100 Tips for ECommerce

1. Never leave unanswered emails for more than 48 hours. Better to answer emails in 8 hours.

2. Let the customer see the shipping charge without registering! Preferably on the basket or an easy-to-find ‘shipping charges’ page.

3. Make sure your forms use common names for fields so that they’re recognized by toolbars that have an Auto-fill function.

4. Sites (mainly US!) that have address or phone fields that assume only a US citizen is going to purchase e.g. State fields that only allow a few characters entry. If you’re happy taking money from non-US purchasers, you must go to a tiny bit of effort to accept their address and telephone numbers painlessly. If you’ve got a country drop-down box, please list it in alphabetical order, and don’t put United States at the top.

5. Don’t use standard drop down country forms containing places like North Korea or Bouvet Island (an inhabited speck in the South Atlantic.) and also don’t list known scam destinations as a ship-to.

6. Don’t only accept payment through PayPal. Many people had bad experiences with PayPal and prefer to use alternative, use simpler payment methods.

7. If you only ship to USA or to a limited number of countries say that right off and several times.

8. Make your site incredibly easy to buy from – no registration if possible, live chat, toll free numbers and make it friendly and easy to buy from. One or two click checkout can increase sales conversions.

9. Provide a picture of your office and add it to contact page along with company FAX number on it. Make sure that it is really a picture of YOUR offices, Google maps make finding frauds very easy.

10. Try to put the contact number on every page, knowing how to get in contact with you will help to instill confidence.

11. Provide mission Statements, but keep them off the front page. Link to it from your about-us page.

12. Provide content without spelling mistakes. Have your employees proof read pages, or have a contest to find spelling errors. Give customers a small discount for proof reading, you would be amazed how easily this work.

13. Don’t bury products in several pages of click throughs, implement a good search mechanism, so that user can get to what they seek in just two clicks, three maximum. Ensure that there are redundant methods of getting around and no point on your site is more than two clicks away from anywhere.

14. Keep your initial product pages light and clean, with links to product details.

15. Build your site for the end user, not for the search engines. End users buy from you search engines help them find you. Which would you prefer, easy to find or easy to buy from.

16. Provide the user a sense of who you are. The web is a cold, anonymous place. Anything you can do to bring a sense of personality and assurance to your website will help. Create confidence that you exist and that you care about your business

17. Provide a site search, and make sure it works better than expected. It should search more than product names. Make sure it can find products by SKU, Model Number, and even misspellings if possible.

18. Make sure your site search can also search by size and color, if customer is considering a green skirt or blue towels, make it easy to find other items that would match.

19. Ensure that links are provided to your privacy, shipping, returns & exchange policies where the customer can easily find them

20. Order Status – Keep the customer informed about the status of the order before they ask.

21. Navigation – Use the same visual theme for every action required of the customer

22. Remove all non essential navigation elements from the checkout process. Have a single page checkout if possible

23. Provide product options clear and comprehensive. Answer every possible question on the product detail page

24. Provide specific information about the seller in “About Us” section and avoid canned verbiage.

25. Bragging about your self is fine. If you have something to brag about. But better to not mention things like “Since 2005” or “here’s a picture of our new puppy.”

26. If you’re new to ecommerce never mention that. Invitation to scammers to hit you

27. If the item is out of stock, mention that when the customer is looking at the product, not after checkout.

28.Add your 800# to every step of the checkout process with something to the tune of “questions or problems completing your order, call 800#)

29. Allow the most web un-savvy person to test your site.

30. Customize product descriptions. Avoid text provided by suppliers which everyone else uses, this leads to duplicate content and just makes your site one of the crowd. Stand out a little.

31. Listen to customers, invite their comments and criticism and act on what you learn.

32. Give street address but never give details like “we’re in Puppyland Center, between Tony’s Pizza and the Shoe repair shop.”

33. Show good sharp graphics. Learn to use basic photo editing software. Or hire a freelancer to help you, in this world image can separate a viewer from a buyer.

34. Make everything fast and simple. Do you really need a wish list or tell-a-friend or even customer registration? If you don’t need it or don’t use it remove the clutter

35. Calling your customer to thank them and confirm their order instills immediate trust and lets them know that you are there to help them.

36. Make entering credit card numbers easy.

  • When the customer is looking at their card and alternately typing on their keyboard, they don’t like to look up and realize that they have only entered the first four numbers in field one.
  • Customers haven’t got time to read explanations about how you would like them to format the date. Make it easy and obvious.
  • If the customer has entered some incorrect information, please let them know this without them having to type in all their details again.

37. Install a really good stats system to track where your visitors bailed out of the purchasing process. Google Analytics is free and give you goal tracking, use it to understand why the cart was abandoned.

38. Pay good money for a proper interactive graphic designer (not a coder, web ‘developer’, or print designer doing a bit of moonlighting). If your web site looks professional, people will trust it and buy stuff.

39. Accessibility and usability ensure that those 5% of ‘non-standard’ user groups to add up.

  • They may only be 5% of your customer base, but Mac users also have spending power. Often proportionately more than your Windows customers. So it may be worth having your site tested with this in mind.
  • Another 5-10% may be blind or partially sited. Having an accessible web site and checkout process is good for business.

40. Have a “best sellers” or “most popular” listing

41. If your site ranks best in your niche, and if you sell something that is sold on many other websites (something drop shipped for you, for example), very slightly change the name — Tarenta to Tarento, Classica to Classico, for example. This helps deter people price shopping for the ‘product name’ elsewhere and in the shopping engines.

42. List your prices for every item clearly and upfront. There’s no space for a ‘price on application’ model online, none at all.

43. When using thumbnails to link to larger images give your customers larger images. If the product you are going to ship may not match the picture excatly, let your customers know.

44. Pick the right product to sell. Something people actually want to buy. Preferably something lots of people want to buy.

45. If your target audience is concentrated in one country, host your website on a server and ip located in that country. It not only helps to load it fast for most of your audience, it also enhances Google rankings in that country specific Google, and prevents your site from being filtered out when people use the search filter for sites only from that country.

46. Promotional Offers are very important. They need to be planned for first timers, repeat buyers and special offers for top customers.

47. Referral Programs – Refer 2 friends and get x% additional/ discount always helps. But you need to keep track of this and have the information always availible. There is nothing worse than a referral that gets lost in the clutter.

48. Keep the 4 P’s above the fold on a product page. Product name, Price and Purchase link should all be visible without having to scroll. The forth P is placement, keep it above the fold.

49. Drop the “Create account” language. People don’t come to our sites to create accounts, they come there to buy things. Try to make the account creation process appear like the normal checkout process. If they enter an email that is already in the system, then ask them to request their password to login

50. Know your visitors – if significantly more people are first-time-buyers, don’t hit them with a login screen with a small link to register to the site reverse the process.

51. Keep your cart on your domain if for nothing else, it keeps your reporting homogenous

52. Don’t use the “simple” methods of gateway processing where the visitor is redirected to the gateway site. It seems that on almost every implementation of these setups the webmaster fails to bring the most current site layout over to the gateway site and the visitor gets a whole new layout for credit card entry..

53. Never tell the visitor to “Hit your ‘back’ button to correct”. Any issues should be able to be handled within the system. If not, update your e-commerce software.

54. Have a “Help” link very prominently displayed so they have somewhere to go if there is an issue. And make sure you follow rule number 1 and number 10.

55. Don’t create a domain name that is a typo of another company just to steal their traffic or reputation. Build your own business that people will choose to buy from.

56. Get the credit card number first, ask questions later!. It is better to deny a suspected fraudulent order in post processing, rather than have the computer automatically deny honest customers due to AVS or CVV issues.

57. If you show a picture of the product and next to it a link that says ‘enlarge’ actually ENLARGE the photo rather than have it open in a new window exactly the same size as on the main page.

58. Ship fast. Preferably the same day and you are sure to get mails for appreciation.

59. Have points of re-assurance near the buy/add to cart button (BBB, bizrate, other ratings

60. Use a proper SSL certificate. Security and peace of mind are paramount to the shopping experience.

61. If you are using paid advertising, don’t send them to your home page; send them to the relevant product page (or custom landing page) that is tied to the keyword you advertised

62. If you are selling software, allow immediate access to the full version and allow unlimited upgrades.

63. Have a list of “recommended products” and “other customers also bought” with each item. This can be simply done in your database where you just connect products together and base it on what customers have actually bought.

64. Have a newsletter sign up and send out newsletters

65. Don’t make the customer fill in the CC billing & shipping address fields when they’re the same.

66. If the product ships via a carrier, send an email to the customer with the tracking number with a link to the carrier to check status.

67. Vat number & Company Registration Number should be visible on the site in the UK to comply with UK Companies Act (updated Jan 2007).

68. Use an XML Sitemap generator to create a sitemap to get a “big picture” of your site. Submit it to Google and use it to find dead pages and bad links.

69. On category pages don’t just list product names, but include some unique content about the category for indexing.

70. Use a product rating feed or create your own system (if you have a sizable user base). A place for user-generated comments can be great, but it can also be a hassle (monitoring, lots of fake entries, etc).

71. If you sell the same object in different colors, offer them pictures of each color. Telling a customer that you “also do this in blue” isn’t all that helpful because there are about fifty billion shades of blue.

72. Use a larger font (14+) for titles and product names to make them stand out and possibly increase conversions.

73. Stay away from dynamic URLs when possible.

74. Sign up for Hackersafe, VeriSign and your related trade associations and display their logos to improve credibility.

75. Have a person to answer the phone, not a recording. If people wanted to deal with automation, they would be shopping on your website right now. People enjoy computers when there are no problems, but when they get stuck, give them a friendly person to deal with.

76. If you cannot exceed the expectations created by your site. Rewrite your copy.

77. Under promise and over-deliver. – Amazon does this a lot with free or discounted shipping offers. Once an order is placed it provides the shipping date to the customer. And delivers the product before the given date thus adding value to the customers.

78. Know when a customer needs to be given to your competition

79. Consistency. Everyone has a different flavor, color, even brand. Key is to be consistent have one text size and color for descriptions, one for links, one for category headers, perhaps another for main category links.

80. If you use sessions, store them in a database, don’t append them to the URL, as people like the look of clean URL’s and often snip them to mail to friends to refer them to a particular product to purchase.

81. On checkout gather a name and phone number as the first 2 fields, store them before proceeding and ring all the customers that drop out before completing the checkout. (This alone turned a $1M business into a $5M business)

82. Make the font on your product copy readable. 12pt at least. No funky fonts

83. Make sure your buy button pops off the page and is big enough to be seen and clicked on.

84. Make sure the title tag on each product page is unique and reflects what is on the page. (It never ceases to amaze me how many companies in this day and age still have just the company name in the title tag of product pages).

85. Superstition does not work well with Business. What you may feel is unlucky may be lucky for customers ranging from keeping price \tags, products, colors, day / time of shipping displayed..

86. Offer a strong guarantee. Don’t just say this widget is guaranteed x days. Try for something like this:

  • Try this widget risk-free for 30 days — if you don’t see an improvement in widget results — if this is not the best widget you have ever owned — return it to us for a full refund.

87. Sure, you’ll get a few returns, but it will be nothing compared to the increase in sales you will get from a strong guarantee.

88. Add “District of Columbia – DC” to the list of drop down states for USA based sales, you be surprised how many sites are missing it.

89. And don’t forget PR, GU, VI and all the other US commonwealth and protectorates, which the Postal Service can ship to, at cheap postal rates.

90. Don’t forget US Servicemen/women abroad. Include APO/FPO state codes. Add a 360 degree product view before the rest of the pack.

91. Play with the wording of your add-to-cart buttons. “Add to cart” is a nice non-threatening way to encourage adding items as some feel “order” or “buy” is too much of a commitment.

92. Be careful making a coupon field too prominent in checkout, especially in markets that are based on commodity goods such as electronics. Seeing the field may convince a shopper that was ready to purchase to exit and spend more time hunting for coupons. Consider re-labeling as promotion code or something less descriptive (unless you are linking to a promo page with coupon codes to encourage larger sales).

93. Referral data of orders for search engine keyword queries encoded in the url’s and optimization of these terms for organic search and considering them adding to your PPC campaigns.

94. Encourage impulse buys – for example, people don’t mind being asked “Do you want fries with that?

95. If you’re going to ask customers to sign up for your newsletter during checkout, do it after the payment is processed. Before the payment is taken, the customer is far more interested in ordering your product – but once you’ve taken their payment and they’re looking at your “Thank you for your order” screen it’s the ideal moment to get them to sign up.

96. Test. Everything. A lot.

97. Don’t assume the main goal of every commerce site is to make a profit. Publicly owned sites are often more concerned with selling stock and hitting wall street’s quarterly sales goals. That was true in the ’90s and somewhat true even now

98. Amid all the costly free shipping gimmicks, 365 day guarantees, free return pickups, insanely low prices…don’t forget to actually turn a profit. In this regard, understand that some of your competitors really will be idiots with zero understanding of retailing. Some still buy into the discredited ’90s notion that losing money for a few years will earn a lifetime of loyalty.

99. Add as many credibility seals as you can.

  • Privacy: TRUSTE Web Privacy Seal
  • Security: Veri Sign Secured Seal
  • Return Policy: Return Policy Agreement Seal
  • Reliability: BBB Online Reliability seal

100. Be honest about pricing. People want to know the total price before they start filling out a shopping cart order form. Most users will leave a site without completing their purchase if the site doesn’t show total cost – including shipping – before asking for personal information.

This consolidated list would not have been possible without Webmasterworld.com and their forum post at http://www.webmasterworld.com/ecommerce/3363305.htm