Revealed: The True Basics of a Successful E-commerce Website

Have you ever wondered what makes an eCommerce website successful?

I thought that a good starting point to answer this complicated question would be to look from a reversed perspective and try to understand what actually makes an e-commerce site less successful, or even bad.

Once you figure out these standard bad practices, you will know what to avoid if you want to run a [more] successful e-commerce business.

In fact, there are 3 most common bad practices at work. I'll reveal all 3 in a minute.

Furthermore, I intended to show you how e-commerce can perform much better than it is now.

By looking at every metric available, digital commerce is continuing to grow at an insane speed. 

The Adobe Digital Economy Index reported eCommerce is up 49% during the shelter-in-place, online grocery sales went up 110%, electronics sales up 58%, and apparel sales are up 34%.

That's unprecedented.

But there's no doubt that exponential growth is still to come.

Before doing a deep dive into details, let's not forget we are in 2020:

  • Mobile-first website design is a must for some time now;
  • Visa and MasterCard are all geared up toward frictionless payments and experience for customers.

I've seen quite a lot of eCommerce websites from the inside in my line of work.

Still, I get so disappointed each time I discover a new eCommerce website that lacks the basic elements of a successful web-store.

This is especially annoying if that specific website is selling costly, premium products or services.

Do you want to charge a premium price?
How about offering a premium shopping experience?

So let's dive right in.

 

This is the list of the most common bad e-commerce practices:

Without further ado, let's get down to the nitty-gritty and see the practices you'll need to focus on:

Bad Practice #1: Complicated Checkout Process

Once a potential customer has landed on your website, browsed around, selected a product he wants to buy, and finally headed to the checkout process, all you have to do is take his money. And make the process straightforward and as easy as possible for him.

It is unbelievable how some e-commerce websites lose the sale just because they prefer to put some annoying, additional rules that make consumers abandon the process at the very end. The truth is, for some webshops, the checkout process is illogical, hard to understand, and more complex than the International Space Program.

ACTION ITEM: Check your "cart abandon rate", it should tell you how many visitors have landed on your site, selected a product, started the checkout process and abandoned - returned to where they originally came from by hitting the back button. 

SOLUTION: Try to critically evaluate, then cut the number of steps in your checkout process and make them more intuitive. Start working on UI/UX improvements. Also, encourage shoppers to create a profile (but do not force them!) and finally, send shopping cart abandonment emails to those who completed their profile but did not go through the complete checkout process.

Bad Practice #2: Slow Page Loading

Consumers looking to buy a product are quite eager to find what they are looking for. 

Do you think that they would prefer an e-commerce website that takes 10 seconds to load over the one that loads in under 2 seconds?

With slow loading and prolonged waiting, the user always has a doubt -"What's going on, is there something wrong with this website? Has my internet connection suddenly dropped?".

The truth is, as a consumer, I do not want to wait for 5 or 10 seconds (or even more!) for a webpage to load. Pages have to be served super-fast! If your webshop cannot deliver the page in 2 seconds or less - I'll bounce instantly, return to google and go to the next search result and website, which will open faster and eventually buy from them.

ACTION ITEM: Check your "bounce rate" in Google analytics. It will tell you how many visitors have landed on your site, concluded that your eCommerce-website sucks, and instantly returned to where they first came from by hitting the back button.

SOLUTION: Work with your frontend team to identify the issues and bottlenecks. If not sure what to do, go for the "low hanging fruit" - optimize large media files and images first. Also, check if your webserver is holding you back and move to a more resourceful hosting if needed. Actually easier said than done, but you need to start with something. For a start, enter your webshop domain name into this free google tool.

Bad Practice #3: Bad Mobile Experience

An e-commerce website that's not mobile-friendly and has a "Desktop only" version of a website is merely unacceptable today. Did you know that nearly 1.3 million new Android devices are activated across the world every day?

Yet some e-commerce websites are still in a web "stone age" - Desktop only. When I open the page on my cell phone, I do not expect to see the same thing as on my desktop PC!

Not to mention that text on such a webpage usually cannot be read on mobile devices without zooming in and moving around the screen. Often, when I see that kind of unreadable website on my cellphone, I instantly hit the back button and bounce back to google search results expecting that my next choice will return a mobile-friendly page.

ACTION ITEM: Check your "Device category share" in Audience>Mobile>Overview in Google analytics, it will tell you what percentage of your visitors use desktop vs. mobile (and tablets).

SOLUTION: Work with your website designer and frontend team to find the most effective solution to this problem. On some platforms, it is easier to switch to an entirely new website theme (skin) than upgrade existing, old website design to be responsive or mobile-friendly.

That's not everything though; 

Of course, there's more to a successful webshop than what I have just described. Those 3 things are the foundation that you need to be aware of and try to improve on. Furthermore, according to the practices mentioned above, we can easily classify any e-commerce website into one of the following two categories:

  • A site that treats its customers dumb. The philosophy behind: after all, those consumers landed on our website, entered our web store, so if they want to buy something from us, they can certainly wait another 15-20 seconds for our not-optimized pages to load. And they can certainly fill out tons of unnecessary personal and other data during the checkout process. They will have to live with our desktop site on their mobile device. If they do not know how to zoom the text on a cellphone, if they do not like our restrictions and rules, or do not like the overall experience - we do not need them! Let those spoilt consumers shop somewhere else.
  • A site that treats its consumers with respect and with a unique, fast, and easy way to shop online. The philosophy behind: Use every opportunity to convince potential customers that your brand is unique, your service is exceptional, your merchandize is special - persuade them to buy and make the process seamless, easy, and joyful for them! Crete extraordinary online shopping experience for them. Customer perspective is something that is most important; the customer has to be treated with respect.

Believe it or not, we still have many e-commerce businesses today that fall under the first category.

But that is not the worst part. (Though it is all pretty awful.)

Sometimes, it looks the eCommerce website's existence is self-sufficient and not because of online consumers in the first place! The fact that some of them are pioneers in these fields doesn't compensate for their neglect towards the e-commerce consumer shopping experience.

Now,

I'd also like to hear from you: What strategies have you considered (or actually used) to improve your e-commerce website?

Is there another factor, bad practice, or approach you consider crucial for a successful webshop?

If you found this post inspiring, I'd appreciate if you would share it, or link to it from your website or blog post.

This article was updated on May 31, 2020

Drashco

I'm a financial technology professional with 15+ years of experience in payment cards, banking, eCommerce, transaction processing and switching.
As you can see, I'm also passionate about blogging.
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