1. Create a user-friendly storefront. Customers should be able to effortlessly find the product or service they are looking for. Online merchants need to have an organized site with categories designed to make browsing the store's inventory easy. Your site should have a search function on each and every page so shoppers can simply search the site at any time to find what they are looking for.
2. Describe products and services with great attention to detail. Since shoppers can not physically see the items available for purchase, online merchants need to provide potential customers with high quality images that allow them to see the product at all angles. Give your customers the ability to zoom in on products or to rotate images to show the items in their heritage. Furthermore, the use of video is becoming increasingly popular to give customers visual information about products. Video also allows you to use audio to describe your products and / or services so shoppers do not have to spend as much time reading product details.
3. Make sure your site is secure and trustworthy. Without the proper security techniques, shoppers will not trust your site and will not feel safe buying from you. With the ever-increasing buzz regarding Internet security, identity theft and credit card fraud, making customers feel safe and comfortable with providing your store with their confidential and private information is of the utmost importance. Furthermore, you will need to ensure that your web host is compliant with the Payment Card Industry (PCI), that your shopping cart is compliant with the new Payment Application – Data Security Standard (PA-DSS) and that you have the proper SSL Certificates Installed. Shoppers will automatically look for the closed padlock in the address bar of their web browser before they input any payment information. SSL Certificates are the means to obtain the closed padlock feature. Another important feature that must be included on your site in order to create a sense of trust is to have "About Us" and "Contact Us" pages with a physical address and phone numbers to reach you. Online shoppers tend to not trust sites that do not provide details on how to get in touch with them via phone and email.
4. Provide customer testimonials and reviews of your products and services. The more positive things that people say about your store, products and other details regarding your business the better. Having a review system in place makes customers feel as though their opinion really matters. Asking clients to review you will make them want to return to your store in the future and will also help attract new customers. Shoppers tend to like the idea of a site being interactive, especially in the current web 2.0 landscape. Potential customers will obviously trust the unbiased perspectives and opinions of past customers more than what you have to say about your own business. You need to take what your customers say about your business seriously and use this information to improve your business. The opinions of your customer base will greatly help you in your marketing, sales and promotion strategies.
5. Ensure that your site is fast! One of the primary reasons people shop on the Internet is to save time. Your page load times are critical and you need to make sure that you are using a business web host that has fast servers and experience in the e-commerce industry. Make sure that the hosting plan you choose provides adequate bandwidth for the amount of traffic your site receives. Additionally, it is rumored that Google is now using site speed as a factor in determining ranking of websites on its results pages.
6. Complete proper, in-depth market research. Examine what your competition is doing as far as pricing, marketing and promotional strategies. Make sure you are providing your customers with competitive pricing by checking out the prices on the same or similar merchandise sold by other online sellers. You can also institute price matching plans guaranteeing that you will match the lowest price that a customer finds. Research will also help you find your target demographic and figure out what their buying habits are. Online shoppers will generally browse a few different sites before making a purchase to ensure they are getting the best deal. Remember that unlike traditional shopping, customers do not have to walk or drive to other stores – they simply need to click their mouse a few times. Your competition is purely a few mouse-clicks away!
7. Properly market and promote your products and store. Make sure you are reaching your target demographic by listing your site in related directories and advertising on sites that people looking for your products or services frequently visit. Utilize the free Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics to determine what keywords you should be targeting in your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) campaigns and to develop effective marketing plans. Launch Google Adwords, Pay Per Click (PPC) and affiliate marketing campaigns if relevant to your business. You will need to institute smart SEO strategies to get to the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for your targeted keywords including link building, directory marketing, social networking, article marketing, forum and blog posts and many other techniques. Furthermore, you need to properly use meta descriptions and tags to guarantee the correct indexing and ranking of your site in the search engines. There are an abundance of guides, websites and tutorials to further explain how to market an e-commerce site available for free on the net. Make sure to study these thoroughly and learn how to properly and effectively market your site.
8. Clear state your shipping and return policies. No one likes hidden fees so be upfront regarding your shipping terms and conditions. Offer shipping discounts for the purchase of multiple items as this will make customers feel inclined to purchase more because they feel as though they are getting a bargain. Whenever possible offer your shoppers free shipping. For example, if a customer spends over $ 100, make shipping free. Furthermore, be frank about who is paying for shipping when it comes to returns. Remember that you are not only trying to gain new customers but you also want customers to repeatedly come back to your store over and over again. With clear and upfront shipping and return policies, you are establishing a trusting relationship that is conducive to winning repeat customers.
9. Clear state which methods of payment you accept. Typically, e-commerce sites should be able to accept any credit cards (again, you will have to be PCI Compliant first). Other payment tools include PayPal, Amazon Payments and Google Checkout. The more options you can offer your customers, the more customers will flock to your store.
10. Provide shoppers with a special page devoted to discounted goods or services. Many customers will look for Clearance and Sale sections of stores in the same manner that people look for these things in brick and mortar businesses. Be sure to highlight these sections and items and make them noticeable. Again, shoppers, especially in today's economy, are searching high and low for any kind of discounts available.
Follow these steps and you will be well on your way to running a successful e-commerce website!