Profit Minded

Ten tips for a fantastic online store

Shopping Cart Tips
We recently held a small summit and conference for some of our own customers who use the Yahoo! Merchant Solutions product. It's one of the leading ecommerce platforms and a great way to build your own online store - go take a look here.

Across the two days of the summit we heard a great deal of advice about how to build a killer online store and we'll provide a wrap-up and also some SEO tips later in the week. We decided to start with the top ten tips to make the most of your online store that we gleaned from the many speakers at the summit.

  • Add a progress indicator for your store's checkout process. This is a specific example of a wider theme - keep your customer or audience informed about what is going on and where they are. If you don't then you risk them getting confused or distracted and abandoning the shopping cart. Make it too difficult or complicated with too little information and you risk losing them to a competitor who is making the process easier for them to understand.
  • Make sure there is always an alternative solution or possibility to the current action visible for a customer - the perfect example is a toll-free phone number. With all the goodwill in the world and even with a perfect online site and process, some people will still struggle with an online-only order process. If the customer is getting frustrated for ANY reason, give them a solution right there rather than risk them going to a competitor.
  • Keep the site visitor focused and don't distract them. In the shopping cart remove all the outside navigation and 'normal' header, footer and sidebars so there are fewer reasons to leave - obviously keep the forward and backward navigation options and a graceful way to back out. The same thing applies elsewhere on the site - do whatever you can to push the customer in the desired direction without turning them off.
  • Make the calls to action big - very big. On the page where you are selling a particular product, make the BUY button the object that stands out - make it easy for them to click and encourage them to click. That is true even if you have special offers or announcements - do not let them drown out the most important action they can take.
  • Slow loading is one of the killers for customer satisfaction on the web. Any delay over about a third of a second begins to result in visitors (and thus customers) abandoning the page. Reduce the page weight (aka size in terms of KB) via image optimization and using content delivery networks.
  • Act like a customer part one. Sit down and order some things from your own site. Try all the options, cancel and reorder, get a few things wrong, try to order something obscure. Now do the same thing on your competitors' sites. You should absolutely learn some things to improve in your display of products and in your order flow.
  • Think hard about making your site work for mobile and what to do about social media (if anything - it shouldn't be a knee-jerk reaction - doing nothing is a lot better than wasting money and time on doing the wrong thing). Social media and mobile go hand-in-hand because social media is all about the smartphone. So make a plan about how you are going to handle a mobile site and what you are going to do about social media. And only THEN go and do something about it.
  • Act like a customer part two. Don't forget the physical in the experience - sit down and order your own product as if a customer - and this time place the order for real. Watch the post-order interaction and any emails you get - what was a bad experience? Fix it. Then ship yourself your own product. What could be better about the box, the shipping, the contents. What could you put in that would help the customer (think coupons, make sure the order sheet is on top, what about the packing material)?
  • Keep your site clean. Check it in all the major browsers (Firefox, Chrome and Internet Explorer). Be critical and look for errors. Use webmaster tools to find 404 errors (no such page) and fix them, then find out where those pages are linked from - if they are on your site, fix them and then when that is done, fix the external links with a 301 redirect.
  • Find out if your vision of who you are as a company matches what your customers think. Write down who you think your company is and what values it represents and projects. Then ask your customers to tell you what values your company represents to them and how they describe your company. What adjective do your customers use to describe your company? Compare that with what adjectives you want them to use. Where they are different you have an image problem and you have to fix it by visibly being the things you want to be.

Several speakers made many of these points repeatedly so rather than credit any one tip to any one speaker, here are the speakers who provided their expert advice to the attendees. A big thank you to all of them.

Michael Ober, Director of Merchant Development, Yahoo! Small Business
Tim Ash, Author, Landing Page Optimization and CEO, SiteTuners
Nik Rajpal, Vice President of Client Services, Exclusive Concepts Inc.
Stefany Moore, Research Analyst, Internet Retailer
John Lawson, CEO, ColderICE Media
Kevin Richards, CEO, Ventura Web Design
Eric Yonge, President, EYStudios
Nacho Hernandez, Vice President & Co-founder, Mexgrocer.com
Chris Johnson, Vice President, Pegasuslighting.com
Don Cole, Your Store Wizards
Mark Schmulen, GM Social Media, Constant Contact
Casey Carey, VP Marketing, Monsoon Commerce
Lior Noy, Owner, Gardenfun.com
Coby Erez, Co-founder, 4PSite
Joel Jimenez, Practical Data
Dan Theirl, Exclusive Concepts, Inc.
Kathy Gould, Cajam Marketing
Jean LeClerc, Lead Developer, Monitus, LLC

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