Guide To Ecommerce Website Development

Guide to ecommerce website development featured
Ecommerce development is make or break for the profitability of your online business. Image credit: Igor Miske

When it comes to creating a website, for any reason, there’s a multitude of factors that need to be taken into consideration. However, ecommerce website development poses a number of unique challenges.

Eye-catching aesthetics, streamlined navigation and clarity of purpose are important elements in any website that is intended to convey a message from you to anyone who visits the site.

These are certainly still essential in the design of a site created for e-commerce, where it’s likely that potential customers are interacting with you and your business almost exclusively through your website.

Additionally, you must also consider fine-tuning the ease of use, reliability, and user interface options to meet the expectations of modern ecommerce users.

The History of Ecommerce Website Development

Online retail business, or ecommerce, is thriving. While it continues to grow more popular with each passing year, the competition for customer loyalty is becoming a fierce and increasingly global affair.

The results of the third annual Pitney Bowes Global Online Shopping Survey, released in October of 2016, showed that out of all shoppers who make domestic online purchases, 66% of those shoppers have also made purchases through foreign websites.

A surprising 58% of those shoppers reported making “cross border” purchases on a monthly basis.

In the seven year from 2014 to 2021, the total value of ecommerce sales has trebled:

Ecommerce website development stats
The global value of ecommerce is skyrocketing. Image credit: Kinsta.com

While this growth is great news for online sellers, it also means that competition for ecommerce traffic has never been stiffer.

In this guide, we will take a closer look at some of the elements you will need to consider implementing in order to make your ecommerce website stand out and attract customers in an ever-widening marketplace.

Let’s start with the basics.

Getting Started with Ecommerce Development

There are two kinds of businesses who might want to move into ecommerce. These are existing brick and mortar retailers, and entrepreneurs who want to start an online business from scratch.

For both groups, there are a number of options available for creating an ecommerce site. These include implementing an ecommerce solution onto an existing website, or starting from scratch with a dedicated site.

Of course, there is also a lot to be said about your product offering. However, we’ll begin with the assumption that if you are at the design phase of your ecommerce website development, you have all of your product and branding details worked out.

These will be a driving force for several of the decisions you’ll need to make regarding the look and feel of your website.

Ecommerce Web Design: Understand the Basics

Web design isn’t all about showing off how much you can afford to spend on your site. Instead, your goal is to create an experience which users find enjoyable. Ultimately, this is what leads them to make a purchase.

This is referred to as user experience, or UX.

When a potential customer visits your website, before they read a word, their first impression will be based primarily on the look and feel. Details like colour palette, logo design, and legible, appropriately themed font combine to create the impression you want to make.

Consistency in this regard is a must.

Every page of your site needs to follow the same aesthetic guideline to make a customer’s experience feel cohesive. Still, don’t go overboard – concise, minimalist designs work well and also make it easier to provide the hassle free customer experience that shoppers want.

Keep in mind that if a new visitor to your site finds your website unappealing in any regard, they can go directly to the site of a competitor with the click of a button.

Ecommerce User Experience Essentials
At this point, ecommerce development begins to overlap with the operational side of your business. That is, a lot of what online shoppers expect is highly tied up with running an effective and efficient business in the background.

Data collected over the last few years has revealed a lot of useful information that can be used to tailor your ecommerce site to the needs and expectations of your customers. Here are some of the things that online shoppers look for specifically when making a purchase:

Free or low-cost shipping deals,

  • Reliable, 24-hour customer service contact options,
  • Clear pricing details and a secure, streamlined payment transaction process,
  • A choice of delivery options,
  • A search function that allows them to filter products and find what they want quickly,
  • Reviews and testimonials from other online customers.

The key here to ensure that all of these elements are accessible and easily located for users. The number one rule of ecommerce design is to remove as many obstacles as you can from the purchase process.
When customers are unable to locate a key piece of information relating to their purchase decision, this creates an unnecessary pinch point in your sales funnel.

Offer a Variety of Shipping Options

Shipping options are one of the most important parts of any online shipping experience. One of the benefits of ecommerce is the expediency and convenience it offers to consumers. Otherwise, they may as well just head to a physical store.

Your shipping options are also a powerful selling tool.

76% of online shoppers will actually add more items to their cart to meet the qualifications for free shipping on their order. If offering free shipping isn’t beneficial for your business, try offering a wider variety of shipping options and more control over the timing of delivery to your customers.

The tricky thing is, everyone wants their favourite shipping option, but what this actually is varies from person to person. For example, some people’s top concern is price, others are more worried about speed.

It’s also surprisingly common for users to abandon a purchase if they’ve had a bad experience with whichever courier you use.

Guide to ecommerce development featured image
Providing a variety of shipping options is a surprisingly effective way to subtly boost sales. Image credit: Bench Accounting

66% shoppers also reported looking up the return policy of a website they are considering making a purchase from. Most people are also more likely to make repeat purchases from retailers that offer simple, free returns.

How to Build Customer Service into your Ecommerce Site

It may seem like a given that consumers expect excellent customer service from any retailer, but online shoppers expect more than one way to get in touch with your business if they need to.

Customers need to trust an online seller. Think about it – if you buy something from a physical store, it’s easy to go back and cause a ruckus when things go wrong. Consumers lack the same power over ecommerce stores.

In recent years, the rise of dropshipping has led to countless horror stories of dodgy online stores. In extreme cases, an ecommerce site might stay live for a week or so, just long enough to collect a bunch of cash from online orders.

They’ll then shut up shop without ever even having owned any stock, and the customer has no way to get their money back.

Online shoppers are highly aware of this risk.

Make your customer service options highly visible on your e-commerce site, and offer as many avenues to reach someone friendly and knowledgeable as you reasonably can. You need to cover a variety of demographics’ expectations and levels of digital literacy.

Some shoppers prefer to make a phone call and speak to someone directly, while others prefer making contact through email or live chat.

Be sure you have systems in place to keep track of the customer service related interactions that you have with individual shoppers. This allows your customer service representatives to have the same details regardless of the method by which they were contacted.

Ensure High Navigability on your Ecommerce Site

While minimising clutter in your design is a necessity, it’s also important for your customer to have the information they might need on a given page at a glance.

Additionally, it should be as easy as possible for users to find relevant pages on your site. In general, each page should be accessible from any other page in 1-2 clicks.

Creating a navigable ecommerce site creates a couple of extra challenges. For one thing, customers are likely to move back and forth between different products while they’re trying to make a decision about which to buy. Customers may also want to review which items they’ve placed in their basket so far.

This requires utilising drop-down menus for navigation, or allowing customers to view the number of items and the current total of what they have in their cart from any page. Make sure that any potential extra costs related to shipping or delivery are outlined clearly.

Product pages should consist of a high-quality image of the item, personalization options, a brief description, price and the availability status of that product. If applicable, list or link to product reviews from other customers, as well as related items.

Reading other reviews can increase the likelihood that a browsing shopper chooses to buy.

Create a Mobile and Cross-Channel Ecommerce Experience

Mobile shopping has seen a tremendous amount of growth in recent years, with consumers making purchases from their smartphones or tablets. Shoppers utilising mobile devices do so because of discounts or special deals which are available through mobile sources.

47% of surveyed consumers also prefer the “round-the-clock” shopping that’s possible through online shopping, rather than being restricted to the schedule of a brick and mortar location.

Many online shoppers also look for some kind of social media presence, particularly Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, from online outlets that offer unique deals to followers. This is also an excellent way to target repeat customers

Focus on Increasing Average Lifetime Value

Customers who have made a previous purchase on your e-commerce site will spend over twice as much time on a repeat visit to the site than new visitors will. Naturally, this makes them more likely to make a purchase as well.

As such, the best way to grow your ecommerce business is to focus on your customers’ average lifetime value (ATV). Essentially, this is the total amount the average user spends from their first purchase to their last.

This can be improved by improving your customer retention rate, so that your users stay loyal to your business for longer. Alternatively, you can maintain your retention rate, and increase the average order value of your customers, through upselling.

Offering sales and special incentives to customers that have purchased with you in the past makes them more likely to come back. They’re also more likely to mention their positive experience with your website to other people.

There are a number of ways to do this.

One is to offer unique discounts which reward customer loyalty. You can also create a referral marketing program, to reward customers who recommend your products to a friend or relative.

Ecommerce Website Development: Final Thoughts

With the endless variety of options available online, it can take some time to build your customer base, but don’t be discouraged. It’s true that there is a lot of competition out there. However, most ecommerce businesses aren’t in it for the long haul.

By thinking in terms of long term investment, you’d be surprised how quickly you can rise above the fray. A big part of this is investing in quality ecommerce website development. Chances are, you’ll receive the best ROI by engaging a design company.

When you make the effort to understand and provide the kind of reliable, informative and streamlined experience that today’s savvy online shoppers have come to expect, you can ensure that your ecommerce website will be successful, and see sustained growth.

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