Creating a successful e-commerce platform involves utilising a whole range of processes from the website and retail front to the shipping and arrival experience. It is apparent that every day a consumer’s experience with the marketplace becomes a more visual, mobile and social one which improves the process for customers but complicates the process for businesses trying to keep up to date with e-commerce developments.

There are many features that you should incorporate into your e-commerce website, but remember the importance of focussing your efforts in the beginning with your website layout and design, through to the end with customer support and analytics.

And that’s just the start; successful e-commerce relies on innovative and creative solutions as well as practical ones. And that is why there is no pre-determined recipe for success; there are so many areas of e-commerce to consider and a lot of elements that may not go to plan.

This guide highlights some of the most important factors that may be restricting you e-commerce site from reaching its potential. But more importantly, we will explore the solutions to these and how you can implement them to improve your e-commerce site.

1) Confusing navigation

It may seem like a no-brainer, but ensuring the structure of your website is organised in a simple way that makes it easy for not only customers to browse but for search engines to understand is vital. Make sure that your website visitors can clearly identify where they are on your site and ensure that they can find what they are looking for using a search bar and options for related products. Don't leave them feeling like this:

Using a sitemap of your existing website structure can help the search engines map out your site which is significant in terms of your website’s visibility. Categorising your website into different high level categories and then smaller sub categories will help organise your website to improve its visibility, something that search engines will take into consideration when ranking the quality of a website. Obviously, you want your website to be seen higher up the search engine, so by completing these simple steps your website is more likely to be noticed.

2) Lack of quality media

There’s more to captivating a customer with a product than a fancy description and a bog-standard image. You need to spend time thinking about the importance of having the right images of your offerings that could be the difference between someone becoming a customer and someone deciding to move on to another website.

Having beautiful photography doesn’t mean you need to splash out on a really expensive photographer, it means you need to invest your time into capturing the right photos that truly show off what your products offer. Photos of your products should give a high level view, as well as multiple angle shots and close ups. It is beneficial to create a theme or consistent feel across the imagery on your site to improve the customer’s experience and improve your brand identity.

Consider using product demonstrations and ‘how-to’ videos, good for products that involve some form on construction. You may not realise but potential customers consume a lot of the media material on a website before they make a purchasing decision.

3) A complex checkout process

When you think of the checkout as the last interaction with your customer, it is important to want to leave a long-lasting positive impression on them. A poor process here can truly damage their trust and ruin your reputation as a brand or even obstruct a sale, so make sure this stage of the process runs as smooth as possible.

By focussing on using less forms to fill out and steps to complete, the buying process can be streamlined to the extent that customers feel at ease with the checkout. Keep the job simple, once the customer has found what they want to buy, allow them to add it quickly to their cart, go to the checkout, provide their billing information then confirm their purchase. Try to steer clear of obstructive ads or other buying suggestions. These are distractions that may deter your customer away.

4) Poor delivery experience

The shopping experience doesn’t stop once your customer has completed their transaction and received their confirmation. Customers want to feel that they are still being looked after right through to after they have received their order. Imagine if you placed an order and couldn’t track its location; would you feel frustrated that you didn’t know exactly where your order was? Probably yes, so why make your customers feel that way? Ensuring your customers have the security of knowing where their order is, is beneficial in improving your reputation and customer return rate.

But, the shipping process continues right through to delivery and the arrival counts too. Make sure you choose the right courier for your business that offers the right shipping options and delivery time slots. Ensure the packaging for your deliveries is to a high standard too- no one wants a damaged product or something that is labelled incorrectly.

5) Inconsistent content

Coming up with a good marketing strategy is somewhat easy to think of and implement, however the issue lies with whether the content you produce is actually fitting in line with your audience. You need to consider what you are posting on social media, your link building and SEO.

In basic terms, your marketing strategy will not progress if the content you produce is not in line with your brand. Make sure you do research into understanding your target audience; use tools to help you do this such as YouGov Profiles and Google Analytics. This will help you match your content strategy with the average customer’s journey.

Of course, there are many other ways of improving your e-commerce site, but these examples given are certainly some of the most important. Spend time truly getting to grips with how to improve your website to improve not only visitor usability but visibility in the search engines too.

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