When setting up a new online business, the look of the website is something that is often overlooked, going for the functionality of actually having the ability for customers to make a purchase as soon as possible, rather than spending the time to make sure the website is at the highest possible standard prior to launch.

All online businesses should look at the website the same way they would a bricks and mortar store. It is the focal point of the business, the place where you are going to be able to entice customers to actually make a purchase. While you will be using other marketing channels to draw these visitors through to your website, it is going to be the layout of your website itself and the content on it that is going to transition these visitors into purchasing customers. To do this you are going to need to look at a number of different factors.

Design

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As soon as a visitor lands on your website, the look of your site is going to provide them with a substantial amount of information about your business. Think of your website the same way you would someone driving a car. When you see someone driving down the street, you instantly base their social standing and situation based on the quality of the car they’re driving. The better the car, the better the opinion and your website is no different. If a customer lands on a website that looks to be of a high quality and professional, it is instantly going to create a positive impression that encourages them to delve further and begin the purchasing process. If your website doesn’t look too hot and gives the impression of being cheap and just not too good, it is going to put customers off making a purchase and will probably result in them leaving your site and never coming back.

The look of your website should not only be professional, but reinforce your brand image. This means clearly identifying your brand name logo and the colour scheme that makes up your business. The idea is to make your website instantly recognisable so a customer can clearly identify who the website belongs to, based on the colour scheme and logo, without having to ever see the brand name.

Maneuverability

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Your website needs to not only look good, but it needs to be easily accessible for a visitor to use and locate any products they are looking for. There are a number of conventions that many eCommerce stores have taken up when deciding the layout of their website/products and you won’t go too far wrong if you follow them. On the home page you should have a navigation bar either at the top or side of your website that contains the level one categories of your website. For example, if you provide a range of clothes for everyone, your top level categories could be mens, womens, children, etc. If you only supply women’s clothes then your top level categories could be dresses, shoes, skirts, etc. When deciding on your top level categories you need to look at not only what products you sell, but who is your target demographic and what will they most likely be looking for when they land on your site.

These top level categories will then break down into second, third and even fourth level tiers, allowing customers to filter down your products until they reach a page that contain exactly the type of products they were originally looking for. For example, if they are looking for dresses, they would select the top level category dresses, then could select summer dresses and then finally formal dresses, allowing them to filter down the products until they have found the summer formal dresses they were looking for.

While this took three clicks for the customer to find the products they were looking for, it would be a much quicker process than if you were to have pages and pages of random products, requiring them to go through each until they locate the sort of products they are looking for.

Calls To Action

Once a customer lands on your page, it is then up to you to draw them through to the pages you want them to go to through effective calls to action. The calls to action could be as simple as a “View” button on a product or as appealing as a banner advertisement promoting a product or offer your website is running, encouraging them to click on the banner and visit the appropriate page which contains this deal/products.

If you leave it up to the customers own devices without any encouragement on where to go, you will find that they tend to wander round aimlessly trying to find the a particular product they are looking for before giving up hope and leaving your website. Slight encouragement on your part will play a significant role in not only encouraging them to make a purchase, but having them visit different pages on your website to increase those pages’ popularity and reducing your overall bounce rate.

Image & Banner Quality

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While all businesses should have an array of images for their products, promotions and other engaging content on their website, the quality of those images make the world of difference as to whether they purchase from you or not. Similar to the overall look of your website, if a customer views the products and finds that the images are of a poor quality, not really giving them the added detail about the product that they wished for, it will not only put them off buying the product, but will reduce your overall professionalism in their eyes.

Every single image you use should be of the highest possible quality, whether it’s the product images, any banners you have or just images you may have in articles or over informative landing pages. While these will cost more money in order to have them created by a professional photographer, these images will provide the customer with more information about the product, increasingly the chances of them actually making a purchase and resulting in you making a large income that brings about a positive return on the original expenditure.

Also, as you will be getting your products from suppliers, you will find that many of these suppliers can provide you with the professional images they have for each product you have on your store. While this will mean you have the same product images as some of your competitors, the positives they bring in terms of having professional images outweigh this drawback.

Social Commerce

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Social commerce is becoming a huge part of all businesses in not only bringing in online sales, but helping to promote your brand. Each of the pages you have on your website should all have social media integration buttons, allowing visitors to view your Facebook, Twitter and other social media pages. This success all comes in the ability to have these social media integration buttons linked to each of the products on your site. When a customer lands on your page, if they like the look of that particular product, they should then have the opportunity to share this product on their various social media pages.

This ability to share massively increases the exposure of not only that particular product, but also your brand as a whole due to the fact that all of their followers will have been exposed to the product they shared. This can result in extra traffic through to your website and increased sales on particular products. However, even if a customer doesn’t visit your page or view a product, they have been exposed to your brand name and if they decide they wish to make a purchase in the future, your business will be one of the sites they consider.