Building an effective eCommerce website is not as simple as just getting one developed. There are many pitfalls that can reduce sales and profits significantly and need to be watched out against. Ten prominent ones are listed below –
1. Complex interface/design:
According to KISSmetrics, a website that takes longer than 3 seconds to load is likely to be abandoned by nearly 40% of people trying to access it. E-commerce sites that make profits running into several hundred thousand dollars per day are likely to lose millions in sales in a year if they load slowly.
A website that looks great is likely to build up the confidence of consumers as it appears to belong to a legitimate business. It should not only look good but have a layout with clearly visible calls to action and lets users reach wherever they want to rather quickly.
To drive conversions, the layout and interface should be simple enough for users to comprehend and move around quickly on the site as the time available to capture users is quite limited. Otherwise, users may lose interest and go to a competitor’s website.
An example of a good layout:
2. Confusing navigation:
A design that is distracting could cause confusion among shoppers instead of complementing the products. It can be very difficult to find a product on a website that has confusing navigation. A store whose website does not have categories or separation of merchandise otherwise to make it simpler to find a particular kind of product loses customers. The same is applicable for those having categories with no products or only 1-2 products.
Too many colors and fonts should not be used. It is a good idea to use no more than 2-3 colors and fonts per page.
Before putting products in catalogs, you should think through the navigation elements and categories very carefully. Each category should have at least a few products in it. Else, smaller categories may be grouped together or merged with similar, larger categories.
An example is given below:
3. Small product thumbnails:
A consumer can not physically experience the products being sold through an e-commerce website. So, the website should provide, as far as possible, an experience that is as close to physically handling the product as possible. Extremely small product thumbnails, obviously, do nothing towards that end and should not be resorted to.
If it is absolutely imperative to use such thumbnail images, it should be possible for users to click on the thumbnails to access much larger images. The images should be as large as would be practical to view on an average computer monitor. Ideally, such large images should be available on the product page itself. So, the image size of the original image or one that can be zoomed out should be at least 1024 x 768 pixels, if not more. This can contribute significantly to the number of items sold through the website.
Here is a good example:
4. Brief product information:
Ecommerce websites do not provide, as mentioned before, the customer a chance to physically handle and experience a product before deciding to purchase it. He cannot look at the product from all angles or read information on the labels or packaging. This has to be compensated by the eCommerce sites in some manner to match the in-store experience.
Often consumers go to a store online and find the descriptions provided for the products to be severely lacking in terms of information. That can leave them wondering about specific product information and drive them towards your competitors’ websites. If the prices you sell at are not substantially lower than the competition, they are likely to buy from the sites that provide more detailed information.
So, you should provide all the pertinent information such as dimensions, sizes, weight, materials used, etc.
A good example is as follows:
5. Lengthy completion/checkout process:
An eCommerce website should make it as simple and fast as possible for the customers to complete a purchase online. They should be able to complete their orders and provide credit card information as quickly as possible and within a few steps. Many would leave the website without completing the transaction if there are too many steps between placing the items in the shopping cart and completing the buying process. The more such opportunities your website provides, the more the number of prospective customers leaving the site without buying.
Ideally, there should be a single page for the checkout process, on which consumers can enter the shipping and billing information after checking their orders. At the most, there can also be a confirmation page before submission of the final order.
If other pages must be included, these should be easy and quick to fill out. Pages can also be made to appear shorter by using 2-column layouts.
An ideal example follows:
6. Missing advance search:
‘Findability’ of a product is a significant factor of success in ecommerce. Often, however, simple search enables it on ecommerce websites. Such search does not meet the complex needs of shoppers, but many ecommerce website owners do not pay attention to that aspect. Advanced search options, therefore, get left out during website development.
Advanced search that is devised well can be more than just a complicated tool and can provide many benefits to both the sellers and the buyers. It can make the sales process much faster, which, in turn, can bring about a greater number of conversions as you will not lose prospects who give up because they can’t find the products they are looking for. You also stand to benefit from greater trust gained through successful, precise and fast searches.
A good example is:
7. No ‘breadcrumbs’:
Navigation breadcrumbs let visitors find their way around your ecommerce website, or around any website as for that matter. These make the experience of shopping online run more smoothly. Breadcrumbs let shoppers know exactly where they are on a website, when they land there or wish to trace their way back to previously accessed pages.
The breadcrumb navigation should be simple. Customers should be able to know through it as to which product category they are in and how they got there so that they can easily go back to the home page or another subcategory.
It is true that these can be somewhat complicated for ecommerce websites as there usually are many ways to reach the same product page. However, it is imperative to have these and to simplify these as much as you can.
A good example:
8. Bad Calls-to-Action:
Sometimes the calls-to-action on eCommerce websites do not work as well as they should because these are without implied value. At times, these simply get lost among several others and, therefore, get ignored instead of being clicked upon. Evenly weighted calls to action also meet the same fate more often than not. Calls-to-action placed above the first ‘fold’ on a webpage also fail to make the grade because at that stage the consumer has not discovered the value to be gained by clicking on it or is not even aware of what it means at all. A call-to-action that asks for too much in a single transaction also generally gets ignored by prospective clients or customers.
A call-to-action should, therefore, be prominent, specific and clearly convey the value to be gained by a prospect by clicking on it.
9. Missing Homepage promotion:
An e-commerce website’s homepage is critical real estate for placing promotional campaigns in the form of advertisements. Sliders can be placed on the homepage to promote any special offers or discounts being provided at a particular point of time. These can have good calls-to-action that can lead to prompt purchases through special incentives. Seasonal or short-term promotions can be very successful when run through such a slider or other prominently placed advertisements on the homepage. So, every ecommerce website should have at least one such slider and other advertisements that make good use of the space available.
In a Stanford study, nearly 50% of the participants (consumers) highly rated the credibility of websites that they found visually appealing overall. Merchants can build credibility with the audience in the first few and crucial seconds through homepage sliders. Credibility can be established, besides special offers, through client logos or press coverage.
10. Not tracking recently viewed items:
If such items are not tracked and displayed at a location easily visible to users, you might lose opportunities to make additional sales. That is because users often like to browse through the collection of products available and compare several items before making the final purchase decision. They might tentatively pick a certain item and then look at several others before being sure about what they want to buy.
Tracking of the items, therefore, saves users from feeling lost in a maze of products.
So, clearly, the significance of tracking such items can hardly be underscored enough.