An e-commerce website has a lot of moving parts, which means there are a lot of places where things can go wrong. With so many online retail portals out there, consumers can be very selective about the sites they choose for shopping. Simply having a functional site isn't enough. To stand out from the rest, website owners need to create an easy and pleasant shopping experience from start to finish. Here are three areas where simple adjustments and improvements can make a e-commerce site more effective.

Make Sign-In Easier

In order to get someone to finish the shopping process on a website, they must first start the process. Streamlining some of the entry barriers to shopping can greatly improve the conversion rate on a website. In the old days, before the internet, door-to-door salespeople often spoke of "getting your foot in the door". Streamlining the check-in process is the modern day equivalent. Making it easier for consumers to get in and start using a site will lead to more people staying long enough to finish shopping and checkout.

There are a several ways to make the sign-in process easier. One of the best options is to include social logins. Allowing users to sign in with their Google+, Facebook or Apple Pay makes it easier for consumers to login in and makes them feel more secure about site they are about to use. Sites that use social logins meet the requirements set by the payment provider for the use of their technology, so it gives consumers a minimum level of security peace of mind. Similarly, the consumer knows the their data will be handled in accordance to the rules of Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc. So social logins can make signing in easier and more secure for consumers.

Another way to make the sign in process easier is by using cookies in order to remember customers who've logged in recently and to show suggested items based on previous purchases. Besides making it easier for repeat users to quickly start shopping, using cookies appropriately can improve the shopping experience. One of the keys to Amazon's success has been its ability to skillfully recommend items to people.

Improve the Usefulness of Product Descriptions

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it's important to remember that words are still pretty important. When shopping online, there is only so much that can be determined from the image gallery. Customers depend on the descriptions to fill in the gaps and when descriptions fail to do that, people stop shopping. According to a survey of 1,500 consumers from Shotfarm, nine out of ten (90 percent) of consumers have at one time abandoned a cart with poor product descriptions. This is only behind price and delivery times as the most common reason for cart abandonment.

A poor product description can lead to dissatisfaction from the consumer when the item they receive doesn't meet expectations. According to the Shotfarm study, 40 percent of consumers have returned an online purchase specifically because of poor product content. One can assume that many of those consumers didn't go back to these sites since they couldn't trust the content in the descriptions.

Provide More Shipping Options

Back in the 1980s, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers may have anticipated the future frustrations of online shopper when they sang, "The waiting is the hardest part." How people get the goods they order online is almost as important as the price. As was discussed in a previous article, shipping options can be a deal breaking issue for online consumers. This can be frustrating for retailers who often see customers abandon carts when shipping times and costs weren't what they expected.

Good shipping goes beyond low cost or free shipping options. The importance of quality shipping options was demonstrated by a survey of 3,000 international consumers. According to the study by Metapack, half (51 percent) of the consumers surveyed failed to complete an online order due to poor delivery options. Similarly, 44 percent stopped shopping because the item would take too long to arrive and nearly a third (33 percent) did so when delivery could not be guaranteed by a certain date (30%).

The Metapack survey also has data on what consumers expect from retailers when displaying the shipping information. The researchers reported that the vast majority of consumers (83 percent) expect delivery options to be clearly displayed on a product page. This makes sense because shipping costs can greatly change the final total, and no one wants that surprise at the end of their shopping experience. Around four out of five consumers surveyed indicated they want fast delivery options (86 percent), expect a guaranteed delivery date (83 percent), as well as an expected delivery time (80%).

As you can see there are a lot of ways that a functional site can be improved to create a better shopping experience for consumers. Many people are already starting their holiday shopping, but there's still time for website owners to improve their sites before the holiday rush is over. For more ideas on how to improve your internet marketing, read this article with ideas on creating better holiday ads.

Published on: Nov 9, 2015