Business Essentials

How to: improve your e-commerce - Brought to you by NatWest

How to: improve your e-commerce - Brought to you by NatWest

Thursday, 09 July 2020

We look at the steps you can take to maximise the effectiveness of your e-commerce store.

The online retail sector is busier than ever, with businesses of all kinds taking their first steps into e-commerce to serve customers during lockdown. And with online transactions accounting for as much as 70% of all UK retail in recent months, you’ve a huge audience to target – but you’ll need to make sure your website is in great shape to convert any visitors.

Below are 10 straightforward steps you can take immediately to improve the effectiveness of your e-commerce offering, whether it was set up as a short-term fix or a long-term sales channel.

 

Optimise your site for search

Google is the most visited website on the internet, both in the UK and globally. When people use it to search for the services or products you sell, you’ll want your business to come up on the first page of results – and search engine optimisation (SEO) is the art of making that happen.

Search engines consider a wide range of factors when choosing which websites to show first: from clear and useful content to high-quality external links. Find a checklist from a reputable source – such as the search engine itself – and start working through. For some of the more technical aspects of SEO, it’s worth speaking to a marketing expert.

You’ll also find further insight in our features The Digital Clinic: transforming your SEO and SME Tools: hard-working websites

 

Set up Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a tool that tracks and reports website traffic data. By hooking it up to your own e-commerce website, you’ll learn more about your audience.

Questions that Analytics will answer for you include:

  • How many people visit my website?
  • What devices do they use?
  • Where does my website traffic come from?
  • What marketing tactics drive the most traffic to my website?

By having constant access to this kind of information, you’ll be able to keep making tweaks that maximise the effectiveness of your website.

 

Learn how to understand and use data properly

Analytics is as complex as you make it – you can stick with the basic questions above or delve much deeper to learn exactly where your e-commerce site is and isn’t working. For the maximum benefit, consider taking one of the online courses offered by Google or another search engine.

 

Answer questions before they’re asked

People visit your website to find information, so make sure you have what they need to make a confident purchase.

“It is about understanding your core values and the service you provide to people, on top of just your product offerings – so don’t just fall back onto ‘brochure’ websites and paid marketing,” says Joshua Neilly, founder of Fat Fish Marketing – a Shopify Partner agency. “Instead of just listing your products and services without any reassuring information, start using your website to answer all the questions people are likely to ask you on the phone. Remember, there’s a reason they needed to call or email first.”

 

Ensure your site loads quickly on all devices

Loading speeds are crucial, according to Jason Nichols, founder of online coffee retailer New Kings Coffee. “Consumers can be fickle folk, and in this digital age their attention spans are short – so your site must be superfast to keep users engaged,” he says. “As a rule of thumb, you should try to get your e-commerce website to load its first readable content in under four seconds.

“There are lots of free online tools that will assess your current speeds (like Google PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix) and provide tips on how to improve things – like optimising images, lazy loading and all sorts of other tech.”

 

Make products easy to buy

Delivering seamless user experience by making it as simple as possible for customers to buy from your site is the next critical area to focus on. “While we might like to talk about our brand ethics and values from the off, many consumers will have found out all of that information beforehand and when visiting your website, are ready to buy,” Nichols explains.

“Consider showing popular products and services up front on your website – ie on the homepage – with clear ‘buy now’ buttons, making it as simple as possible for customers to get what they came for. Continue this theme through the whole checkout process too – make it a slick operation with no barriers, so the customer has no real excuse to abandon their basket.”

 

Follow up on abandoned baskets

If shoppers keep leaving items in their digital baskets without completing their orders, they may need a little extra encouragement.

“Most e-commerce content management systems [CMS] make it easy to create an ‘abandoned basket’ email,” says Harry Dance, digital marketing strategist at Kent-based Kayo Digital. “This is an extremely effective and valuable tool, and automation means you don’t actually need to do anything after set-up. If your CMS doesn’t have the feature built in, don’t worry – email marketing companies like Mailchimp can help you create one.”

 

Use reviews to provide reassurance

For James Urquhart, managing director of Warwick advertising agency Lets Run Social, honest reviews can go a long way. “If you are good at what you do, don’t hide it – show it off,” he says. “To create trust in your brand, you need new prospective customers to see and hear what your current customers think about you.

“A lot of e-commerce sites that use reviews put them at the bottom of their pages, but why hide this message? Put it at the top and start reassuring shoppers that they’re in the right place straight away.”

 

Give your products the imagery they deserve

If shoppers can’t see your products in person, they’ll want the next best thing: plenty of clear imagery. Make sure all angles are covered, with a focus on each item’s most important features. The latest smartphones may be capable of great shots, but consider getting a specialist photographer in if the budget allows for it.

 

Ask your audience for feedback

Finally, who better to tell you what’s good and bad about your e-commerce offering than your target audience?

“Don’t be afraid to ask your customers what they think,” advises Will Hitchmough, director at Wildcat Digital. “What they tell you could be the difference between making £100s or £1,000s online. And if you see the same issue cropping up regularly, it might be something worth investing a bit of money in.” 

 

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