How To Avoid Bad Habits When Selling Online

eCommerce merchants still have a lot to learn from traditional retailers. It seems that well-known eCommerce sites get away with some usability issues simply because of poor planning.

eCommerce merchants still have a lot to learn from traditional retailers. It seems that well-known eCommerce sites get away with some usability issues simply because of poor planning.

That is changing though as online shoppers are becoming more and more prominent in their business. Web managers may think that because sales numbers are up they must be doing everything right. But, for many online stores - nothing is further from the truth.

Below is a listing of what is consider to be the worst practices of eCommerce sites these days.

Vague, Hard to Find Return Policies
Returning products to an online retailer is right up there with getting my teeth drilled. Don’t make the process worse by hiding your return policy deep within your site or requiring your customers to jump through hoops to complete the process. Rarely do brick and mortar stores make their return policy a selling point or competitive advantage. Wherever I can, I like to use the words “No-Hassle Return Policy” to reassure the customer that the process is quick and easy.

Poor SEO
Build it, and they will not come, unless your eCommerce site is on good terms with Google. Retailers tend to forget that search engines are the highways and byways of the internet. An eCommerce site which is not optimized for organic searches is equivalent to a brick and mortar store located underground. ShopFactory does more for you...

Poor Product Descriptions
Your product descriptions are the closest thing you have to an face to face salesperson. Make them work for you. Improving your product descriptions is one of the easiest yet most neglected ways to improve your online sales. If your product catalog is large enough to justify hiring a copywriter, then do it. If not, hire someone at low cost on the side to write your copy for you if you do not have time. Search out other selling tools to add value to your selling process, such as  Product Videos

Lack of Filtering & Sorting:
Imagine yourself walking into a used car lot. What do you ask the salesperson in order to narrow down your options? You’ll likely say something like “show me all the vehicles this color, with this amount of mileage, or this make and model.” The same principle should be applied to your product department pages. Don’t overwhelm your audience with too many options. Let them filter down by criteria such as colors, sizes, or brand. Also, let them sort the listings by price, new or used, popularity, etc.

Hard to Find Checkout Button
Imagine not being able to find the checkout lane at a grocery store. Many online stores assume shoppers know that the shopping cart is the first step of the checkout process. To prevent confusion of your customers, always have a clear “checkout” button visible on every page.

Poor Merchandising:

If you owned a brick and mortar store, I’m going to bet you would walk your aisles every day to ensure your products are merchandised properly. Yet I think website owners expect their online stores to run themselves, and rarely take time for this important audit. Once a day, try to shop your store as if you were going to buy something. I’ll bet you’ll find one or two things out of place.

Getting too Personal

Do you really need your customer’s date of birth to complete an order form? Even asking for information such as fax number may arouse suspicion in your customers. Ask yourself an important question for each form field you add, "Is this worth losing a sale over?" Some checkout forms do require basic information for processing payments - that’s a given. But, what other fields are you requiring that can be removed from your checkout?

No Calls to Action

Don’t just assume your visitors will click on your images or "Click Here" links. Make your call to action buttons big, bold, and unmistakably clear. Every page of the conversion funnel (landing page to department page to product page to checkout) should clearly define the next step in the process. In most cases, ShopFactory already does this for you.

No Error Reporting

From a technical point of view, it’s very simple to setup error notifications when certain unexpected events occur on your website. Montastic offers a completely free website monitoring service. In addition, ask your webmaster to set-up email alerts for every time a 500 (internal server) error or 404 (page not found) error occurs.

Inaccurate Cross Sells

Embarrassing cross-sells can sometimes lead to more than just more than just missed opportunities. If your system for suggesting add-ons, cross sells, or up-sells doesn’t work, you’re probably better off not using it.

"Requiring" Login to Order

Many e-tailers’ favorite usability mistake. Requiring registration is very obnoxious, especially when you have yet to establish any relationship with a new customer. You have no idea if they will ever purchase again from you.

In most cases, they will simply shop somewhere else. By providing both options of setting up an account or a standard checkout, you make a bold statement to your online shopper that you trust in their business. “Powered By Santu” express checkout helps you solve this problem. Allowing them to choose to sign-up before or after a quick sale still gets you the same information to market to them. But, with new checkout services, once they sign-up future ordering will be that much simpler for them. Ensure you market to them to sign-up and explain the advantage - but give a shopper the choice.

Not Showing Shipping Prices Upfront

I’ve abandoned dozens of online orders because of this. Sure, asking for the customers address may ensure a more accurate shipping cost for you, but its not worth losing a customer over. In my opinion, the best practice is to simply base your shipping costs on the merchandise level. It might not be the most accurate way, but if you average it out, it helps close more sales and reduces cart abandonment

Unreachable Customer Service

Online retailers are typically not famous for their customer service. Phone numbers and customer service email address or contact form links should be listed prominently on every page. Responses to customer requests should be prompt and courteous.

Always evaluate your customers feedback and respond to them if you have direct contact with them. Even during the sales process on a telephone call, the information they provide about your website can help you make advancements. When a customer calls, picking up the call is an assurance to them that you’re in business for them. They will more than likely be willing to provide constructive feedback when you ask them for it.