E-commerce best practices to increase sales and stay ahead of the competition

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The 2023 global ecommerce market is projected to grow at 8.9% with worldwide sales expected to hit $5.8 trillion. Millions of people are now shopping online more than ever and, in a bid to increase sales and stay ahead of the competition, businesses are trying to give their target audience the ultimate shopping experience. While getting your e-commerce brand to generate more revenue and stand out from the crowd can be challenging, there are several effective e-commerce best practices that can help you achieve this.

 

#1 Responsive, clutter-free website design

The design of your e-commerce site’s can build or break customer relationships, as it gives the first impression of your business. It is known that sites with simple designs lead to higher engagement and conversion rates. This is because they allow visitors to quickly get drawn to the brand profile, products on sale, or call to action.

Your customers want to quickly find items that are relevant to them, so make it easy by structuring the website navigation menu and putting products into broad categories. According to a report by Magento Commerce, seven out of ten respondents admit that they switch to another shop if they are unable to find a specific product quickly. In your main e-commerce website navigation system, create a prominent search bar for users who want to quickly locate specific pages and products. You can make the search bar even more prominent by using a contrasting background color, bold borders, or a different font.

For a superior customer experience, it’s also important to have a mobile-friendly e-commerce website. Mobile devices are responsible for almost 58% of website traffic, with over 92% of internet users accessing the internet with mobile phones. Thus, any online store cannot afford to ignore mobile shoppers. For successful e-commerce, you should focus on your mobile strategy, as it provides the best way to personalize the consumer shopping experience. Ensure your website is highly responsive and allows users to seamlessly switch between devices.

Last, best practices for online businesses require e-commerce sites to be optimized. The web pages should load faster with no broken links and ensure all the information is readily accessible, as this helps to build trust with your market audience. The best trust signals that can result in more leads and add additional sales revenue include:

  • an “about us” page indicating what the business is all about and introducing the team;
  • a physical store address (if the business has a retail store);
  • valid contact numbers;
  • customer reviews and testimonials on platforms such as Yelp.

 

#2 Virtual exhibition

Some of the most important information and elements that users look for in an online retail shop are price, a clear display of discounts, and accurate product descriptions. All of these elements come down to a well-thought-out product presentation and a standard-compliant product sheet. If we want to adapt the way we present goods to current trends, it is worth taking care of:

  • appropriate display of prices and promotions;
  • product images from a 360° perspective;
  • detailed description of the product;
  • easy access to information on payments, delivery methods, and order processing time, preferably on the product card;
  • in the case of unavailable products, allowing an email address to be left so the customer can be informed when the product is available again;
  • the opportunity to ask questions about a particular product;
  • indication of reviews confirmed by purchase;
  • placing in the shop pictures of products added by customers;
  • making it easier for consumers to compare products;
  • the possibility to share a link to products, e.g., via social media.

 

Apple, for instance, has mastered the art of product display by using lovely CSS animations, whitespace, and large pictures at high resolution to help viewers visualize the product features and design. As you scroll down, each display puts good emphasis on the key benefits and costs. Additionally, Apple uses subtle and sophisticated color palettes that allow product imagery to take center stage.

#3 Data security

E-commerce sites have changed how businesses operate and empowered them to reach a wider audience, leading to unprecedented sales and growth. However, the advantage of a business having an online presence comes with the critical responsibility of providing a secure environment.

According to Statista, there were over six million reported data breaches during the first quarter of 2023 alone. Shopify’s data breach in September 2020, which involved the theft of transactional customer records, affected more than 5,000 customers and 200 stores. This led to a significant drop in its stock on the New York Stock Exchange. Thus, data security and privacy should always be top concerns for e-commerce businesses.

Cybercriminals always want to exploit security gaps. So, apart from unauthorized access to data, e-commerce businesses should pay particular attention to issues related to payments and the storage of users’ data. The best ways to protect your shop and customers from attacks are:

  • Creating backups and storing them externally, e.g., in the cloud;
  • Machine learning for threat detection, email scanning, automated network analysis, and pattern search, among other applications.
  • Multifactor authentication as the cornerstone of security when an unwanted person attempts to access an account or database.
  • Good passwords both on the shop users’ side and on the employees’ side. The passwords should be long and consist of both letters, numbers, and special characters to make it difficult for a computer to crack.
  • Appropriate access to information policy. The list of persons with access to confidential data should be kept up to date. It is also advisable, as far as possible, to restrict access to only those people who need it for day-to-day work.
  • Updating software security is very important. Hackers use automated software to find shops using older versions with serious security vulnerabilities.

 

#4 Analyze your e-commerce data

Customer data can be used to segment the audience based on profiles such as demographics, purchase history, and browsing behavior. As a result, businesses can create targeted campaigns that complement the needs of specific groups of customers. This can be achieved through customized marketing messages and personalized product recommendations, leading to higher conversion rates.

Today’s highly competitive e-commerce industry requires business-savvy marketers to put their trust and money into data analytics to understand their audience and shopping behaviors including purchasing habits, preferences, and motivations. By using intelligent tools to trace your buyers’ digital footprints, it’s possible to effectively identify segments that generate the most sales and target them based on historical consumer behavior. On the other hand, you can identify bottlenecks and fix areas that need improvement.

Amazon, a top e-commerce site, uses demographic, psychographic, and behavioral segmentation in addition to factors such as browsing behavior and purchase history to identify and understand their customers’ unique and diverse preferences. For an e-commerce business that offers a wide range of products and services, multi-segment marketing has enabled it to successfully engage its audience through effective marketing campaigns, leading to higher sales.

 

#5 Chat bots powered by ChatGPT

Chatbots, i.e., AI-based computer programs that simulate human conversations through text chats and voice commands, are becoming increasingly sophisticated and responsive. Meanwhile, the emergence of ChatGPT has opened new ways for e-commerce brands to generate higher conversions, offer personalized customer experience, and boost revenue. Thus, a customized e-commerce chatbot powered by ChatGPT, just like a dedicated human sales assistant, can interact with customers online, understand their needs based on conversations, and then offer appropriate product recommendations.

The key to building long-term relationships with clients and increasing repeat purchases is through timely and effective customer service. E-commerce chatbots eliminate long wait times by providing 24/7 support. They also help to streamline workloads by solving common and repetitive customer issues, allowing human agents to focus more on high-value and complex chats.

H&M, a global clothing company, understands that customers are becoming more picky, and to effectively cater to their needs, the brand created an AI chatbot that acts as a digital stylist. To understand each customer’s tastes and preferences, the chatbot asks a chain of questions and will also send users responses with pictures for better engagement and personalization. By providing users with a good shopping experience, the retailer has earned a high customer retention rate and consequentially a stronger brand reputation.

 

#6 Leverage social media platforms

A typical Internet user spends 151 minutes per day on social networking sites to connect, communicate, influence, and draw shopping inspiration. In 2022, global social media sales reached an estimated $992 billion with forecasts suggesting the value of these sales will reach $2.9 trillion by 2026.

If done properly, social media marketing can help build your e-commerce business, drive traffic to your website, and boost sales. Reports by Statista indicate that social media use increases brand exposure, leading to more website traffic and consequentially more leads.

Millions of people use social platforms daily to search for new services and products. An online store with an active social profile will amplify customer reach and attract potential customers. In addition, businesses should leverage the positive customer testimonials shared by customers on these platforms and use them to gain more social credibility. It’s also important to take note of any negative comments in order to address consumer pain points quickly and gain market credibility.

These platforms also provide the right venues for product launches and promotions. They are ideal for announcing the date of upcoming sales, business giveaways, and what customers can expect from the business. Most of these social media sites have business plugin tools to help streamline how and when content is shared to ensure you optimize your business campaign strategy.

 

#7 Social proof

As described by psychologist Robert Cialdini, the social proof theory states that when a person does not know what the right behavior is in a particular situation, they will look to what others are doing to adjust their actions. According to Robert Cialdini, “We perceive behavior to be more correct in a given situation to the extent that we see it performed by others.”

This is a powerful psychological technique that e-commerce platforms can use to increase web conversion rates and drive sales, as people are more inclined to do something if they see others doing it. This theory is based on three basic principles: uncertainty, similarity, and knowledge. Using knowledge about public proof can positively influence the building of trust in a brand that was previously unknown to the consumer. It is worth taking the theory and turning it into concrete elements in the shop. The most commonly used types of social proof type elements in e-commerce are:

  • testimonials;
  • industry awards and rankings;
  • expert reviews;
  • referrals from influencers;
  • the possibility to add and read product reviews;
  • highlighting demand;
  • integrating social media into the marketing strategy;
  • presenting best sellers and most popular products together to prevent decision paralysis.

 

#8 Minimize shopping cart abandonment

Cart abandonment is an e-commerce term used to refer to an event where the user puts items in the shopping cart but closes or exits a page before completing the purchasing process. It mainly occurs when the checkout process is too complex or due to unclear product descriptions. This leads to poor sales and loss of revenue as it means potential customers decided not to become sales.

To counter this, the e-commerce business should make product descriptions and calls to action clear. Minimize the form fields on your checkout page and ensure your only request essential information, such as delivery details and payment method, with the option of guest checkout. Having multiple payment options is one of the most important e-commerce best practices, as it improves the checkout experience by making it easier for customers to complete purchases, leading to more sales.

Quality search-engine-optimized product descriptions are important for generating more sales and ensuring you stay ahead of the competition. According to research by the Nielsen Group, 20% of users fail to successfully make purchases due to unclear or incomplete product descriptions. Focus on writing product information that is precise, informs users, and creates value. This will lead to a higher ranking on search engines.

 

#9 Loyalty programs

A good loyalty program aims to increase the average basket value in an online shop. This rewards system encourages customers to not only buy products more often but to buy more products in every single purchase. Besides that, a customer loyalty program reduces customer churn rates and encourages retention.

Today, it is extremely important to place an emphasis on the retention of existing e-commerce customers. Financially, this is much cheaper than acquiring new customers, and emotionally, it will influence the attachment of customers to the brand. On average, it can cost 4–5 times more to acquire new customers compared to retaining existing ones. This is not a new issue, but it is worth being mindful of continuous optimization to positively impact the user experience.

An e-commerce loyalty program can increase your customers’ lifetime value, guarantee recurring revenue, reduce customer acquisition costs, and strengthen business-customer relationships. Successful e-commerce stores often offer hybrid loyalty programs with multiple reward systems or tiered point-based rewards. This makes it easier for your loyal customers to easily find their tier and calculate their benefits, and encourages them to make more purchases to earn more rewards. For instance, Walgreens has a point-based program where customers earn ten points for every $1 they spend on purchases.

 

#10 Offer free shipping

While this may seem counterintuitive for a business that is trying to increase sales and generate more profits, free shipping is a top e-commerce incentive that often makes buyers shop with specific online retailers. A report by Baymard Institute indicates that high or unexpected costs related to shipping and taxation account for 47% of cart abandonments. Online buyers are highly likely to make purchases from e-commerce stores and even pay more for products if they do not need to pay for shipping.

To incorporate this strategy without incurring losses, find a way to incorporate the shipping fee into your pricing structure, while still ensuring your products remain affordable. Alternatively, most e-commerce businesses usually offer free product shipping of products over a certain price range. Overall, the small fee you have to incur while offering free shipping services is worth it, in the long run, considering customer satisfaction, loyalty, and an increased number of sales.

 

#11 Offer omnichannel customer service

By integrating various communication channels such as live chats, social media, emails, etc. across different touchpoints, e-commerce websites allow businesses to deliver faster, more consistent, personalized shopping experiences.

Personalization is an important factor in the whole customer life cycle, with over 71% of customers saying they expect brands to deliver personalized interactions. However, a report by McKinsey indicates that 76% of them get frustrated when they do not have personalized interactions.

Websites can collect customer data including preferences, purchasing history, and page interactions. All this information can be used to create unified customer profiles that are accessible across different communication channels. As such, customer support can use the same data for personalized interactions. This leads to consistent messaging across every channel and a unified customer experience, as customers will always feel their needs are prioritized. Overall, customers’ feedback can help you tailor your e-commerce site to suit their needs in order to serve them better, leading to long-lasting business connections and brand loyalty.

 

Takeaways

E-commerce is both challenging and rewarding, especially if your business has a digital presence. To become successful, you need to stay ahead of the competition and acquire and retain new customers in order to drive sales. To do this, it is important to implement best practices such as:

  • responsive, clutter-free website design for lasting impressions;
  • virtual exhibition for accurate product representation;
  • data security for a secure online environment;
  • analyze your e-commerce data for better audience segmentation;
  • chatbots powered by ChatGPT for effective customer service;
  • leverage social media platforms for increased brand exposure;
  • social proof to build your brand’s trust;
  • minimize shopping cart abandonment to generate more sales;
  • loyalty programs to increase your customer’s lifetime value;
  • offer free shipping for a competitive advantage;
  • omnichannel support for consistent and personalized interactions.

 

This article was originally published March 24, 2022, and updated August 30, 2023.

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