I want your website to pop. I want your brand to speak volumes. I want your story to be identified with. And I’m not going to lie, I want you to make money!
You’ve got the quality products. The ones that solve people’s problems, or the undeniable art that you want in the hands of people across the world. You have the compelling story and a relatable brand. There’s passion behind what you sell, but are you presenting it in a way that stands out in the crowded online space and encourages more buying?
Here’s what you need to make your store succeed and attract the high lifetime value customers that you’re targeting — people that stay on your site, convert, feel happy about their purchase, and return to your store often. These 8 tips form the framework for putting your best foot forward on the world wide web, illustrated with examples of e-stores that are doing incredibly well using these guidelines.
An attention grabbing homepage with a clear call to action
Your store’s homepage should be bangin’ — first impressions are lasting. The homepage should convey an immediate feeling. Communicate your brand and captivate your audience through a few photos and limited text that guides them directly to specific product and/or product category pages.
Feature attractive visuals, such as lookbook photos, newest items, and/or special collections that you want to highlight, such as top sellers and holiday sales. Rather than your entire product selection, only display a few products on the homepage.
One large, simple graphic (which, if you’re not a graphic designer yourself, you can create easily on Canva.com) at the very top of ecommerce websites are attractive and shown to convert highly. Scrolling banners are also used by many sites, however, multiple studies show that static images convert better than sliders.
Utilize bright “Shop Now” buttons on or directly below your images that lead customers to the corresponding product pages. If you’re highlighting a sale, the “shop” button should take customers to the sale items. If you’re highlighting a brand new product, your call to action button should take customers to that product page.
Keep it minimal by utilizing white space and making sure the home page, especially, isn’t too busy or cluttered. Lastly, keep it fresh and updated, so your customers know to keep checking back for what’s new in your store.
Here are two great examples of well-designed ecommerce website home pages:
2. Stunning, Hi-Res Product Images
I can’t stress enough how important product photography is for your online store. Whether you’re DIY or hiring out your product photography, knowing the basics of how to capture beautiful images for your website is key!
High Resolution photos are a must for attracting quality traffic and appearing in Google image search, and stunning aesthetics are a core part of a brand’s experience.
You want to have pictures that customers can zoom in on: of the product by itself, close-ups of the details, and the product in use.
At the most basic level, great product images can be captured with a simple point and shoot digital camera, a tripod, and a white background. It’s alright If you don’t yet have an expensive camera model and lens — get started with what you do have, or ask to borrow a friend’s. (It seems like everyone in the DMV knows at least a few photographers, am I right?). The camera itself isn’t as important as getting the lighting right.
Shoot your products in a room with a window that lets in a lot of natural light, or outside on a cloudy day. Make sure the light is diffused and not hitting the product directly — or else it looks too harsh on your subject. Getting a reflector is a great idea, as it’s a simple and inexpensive tool that allows you to choose how much light bounces into your shot.
On your camera, turn your White Balance to auto, flash off, and choose the largest quality image settings. You can always reduce an image size, but you can never increase it without losing some of its quality.
Try out different camera settings and evaluate the results on your computer. Finally, for the golden touch… get your images retouched. 😉 This can be outsourced to freelancers who can retouch photos from as low as $5/image.
Here are a few resources to get your product photos looking professional:
This seller will professionally edit your product image for $5
This seller will remove the background of 10 product images for $5
3. Stellar Copy & Product Descriptions
Benefits > Features.
Write website copy and product descriptions that focus on what benefits your customer will experience when they use your products.
Product features are important and should be mentioned, but make sure to point out the ‘why.’
Why should your potential customer care about your single blade razor with tug free shaves? Because it “prevents razor bumps and irritation, and helps men with coarse hair achieve an easy shave that leaves them with smooth, clear skin.” Bevel’s expert website copy takes you through the what, why, and how, in straight to the point, easy to understand brief lines of text.
On your individual product pages, break down its benefits and features with quick bullet points that speak in your audience’s language and touch on what they’re looking for. KK & Jay’s shirttail garter description tells us in 6 quick points a) that it’s the easiest and most comfortable solution for keeping shirts tucked in and looking crisp, b) that it’s designed for all day confidence and comfort, and c) its specifics such as color, width, and materials used.
Just that succinctly, KK & Jay touches on individuals’ needs for comfort, confidence, functionality, and style, while also giving their description the extra branded touch that conveys a sense of high quality (‘KK & Jay exclusive full grain leather stay tucked stabilizer,’ ‘Made in BK, NY, USA’).
If it’s an item that serves more of an aesthetic purpose than a distinctly functional purpose, such as fashion, accessories, or piece of art, for example, use descriptive words that explain what your product is all about. What is it made out of? What colors and materials are used? What are its dimensions? What’s it all about?
This is also a great opportunity for branding and reinforcing your company’s voice.
4. Testimonials and Product Reviews
In the digital world and online shopping space, social proof is key for gaining trust and a raving audience. Social proof is similar to word of mouth — people want to spend their money where they see that others have gotten great products/services that they love.
One important way to show social proof on your site is through testimonials and product reviews.
Displaying your honest feedback builds credibility and trust. It’s also a great way to discover your customer’s’ most important wants and needs in their own voice.
There are a couple of different ways to share reviews. A 5-star rating system that you can implement (such as the Yatpo plugin for WordPress users) or a testimonials page are great starting points. Send over a quick email to your customers a little while after they’ve received their product, express your appreciation for supporting your business, and ask if they’d mind sending a brief review of what they received (Did they like it? Would they recommend it to their friends? How was the buying experience and customer service?).
Love Cortnie encourages her customers to leave reviews for her Testimonials page by offering a discount on their next order.
5. Offer Free Shipping… (Maybe)
a. Experiment with free shipping and raised prices.
Buyers loooove seeing free shipping. But shipping costs can of course eat a lot of your sales revenue, depending on your prices and shipping costs. You want to make sure you’re gaining from this strategy and not losing money.
Try building shipping costs into the price of the product so that you can offer free shipping. Some sellers find that free shipping attracts more customers despite higher item prices. It’s all about experimentation and seeing what works for your store. If prices are competitive in your niche and higher product costs mean less sales, a free shipping strategy wouldn’t be your best bet. If not, consider the next option:
b. Offer a free shipping threshold
Offering free shipping thresholds, such as “free shipping on orders over $50/$75/$100” may work even better than completely free shipping. It incentivizes your customers to meet that specific price point, often resulting in a higher profit margin for you, the seller.
It’s important to set the right baseline price — if it’s too high, you may scare customers away, and if it’s too low, you won’t see enough of a profit. Choose a standard threshold point (not something that may throw customers off like $115 or $67) and make sure you display your offer significantly, so people see it bright and clear throughout your website as they are shopping.
6. Consolidated Product Categories & Functional Navigation Menus
Your store and navigational design is nearly just as important as the products you sell; it should be clear and intuitive for customers as they navigate through your online store. Customer attention span is short, and many will be browsing your store on the go, so it’s important to ensure that customers can easily understand and make their way through your site.
One way to make navigation simple is by keeping the number of product categories you offer limited to 5 or 6 max parent categories. If you offer many different types of items, create sub-categories under the main product categories.
Another strategy is to differentiate how different types of links are displayed, as suggested by Big Commerce. There are
- Product Categories – specific to the type of product in the title.
- Browsing Categories – more general, referring to a broad range of products. For example, “New Arrivals,” “Clearance” and “Shop by Brand”
List these link groups in separate places or slightly differentiated on your site. You can place them in different areas to automatically create a visual distinction (one set on the top, one set on the bottom of your site for example), or use a subtle delineation such as a color change or font treatment.
7. Regularly Updated Content
If your store has only your products and no additional content, you’re missing out massively on gaining viewers, subscribers, customers, and higher sales.
Content creation helps your site rank better in search engines (high SEO factor), establishes your company as an authority in your niche, helps you develop your story as a growing brand, and serves as a marketing platform for your products.
Yes, you absolutely need to be creating content for your store.
The most popular and recommended form of content creation is to have a consistently updated and relevant blog. Start with written blog posts and expand with videos (Youtube, Vimeo), guides, social media contests, etc. as you grow.
High quality content results in sales. Write the best articles. WRITE EPIC SHIT.
Don’t be nervous to publish even if writing/content creation isn’t your strong suit. Start with the basics — get going! You don’t need to be a fancy writer to create great content that boosts your online sales, as long as it offers value. Believe me, something is better than nothing. You can and will improve with time. Or, you can outsource the blogging by finding freelancers/partners to write high-quality articles in your brand’s voice that adds outstanding value for your audience.
Here are 5 content ideas to get you rolling:
- “3 ways to personalize (one of your products)”
- How to use the product, how it’s made, where it comes from, how to stylize it
- Behind the scenes of your brand and the people who are part of it
- A collaboration with an influencer — show them using your product and what they think of it
- News and opinions relating to your audience’s interests and your industry
8. Email Sign up form on the homepage.
A healthy email list is one of, if not the most, important asset you can have as an online store. You need to be collecting those emails! You’re collecting them as you make sales, however, you also want to capture the emails of those who are interested in your products but just haven’t purchased yet (your emails should turn them into buyers, though!)
Make a compelling offer for people to sign up for your VIP list, such as 20% off their first order and exclusive deals for members only, and make sure your sign up button is obvious.
When people love the products and information you offer, they’ll be happy to receive email from you that lets them know about new products, promotions, and news about your store. Make sure not to spam your list — 2 emails/month is a safe number.
MailChimp and MailMunch are popular resources for managing your email lists and sending out messages.