As a digital marketer, I audit ecommerce websites several times a week and I see the same things over and over again: shocking, blatant marketing mistakes that are somehow missed in the mad shuffle that is website design.
When working on a new website, it’s easy to get caught up in the aesthetic aspects of the design – and don’t get me wrong, design is wildly important for branding and building trust. However, you should be sure not to let your pride come before your profit. The purpose of an ecommerce website design is to make sales.
Below are six marketing considerations to keep in mind as you’re going through the process of designing for ecommerce.
1. Just about every ecommerce project that comes through our doors lists Apple as a website they’d like to emulate. It’s clean, minimalist – and lord knows their sales are going well. But we can’t all be Apple, as much as we’d like to be.
Frequently, we’ll see sites that have a beautiful luxurious look and feel, but are trying to sell products to a low-end market and are wondering why their website is not making sales. Or vice-versa – they’re hoping to sell luxury goods on a website that looks like a discount warehouse.
When visitors land on a website, they should immediately understand where they are. Is this a luxury product? A vintage retailer? Household goods? Similar to designing the interior of a brick and mortar shop, you should design your ecommerce website with your brand’s positioning front of mind.
2. Piggybacking on the previous example, a post on the BFM blog demonstrates what a difference high-quality product photography makes on the Apple site. Beautiful images can make or break an ecommerce website and they can also impact your ability to market the site on other channels.
Online marketing is in an era of visual sharing. Pinterest, an online inspiration board, is growing at a breakneck pace. Facebook, the granddaddy of social networks, gives higher preference to images in its news feed. What does all this mean? Having quality product photography will make your website infinitely more sharable on the social web.
3. Another common ecommerce web design issue is the lack of attention given to internal pages. Your homepage is not your whole website. In fact, as an online retailer you are hoping to get people off your homepage and into the conversion funnel as efficiently as possible.
There are two particular sets of internal pages to keep in mind – key category landing pages and the shopping cart.
- Category landing pages are where (if you have a good Search Engine Optimization team), you will be getting targeted keyword traffic and (if you have a good PPC Marketing team) your PPC campaigns will be driving traffic to. So it’s important that these pages function well as standalone entities. Some elements to consider when designing these pages are a descriptive headline, a rotating banner or featured products section, and some well-written content or messaging at the top of the page.
- The shopping cart is often seen as a purely transactional space and not given much design attention, but this is also where a lot of visitors abandon the conversion funnel. Usability design is extremely important here, but graphic design is important as well. One common and very detrimental mistake is sending users to third-party shopping carts. The cart should be hosted on your site, designed to match your branding and engineered to be as streamlined and user-friendly as possible.
4. This one should be quick. For heaven’s sake, put contact information on your site! Preferably a phone number and Contact Us link in the upper right hand corner. This is where people know to look for it. Creativity will do you no good here – just make it quick and easy for people to find and contact you.
5. One issue a lot of established brands run into when they’re building an ecommerce website for the first time is that they serve an older demographic that’s afraid to make online payments. This is where trust symbols come in. Every ecommerce web design should include trust symbols.
On the homepage, trust symbols might be awards, client logos, industry memberships, etc. When you get into the shopping cart, VeriSign, MacAfee and Better Business Bureau badges can boost faith in the security of your checkout process. Paired with strategic messaging about respecting the privacy of the shopper, these small design elements can have a huge impact.
6. Perhaps the most important, but most commonly overlooked design elements on an ecommerce site are the calls-to-action. These little buttons and links are what ultimately drive visitors to take an action on your site. The messaging is extremely important, but there are also some design considerations that may affect the clickthrough rate.
- First, they should always look clickable. If it’s a button, it should have a little gradient and a little shadow so it actually resembles a physical button and makes you want to click it. If it’s a link, it should be underlined, which is the universal signal that the text leads somewhere.
- Second, they should be high-contrast, meaning your calls-to-action should stand out on the page from the rest of the content. Buttons should be in a contrasting color from the rest of the site to make them more impactful. Links should be larger and a different color than the rest of the text, to make it clear that they represent an action.
All of these suggestions are best practices, but the great thing about ecommerce web design is that everything can be measured. So don’t take my word for it – always be running A/B tests on every aspect of your site to ensure that it’s achieving the best possible conversion rate.
And let us know if you have some other interesting ecommerce web design tips. We'd love to hear them. Please leave a comment below or Tweet us at @BFMweb.