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There are an almost infinite number of great looking features that you can use on your website. If you have ever met with a Web design firm, you will have heard about all the cool scripts, animations, and other interactive add-ons that can go on your pages.
Some flamboyance isn’t a bad thing, and can be great when you’re starting out and need to set yourself apart from the competition. Contemporary interactive features and a well designed site help make you look more experienced, even if your online business is brand new.
However, the Web site features that really make your site something more are the ones that attract new customers and entice them to return to you regularly as well as keeping loyal customers happy. Along with the fancy embellishments, your business home on the Web needs the fundamentals that shoppers have come to expect. It is imperative that your site meets the minimum daily requirements: It’s easy to find and loaded with content; it contains background information about you; and it includes features that make shopping easy and secure. Here are ten tips to ensure that you have what you need.
Promote Security, Privacy, and Trust
Even very experienced shoppers can sometimes still feel uncertain when they type their credit card number and click a button labeled Pay Now, Purchase, or Submit to a Web site. There are ways to assuage their worries that are not complex or overly time consuming. The main points you need to remember are: Information and communication. Internet users love getting information that goes further than what they can find in a printed catalog.
Make sure you include one or more of the following to make shoppers feel more confident about pressing your Buy Now button:
An endorsement from an organization that is supposed to promote good business practices, such as TRUSTe (www.truste.org).
A privacy statement that explains how you handle customers’ personal information.
Detailed product descriptions that show you’re knowledgeable about a product.
Another thing that promotes trust is information about who you are and why you love what you do. For a good example, check out how a simple clothes store can engage their customers and make them feel like part of a community : http://www.joebrowns.co.uk/publish.asp?what=PJ-home&page=1
Secure Some Easy-to-Remember URLs
Your name is crucial to the success of your business. A name becomes identified with a business, then people associate the name with the products and its level of customer service.
Brainstorm a few names that are short and easy to remember and that would epitomize your business if included in an URL. Do a domain name search to find the one you want. Try to keep your chosen site name as short and uncluttered as possible. A single four- to ten-character name in between the www. and the .com sections of the URL is much more easy to remember than a sentence full of hyphens.
Domain names are not expensive, especially if you can secure them for several years at a time. A .com domain name is still the most desirable URL suffix because it’s the one that most visitors expect to see when they’re trying to find your Web site’s URL. Even if you can get a .com name, it is advisable to purchase domain names in other extensions, such as .org and .net.
You might also want to think about country-specific domains such as co.uk or .au. Then, you protect your URL from being used by competitors. If your URL is a word that is commonly misspelled, you might want to consider buying a domain name that represents a common misspelling, that way, if users make a typing error, they still get to your site.
Provide a Convenient Payment Method
Customers go online for various reasons, but none of those reasons include a
desire for things to be time consuming and complicated. Most importantly is the ability to pay for merchandise purchased online easily. You don’t have to get a merchant account from a bank to process your own credit card payments. You don’t need to get point-of-sale hardware, either.
Many people are used to the convenience and reliability of the electronic payment service PayPal. If you have an account with PayPal, you can add PayPal “Buy” buttons to your Web pages and send your customers to PayPal to send you the money by using their credit cards. Many customers will already have accounts with PayPal if they use eBay, or similar sites.
Set yourself up as a seller with PayPal and Google Payments and if you can go one step further and set up a shopping cart and a credit card payment system, then even better.
Choose Goods and Services That Buyers Want
How do you find out what buyers want? Try this:
Ask them. On your Web site, invite requests for merchandise of one sort or another.
After a purchase, do some upselling: Suggest some other items your customers might be interested in.
Visit message boards, newsgroups, and Web sites related to the item you want to sell.
Make a weekly search of eBay’s completed auctions to see what has sold, and which types of items have fetched the highest prices.
Have a Regular Influx of New Products
With printed catalogs, changes to sales items can be major. One of the biggest problems is the need to reprint the catalog when inventory changes, this is time consuming and costly. One major advantage of having online sales catalogs is that you can change your product line in a matter of minutes, without having to send artwork to a printer. You can post new sales items easily online, as soon as you get new sales figures, daily if you wish.
One reason to keep changing your products on a regular basis is that your larger competitors are doing so. Many companies put new products out on a regular basis and announce them in e-mail newsletters to loyal customers who subscribe.
Optimize Your Site for Search Engines
There’s a reason that so many Web site owners are immediately concerned with SEO. It is a low-cost and extremely effective way to help your site be found by the people who are looking for what you are selling.
For SEO, you need to leave a “trail of crumbs” for your prospective customers. All websites must have them.
Home page titles that will get indexed: The more keywords you add, the better your chances that your site turns up in Google and other search results.
Headings that contain keywords: Along with indexing titles, it’s believed that search engines such as Google also index the main headings on Web pages.
Text that contains specific keywords about your site: The first paragraph or two of text is the most important because this is most likely indexed.
On top of this, you can register your site to make sure it appears in the directories to the Web that the search engines provide.
Be Current with Upkeep and Improvements
You will never be a customer favourite unless you come up with new material on a regular basis.
Consider hiring someone to run your site and suggest new content for you. This does not need to be a (costly) professional copy writer, many people ask students, friends or family members to help out, especially when they are just starting out.
It only takes a five-minute conversation for you to tell your assistant what you need them to do that day, and you can go on to the rest of your many responsibilities.
Personally Interact with Your Customers
The personal touch counts for a lot in Internet communication. Impersonal, mass e-mail marketing messages are reviled, but quick responses conveying courteous thank-yous are eagerly welcomed.
You do not need to send ten emails to each customer, a day but sending personal e-mail messages to your customers, even when they’re only making an inquiry and not a purchase will only work to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to pour on the extra courtesy and provide complete answers to every question: Just tell yourself that each answer is worth an extra pound or two in sales, because more often than not it is.
Help Your Customers Get to Know You
You should use your Web site to make a personal connection with your visitors. Many site owners achieve this goal by creating a blog. Blogs, though, are more suitable for personal Web sites, however they are becoming more popular with businesses. If you do not feel that a blog would be appropriate for your site, E-commerce sites can still gain a personal touch by including an About Me or About Us page, a newsletter, or a mission statement or a history of the company.
Even if you don’t have a charitable mission to talk about, offering some background information about yourself, why you started your business, and what your goals are builds trust in your shoppers.
Provide Lots of Navigation Options
Links, menus, and other navigation options aren’t as important as they used to be however they are useful for making your site more organized and to increase usability.
How should you make your site well organized?
Make sure that your site incorporates these essential features:
Navigation buttons: Consumers who are in a hurry (in other words, almost all consumers) expect to see a row of navigation buttons along the top or one of the sides of your home page. Don’t make them hunt; put them in several places on your home page — providing additional options makes them feel like they’re in control.
A site map: A page that leads visitors to all areas of your site can prevent them from going elsewhere if they get lost.
Links that actually work: Clicking a link that’s supposed to lead to a photo or a bit of information that you really want but instead produces a generic Page Not Found error message is very frustrating for site visitors.
Links that indicate where a customer is on the site: Such links are helpful because, like a trail of breadcrumbs, they show how the customer got to a particular page. Here’s an example:
Clothing > Women’s > Shoes > Heels
When your site grows to contain dozens of pages and several main categories, links that look like this can help people move up to a main category and find more subcategories.
Be the first person to visit your site and test it to make sure that the forms, e-mail addresses, and other features work properly. If someone sends you an e-mail only to have it bounce back, you will probably lose that customer. At the very least, open your site in Microsoft Internet Explorer, Safari, and Firefox to make sure that your text and images load correctly.
If you have any more tips for anyone setting up a new eCommerce site, do not hesitate to comment below. Who knows, you might help someone set up the next Amazon.