How to Design an eCommerce Site to Maximize Sales

How to Design an eCommerce Site to Maximize Sales

ecommerce website jackson tn1If you read the business news that followed Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you would remember that this year ‘ s online holiday shopping season was predicted to be the biggest in history. Many reported that online sales were up a whopping 16% compared to 2010.

However, despite these impressive trends, ecommerce websites only convert 1-4% of their leads, on average. On the other hand, some of the best ecommerce websites convert upward of 15% of their visitors. So how do they do it?

While there are many factors that go into creating conversions, one thing is certain: Great ecommerce websites successfully connect a user to a product with a system that is efficient, easy and fun.

When designing your ecommerce website, keep in mind there are three basic steps in an online shopping experience. First, a user must find the product she wants. Second, you must showcase the product well. Third, you need to seal the deal with a seamless checkout process. Read on for more details.

1. Finding the Product

Believe it or not, the biggest reason why a shopper won ‘ t buy something on a given website is not due to its price, your customer service, or a lack of buyer ‘ s intent. Surprisingly, the biggest reason ecommerce websites fail is because shoppers can ‘ t find what they are looking for.

So, why is it so hard for websites to guide users to their desired products? The key to understanding this phenomenon is understanding your users.

Great web design has the ability to cater to different user needs in a unified user interface. For the users who know exactly what they are looking for, your job is to help them find their desired product in as few steps as possible. Some users might need more hand-holding, while others just want to casually browse. Each type of shopper presents unique challenges, as well as unique opportunities.

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The Power Shopper: Power Shoppers know exactly what they want, have sophisticated shopping strategies, and don’t want to waste time casually perusing your website. For these shoppers, your first priority is to provide them with an awesome search bar so they can type exactly what they want. In terms of design, you want to make sure your search bar is large and presented with enough contrast so it ‘ s easily visible. Per conventions, place it in the top-right of your website and make sure it is consistent across the entire website.

As for functionality, it ‘ s pretty much expected that your search bar should provide suggestions as you type. This allows your shoppers to type a few characters and be presented with potential choices, without having to type out the product ‘ s entire name. This auto-complete feature can also be leveraged to cross-market products related to the product users are looking for. If you do include these suggestions, make sure to clearly label them as suggestions, not actual results of the search.

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The Recreational Shopper: If you ‘ re not a recreational shopper, you probably know one. This type of shopper would prefer to spend an entire afternoon at the mall casually exploring any store that piques his curiosity. They don ‘ t see shopping as a means to an end; they ‘ re shopping for the experience.

While these shoppers are more likely to jump ship and not purchase from you, they provide an incredible opportunity, due to their tendency to be more adventurous and impulsive in their shopping habits. Because these shoppers respond to visual cues, you need to wow them with dynamite photography, featured item showcases, unbeatable deals and the occasional unique surprise.

Don ‘ t worry, you don ‘ t have to blow your marketing budget with a tricked out homepage to lure in shoppers. In fact, some of the best ecommerce websites accomplish an eye-catching and entertaining storefront with simple and creative techniques. A popular women ‘ s clothing website, Free People, shows off a traditional model spread, but presents a simple, unique twist when you move your mouse over one of the images.     The Reluctant Shopper: This type of shopper is generally uncomfortable and nervous about shopping online. She is typically less tech-savvy and needs more guidance throughout the entire shopping experience. One of her biggest concerns is privacy and security; therefore, she responds well to promising statements of trust and customer service. Because online shoppers cannot physically touch the item they are buying, promoting return and refund policies greatly increases the likelihood they will do business with you.

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For finding products, these shoppers benefit greatly from gift guides or ‘Shopping Wizards: The customer answers a few pre-qualifying questions, and the site provides suggestions that suit her particular needs.

2. Showcasing the Product

Once a shopper zeroes-in on a product, the conversion clock starts ticking. Your number-one goal at this point is to get the user to add the item to his shopping cart. While there are several different ways to arrange a product detail page, several important components will help retain shopper interest and make him more likely to commit to a purchase.

Photos: Humans are visual creatures and high-quality photography is the key to showcasing your product. If you can only give them one photo, make sure the product has a distraction-free, neutral-colored background. If you do show your product in a lifestyle-oriented setting, make sure the product is overtly emphasized, so as not to confuse the shopper and take attention away from the product.

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If your design doesn ‘ t allow you to display the photo at such a large size, make sure you give shoppers the option to view the photo in a modal window. Don ‘ t offer them a zoom tool that limits them to a small quadrant of the photo. There ‘ s no reason to not display a large photo in its entirety.     Price: Price is perhaps the biggest reason why a shopper will abandon your website and look elsewhere. While determining prices is outside the scope of this article, you can do a few things to help sweeten the deal. First, display the price boldly and clearly. Don ‘ t make users register or add the item to their carts before showing them the price. This will certainly annoy users and cause them to leave in droves. If your price is discounted from the suggested retail price, show them the discount because everybody likes to know you are giving them a deal.     Reviews: Social influences have a profound effect on our shopping behaviors. You can tout the virtues of your product with fancy and elaborate prose, but shoppers won ‘ t believe one word of it until it ‘ s been confirmed by an independent customer. While positive reviews will motivate users to take the plunge and purchase an item, negative reviews give you a unique opportunity to either make product changes or respond to customer concerns publicly. This open and proactive approach to giving and receiving feedback ultimately gives your website more credibility, which translates into loyal customers and repeat sales.     Add to Cart: Because your call-to-action entices the user to click on the ‘Add to Cart button, you must give plenty of attention to optimizing it for conversions. Try the following tips to increase your conversion rate.

Use the words ‘Add to Cart. This may seem like a no-brainer, but shoppers can either be apprehensive about the commitment of ‘Buy Now or confused when they see ‘Add to Bag. The convention of the words ‘Add to Cart is non-committal, and leaves them comfortable to keep on shopping. It ‘ s your most important button, so don ‘ t hide it. Use bold colors that contrast well with your design and attract attention. Try choosing a color that is not used anywhere else in the design to really set it apart. By making the button plainly visible, shoppers won ‘ t have to wonder how to add items to their shopping carts. Any time spent searching for the ‘Add to Cart button is time in which the shopper will reconsider her motivation to purchase.

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When your shopper clicks on the ‘Add to Cart button, make sure to show her some indication that the item has been added to the cart. Don ‘ t take her to the shopping cart. If you take her away from the product page and force her to the shopping cart, you lose the opportunity to cross-sell, and the user will be less likely to keep shopping.     Related Products:Offering shoppers suggestions gives you the opportunity to feature items they wouldn ‘ t have stumbled upon otherwise. Some shoppers might not be savvy in searching, but are more likely to wander through your website based on the suggestions they receive. Because the biggest reason for a lack of conversion on ecommerce websites is not being able to find the desired product, this feature gives you the unique opportunity to customize the products your customers see based on their browsing history.

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Deals: Without a doubt, shoppers are responsive to deals and promotions, and the king of all deals is free shipping. Marketing guru Seth Godin dedicated a whole chapter of his book Free Prize Inside! to Amazon ‘ s success with its free shipping model. In order to offer this and still make a profit, make a minimum purchase amount, but don ‘ t make it too high. A minimum purchase amount will encourage shoppers to spend a little bit more just to get free shipping.

Sealing the Deal

So, you’ve gotten your shopper to add a cornucopia of products to his shopping cart, but it ‘ s not time to break out the bubbly yet. One of the biggest hurdles a shopper must overcome is the often plagued and cumbersome checkout process, beautifully portrayed in this video.

While shopping is fun, spending money isn’t. Your job is to get customers through the payment as quickly and painlessly as possible. I ‘ ll offer some helpful tips.

One-page checkouts increase conversions. Long forms with many steps require the browser to load a new page, proving detrimental to a shopper ‘ s patience. One A/B Split Test study determined an improvement of more than 20% when users were able to checkout with one click of the submit button.  Provide instant chat. A study by BoldChat found that 76% of shoppers want to have instant access to a customer service rep during the checkout process. Instant chat not only lets you help your users with technical problems, but it also allows you to encourage them to complete their order.     Follow up. If you’ve been keen enough to capture a customer ‘ s email address in the first steps of the checkout process, you have a unique ability to recover a lost sale if she decides to jump ship.

Don ‘ t require registration. A Forrester Research study found that requiring users to register before checking out decreases eCommerce conversions by a staggering 23%. While registering users is a great tool for identifying repeat shoppers and making the checkout process more streamlined, make this an optional step. Also, consider using Facebook Connect or other social media sign-in widgets. These tools allow shoppers to register with your site without having to create a unique account. Use cookies. A cookie is a small amount of information a website puts in a user ‘ s web browser so that it can remember something about him/her at a later time. You can leverage this simple tool to remember a user ‘ s shopping cart or shopping history, so when they do visit your website again, they can pick up where they left off.

Selling online is as much an art as it is a science. You need the creative prowess of both a marketing and design genius to attract customers, and the keen eye of a usability guru to make conversions happen. However, implementing the suggestions provided above should help increase your conversion rate, and lead to happy and satisfied customers.

How you market for eCommerce

How you market for eCommerce

Companies are taking note of inbound marketing and revamping their strategy and talent pool to generate higher quality leads at about a 60% lower cost per lead than outbound marketing. Want to know how you can transform your marketing department to become an inbound lead generating machine helping your sales team KILL it and grow your business?

Here’s how: Talent.

All your inbound excitement won’t deliver results if you don’t have the right skills to adapt. After years of working with thousands of customers, we’ve got a pretty good picture of what a high performing inbound marketing team might look like across a variety of company sizes.

First, let’s define what we mean by different company sizes. You may not agree with all of them, but that’s fine; at least we have a common lexicon.

SMB (Small to Medium Sized Business) = Somewhere between 5-100 Employees
Midsized Business = Somewhere between 101-1,000 Employees
Enterprise = Upwards of 1,000 employees, but NOT including your massive Fortune 1000, big brand-type companies where it starts to get extremely big, siloed and global. (That could be a book!)

Now that we’ve agreed on sizes, let’s talk about who you need to hire to rock inbound at each level.
SMB: The Utility Player

Some small businesses are lucky if they have ONE dedicated marketer, and there are plenty where the owner is just dedicating 5-6 hours a week to marketing. We’re going to focus on those companies who are big enough to warrant a dedicated marketing resource. When hiring your solo marketer, you need to find a utility player who is first and foremost smart. Second, he/she cannot be a specialist; your perfect marketer probably won’t be a pure-play journalist or a graphic designer who wants to try something new.

You need to hire someone who has demonstrated success in a few different areas:

Content Creation: Did they blog, do some corporate communications, work at an agency creating content for a variety of companies? GREAT!
Analytics: Your marketer doesn’t need to be an Excel junkie, but they should have a working knowledge of the marketing funnel, know what questions to ask and be comfortable doing some basic tracking and ratios using tools like Google Analytics, Excel or even HubSpot.
Digital: Do they understand how the internet works and how businesses can leverage it? Do they use the web for personal reasons and have accounts on popular social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter?
Creative: Unless you strike it lucky, you probably won’t find someone who can crank out logos and artwork in a snap and do all the rest. But if you target someone who has taught themselves some basics in Illustrator or another graphics program, you’ll likely be able to get CTAs, sufficient enough imagery, and basic creative done without spending a ton of money on contractors.
Campaigns: Ideally, you’ll find someone who has run a few campaigns across multiple channels — they can be as simple as email + call campaigns, or be through full-fledged event type campaigns. Your utility player needs to understand the lifecycle of a campaign and how the different pieces play together for a bigger bang than a sole tactic.

seo-marketing-servicesWhere can you find these utility players?

 

Sadly, there are very few college programs that crank out EXACTLY this profile. However, a lot of PR, marketing, and communications grads will go work for a marketing agency after college and find that they love the work, but would rather dive in deep to just one company rather than jumping from client program to client program. You should consider hiring someone with 3-5 years of agency experience across a variety of skills that is ready to dedicate their efforts to helping just one company grow and find satisfaction in seeing their longer term impact.
Midsize: The Melting Pot

You’ve graduated from the solo, utility marketer and need a team to develop a brand and generate leads for a bit larger company. This means you need to deliver more leads to your sales team and provide them with a lot more tools to help close deals. In this environment, you still want team members coming in with some of those ‘utility player’ characteristics, but ideally, each of them is also exceptionally strong at one of a few areas. You are creating a melting pot of talent that can’t be too siloed and could jump in and help each other out at a moments’ notice.

    Team Leader: Drives the overall strategy for the organization and should be someone who has working knowledge of all the disciplines. They still create some content but spend the bulk of their time using analytics to make decisions and empowering their team to be successful. This person should be accustomed to rolling up their sleeves 30% of the time to help out with blog posts, content offers, or resolving tough execution challenges.

Blog & Social Media Lead: Inbound success is contingent on content to get you found, and your number one lever is blogging. Put someone in charge of the blog as both an editor and writer. That means they create but also source content from the rest of the team — and company in fact. This person OWNs the growth of traffic and leads from your blog and social media efforts. For this role, you want a utility player who loves to write, has good judgment about social messaging, and is pretty good at motivating others to contribute via lightweight program management.

Content Offers Lead: How do you convert visitors into leads? You need solid offers. That means ebooks, webinars, whitepapers, etc. This person should be great at content and creative with/comfortable using basic email and webinar tools. This person should also be empowered to source content externally if needed.

    Product & Customer Marketing Lead: Usually at this point, you have enough visitors and salespeople that you need to educate them a bit. A product marketer with great verbal and written communication skills can help you translate your paid offering into a message that someone might actually care about. This person should ALSO be blogging and helping create offers because they are closer to the customer than the rest of the team.

Budget for Creative & Tools: You’ve got a choice here. Hire more people or develop a budget to help you scale across the diverse needs you will have. Since you may not need so many specialists just yet, erring on the side of vendors at this stage is wise. But as you grow to a team of 10 marketers, maybe getting a graphic designer who is also a great writer or handy with HTML could be a good hire.

Where can you find these well-rounded talents?

It’s important to note that NONE of the roles above absolve folks from being content creators or let them crawl into an email or social media silo. In fact, at HubSpot, when we were a team of about 5-8 marketers, we routinely swapped job roles to ensure that no one was missing a key skill and the team didn’t stagnate.

That means the same utility player mentioned above could be the perfect fit for any of the roles on this team. The important part is to determine if your utility player has fallen in love with one of the major disciplines and might want to have a bit more ownership but still be able to swap and help out at a moment’s notice.
Enterprise: Specialists With Content Chopsinternet-marketing1

You’ve been growing like crazy, and your company of 1,000+ has serious marketing demands ranging from analyst relations to events to SEM. Even though we cringe at the silos that can sometimes befall the specialist team, you are at a point where your efficiency will be greater with people who are truly expert at one core aspect of marketing and can also contribute to the content engine along the way. Although we aren’t yet a 1,000 person company, HubSpot’s rapid growth demands a marketing engine that is getting close to what we’d expect to see at a much larger company.

Without going into a full org chart, here are some of the types of roles and specialties that exist:

CMO/VP Marketing: Leader who is setting strategic direction and ensuring that marketing is aligned with corporate goals and in charge of talent hiring/development is this person’s primary role.
Directors: Inbound Lead Generation, Product Evangelism, and Brand & Buzz
Specialists: Blog (2 or more), Social Media (2 or more), Content Offers (2 or more), Email Marketing (1 or more), Lead Management (1 or more), Product Marketing & Analyst Relations (3 or more), PR/Buzz (2 or More), Graphic Artist (1 or more), Events (1 or more), Paid Marketing (1 or more), Customer Engagement (1 or more), Marketing Engineers – building stuff for marketing (1 or more)

What are these people doing, and where do you hire them?

Even though you see a lot of specialists here, each player has a combo of expertise in their area plus content creation or support for another area to ensure your team maintains agility. Even more notable is the omission of an analytics person — because each team should be analytically inclined and OWN the numbers for the element they specialize in with results rolling into the directors and CMO level.

Hiring in this environment can be tricky. You can find folks who have done tons of email marketing but have never had to come up with the actual content offer itself. Steer clear of one-trick ponies, and opt instead for someone with perhaps a little less depth of experience but great overall communications skills and marketing savvy.

Regardless of company size or type, hiring great talent is one of the most difficult growth challenges you’ll face. Resist the temptation to hire an okay person; there are stellar talents out there who are worth the wait. We find a lot of them through our personal networks and via social media as well as a very active intern program.
A Note on Interns: THEY ROCK

Whether you are an SMB or in a massive company, getting summer interns or co-ops during the semester is one of THE best ways to trial out talent and fit while also getting some work done. We’ve hired 6 amazingly talented people, all out of our intern pool of probably 20 folks over the last 3 years. Each intern has done some great things and a few really went above and beyond to show us they could learn fast and take on real ownership for projects. The only way you’ll really be able to evaluate an intern fairly is if you give them both a meaty project to own and a variety of smaller areas to contribute.

A summer might look like: intern writes 10 blog posts, 1 per week, supports 1 webinar, writes one ebook, and does an analytical study on your lead quality with recommendations that get presented to your sales and marketing departments. They need your leadership and guidance, but if they are truly awesome and can do all of this, you might have just found yourself your next utility player!