The Anatomy of a Great Ecommerce Website

The eCommerce world is a dog eat dog one, though there are still easy wins in eCommerce. With consumers being presented with thousands of potential results for their search queries, the competitive landscape is fierce. In order to get the top spots on Google and succeed as an eCommerce business, you need to get surgical when it comes to understanding your audience and their needs. Pre-empting their search queries, answering their questions, and looking ahead to upcoming shopping trends should be on your agenda. Here are some features of a great eCommerce website that’s likely to have an impact.

Great Across-The-Board UX

The UX (user experience) of your eCommerce site should be set up with your audience in mind, especially when it comes to fast-paced modern commerce. Shoppers transition from mobile, to tablet, to desktop again in seconds, so you need a coherent site structure that can support their need for speed.

Just like supermarkets spend thousands of euros designing their layout and floor plan — you need to invest R&D time and money into building a site that’s equally intuitive.

There are many other UX pointers you can follow to optimise your store :

  1. Competitor UX research — look at niche sites, as well as big players like Amazon. Research your competitors’ site structures for clues on product groupings that will help your customers find what they need. Take note of how they are pushing popular products and brands in the site layout.
  2. Adding a site search bar, allowing customers to find products easily is a no-brainer, but you need to keep updating it to ensure that it’s understanding customer queries — people can be idiosyncratic when it comes to search. Make sure even your 404 page is helpful — eCommerce sites are notorious for having unhelpful 404s.
  3. As a general rule for good usability, your product pages or sales funnel need to be no more than three clicks away from your homepage. Too many content silos and clickthroughs are a turnoff for website users. Easy to use, visually appealing category pages are excellent for users, and you can include copy at the bottom to still hit those SEO relevancy scores. For mobile users, an infinite scroll might be preferred.
  4. Product descriptions, page titles, and product descriptions need to be optimised. Avoid old school techniques like keyword stuffing. Ensure that your product descriptions are solving your customer’s problems and outlining the benefits as well as the features of the products. You may want to export some of this metadata from your store and optimise them in one go.

Niche, High-Quality Content

Content is a great way to build up and share your brand authority and it is one of the basics of SEO for eCommerce websites.

  1. Start by creating some high-quality informative posts on your products. This is where you can maximise social proof in the form of reviews and guides.
  2. Think about your customer’s common problems and interests and start providing some in-depth, informative content for free. The aim is to attract links and site views, rather than just use the content as a means to push your products, this is the easiest way to build links for eCommerce websites.
  3. Jump on seasonal topics and events and start publishing some PR-friendly content that’s likely to appeal to journalists and other websites. Try content formats like maps and infographics out for size.
  4. An email list will provide an opportunity to build loyalty amongst a core group of fans. Go hard on email and send out targeted and personalised offers. Make sure signing up to your email list is something you regularly encourage site visitors to do.

Even a more established store will benefit from frequent content audits in order to ensure that the right topics are still being covered — it’s easy for a content strategy to drift from initial commercial goals.

Here’s how to perform a content audit. You will need to do a lot of research on your audience’s preferred content types to come up with a content marketing strategy that really sets you apart from the competition. Competitor research is a good place to start, but don’t fall into the trap of merely parroting their techniques.

On-Point Visual Branding

People shop with their eyes.

Regardless of the platform, a great eCommerce website should display great-looking imagery throughout the site. Invest in graphic designers to ensure that fonts, graphics, colours and layout create a consistent branded feel. There is nothing more off-putting than a site that doesn’t have a cohesive visual identity. It breeds mistrust amongst your customers.

The best brands always display a cohesive ‘tone’ that is unique to the brand. Use your visuals as an opportunity to add value and personality to your site.

In terms of photos, hiring a professional photographer and uploading multiple images of your products at all angles will help you attract more sales.  3D imaging, 360-degree views, and short product videos can also help you display your products at their best and boost your conversions, using eCommerce product page best practices.

Video is an increasingly cheap medium to publish content in, and it has great engagement levels. Explore how you can use product and brand videos to your advantage.

A Data Feedback Loop

The best eCommerce sites don’t fall out of the sky — they are the product of data analysis.

Get to grips with your web analytics, and focus on improving conversion rates and sales figures, rather than just upping traffic.

Take note of the reams of incoming data and use them to improve your store’s customer experience. You probably want to combine in-built data analysis tools with some more sophisticated ones like Hotjar.

There are loads of free and paid-for plugins that can help you harness data and streamline store management. For instance, if you are considering adding new products, dropshipping plugins can add products to your shop quickly and easily. You can also offer additional services like personalisation (for gifting), paid subscription parcels, and much more. Shopify has a tonne of free and paid-for apps that integrate with their store builder, and WordPress is adding to its massive plugin directory on a daily basis. When choosing eCommerce software, it’s best to go for something that lets you easily customise your website, rather than a solution that calls for expensive development updates. That way, you can easily keep on top of audience preferences and seasonality.

Social Commerce

Social media is now a big part of website marketing. Don’t make the mistake of neglecting your social profiles, but integrate social media marketing and promotion into your website content plan.

Some tips for social media and eCommerce: 

  • Look at paid advertising options and experiment with setting a budget and running some test campaigns. Alter titles, images, and calls to action and find a formula that works for your brand.
  • Look into making the most of new trends like conversational commerce — could getting into people’s messenger apps help you improve sales figures? AI chatbots are a cheap and easy way of engaging customers who have questions.
  • User-generated content attracts high engagement rates as users get the chance to promote their own profiles via your campaign.
  • Influencers crop up in every industry. Find profiles with more than 5,000 followers and get in touch with them for a sponsored post opportunity.
  • You can sell directly from social media on many platforms — don’t just abandon social media to the content silo.

Maintaining and growing a popular shopping site takes hard work and dedication. You need to constantly research your audience’s preferences and keep up with the competition. Ultimately, in everything you do, your main goal should be to help your customers however you can. Don’t be afraid to seek help with these duties, either, by outsourcing to experts or exploring your options for automating the sales and marketing process. The online world is your oyster.

Victoria Greene: Brand Writer

I love working with a variety of eCommerce brands and businesses, as well as running my own eCommerce stores. Running my own eCommerce business has taught me plenty about content management and audience engagement.

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