Every business, even if it is a local brick and mortar shop, should also be an e-commerce business. Today there is no excuse why not and the benefits to your bottom line are significant. Do not continue to ignore this or you will go the way of the dinosaurs.
The fact that a business has a website, whether or not the customers will ever use it, influences the customers’ decisions to buy from that business. It is estimated that more than $450 billion of in-store sales are influenced by the presence of websites each year. Just knowing that a company has a website lends a measure of credibility above other businesses that lack a web presence. Creating a site and promoting it, on a business card for example, are just the first steps toward using your site to impact your bottom line.
Consumers research everything online prior to deciding where to spend their money. If your site is not online then they will see that you are not serious about doing business in the modern age and they will pass by to the next company. Your competitor will win with a simple web presence.
The next aspect you must consider is the user’s experience on your e-commerce website. This entails many features that need to be examined separately if you are going to successfully measure and correct your e-commerce mistakes.
A raging controversy exists between coders and designers over which is more important, appearance or functionality. While a beautiful website that is not functional may attract the attention of visitors, it will not hold their attention and will certainly cement their decision not to return. On the other hand, a functional website that is horrid to look at will scare off everyone as soon as the page starts to load up. They will not even get the chance to experience the functionality, since they will be too frightened to stay.
What considerations, in appearance, should you be aware of that will affect the bottom line? Such things as color scheme, the creation of comfortable space, non-clashing geometric shapes, consistent fonts, an adequate balance between graphics and text (depending on the purpose of the website), and leading the eye to accomplish the goals of the site.
When designing the site, avoid too many graphics and videos. The graphics you use should be small, less than 100k each. If you cannot reduce them to this size, try making them JPEG. Of course, that means a loss of transparency, which could be significant if you have designed your graphics around it. Just understand that the more graphics there are larger than 100k, the slower the page will load. Slow load times drive visitors off before they get a chance to see your beautiful graphics. So the nice graphics can work exactly the opposite of what you think they will.
Unless the e-commerce site functions to serve the user as they traverse the site, they will simply vanish, never to return. All buttons must work, links must lead to where the user thinks they lead (do not mislead them), menus must interconnect the entire site, graphics must all serve a purpose related directly to the content of the text and the purpose of the site, and advertisements must not interfere with reading the text or seeing the other graphics on the site.
If functionality suffers, the visitor will decide that you are unprofessional. They will assume the site is unfinished, perhaps never to return. The short-sightedness of the pages they experience will be transferred to your product and services in the form of bad reputation or at least expectation of such.
When you create elements on your e-Commerce site, they must all inter-relate. The graphics must be relevant to the text and the text to the graphics. The site content must also be relevant to the overall theme of the site. In other words, it must contribute something to that theme on the Internet. You must be ruthless about this one aspect. If anything is irrelevant to the topic of the website and to the topic of the page, it must either be altered to fit or nixed completely. Relevance impacts your Google PR, so do not ignore it!
When the visitor comes to your site they expect to leave with something useful. It can be a new thought, a purchase, some product, a freebie, or some new words to inform or inspire. Whatever form it takes, your first concern in converting visitors is to give them something useful.
The currency of the Internet is usefulness. Those who do not understand this flounder about from one e-commerce project to the next, failing successively. Those who grasp this principle soar with success.
Usefulness could come in the guise of anything, but it is always measured by the satisfaction of visitors and the increase of repeat visitors. Heat maps can reveal the most popular parts of a web page, and by inference the most useful parts. These are color contoured pictures of your web page, based on mouse movement and clicks. Take this information to identify the weak parts of your site and overhaul them until you get heat maps showing more uniform usage of the page. This is one approach. Another is to relegate the less used portions of the page to beautification or aesthetics.
Usefulness is sometimes quite subjective. One person might think entertainment is a complete waste of time, while another finds it relaxing or thrilling or boredom killing. It is clear by the craze over entertainment that it serves a purpose in the mind of the visitor.
So find a way to entertain and you will suck the visitor back to your website, whether it be flash games, trivia, funny photos, or whatever new you might dream up. However, it takes careful planning to integrate your promotions and products in ways that the visitor notices and cares about these.
You could be happy with a simple one-page website for your company’s face with nothing more than a mission statement and contact information. At least you would not be as lame as those hundreds of thousands of businesses that lose tens of thousands of customers every year because they are too lazy to post a ten-minute website.
If you are going to beat your e-commerce competition, though, you will do much more than slap a facade up online. Build a place for your customers where they will find beauty, functionality, relevance, and usefulness. Do not be afraid to experiment with entertainment either, since you could win their imaginations through it.