According to Statista, ecommerce sales in the U.S. are projected to exceed $430 billion by 2017. To secure a piece of that sizable opportunity, ecommerce sites must include features and functionality that consumers now consider essential. Here are five features every effective ecommerce site has with reasons why they are so critical to converting online customers:
- Fast load times
- Ease of use
- Accurate product descriptions
- Seamless checkout experience
- Clear policies
“A two second delay in load time during a transaction results in abandonment rates of up to 87 percent. This is significantly higher than the average aban-donment rate of 70 percent.” – Radware
Fast Load Times
Convenience is one of the primary benefits of ecommerce.
According to statistics compiled by Radware, more than half of customers say that a slow load time is the primary reason they’ll abandon a site. Not only that, but, “A two second delay in load time during a transaction results in abandonment rates of up to 87 percent. This is significantly higher than the average abandonment rate of 70 percent.”
Successful ecommerce merchants know the devices and most popular browsers that their customers use to shop, and design sites with those parameters in mind.
Ease of Use
An ecommerce site’s design and architecture must be aligned with how its target audience searches for product information.
The Baymard Institute studied how consumers navigate the ecommerce sites of several major retail brands. Specifically, they looked at “home page, category navigation, subcategories, and product lists.” They discovered that product categories should be clickable, and named in a way that reflects the search terms its customers use to find items. New merchandise should be given prime site real estate to encourage return visits. Ecommerce sites should also include a history of recently viewed items — so customers needn’t navigate using the back button.
Accurate Product Descriptions
Remember #thedress controversy that took hold of the Internet this past winter? It was essentially fueled by the fact that some online viewers saw a blue dress, while others saw one that was white and gold.
Though the event generated publicity for that merchant, your typical ecommerce site must strive to eliminate any discrepancies between site information and the reality of the product. When a product description does not match the reality of a product’s features, it creates a costly business problem. Not only is the customer less likely to purchase in the future, but there are operational costs associated with returns.
Every good ecommerce site should ensure that product descriptions are clear, and that product specifications are accurately represented.
Seamless Checkout Experience
Effective ecommerce sites make it as easy as possible for customers to complete transactions by eliminating potential hurdles in the ordering and payment process. They offer customers the ability to log in, using social media credentials, to account information they’ve created in the past to retrieve stored information. They also offer an option to checkout as a “guest.”
They test form fields to ensure that a variety of scenarios (like a hyphenated name or an address that contains a ½ number) are accommodated. Information like city and state based on the user’s zip code is pre-filled and includes a checkmark that pre-fills the billing address when it’s the same as the shipping location.
Recognizable credit card logos and site security symbols are included in the checkout process to assure customers that their payment transaction is secure.
Customers are notified by email as soon as the transaction is processed, and they are provided with contact information to a customer service representative who can assist them with live help, online or by phone, if needed.
Buying from an online merchant often requires that the customer makes a leap of faith in regards to the product quality, service and satisfaction guarantees a merchant may offer.
Effective ecommerce sites are forthcoming about policies regarding product returns, exchanges and warranties. They dedicate space on the website where customers can easily find such information, along with the processes customers should follow if they have to make a refund request.
Though the ecommerce space offers significant revenue opportunity and a captive marketplace, merchants must meet and exceed customer expectations on all fronts, including site functionality, product quality and convenience. By combining customer insights with the best practices established by ecommerce leaders, businesses of all sizes have the potential to succeed in an online selling capacity.
Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay, a credit card processing firm. She has over 20 years experience in the bankcard industry in sales management, direct sales and marketing.