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February 11, 2013

Designing Successful E-commerce Websites

As more consumers turn away from traditional brick-and-mortar retail establishments in favor of shopping online, companies are discovering just how lucrative a professionally-designed e-commerce website can be.

The virtual marketplace may exist only in the immaterial dimension of cyberspace, but any successful e-commerce entrepreneur can tell you the money made through Internet sales is very, very real. In fact, e-commerce transactions offer numerous advantages over those conducted face-to-face. An online retail presence helps commercial website owners to:

  • Attract new customers: When coupled with a well-designed website, an effective Internet marketing campaign can increase search engine visibility to drive consumers to your proverbial door. Better yet, companies can reach these potential customers at the very moment they are most interested in their particular goods and services.
  • Lower costs: Because it requires no physical location, e-commerce technology allows business owners to save considerable funds that would otherwise be dedicated to renting or purchasing commercial real estate. A retail website can also lead to significant reductions in personnel, advertising and marketing costs.
  • Overcome geographical limitations: Say goodbye to the restrictions of the local corner shop. Through e-commerce, the whole world can be your showroom. Recent advances in e-commerce for mobile devices (otherwise known as m-commerce) are rapidly making this global outreach even more comprehensive.

Of course, a business cannot take advantage of the many benefits of e-commerce without first securing an effective and appealing retail website. A quick Google search is enough to determine that some online sales outlets simply fail to make the grade. They suffer from technical difficulties that make them difficult to load; others employ annoying audio or Flash animation elements that cannot be turned off. Some are far too basic and utilitarian, while others are so overdone they look more like an avant-garde online gallery than a trustworthy sales site. Although many different elements go into developing a successful retail website, the following factors have been proven to drastically increase online traffic and overall sales:

  • Ease of use: Don’t give customers a reason to leave your site moments after they arrive. Make sure the site is user-friendly, including using a legible font and navigable menu. What looks artistic and aesthetically pleasing might not work for every customer.
  • Search clarity: It may sound simple, but the search bar should be extremely easy to find. Don’t confuse your customers with other dialogue boxes, such as those used to sign up for your e-newsletter. Make effective use of key search prompts.
  • Imagery: Never underestimate the power of clear product images and/or videos. Seeing your product in action can drive sales in a way a static picture won’t.
  • Product availability: Always inform customers if an item is or isn’t in stock. Offering to place an item on backorder and ship it when it’s available can help you retain sales.
  • The add-to-cart button: Strive for visibility without being tacky. Allow customers to easily resume shopping once they’ve added an item and cut down on the chance of a customer abandoning before completing their purchase.
  • An effective checkout page: Use a single-page checkout format that doesn’t distract the customer before the sale is complete.

A professionally designed e-commerce website can spell success for your company. Work with industry experts who understand the elements a good site should include and leave yourself free to promote your products and develop your customer base.

Lindsey Harper Mac is a professional writer living in the Indianapolis area. She specializes in writing guest posts on social media and business, specifically about professionally designed e-commerce websites in this article. Currently, Lindsey is completing work on her master’s degree.