go on each product page so that consistency is achieved across the site.

Product Options

Many products have options available. Ideally options available show be clearly seen on the product page e.g.:

  1. Colour / finish
  2. Sizes
  3. Choice based on products this product works with / fits
  4. Quantity discounts
  5. Clear payment options
  6. Clear and honest display of re-stocking times if the product is out of stock

Things Your eCommerce Site Should Have

Although customers are increasingly comfortable with buying products and services online, you should try to make sure that they can gain confidence that your site is legitimate by making sure that the site has:

  1. Clear contact information
  2. A returns policy
  3. A privacy policy
  4. HTTPS pages – it is wise NOT to have HTTP pages and HTTPS pages on the same site as some browsers will warn about leaving HTTPS pages
  5. VAT registration number
  6. Data Protection Act Registration number (if applicable)
  7. U.K. Registered Company number (if applicable)
  8. Registered Office (if applicable)

Shopping Cart

The purpose of the shopping cart is to allow customers to review their intended purchases. To make this possible, the site should ideally permit:

  • Quantity changes and deletions
  • Products to be viewed again
  • Continuing shopping
  • Checking of delivery costs
  • Stating if a delivery signature will be required
  • Entry of voucher or discount codes (if applicable)
  • Entry of special deliver instructions e.g. deliver to a neighbour

Completing the Purchase

You should consider whether the payment transaction should be completed on your own website or whether to re-direct the user to a secure recognised payment process e.g. PayPal etc.

There have been many damaging cases of user information being hacked from seller’s sites – so if you are retaining any customer information – will that data be encrypted or otherwise secured and can you state those safeguards to the user?

After the Transaction

Once the payment process is completed ideally the site should display:

  1. Confirmation of a successful purchase
  2. An order number
  3. A summary of the order
  4. Confirmation that an email has been sent the user and the email address used
  5. Contact information in case a mistake has been made
  6. Links to further information about the purchased products on your site
  7. Links to information downloads or video guides

A confirmation email containing the above information should also be sent to the user. By showing the information on the site and sending an immediate confirmation email the user is assured that the order has not fallen into a ‘black hole’.

Order Tracking

Particularly for high value goods which require signature, consideration should be given to implementing order tracking with the courier service to allow users to see the progress of their order. If you have a choice, carriers who send out texts showing the delivery status and expected delivery times. Some carriers do give very accurate predicted delivery times allowing your customers to plan their day rather than having a general delivery time of say 8am to 8pm.

If the order passes through several stages in your internal process, consider sending out progress emails so that customers feel that their order is important and is progressing.

Order Delivery

If your courier provides real time feedback of delivery completion, consider generating an email to customers confirming that the item has been delivered.

The email should also include links for damaged items, returns policy, installation instructions etc.

Follow Up

A week or so after the order has been delivered a short follow up email checking if the purchaser is happy with the purchase and your service is a great way of building the customer relationship. This is an opportunity to get direct feedback which you might be able to use to rate products or to improve your service, website etc.

If your organisation is geared up for personal email responses, consider sending this type of follow up email directly from a named individual, but unanswered responses are worse than not contacting the customer in the first place!

Follow Up After Problems

Many organisations fix problems that customers have and then move on. However, a problem is also an opportunity to demonstrate excellent customer service. So a specific follow up in respect of any issue a customer has had is a good way of showing customers that you value their custom. Feedback to your site such as “Stopped working after one day” is damaging whereas “ Stopped working after one day and a replacement was shipped out to me on the same day – great service!” sells more products!

Further Contact

A newsletter, voucher codes or email offers are all possible ways of keeping in touch with hard won customers in the future, but make sure that there is a simple Unsubscribe link, particularly if you are selling to consumers.

General Good eCommerce Site Practice

Here are a few things which you might consider to endear users to your site:

  1. No surprises – i.e. huge carriage charges that become apparent at checkout
  2. Is something else needed to make this product work e.g. fixings?
  3. FAQ’s – keep these under review to deal with questions people regularly ask so that you can provide that information in the text
  4. Star ratings / customer comments do help people decide
  5. Minimise the number of steps to find and complete the purchase of a product – too many verifications of what the user is buying is counter-productive
  6. Do search results give sensible selections – results which give lots of items with no relation to what the user is seeking frustrate people
  7. Consider limiting the number of results shown, with an option for more
  8. Do you really need to make a customer register before they can buy? Consider:
    1. Giving a discount to registered users if the object is to create a mailing list?
    2. A tick box registration / consent based on the information provided for the purchase
    3. A registration option after the product purchase
  9. Not using premium rate contact phone numbers
  10. Very fast response times to contact emails
  11. Sending out text and or email updates on order progress
  12. Do not delay sending out orders because your general delivery terms for say free delivery are within X days. Getting the product to the customer as soon as possible should be the priority
  13. Keep the site current – remove discontinued products and check for broken links!
  14. Provide excellent customer service!

Getting Your eCommerce Site Known

There are a number of ways that you can consider using to increase the profile of your eCommerce site:

  • Social media – are there innovative things you can share with your followers?
  • Excellent site informational content
  • Links from supplier sites
  • Use of AdWords and pay per click adverts
  • ‘Recommend a friend’ offers

eCommerce Site Search Engine Optimisation

Good eCommerce sites have search engine optimisation capabilities built in to them. It is important that product pages provide Meta Descriptions and Meta Titles. Meta Keywords are not so important now, but some systems are capable of generating the metadata by default if it isn’t entered specifically for the product. You can check this by viewing the source code for the webpage in your browser.

Images should be labelled according to their content – search engines cannot see what an image is (yet!) so you need to provide that information. You can use the image Alt tag to do this.

The address line or site URL for your product should ideally contain meaningful information too – an address for the page that contains a jumble of characters and symbols is meaningless to a search engine and therefore an opportunity missed.

A site map is essential for eCommerce sites. Systems that automatically generate a site map and then notify the search engines of site changes are ideal as this ensures that the search engines keep up to date with site changes. The is more information on Search Engine Optimisation on this site.

eCommerce Site Design

Most of the comments raised in cleartarn’s Website Help page are worth considering in respect of your site.

Can we help further?

We hope this guide is of use when you consider your eCommerce site. cleartarn has many years’ experience implementing eCommerce solutions for a variety of businesses and products. If we can provide you with any further help or guidance, please contact us.

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