It would be too much to spec out a website here fully, however, here is an (incomplete) list of functionalities which all good eCommerce website should feature.
Site speed has a massive effect on the conversion rate, and you should aim to maximise your website performance. Website conversion rate drop by an average of 4.42% with each additional second of load time (between seconds 0-5) (Source: Portent). Furthermore, Google has found that 53% of visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes longer than three seconds to load.
Your site’s speed also affects your natural search engine performance, with Google using site performance as a significant ranking factor. From 2021 Google will be using website performance, which it refers to as Core Web Vitals, in its algorithm (Source: Moz).
As discussed in Chapter 4, natural search traffic is a significant source of customers. However, eCommerce sites differ in how easy they are to configure in a search engine friendly way. Platforms provide different support levels for important SEO features like Robot.txt file, XML sitemaps and metadata. Also, hosted platforms like Shopify allow no access to the hosting environment and site architecture, some of the most significant ranking factors.
Over 50% of internet traffic now occurs on a mobile device (source: Statcounter). So, your site’s mobile friendliness should be a primary consideration when choosing a platform and a website template. With a responsive website, content adapts to the device which is accessing it to provide the most user-friendly experience.
Shoppers want to see multiple product images and lifestyle shots of the product in use. Studies have shown that bigger, higher-quality images which are zoomable increase the conversion rate (source: VWO). Furthermore, having more than one image doubles the conversion rate (source: eBay Labs).
Your website should be a pleasure to use and convert browsers into buyers. 76% of users say ease of use is the most important characteristic of a website (Source: Hubspot). Your website should help shoppers find what they want quickly and provide them with a seamless checkout experience. To improve the usability of your site, consider the following:
- Categorisation. Take care to organise your products into a simple, logical structure.
- Checkout. The checkout process should be short (preferably one page) with a clear indication of progress and no surprises like additional costs. The checkout page is especially important for optimising conversions and reducing cart abandonment.
- Guest checkout. Forcing customers to create an account will put some people off unnecessarily.
- Shipping cost. Rates should be clearly stated early in the buying process.
- Site search. Site search is a popular website feature but often performs poorly.
- Related items. Showing users other products they can buy will increase basket size and average order value.
More of the e-commerce business is occurring internationally, and the strongest growing markets are outside the west. It is becoming easier to sell to these platforms through your website as advertising platforms such as Google ads work worldwide. For example, Google shopping now operates in 94 countries, accessible from a single Google account.
International sales are a significant opportunity for your business, and shipping to the major markets (Europe, North American, Japan, Australasia) is straightforward. Whilst you will get some sales by offering international shipping options and having your site in English and your local currency, the conversion rate will improve by localising your site to the users’ language and currency.
Providing choice on payments is about appealing to as many customer preferences as possible and ensuring that people do not abandon purchases because they cannot pay in the way they want to. Research has shown that 6% of shoppers had abandoned carts due to a lack of payment options (source: Salescycle). Credit/Debit cards are the most popular, but other payment forms such as PayPal come in a close second.
Rating services such as Trustpilot, Feefo and Reviews.io have become ubiquitous, and 57% of consumers will only use a business with a rating of four or more stars (Source: Brightlocal). Reviews and other user-generated content such as product reviews provide ‘Social Proof’ of a business’ reliability. Having some negative reviews can often be positive. Products with no negative reviews are seen as censored, and shoppers will assume the positive reviews are fake.