We've got news for you.

Register on BusinessLIVE at no cost to receive newsletters, read exclusive articles & more.
Register now
Picture: 123RF
Picture: 123RF

It’s never been easier to build an e-commerce website, thanks to the likes of Wix and Shopify. But there’s so much more to the e-commerce experience than having the means to facilitate a transaction. Like in a physical store, the exchange of money for goods is only a tiny part of the customer’s experience of your brand – and usually the most forgettable, unless something went horribly wrong (“What do you mean you only take cash?”). Use these brick-and-mortar principles to help your e-commerce website generate more sales.

1. Be accessible

A physical store located down a tiny alley in a dodgy part of the city where there’s hardly any parking is unlikely to attract much business. Similarly, your e-commerce website needs to be designed mobile-first.  It’s non-negotiable. While you’re at it, ditch the super-high-res pictures and promo videos in favour of a bandwidth-friendly site that loads fast and won’t chew your customers’ data before they’ve even made a purchase.

2. Have all the answers

You know when you’re in a shop and you want to find out something about an item (does it come in black? Do you have this in XL? Will this work with Apple? FYI, the answer to that last one is always no) but you couldn’t find a shop assistant even if you were to shoot up a flare? Well, your customers feel the same frustration when your e-commerce website doesn’t have detailed product information – and they can click “back” and hop onto a competitor’s website faster than it would take to walk out of a store. Anticipate their questions and provide the answers.

3. The transaction should be quick and easy

Just like that shopkeeper who only takes cash, any issue with the transaction on your e-commerce website provides a reason and an opportunity for a would-be customer to back out of buying. Make the transaction fast, make it frictionless, and make sure it feels legitimate. With an e-commerce website, cost of delivery and a smooth return service also play a big role in a customer’s decision to shop with you or not.

4. Give the customer some choice

An e-commerce website that gives your customer small choices, like pick-up or delivery, or selecting a preferred payment method, says you’re trying to make life easier for them. It’s one step closer to repeat business and referral. (Once again, a lesson the cash-only shopkeeper could learn!)

5. Personalise the experience

People love a “local”. That shop where you walk in, get greeted by name and are presented with new stock that the staff “just know you’ll love”. It makes you feel special and keeps you coming back. You can create the same experience on your e-commerce website – Popia compliant, of course – with little touches like taking the customer back to where they were last, rewarding repeat business and offering recommendations based on previous purchases or views.

It’s worth remembering that e-commerce is still just commerce, and online customers are still human beings. The shopfront may have changed, but best practice remains the same.

Germari Steenkamp is head of customer experience at VMLY&R.

Read more:




The big take-out:

Running a successful e-commerce website takes more than fancy tech – you need to think like a customer.


Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

Commenting is subject to our house rules.