Wealth distribution is becoming more and more lopsided in all areas of life, and the story is no different in the realm of ecommerce. Within the gargantuan $198 billion dollar pie of online annual purchasing, more than 75% is commandeered by the top 500 etailers. So how does the little person wrest their share of sales from the 1%? It all begins with an appealing, easy-to-use vending site. Here are the essentials:
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The medium may be changing rapidly, but the same principles that apply in a brick-and-mortar store carry over to its virtual counterpart. Retail outlets with cramped aisles, chaotic stock overflow, and incoherent layout all usher visitors out, rather than browse at their leisure. To keep visitors strolling the aisles of your ecommerce site, then, make sure to:
- Create every page of your site according to tried-and-true layout principles. While product description should abound, make sure the design isn’t text-heavy. Balance each page according to the Law of Thirds. And crucially, take advantage of negative space so as not to convey a sense of busyness — and anxiety.
- Avoid pop-ups and auto-play videos. Even if these items are for your own merchandise, overwhelming visitors is likely to drive them away on the quick. Auto-play vids are especially likely to incite browsers to scramble for the volume button, or even close the tab.
- Use original images. The internet economy would collapse without stock photos, and this is not to denigrate the countless professional-quality images on offer. But when it’s a matter of crafting your brand’s personality, it’s essential to author images that are unique to your site.
Remember, even if visitors to your site are there on a dedicated mission for a specific item, the window of patience is fairly limited. For more casual browsers eyeing your wares for the first time, clumsy internal navigation will spur potential clients to “take their business to Gimbel’s,” as they said in the old days.
Accordingly, your store site should make its wares easy to find, so tag relevant items with a generous latitude of relevant keywords, and when possible, cross-list items in multiple “departments” when there’s an obvious overlap. A couture vendor could hawk a mini-skirt on pages for casuals, clubwear, and (if applicable) new or close-out items all at the same time. If your site is working in tandem with a flesh-and-blood location, syncing all points of sale will make this streamlining even more coherent (and a blessing for your inventory people).
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As just noted, patience is not always a cardinal virtue for online shoppers, so when loading subpages (or, heaven forbid, the all-important splash page) takes more than a view seconds, expect visitors to exit stage right-click. Indeed, a revving-to-go website can increase customer conversion rate by almost 80%, so if your loads are locking, it’s time to upgrade your server.
So it’s time for your happy customers to pony up for that must-have item they found through your easy-to-navigate, minimalist sales portal that designers at the Bauhaus school would have been proud of. But then the site stalls out during the transaction, leading to the consumer to flee midway, or, just as bad, hastily click again and unwittingly but the same item twice. Aside from saving some headaches in your customer service department (small businesses, read: “you”), debugging your cart will help prevent your clientele’s check-out from being a permanent one.
Needless to say, your site alone is only the beginning: advertising and a social media strategy are crucial to increasing traffic in today’s marketplace. But once they come, if what you’ve built passes no muster, these best-laid plans of marketing will lead consumers to seek a better mousetrap.