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10 Tips to Help You Improve Your Online Store

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If you run an online store, then you know exactly how trying it can be:  from managing inventory and shipping products, to developing new promotions and paying taxes, having your very own internet shop can easily go from a dream to a nightmare.  Fortunately, there are a lot of steps you can take to improve various aspects of your online store, including its security, reputation, newsletter, SEO, sales, and more! I’ve provided 10 tips to help you make your ecommerce site even better!

1.  Make your checkout process as simple as possible.

Studies have shown that when a store uses a single-page checkout process instead of a multi-page checkout process, they have a higher conversion rate and a higher successful completion rate.  Basically, if your website has a complex and lengthy checkout process, then your customers will be less likely to actually purchase items from your store.  Depending on the type of products or services you sell or the software you use, it is not always possible to reduce your checkout process to one page.  If you can’t use a single-page checkout process, then just do your best to keep the number of pages to the absolute minimum.

2.  Know what your customers are saying about your company.

With the rise of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, unhappy customers have even more opportunities to express their displeasure with your online store.  There are tons of tools available to help you manage your company’s online reputation, but it’s not always easy to undo the damage of a scathing review.

As someone who works for an online company and frequently shops online, I have found that people are more likely to post negative comments about a company online when they feel like members of staff have not responded appropriately to their complaints.  When you’re dealing with an unhappy customer, be sure to hear them out and avoid getting defensive.  Often times, you’ll find the customer’s displeasure is the result of a misunderstanding, while other times they have a legitimate complaint.  Rather than viewing your customer’s complaint as criticism, think of it as feedback you can use to help your online store become even more successful.  If you address their issue to their satisfaction, you’ll end up with a happy customer, a better company, and a positive online reputation.

3.  Use your company newsletter to sell AND inform.

Studies have found that when a company sends out a newsletter containing a product promotion and educational content, they will see a higher increase in sales than when they send out a newsletter containing just a product promotion.  Depending on the type of products your online store specialises in, finding appropriate educational content can be difficult but it is certainly not impossible.  For example, if you sell specialty food items, then your customers would probably really appreciate recipes that incorporate the products you sell; if you sell books, then your clientele would probably enjoy reading interviews with the authors of some of the books you sell.  Just get creative, and it could pay off!

4.  Add live chat to your website.

According to a recent survey of internet shoppers, when customers are having difficulty purchasing an item online, they prefer asking for help via live chat instead of phone or email.  Offering live chat on your website can help you ensure your customers complete their purchases, and their are tons of affordable live chat applications available!

5  Offer free shipping.

The results of a recent survey found that approximately 90% of online consumers cite free shipping as a major incentive, and another survey found that 43% of shoppers abandoned their shopping carts due to high shipping charges.  In fact, free shipping is so important to online consumers, that, as a recent study found, online consumers would rather save $6.99 on free shipping than take advantage of a promotion that reduces the purchase price by $10.  So, instead of giving your customers vouchers for money off, offer them free shipping–most likely, it will cost you less, decrease shopping abandonment, and entice customers to shop at your online store.

6.  Use strong passwords.

If your online store has ever been hacked, then you know exactly how damaging it can be, especially if you store sensitive information, such as credit card numbers.  One way to protect your customers’ data and the reputation of your online business is to use strong passwords for every aspect of your ecommerce site.  After a recent security breach at Rock You, a hacker stole 32 million passwords and posted them online–if any of your passwords are on this list, then you need to change them immediately!

In order to create a strong password, follow the tips outlined in Imperva’s Consumer Password Worst Practices:  avoid dictionary words, slang words, names, or trivial passwords (i.e., consecutive numbers, adjacent keyboard keys, etc.), and make sure your password includes a mix of 4 different types of characters, including numbers, lower case letters, upper case letters, and special characters (i.e., $&*!@#).  Also, the longer your password, the better off you’ll be, but your password should be a minimum of 8 characters long.

7.  Always upgrade your ecommerce application to the latest version.

Whether you use Magento, osCommerce, Cubecart, or any other ecommerce script, make sure you are always using the most recent version.  Why?  Not only will you able to enjoy new features included in the latest version, but you will also be able to make your online store more secure.

When hackers begin exploiting vulnerabilities in a software application, developers respond by creating a new, more secure version.  If you continue to use the old version of the software application (i.e., you don’t upgrade to the latest version of Magento, Cubecart, osCommerce, etc.), then your online store will contain vulnerabilities known to hackers.  If your ecommerce site gets hacked, sensitive data can be compromised (i.e., credit card information, email adresses, etc.) and your website’s files can be seriously damaged.  So, save yourself a lot of time and trouble and upgrade your ecommerce script whenever a new version becomes available.

8.  Optimise your ecommerce website for search engines.

If you want your online store to be successful, then search engine optimisation (SEO) is key, especially if you have a small or nonexistent advertising budget.  One of the many ways you can make your ecommerce site more search engine friendly, is to make sure every single page (especially product pages) has a unique page description and a unique page title that includes your keywords.  Also, make sure all of the URLs on your website contain your chosen keywords and are not just a combination of a random category id and product id.

If your URLs look like this:

http://www.store.com/template.php?cat=4&prod_id=5678

then your site is not optimised for search engines.

If your URLs look like this:

http://www.store.com/wedding-gown/strapless-lace

then your site’s URLs are search engine friendly.

Depending on the ecommerce application you use to run your online store, tailoring your URLs can be challenging.  However, Magento’s URL Key and Meta Information make it easy for users to create search engine friendly URLs, unique page titles, and unique page descriptions during product creation.

9.  Use multiple product images.

Overall, shopping online is awesome, but one of the major drawbacks is that customers don’t get to view an item in person before they buy it.  Almost everyone has purchased a product online, only to be disappointed by its appearance once it arrives in the post.  If you want to avoid disappointing your customers and handling lots of returns and refunds, provide them with multiple images of your merchandise.  You can give your shoppers photographs of a product from various angles, such as front, back, arial, and detail.  In order to convey the scale of an item, you can include an image of a product in context for larger items (i.e., a child playing with a toy) or a reference measurement image for smaller items (i.e., a ring next to a ruler).

10.  Long email subject lines are better than short email subject lines.

An analysis of email subject lines found that emails with subject lines containing 50 characters or less were opened more often than emails with subject lines containing more than 70 characters.  However, when users received emails with shorter subject lines, they were less likely to actually click on any of the promotions or content within the message, whereas email subject lines with over 70 characters produced optimal click-to-open-rates.  So, if you actually want your readers to check out your content and special offers, instead of just opening the message, then you should consider sending emails with subject lines with more than 70 characters.

I hope you’ve found found these tips helpful!

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25 Comments

  1. On November 28, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    renting coches said:

    Thanks! I going to try to make a small e-commerce project in future. So I’ll keep your tips in mind )

  2. On December 15, 2010 at 9:20 am

    Business Catalyst said:

    useful tips! thanks for sharing.

  3. On October 25, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    Live chat suppor, customer service said:

    Thank you for the information provided. few of these tips will help me in growing my business. 🙂

  4. On October 13, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    liberar movil said:

    Thanks! I going to try to make a small e-commerce project in future. So I’ll keep your tips in mind )

  5. On October 5, 2010 at 10:54 am

    liberar iphone said:

    Well, I have some experience in Ecommerce but this article is great! Got some very useful tips from it. Keep it up!

  6. On October 4, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Dental jobs said:

    This is a real help, im currently trying to set up with little experiance

  7. On September 9, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    liberar iphone said:

    Great suggestions, these are really helpful.

  8. On June 30, 2010 at 11:48 am

    Online Personal Finance said:

    Great tips for improving online stores its really helpful thanks for sharing……

  9. On June 7, 2010 at 10:50 am

    jill said:

    great tips! thanks!

  10. On June 6, 2010 at 12:53 am

    Web Design Staffordshire said:

    Point one about the checkout process is partocularly true. However, I think for ease of use a couple of pages max is fine to split the information. I have also had great success adding a kind of checkout breadcrumb naviagtion, highlighting the step number you are currently on, graphically. The latter did improve conversions.

  11. On May 24, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Cash 1 Hour said:

    Great suggestions, these are really helpful. Certainly you must add live chat to your website. It assists your customers a lot. Also free shipping is another great way to attract your customers.

  12. On May 24, 2010 at 9:19 am

    Dental Jobs said:

    Excellent post. I think sometimes the designer makes the website knowning how complicated it can be and forgets the consumer side. Even though I am a keen web designer I have always built pages around how complicated they are to make and don’t always remember that its not the designer whose using it

  13. On May 19, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    Alex said:

    Hello,

    Although I have some years experience in setting up and running online shops. I still learning a lot from your article. Excellent article!

  14. On May 18, 2010 at 10:47 am

    UK Shopping Cart Software said:

    This is “the post” about online store improvements tips, really awesome!

    Simplifying as much as you can the checkout and shopping steps would definitely bring some improvements, for sales and for customer satisfaction.

  15. On May 13, 2010 at 9:10 am

    Chicago IL Chiropractic said:

    Live chat is really okay,I well preferred than email or phone you have to be always online to talk for future customer. And if we treat criticism no matter how bad it is as a feedback, we are always thinking on the positive side and that is the right attitude we should apply.

  16. On May 7, 2010 at 12:03 am

    Rich said:

    Avoid getting defensive — I couldn’t agree more, and would add “too casual”. I tend to be light and lean towards humor in my email correspondences with friends, but I’ve tried hard to keep it tight and businesslike when I’m dealing with customers of the one business I run where I actually sell items. Your friends may appreciate a light approach, but your customers? You never know.

    If you get an angry email, set it aside for a few minutes before responding. You’ll never regret it. 🙂

  17. On May 5, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Serge said:

    Thanks! I going to try to make a small e-commerce project in future. So I’ll keep your tips in mind )

  18. On April 26, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    webdesign drenthe said:

    Well, I have some experience in Ecommerce but this article is great! Got some very useful tips from it. Keep it up!

  19. On April 24, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    Frinley paul said:

    Thanks for submitting this article, it was very useful.thanks again!keep posting more.

  20. On April 24, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    How to conceive a girl said:

    As a customer, I can wholeheartedly agree with your first point: it’s very unnerving having to answer million questions for a simplest of purchase!
    Also, I do not understand when product pictures are so small I have to squint! Isn’t it a sole reason of having pictures on your e commerce site to *sell* a product!?
    Sorry for the rant:)

  21. On April 23, 2010 at 12:01 am

    Hacelo Facil said:

    Great tips and really useful!

  22. On April 22, 2010 at 9:07 am

    Michelle said:

    10 Brilliant points…I feel that it would be more good if you could elaborate point # 8 “Optimise your ecommerce website for search engines.” Because this is major part with which we can generate more slaes…Agreed?!?

    Once again thanks for the wonderful Post…

    Michelle

  23. On April 21, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Aluminum Fencing said:

    Ugh- number 1 is SO TRUE. I cannot tell you how many times I have wanted to purchase something online and then closed out of the browser entirely simply because it was too much of a pain to proceed. Great tips 🙂

  24. On April 21, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Matt said:

    Some very useful tips and hints, I will be implimenting these into my daily running of my online store. Many thanks for sharing the info with us.

  25. On April 21, 2010 at 12:49 am

    health FM said:

    Great post. i hope i can improve my business after using your tips. Thanks.