The eCommerce landscape is ever-changing, and website owners must keep adapting and evolving to stay competitive.
Product quality and delivering on your promises lie at the core of your online store’s success. However, you can quickly fall behind the competition if you rely solely on product demand and quality to sell for you.
This guide explores essential eCommerce platforms, tools, and techniques you can use to stand out from your competitors.
eCommerce Essentials 4 Tools and Techniques You Need to Succeed Online
Attracting and retaining customers on your eCommerce website is your primary challenge as an eCommerce entrepreneur. Let’s look at two key platforms that will help you in this endeavor by bringing convenience and ease of use to you and your customers.
An eCommerce platform is a collection of software plugins added to a website to increase its functionality. Shopping carts, inventory tracking, and order management are examples of added functionality that most platforms offer.
Not all businesses, especially new ones, have the resources to develop their eCommerce platform. Several platforms are available commercially, each catering to different needs and differing in their features.
Choosing the right eCommerce platform for your business is vital. Fortunately, most platforms offer free trials and money-back guarantees, so you can explore and experiment with several platforms before honing in on the one that works best for you.
Also known as payment gateways, payment platforms have transformed the eCommerce industry. They act as the middleman between the buyer and seller, offering a fast and secure platform to pay for goods. Some of the most popular include Stripe, Payline, and Amazon Pay.
Shoppers may hesitate to enter sensitive information such as credit card details and shipping addresses online, especially if your site is new. One way to build customer trust is to use payment platforms widely known to and trusted by your target demographic.
Payment platforms will likely factor into your eCommerce platform selection — some platforms have an integrated payment gateway, while others use an external payment platform or offer both options.
You may even choose to work with multiple payment platforms on your site. This will increase shopping convenience, as your customers can use whichever platform is most familiar and convenient for them.
Customer Support Platforms
High customer satisfaction is crucial for success. The importance of good customer service cannot be understated: 68% of online shoppers feel that a fast response is the most important customer service factor, and 29% of shoppers abandon their baskets when they encounter poor service.
Customer support platforms are software packages that offer tools such as live chat, call/video chat, and help desks to establish efficient communication channels between your customer service team and the customer.
Numerous customer support platforms are available commercially. These are the most popular platforms:
Blog/newsletter: Create a blog and newsletter for your website to keep your customers updated with the latest happenings and introduce new products and promotions. This is also a great chance to get some customer feedback and suggestions.
Social Media: In the digital era, having an active presence is necessary: 63% of customers expect customer support from brands via social media.
Create and maintain official accounts on leading social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to promote your site, answer customer queries, and address customer feedback.
A Trustmark is an electronic badge or logo issued by an organization to a website to indicate its trustworthiness. Trustmarks are paramount to increasing online trust and purchase intentions.
To gain customer confidence, your website should have the following essential Trustmark:
When information, such as credit card data, is entered into a website, the data needs to be transferred from your computer to the website’s server. Without adequate protection, this information can be stolen by hackers during transmission, even if both your computer and the server themselves are protected.
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates establish an encrypted connection between the user’s computer and the website. This protects any sensitive data from being accessed by an unauthorized third party.
Websites with SSL certification use the https protocol. This means that words such as “secure connection” appear in the browser’s address bar, assuring the user of data safety.
Even more importantly, “not secure” may appear if you do not use this protocol on pages handling sensitive information, such as payment pages. This might scare away potential customers.
Most domain providers also provide SSL certification at an additional cost. Contact your domain provider for more information.
An antivirus certificate will reassure your customers that your website is safe from malware and malicious links. Nearly 1 in 5 carts are abandoned by online shoppers due to a lack of trust in the website, so your website must be anti-malware certified.
Place your certificate in high-engagement areas, such as by the shopping cart or underneath order forms. You can also use a floating Trustmark to keep the certificate in view.
Payment Security Verification
Payment security verification provides advanced security for you and your customers when purchasing.
These verifications confirm the cardholder’s identity by asking for additional information when something is unfamiliar, such as making large purchases or using a new device. They also ease the mind of the customer by offering fraud protection.
The verification will depend on the card issuer (e.g., Visa, MasterCard) the customer uses and will be integrated into your payment platform.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB): Self-described as wanting to advance marketplace trust, a BBB trustmark will add another layer of ease to your customers’ minds.
TRUSTe: A TRUSTe privacy certification indicates to your customers that your data-handling procedures meet the strict requirements of privacy legislation and guidelines such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and OECD Privacy Guidelines.
An easily navigable, intuitively designed website will ensure you stand out from competitors, increasing customer satisfaction and retention rates.
First impressions count, and photographs are the first element a customer will likely notice on your website. By investing in professional photographs of your products, you can make your selection look appealing to customers.
Furthermore, your items will often appear alongside competitors in image search results, so making them stand out on crowded results pages is important by providing relevant yet attention-grabbing images.
Here are some things to consider when uploading product photographs:
- Size and file type matter: The larger the file size, the longer it will take to load. Online customers don’t like to wait, especially when moving on to the next search result is just a click away. Find the optimal balance between image resolution, file type (e.g., JPEG, PNG, GIF, TIFF), and speed by testing and optimizing the various elements on your web page.
- Optimize the description: You can apply search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to image descriptions, captions, and metadata to ensure your content appears when customers search for it online.
- Zoom: Customers will want a closer look at your products, so include a high-quality zoom option.
Optimized Product Descriptions
Your product description will compete for customer attention, so make it clear, informative, and relevant. One study found that 20% of purchase failures are due to unclear or missing product information.
Making your product description search engine-friendly will go a long way in ensuring customers land on your page.
- Tell a story: Describe your product in a way that’ll make your customers relate. Get them invested.
Remember to use words your customers likely use to search for the products. You can use marketing tools like Google Analytics and SEMRush to identify keywords and common search phrases and then make data-driven writing decisions.
- Bullet points: Online shoppers often rush, so put key features in a bullet point list. This information should be product-relevant. For example, a laptop listing should include the product’s specifications, like size, processor, and operating system.
Mobile-friendly Content and Interface
Mobile shopping is on the rise — mobile phone use now accounts for 52.2% of website traffic worldwide, and it will only rise further.
Your content must be mobile-friendly for your website to show up higher in online searches made on a mobile device. Here are some tools and techniques you can use to make sure your website serves mobile users as well as it does desktop users:
- Create a mobile version of your website: This may require running two websites simultaneously, but the benefits will likely outweigh the additional costs.
- Employ mobile plugins: Platforms such as WordPress and Shopify offer plugins to make your website mobile-friendly.
- Utilize mobile payment accelerators: Ensure that your website offers mobile-friendly payment options. Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Paypal are commonly used when making purchases via a mobile device.
Other Content Essentials
- Optimize your search function: Ensure your search function is intelligent and efficient by implementing tools such as predictive sorting and auto-complete.
- AI usage: Using AI to give customers a personalized experience will ensure they return to your site. One company reported a 15% increase in revenue after implementing AI.
Essential Legal Documents
Launching an eCommerce website is relatively straightforward, given the plethora of commercial platforms and tools available to help you get started with an eCommerce website. However, optimizing your eCommerce site with all the right platforms and tools won’t matter if you find yourself on the wrong side of the law.
That’s why it’s important to establish a compliant legal structure and to create legal policies before you start. Legal policy documents are essential for businesses — they offer you and your customers protection and peace of mind.
Let’s take a look at the most important legal policies for an eCommerce website:
- What information will be collected
- How it will be used
- With whom data may be shared or sold
- Server locations
- How the user can access their information
- Cookie Usage
- Contact information
Terms and Conditions
Terms and conditions — also called terms of service and use — outline the terms and rules of acceptable behavior for users accessing your website. These documents guide how you, as the site administrator, and the user should act.
Creating terms and conditions helps protect your website from lawsuits, consumer complaints, and acts of infringement on your rights as an eCommerce site owner. That’s why yours must include all of the necessary clauses in a way that is accessible and understandable for your users.
Your terms and conditions should include the following:
- Contact information
- Contribution clause
- Dispute resolution clause
- DMCA Notice
- Future changes clause
- Governing law
- Intellectual property disclosure
- Limitations clause
- Pricing disclosure
- Prohibited activity policy
Make sure your terms are clear and readable, emphasizing user understanding.
Return and Refund Policy
Return and refund policies outline how a customer can exchange or get a refund for previously purchased goods. Your eCommerce website likely needs this to prevent any disputes. Your policy should include the following:
- Time limit: Clearly state the maximum number of days a customer has to claim a refund/exchange.
- Refund procedure: State how the customer will be refunded, should they require it.
- Refund timeframe: Indicate how long the refund will take to complete.
- Shipping costs: Outline who pays for shipping.
A strategic way to create this policy is to start with a return policy template, then tailor it to your business.
Warranty Policy: A warranty is a form of insurance for purchased products. This policy should outline when this warranty applies and under what circumstances. It should outline details of default warranties and purchased warranties.
Keeping your eCommerce website ahead of the game is vital in today’s competitive market. Follow this guide to ensure your website has the necessary platforms to attract and host traffic, the essential trust marks to reassure your customers, optimized content to provide an efficient experience, and the essential legal documents to protect yourself and your users.
Felix is the managing editor at Termly, where he helps business owners generate privacy policies and other important legal documents, implement best business practices, and comply with transnational privacy laws. He specializes in writing and curating compliance guides and law overviews for eCommerce professionals.