August 23rd, 2006 | 3 MIN READ

11 Tips for Improving the Ecommerce Experience

Written by Dave Olson

Since first logging on to the Interweb in 1995 (via a 14.4kbps dial-up connection on the island of Guam), I've purchased hundreds of products from many retailers and conversely, not purchased from hundreds more.

While thinking about why I completed purchases from some web shops and clicked away cursing from others, I compiled a list of what stores can do to remove the barriers to success with no extra work than is required to make a unsuccessful store.

In brief, all the points come down to improving the customer experience. I am sure there are plenty more tips and, as a consumer I'd sure like to hear them. Chime in if you've got a tip for retailers to add to my {drumroll} Top EEEEleven Tips for Improving the Ecommerce Experience:

1 Make products easy to find

Allow targeted search by numerous, specific parameters to aid customers who already know what they want while also helping those who are "just looking" to narrow their requirements and compare alternatives

2 Name and describe everything clearly and completely

Provide "alt" names for images, make clean URLs and complete all product description fields with accurate info - doing so helps dominate organic search results and makes customers happy by pre-answering the detailed questions about deal-making features

3 Offer specific and smart specials

Create intelligent rules to offer smart recommendations and discount based on customer attributes or actions (i.e. new customers, returning customers, customers who bought item x, customers who browsed category y) to increase conversions

4 Make check-out surprise-free

Reduce cart abandonment and build trust by offering tax and shipping info before customer's personal info is required and offer the option of buying as a guest - be upfront about locations you ship to and what methods of payment accepted

5 Offer multiple customer service channels

While web-based shopping is often designed to be "self-service," keep customers buying when ready by offering several ways to get quick, intelligent answers the way the customer desires (i.e. current knowledge bases, real-time chat/voicechat, personal e-mails)

6 Get to know your customers

Hang out where your customer personas do and get to know them whether that be at real-life conventions, consumer review sites, social networks or virtual communities - offer perks for completing surveys or for asking useful questions which help you paint a clearer picture

7 Alleviate credit card concerns

Online shoppers (especially newer shoppers) are often concerned about credit card fraud - remove this barrier by discussing the issue openly and explain what steps you've taken to prevent fraud and how you handle suspected misuse - provide examples to reduce stress

8 Find your niche and learn it

You can't sell everything to everybody (not right away anyhow ;-)) - instead, find a niche and learn everything about the product category and then everyone who cares about your chosen niche will find you

9 Design to optimize screen real estate

The rumors are true, the top left is the most valuable part of the screen, don't waste it on fluff - make the links intuitive and clear and be consistent throughout your site (and skip the animated intro - please)

10 Provide feedback channels and answer honestly

Few things are worse for an online retailer than disgruntled shoppers spouting off on a blog or consumer review site, especially when the problem could have been handled more elegantly if given the chance - avoid this embarrassment by providing a forum for venting and then quickly resolve the problem in public view

11 Initiate, and participate in, conversations

Build enthusiastic community and tailor your site to your customers' desires by asking questions and listening to answers - once the dialogue is rolling along, your happy customers' comments may become a huge sales driver

What did I miss? Add a comment with your idea.

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