13 Jan 11 Essential Elements for Your E-commerce Website
Are you considering starting an e-commerce business, or adding e-commerce to your brick-and-mortar business? If so, there are 11 essential elements your e-commerce website needs in order to be competitive and successful! Actually, there are many more, but the following are the most important for those just launching their online enterprise – especially for small businesses. Read and learn!
1. User-friendly navigation – If visitors to your website don’t know where to go to find what they’re looking for, they won’t stay for very long. Their next destination might be the website of a competitor! WebFX web marketing consultant Sarah Berry makes the following observations:
“Helpful, easy-to-use navigation is one of the most essential ecommerce website features. For great ecommerce UX design, have clear menus that allow users to browse different product categories. Make sure these menus are in easy-to-find locations, such as across the top of every page. You can also allow users to filter and sort products by price, style, size, manufacturer, and other characteristics. The features you include in your ecommerce web design depend on the products you offer and the characteristics that are important to your customers.”
2. Mobile-responsive design – Considering that more than half of all website traffic now comes from mobile devices, mobile-responsive website design is not optional. Visitors expect to see a website designed to display on their smartphone, tablet, etc. – not a miniature, impossible to read, navigate or use version of your desktop site. Having a responsive design allows your e-commerce website to automatically adapt to any type of device screen or operating system.
3. SEO-friendly web design – You want Google and other search engines to rank your site high in the search engine results pages (SERPs), right? The design and content of your e-commerce website need to be conducive to search engine optimization (SEO) in order for it to come up when people searching online for what you’re selling enter a query. SimiCart provides a helpful graphic of SEO-friendly site structure so you can get the idea.
Regardless of the size of your e-commerce business, a good general rule is to keep product pages only a few clicks away from the home page. This provides better page authority, which produces better results!
4. High-quality product pages – Your products are the purpose for your e-commerce store. Therefore, they need to look appealing to potential customers. As our blog post – “A Brief Guide to Optimizing Your E-commerce Opportunities” – covers, make sure your product images show the full detail of your products – especially in use – along with helpful descriptions. If possible, consider adding videos of products in addition to images.
Most importantly, however, product pages need SEO to help your website rank high in the SERPs. Writing for Search Engine Journal, SEO and digital marketing expert Winston Burton recommends optimizing titles and meta descriptions to include such details as the product brand, name and model number, as well as other important information. If you’re not familiar with meta descriptions, this is the HTML tag used to describe the content of a web page. This description shows up below the title and URL of your page as it appears in the SERPs.
5. FAQ page – A frequently asked questions (FAQ) page greatly enhances the user experience, making it more convenient – and more likely that visitors will convert to customers. As our blog post – “How an FAQ Page Can Help Your Website – and Your Business” – covers, an FAQ page can be a powerful part of your sales funnel, actually driving traffic to your website.
Again, when people can’t quickly find what they want, they leave – contributing to a higher bounce rate for your site, and the likelihood they’ll continue to a competitor’s website. As Web Solutions points out, “By compiling answers to common questions on every possible topic related to your business, an FAQ page gives visitors a central place to find the answers they need.”
Also, an FAQ page can boost your website’s SEO! Google has shifted its algorithm away from keyword-based queries to focus instead on user intent, which is signaled by longer phrases and questions. Google now encourages users to ask questions rather than type in keywords – which you see when you type in a query and the search bar anticipates your search subject and formats it as a question. A well-phrased question on your FAQ page is more likely to show up as a search result, leading potential customers right to your website.
6. Contact page – Visitors need to feel confident that your business is legitimate. Having several ways to contact you goes a long way toward establishing trust. Including a physical address (if applicable), phone number and email address gives customers reassurance they have a way to contact you should they encounter issues with an order, billing, product damage upon delivery, defective product, etc.
As for that email address – it needs to be a custom address, not a gmail.com address. According to a survey by Verisign – an internet domain name and security company – two-thirds of consumers consider a branded, professional email address to be much more credible than a personal one.
7. Easy to find shopping cart and checkout buttons – Convenience is key to a successful e-commerce site. According to Berry, “Easy-to-use cart and checkout features are vital ecommerce websites features. To encourage conversions, make sure your ‘add to cart’ and ‘check out’ buttons display prominently on your site. When the user clicks into their cart, show them all the relevant details, such as the name, price, and quantity of each product in their cart. Shoppers should also be able to remove items or change item quantity directly from their cart. Also, allow customers to save their cart so they can come back to it later.”
8. Fast and secure checkout – An easy, intuitive checkout process prevents customers from becoming frustrated and either abandoning their cart, or never shopping with you again. Make sure the process is streamlined, but also secure. Protecting your customers’ data is essential, as insufficient security can cause significant financial harm to them, and also opens your business up to financial and legal risks – in addition to damaging your reputation.
Be sure that your e-commerce website includes the following security measures:
- Purchasing a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate, which enables your site to transmit data securely.
- Using an address verification system (AVS) and credit card verification value (CVV) at checkout.
- Creating secure passwords and updating them regularly.
9. Detailed shipping and return information – This is another assurance to customers that your business is legitimate, responsible and organized. Your shipping and return policy information should be easy to find and understand.
10. Reporting and analytics tool – Reports are necessary to measure how your e-commerce performs to decide the next action. In addition to revenue and number of products sold, there are other important metrics, such as sales conversion rate, website traffic, average customer value and cart abandonment rate. Your e-commerce platform is likely to allow you to run reports to provide this data. For analytics tools, Google Analytics is the most common, allowing you to measure SEO performance, sources of visitor traffic, web page views and more.
11. Fast, stable and responsive web hosting – Ultimately, the quality of the experience your website is able to provide to visitors – who hopefully become customers – depends upon the company you choose for web hosting. A web hosting service provides the facilities required to launch, store and maintain your website. It also takes care of maintaining your site’s speed, uptime and security.
As you research web hosting services, you’ll find many options – such as shared hosting, virtual private server (VPS) hosting and dedicated hosting. Our blog posts – “Shared Hosting – What it is and Why You Should Go for it” – and “VPS Hosting: What it is and What to Look for in a VPS Provider” – cover each type in detail to help you make the choice that’s best for your business and budget.
The Take-Home Message and Our Blatant Self-Promotion
Now that you know the elements your e-commerce website need to be successful, learn how Virtual Stacks Systems can help. Our web development team has extensive experience in designing e-commerce websites for businesses of all sizes, in a wide variety of industries. Plus, we offer web hosting packages so you can select the plan that best suits your requirements. Virtual Stacks Systems has powerful data centers around the world that make our web hosting plans more effective, yet are designed to save money. We also offer 24/7 technical support to all customers.
Contact us today to learn more and get started!