Posted on Mar 3, 2016

5 Rules for Online Shops that Rock

The most successful e-commerce websites are the ones that are both remarkable and secure, that stand out visually but are also strategically designed with revenue in mind. Of course, creating one of these sites is easier said than done, and like most masterpieces, it takes time (particularly if you aren’t paying an expert team of web professionals to do it for you). And for most small business owners just starting out, the vast information and research surrounding how to create the best online store feels like a black hole of overwhelming, complicated, “tech stuff.”

We get it. And we’re here to help break it down for you. So here are the 6 most important – yet still relatively basic – “rules of thumb” to follow once you’ve jumped into the world of ecommerce. As long as you’ve got these nailed down, your site should sell and succeed:

1. Treat your website like a store

This means that you need to give your e-commerce site the same attention to detail, appearance, and appeal that you would if you had a real life store. Customers will make a judgement call on your site the minute that they set their eyes on it. It needs to be appealing, easy to navigate, and include all of product information that’s necessary to make them want to “Add to Cart.”

Here’s a tip: Just like with shopping in actual retail stores, often times, less is more. Just like a rack full of disorganized, cluttered clothes can be a turn off to an in-store shopper, a messy website with too many options can trigger the same negative reaction. Don’t overcrowd one page with every product you offer. Consider a homepage with your best-selling items as “featured” products, and categorizing the rest by other pages within your navigation bar.

2. Keep your site fresh with creative content

One of the best ways to get your visitors to come back to your online shop or website is to publish informative, entertaining content. When you make the focus of your content about helping your customers (instead of selling your product or service), you start to rise above the endless online noise. The benefit to adding fresh content to your website is that you often have the ability to swap the images that come with each post. This means that your website can act as a visual oasis (when done right). Make sure that you’re not only talking about your company. Some other topics to talk about (other than you) may include the latest news and trends in your industry (and how it relates to your customers) or general instructions on how-to use a tool or service you offer. But don’t only serve the needs (and questions) of people who might become customers today – make sure that you’re providing information that serves the needs of your people who may become customers tomorrow, too!

The thing is, if you’re spouting the same information as everyone else, you won’t stand out.

Share your knowledge by publishing smart, informative content on your website. But this takes a lot of time so you may want to look into hiring a creative agency to create content for you if it’s too much work. Another option is to interview industry experts for a podcast. Just make sure that your content is fresh, entertaining, and unique – and that the audio quality is top-notch!

3. Products should have images and seductive product details

Here’s a basic design tip that is well-worth another mention if you’re looking to spruce up your site: All products should have high quality images as well as incredible amount of details. The more information that you include about your product or services, the more it will encourage your consumers to purchase. But here’s the bad news (or good news depending on how you look at it): Boring product descriptions don’t work. You’ll want to learn how to write seductive product descriptions that sell. The key element of writing a product description that your customers will want to read is in the tone of your voice. Let your personality shine in your content and try to add a dash of humor (if that’s in your company culture). Are you business-like but not boring? Reveal that in your tone. Check out Mailchimp’s Voice and Tone website to get more guidance on how to describe your tone of voice.

4. Prioritize SEO

There’s not much point to having an online store if potential customers can’t find it. And where do most people start when searching for a product to buy online? A search engine like Google or Bing! So make sure you’re giving your website the best chances of being found on one of the first pages of those search engines. How? Keywords, keywords, keywords! Just ask yourself, “What is the first question a customer might type into a search engine when looking for a product like mine.” If your answer is something like, “Engraved necklace with monogram initials” then make sure you use those words and phrases in as much of your site content as possible: product titles and descriptions, about us page copy, image titles, etc.

Then make sure you’re checking to see how often those keywords are being searched, and whether it’s frequent enough to improve your search engine optimization. There are a handful of ways to do this, but a great option is to check the value of specific words using Google’s keywords tool: Google AdWords. Do remember that the highest searched keywords may also mean greater competition — as lots of other sites are likely using those keywords, too. So try to strike a balance between using the most popular keywords as well as the most relevant keywords for your specific business offering.

Another balance must be achieved in terms of linking only to pages within your site versus linking to external sources – informational, educational or relevant – that might help a potential customer in making a purchase decision. While you do want to link to other sites that can help your customers, you don’t want to have a million outbound links in your content, linking to your own website is almost more important because it helps with your SEO while simultaneously keeping your customers on your site and increasing your chances of a sale. Still not confident in your site SEO or how to make sure you’re being found online? Our SEO services team is ready to help you with every step of the process.

5. Secure your checkout process.

The front of your website and its clean professional look is only the first step of having a successful online store. You’d be surprised at how many buyers still ultimately bail on purchasing a product online even after adding it to their cart. Why? If your customers find it difficult to check out or end up confused about the purchase process, they will abandon their cart and decide to look elsewhere. The same mantra goes for the security of the checkout process. For example, investing in a “https:” security level website is one of the best ways to guarantee that the customer information will be safe and not shared or hacked. You should also be securing all of your online transactions with a SSL certificate — not only is it a fast and affordable way to make your shop a safer place for you and your customers, but it will increase their confidence in you as a seller.

Once you begin thinking of your website as an actual ‘store’ you can step back and take in the perspective of the type of things that attract you when you are shopping. Developing a loyal customer following goes beyond just offering a discount. It should extend into being a real, authoritative online brand.

Good luck!