Building an ecommerce website requires several essential features.
For small businesses interested in entering the world of online retail for the first time, starting an ecommerce store can be intimidating. Sure, there’s plenty of websites that advertise quick and easy setup options, but most are only suitable for individuals selling on a very small level. The moment you move into competition with a larger online retailer, the ecommerce features your website needs to include quickly exceed those provided by an Etsy or a Squarespace.
Any business that wants to grow online has to look toward the giants in the market to stay competitive. That means providing many of frictionless usability features as an Amazon or an Apple. That may sound like a tall order to you, but it’s more achievable than you might think. Here are the top ecommerce features you should include when you launch your online store.
1. A shopping cart.
This one should be obvious. If you’re going to have an online store, you need a shopping cart—by which we mean a place for your users to specify their order, enter their delivery details, and pay.
That said, you shopping cart may not look like a shopping cart depending on the service you offer. For instance, if you’re an SaaS company, your shopping cart may be a subscription. Or, if you’re a non-profit, it may be a recurring donation. You may even have a business model that asks users to register online, but pay at the door.
Regardless of your business model, you need a way to match a user with their purchase, and for that user to review and confirm their purchase before they leave your site.
2. A mobile-friendly site.
Each year, the percentage of purchases made on mobile increases. If you don’t have a website with a responsive, mobile-friendly design, you’re going to lose a significant portion of your sales.
User test your mobile site to make sure that your site reads correctly, products display well, form fields are easy to fill out. Also make it easy for users to save their payment information so they don’t have to type their credit cards into their phones on every interaction.
3. SSL and other security features.
SSL is a form of encryption that protects data as it is transmitted from website to browser and back. Without SSL in place, hackers will have no trouble stealing payment information from your visitors. And since protecting that information is your responsibility, failing to have appropriate security measures in place could put you at legal risk.
Other security features include smart CAPTCHA features (i.e. ones that require only a check box or solving a simple math problem) for user accounts. These help prevent brute force bot attacks for breaking into your system. Similarly, multifactor verification can make it harder for someone who has stolen a user name and password from breaking into an account.
4. Product descriptions.
Your products should have unique descriptions that provide important item information for visitors. If you’re selling clothing, that would include a description of the fabric content, the weight of the material, and its stretchiness. For other items, it might involve listing the number of compartments, the voltage, or compatibility with electronic devices.
Remember to include sizing information and product dimensions. If you sell clothing or other wearables, include a sizing chart. For many other products, dimensions will help users understand the space requirements. Providing this information up front will be key to preventing unsatisfied customers and will keep returns at a low.
5. Transparent shipping information.
Unexpected shipping costs are one of the lead causes of cart abandonment. No one likes to reach the end of their purchase only to discover an extra $12 they didn’t expect tacked on to the product price. Similarly, most buyers expect different shipping options, especially if they need an item right away.
Shipping discounts are one of the biggest hooks for ecommerce stores. If you have such a discount, such as free shipping on all orders above a certain price, include it prominently on your website. Also consider ways for users to estimate shipping by typing in their zip code, and provide costs on shipping as soon in the buying process as you are able.
6. A return policy.
Return policies are crucial for ecommerce. Users expect full refunds on nearly all items. Exceptions include perishable goods and customized purchases that can’t be resold. Furthermore, most customers expect a painless returns process, which includes free shipping. This means that, when you process a returns request, you should send your user a label for them to print out and attach to their package to make the process as easy as possible.
Does this seem like a lot? It is. But buying products online is a leap of faith. The best way to establish trust with a customer is to remove as may risks as possible from their purchasing experience.
7. User accounts.
The best customers are those who come back. You want to provide a way for your returning customers to view past purchases, re-order items, and explore related purchases. None of this is possible without a user account.
Furthermore, user accounts provide invaluable marketing information for your business. They help you build better mailing lists and deliver better customer service. And they help you create a customer loyalty reward system for frequent buyers. That makes them one of your most important ecommerce features.
8. Wish list and product recommendations.
Ever been interested in an item on a large online store but not known how to save it for later? It’s a frustrating experience, and one most businesses can easily remedy with a wish list feature. Allowing users to save items to a list helps boost the likelihood of them making a purchase down the road.
More than that, you can use information about past purchases and saved items to send customized product recommendations. It’s a win-win!
9. User-generated feedback.
Online reviews are one of the most essential elements of social proof. Good ones are free marketing for your product, and help provide additional information for interested buyers.
Even the occasional bad review can provide insight for purchasers. If someone purchased a sweater and complains of it being too light, that might be just the information I need to convince me that the sweater will be a great addition to my spring/fall wardrobe. In any case, all-positive reviews often look suspicious, so one or two less-than-perfect scores helps add credibility to the rest.
Ecommerce features are not optional for serious businesses.
Many new businesses rely on the infrastructure provided by Etsy or EBay to handle the ecommerce features we listed above. But when they do so, they lose control of their customer experience to those businesses. Building an independent website takes time and testing, but it also creates a better, more reliable experience for users. And at the end of the day, it’s the only way for your business to grow its brand.
Want an ecommerce website that performs as we just described? Talk to us. We can build it for you.