Create A Successful Online Store With These 10 Killer Tips
In this guide, we will discover 10 tips you should include when looking to build a successful online store. They are in no particular order but all are key to building trust in your customers and allowing you to drive sales!
If you’re considering building a new ecommerce store then you have a question to ask yourself prior to starting.
“Do I actually need an online store, or could I sell through platforms that have already been developed such as eBay or Amazon?”.
For many small start-up businesses, these can offer a great way to get online and selling, to begin with. They allow you to list your products and sell them relatively cheaply.
There are some downsides to this, however.
Without your own website, it’s very difficult to build your brand and customer loyalty
Also, many customers feel that companies that don’t have their own websites aren’t legitimate.
Plus, YOU’RE selling on THEIR platform and as such don’t have much control on how to engage with your potential customers other than listing your products. You’re restricted on many fronts, here are some factors that you will have no control of:
- Unable to really use your own brand except for adding a logo
- Inability to optimise your page for SEO
- Not being able to influence buyer journey
- Unable to collect email addresses for mailers using sign up forms
- Design of the platform
- Your product listings will be right next to other similar listings, meaning you’ll have a lot of competition
- Not being able to continually improve the site and including elements such as live chat, abandoned cart emails
- As you’re using a third-party platform you have to work within their terms and conditions
As you can see there are some drawbacks, however, it could be a great starting point, to begin with, if you don’t have the budget to build your own. Although the cost of building your own website may not be as much as you think.
The other option is to build your own website, whether that is done by yourself or by selecting a credible web design company.
In this guide, we will talk you through 10 tips that you can use to attract buyers and retain loyal customers. These strategies will show how to improve buyer experience and increase sales.
By following these tips you can target customers, make your website stand out from the competition and build a successful online store.
Let’s get started!
Incredible web design
It doesn’t matter what you sell and who you intend to sell it to. If your website is a mess and looks unprofessional, it will instantly turn off a buyer.
You could have the most amazing products in the world, but if your site looks bad, you will lose most of your potential customers the second they land on your site. Design plays a major part in the conversion rate of your website.
In a recent study by psychologist and researcher Dr Elizabeth Sillence (Northumbria University), it was found that 94% of people decided that poor website design was the main reason that they left a site. It’s not hard to improve the design of your website.
A successful online store should opt to captivate visitors, using high-quality images and minimal text.
People don’t have hours to spend looking around an online shop and certainly won’t want to spend more time reading pages and pages of text.
Keep your website design clean, professional and uncluttered.
A great example would be Nike (below), you will see that their homepage is exceptionally clean with a strong timely message.
Ensure your store works perfectly on mobile devices
People shopping online via mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets is massive.
In fact, in 2020, 43% of all UK online sales happened on mobile devices with an annual value of £29.98bn.
Many retail experts have also cited that the global lockdown to the pandemic has increased the desire to shop online as opposed to visiting a physical store.
Many have said that the pandemic has ushered in the decline of the high street ten years ahead of where it would naturally be.
Online shopping on mobile devices isn’t the future, it’s here now, expect it to grow year on year.
That being said, you can see why having a mobile responsive website that works perfectly on small device screens is imperative.
Without it year after year you will see a decline in sales.
Here are some more stats that illustrate just how important mobile devices are in online shopping:
- 54% of all ecommerce sales online will be made via mobile device
- By the end of 2021 the global projected sales forecasts on mobile device shopping are projected to be £2.52 trillion
- Nearly 80% of people that have smartphones have purchased online via their smartphone
- One-third of all shopping made in the UK was via mobile device in 2020
- 82 billion hours were spent in shopping apps 2020
A good tip is to jump on your mobile phone and see how it looks and works. If you struggle then your potential customers will too.
Iconic Bride does this below to great effect, clearing showing their amazing dresses exceptionally well on a mobile device
Offer deals and incentives
If your goal is to run a successful online store and that should to the plan, then you need to offer deals and incentives on regular basis.
By offering your customers something extra that is too good to miss then you will encourage more purchases and improve your sales.
Be careful, however, if you offer them all the time, your regular customers will expect them all the time and can become reluctant to buy anything without some form of offer.
This can be done in many forms including:
- Discount codes
- Items in a sales category
- Offering free shipping when you spend a minimum amount
- Offering a free product
- Running a loyalty bonus
- Buy one get one free
- Buy a product to enter a competition
The world really is your oyster here.
Offers can be structured exactly how you need them.
Whatever deals or incentives you offer one key element is to ensure that you market the hell of them.
If it’s a discount code then you should promote this on the store itself, on social media, by email campaign, etc.
It’s no good having an incentive if no one knows about it.
The below shows a great example from M&M Direct, their homepage makes use of lots of deals and offers to incentivise customers to make sales.
How many times have you been on a website and decided to buy something only to be surprised at the checkout that you must pay for shipping?
It can be quite a barrier to making a sale, that £20 item now being £25.95 with shipping costs added.
If you can try and include free shipping into your website and show that across your site. It’s a great way to encourage shoppers to buy.
Also don’t forget your meta titles and descriptions, so when people do searches online they can see you offer free shipping.
Having free shipping displayed before anyone gets into the site is a great incentive to encourage a click into your website.
Whilst many store owners will feel that free shipping will hurt their profit margins, in fact it can actually help.
- Shoppers that buy online prefer the cheapest shipping method nearly 66% of the time.
- Almost 60% of shoppers will abandon buying a product due to shipping costs.
- 90% of shoppers report that they are enticed to buy due to free shipping.
- If you offer a free shipping method once a sales threshold has been met, 58% will add additional products to their cart to qualify for free shipping.
More sales, more returning visitors and higher spending are what you are looking to achieve with a free shipping policy.
If offering free shipping store-wide isn’t right for you, you could offer an incentive such as spend £50 to receive free shipping. Many customers will look to spend that bit more to get free shipping.
So it can actually help you make higher transaction sales.
The below shows how Amazon makes a big deal that they offer free shipping, it’s a great selling point!
Buyers love product reviews
Product reviews are super important to any website selling online.
Buyers love to read product reviews; they help build trust in what you have to sell.
Ratings and reviews of your products offer the shopper the chance to read other peoples thoughts about the product.
Unless you have a bricks and mortar store that runs in conjunction with your website, your buyers don’t really have a chance to see what a product is really like in real life. This is where reviews come in.
Reviews and ratings of your products boost your trustworthiness immensely. Online shoppers can’t meet sellers in-person, so they rely on other buyers’ feedback to assess merchants. Ratings on product pages save consumers’ time by quickly showing what other customers think about the product.
Search Engine Land conducted some research on how reviews of products affect online sales, the results speak for themselves
- 9 out of 10 people read online reviews when looking for products and services
- 67% of consumers said they read up to 6 reviews
- 72% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a business more
- 88% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recomendations
So you can see how important reviews are.
How to use reviews
Reviews work well when you have lots on your site, the odd one here and there doesn’t have that much impact.
If people are happy with their purchase they don’t tend to leave reviews, as they are just that, happy.
Don’t be afraid to ask purchasers to leave reviews, actively encourage them. If you can offer incentives like a competition or loyalty points for a review, customers will be much more likely to leave a review.
Even better is to set up an automatic email a day or so after delivery of the product. Not only will you get more product reviews but it will also build brand awareness.
In the below example from Argos, they show their product reviews on their category pages even above the price. Naturally, your eyes see the price and what people think with their reviews. Wouldn’t you be more likely to buy something with a five-star review?
Offer legendary support
Regardless of what you sell, customers need to feel like they have support once they have bought from you.
They need to know that if they have any problems that you will be there to help.
You have a few options here, either offer online support through live chat services, offer a telephone number, or just a good old-fashioned contact form, allowing them to email you.
Depending on the size of your business and the resources you have available will determine which is best for you and your customers.
For example, if you’re a single person running the site then it may be difficult to answer the phone or live chat when you have orders to dispatch, sorting deliveries and keeping on top of paperwork, etc.
You may just be too busy, the worst thing you can do is not respond in an instant if that is the contact method you have chosen through live chat.
A contact form may be the best option for you, allowing you to get back to your customer in your own time, however, it must be shown that you will aim to respond within a set amount of time.
In an ideal world, you should try and use live chat on your online store.
Not only is it helpful for customers that have bought, but people that have a desire to buy from you or have a question can get in touch instantly.
This is especially important for potential customers as they are possibly ready to buy, waiting 4 hours to respond via email may mean they buy elsewhere.
AB Waste (below), illustrates this perfectly. Within their website, they have a live chat facility, a clear contact form on the navigation and also the ability to get a quick quote. This makes it incredibly easy for potential customers to get in contact if they need any help. This can be used on ecommerce websites as well as traditional brochure style websites.
Provide multiple and well-known payment options
Regardless of what you sell or the platform you use, having a way to receive a payment is vital.
It’s a good idea to offer a few well-known payment gateways (how to get paid) such as PayPal, Stripe, WorldPay plus a host of others.
Some people will feel more at ease using PayPal than WorldPay for instance, so having a few payment options will help.
There are many popular payment methods to consider using in your online shop.
Another thing to consider whilst we’re talking about payment methods is split payments.
In other words, offering your customers the chance to spread the cost of an item over a few weeks or months.
Allowing customers to pay in bite-sized chunks, will really improve online sales.
It makes that £100 jumper, much more attractive only being £12.50 per week over 8 weeks as an example.
Not only does it make it more affordable to some customers, but as they have the option to split the payment they tend to increase their order value.
The great benefit to you as a merchant is that you will get paid the entire amount straight away as you don’t offer the credit directly, it’s done through the gateway.
Also, you don’t carry the risk if a customer defaults or misses a payment, the payment provider takes this risk onboard.
Be mindful that many of these companies that offer your customers split payments may charge higher commissions to yourself or interest to the customer, which tends to be higher than just standard payment gateways.
Firebox homepage below shows that they offer LayBuy, allowing customers to speed paying for goods over six weeks, a great reason to buy.
Build trust by showcasing your brands
It may sound like a trivial point that you already know but building trust in customers is key to selling online.
Try and establish yourself as credible by showing off some of the brands that you work with.
They don’t need to be multinationals like LG or Sony, even showing that you stock products from lesser-known but quality companies will help build trust.
Also any kitemarks, member of or award logos that you have won will speak volumes.
As you can see from Next, they show that they also sell many other brands not just their own
Don’t keep SEO as an afterthought.
Your online store may be the best in the world but without traffic, it’s not really going to build your sales empire!
But what is one key way to generate that traffic? SEO (search engine optimisation), that’s right!
As a basic, ensure your products have great titles and descriptions as a minimum. If a search engine can’t understand what the product is, how can it match it to searches?
Here are some top things to consider when looking at product details to improve their SEO
Highlight key features:
Many customers don’t want to spend ages reading lots of text and want to see the key benefits straight away.
Try adding the best bits or most important features as bullets if you can, ideally in a section of their own that way.
That way quick browsing buyers can instantly see the benefits and attributes at a glance.
Clear concise wording in plain language:
Understanding your product and its intended audience is really important.
When you produce the description for your product, make sure that it is simple to understand and in easy-to-read English.
The audience is also critical. For example, if you sell organic fair-trade cotton clothing, you know your audience will be interested in the well-being of the people that produce it.
Tell your customers how the materials and manufacturing of the garment are ethical.
Be descriptive and informative:
When writing your description try and not use too many words like “best selling” or “top-ranking” for example as they offer no real value to a customer or search engine. The odd one or two is fine.
Instead, focus on the core benefits of the product which provide value.
As an example, let’s say that you sell hiking boots with an ‘Aqua-Shield’, although it kind of says what it is, it’s also open to interpretation.
You could try something like “Aqua-Shield technology makes our hiking boots super waterproof and will handle all weather conditions, keeping your feet dry and warm even in the most demanding weather conditions”.
It shows the benefit, and I guess walkers will want dry feet!
Write distinctive copy:
If you sell products that are the same as a multitude of other retailers, don’t copy their descriptions.
In SEO that is bad, search engine algorithms will pick up on this straight away as duplicate content.
It offers no uniqueness or benefit to a customer. It can hurt your ranking.
Instead, create your own unique wording.
Start the main features, add benefits to the purchaser, show practical example capabilities and usages of the product.
Always write for the buyer persona and not a search engine bot!
Strategically add keywords:
You’re probably aware now that search engines are clever. They will scan the wording on your product and decide on how meaningful it is to a customer.
Make sure that you add keywords that are only relevant.
Also if your description is only 150-200 words and you have 15 keywords within it, that will really hurt your ranking.
Search engines will pick up that you’re possibly trying to push your luck and trying to boost the rank by adding more words just to get to the top of SERPs (search engine results pages).
Here are some things to consider:
- First, write your description, then look to optimise it with keywords
- Don’t write the description for search engines, write it for the end-user
- Use LSI (latent semantic keywords) in your content
- In your headlines, subheadings and descriptions add in keywords, remember to use them sparingly
- Optimise images better ensuring that the image name includes keywords, also remember to including them in the image alt tags and image descriptions
Make sure descriptions are realistic:
When describing a product don’t over-exaggerate the details. Customers are savvy and will probably have researched the product elsewhere too, if you do, it can send warning bells.
Not only will you lose credibility but you also will be over-promising. If someone buys they will have expectations if they don’t meet you’ll end up with the product being returned and an unhappy customer.
This may not be about SEO too much but a good point to remember as we’re talking about products and descriptions.
Below is a great example from Smyths Toys, they have a wealth of information in their product description pulling out the main features and bbenefits
Use your blog to build SEO
We’ve covered many times how important a blog is on your website.
In essence, it’s a way to drive traffic to your online store and also engage with old and new customers.
The posts that you produce should contain keywords and keyword phrases that are relevant to your business.
Blog posts also have the additional benefit of allowing you to have content to share throughout social media again driving people to your shop.
Ensure that your blog’s focus and content aligns with your online shop and what your customers are looking for.
This is also true for any website, not just ecommerce.
As an example, let’s say that you sell organic farm boxes full of fresh fruit and veg on a monthly subscription.
A good idea could be to produce a blog that centres around 10 healthy recipes that have your organic box ingredients in.
Or you could post a blog about the top 5 juicers, again you know that your customers are interested as they are buying healthy foods.
Blog on a regular basis, blogging takes time to have an impact, but will be worth it in the long run.
OddBox has done just this, sharing an A-Z of how to live and eat sustainably. They sell fresh fruit and veg that are ‘wonky’ and things that you wouldn’t find in a supermarket as they aren’t aesthetically perfect. Thier blog talks about subject matter that their buyer persona would find interesting, not just about the goods they sell
Running a successful online store can be easy if you take the time to understand the buyer’s journey.
Think like a buyer, what would make you purchase an item online?
Having your own ecommerce website gives you the freedom and autonomy over what a buyer sees, how they can buy from you and every aspect of customer service.
Learn from what works for you and what needs improvement.
Try not to think that profits are at the centre of everything. Focus on the customer, what they want and need. Make them the most important aspect of your website.
By doing this the sales and profits will follow naturally.
Obviously, there is a lot more that needs to be taken into consideration when running a successful online store, the above guide is meant as a starting point.
By following the strategies outlined in this guide, you’ll be in a great place, look to continually improve it by learning more about your customers and what makes them tick.