The UK is the world’s third-largest e-commerce market (SendCloud, 2020).
Over the past few months - in part due to a certain virus - e-commerce has seen significant growth. Indeed, online sales for August 2020 were on average 7% higher than August 2019 (E-Consultancy, 2020), whilst specific industries have done very well; FMCG saw record online sales in March 2020, whilst gaming, online tutoring, DIY, and gardening products have all blossomed too… Alan Titchmarsh would be delighted!
This article will look at how businesses can build a stronger e-commerce presence, with a specific focus on on-site tactics that companies can implement to entice and retain customers.
The world of business has had to adapt to changes in consumer behaviour. As parts of the UK move into varying levels of lockdown and, considering the ongoing uncertainty, e-commerce will play an important role for many businesses for the foreseeable and beyond.
Covid aside, customers’ behaviour and habits have been gradually transitioning to e-commerce for a long time thanks to tech advancement, a digital-native population, and the convenience it provides. In 2018, UK e-commerce sales amounted to £688.4 million, compared with £513.5 million in 2014 (Statista, 2019). This represents a whopping 34% increase in just four years.
Covid has only accelerated this, and even if a vaccine is available in 2021, the national psyche may have irrevocably changed thus influencing consumer behaviour and the way people shop in the long term. In fact, some customers have switched to a ‘digital-only’ approach, and whilst e-commerce as a percentage of retail sales may pull back a bit from current levels, some people may take quite a bit of coaxing to return to the high street.
To put it simply, building a high-quality e-commerce website should be one of your company’s top marketing priorities.
Outside of the obvious commercial and operational factors (stock, pricing, etc.), there are multiple website-related items that may influence a user’s decision to make a purchase on your site.
The design is important a) for usability, but b) because it reflects your brand and, by extension, the quality of the product or service that you’re selling. Put yourself in a user’s shoes (or perhaps more aptly, fingers!) If you are presented with a poorly designed site that gives the impression of ‘cheap’ and poorly thought out, your perception of the company and its product/service may match. It knocks your confidence and may result in a hasty ‘CTRL W’ (close tab). Therefore, a high-quality design with carefully considered UI is arguably one of the biggest factors that will improve conversion rates.
Ensure that your product/service listing pages are designed in a way that makes it super easy for customers to find what they’re looking for - filter and search functionality may come in handy here.
Product/service landing pages need to provide enough detail for customers to make a decision, without being overly complicated.
Another obvious yet often overlooked factor is the user journey i.e. how a user gets from A to B. The most important journey a user will make is buying a product. Think about the confusing nature of some websites that make you follow convoluted journeys to complete the most basic of tasks.
Further frustrations include lack of product information, ‘hidden’ costs that only become apparent at the basket stage, special offers that don’t activate at checkout, unresponsive and slow pages, and links that take you to either an unrelated page or round and round in a circle.
Make sure to iron out any unnecessary road blockers that may inadvertently lose customers.
The above is why we suggest completing a comprehensive UX audit on an annual basis.
We strongly recommend contracting a web development agency to complete a UX audit because they will have the specialist tools, resources, and skillsets necessary to complete it to a high level.
A well-conducted UX audit should include thorough end-to-end testing, user-scenario testing, and behavioural analyses (ideally using a ‘field research’ approach). It should also include all the testing listed below. This will provide evidence-backed insights to help improve your website and conversion rate.
Here at CSI Media, our UX team work with cutting-edge tools to analyse user behaviour. Together with our background in consumer psychology, this helps us to make insightful recommendations.
Contact us if you’d like help with conducting your UX audit.
Consider implementing standard e-commerce features include the ability to set up bundle pricing (bundle specific products together for a discount), promotions (for e.g., buy two, get one free), and discount codes. For example, depending on your margins, you could offer a 10% discount for all orders over £50, or you could offer free delivery for all new customers (free delivery is one of the biggest incentive for customers, particularly those aged 55+, according to a survey conducted by Bluecore and Dynata, 2020).
But the world of e-commerce is becoming even cleverer, with the growth of Big Data and AI.
According to a study conducted by Yieldify (2020), brand loyalty has fallen over the Covid period, potentially owing to product availability, and customers’ intent to seek out the best deals intensified by tightened household budgets. Therefore, retention strategies are more important than ever.
Your website can help to facilitate customer retention with website personalisation tech that incorporates AI predictive analytics. This uses historical data (products searched for, products viewed, products bought, cross-selling, etc.) to predict customer behaviour, and tailor the user experience accordingly.
Loyalty schemes can also help with customer retention, with repeat custom rewarded via points-based systems and tailored offers. There are psychological advantages to loyalty schemes too - being a ‘member’ makes customers feel special and closer to a brand, whilst rewarding customers with points is a form of operant conditioning.
Finally, whilst not exclusive to e-commerce websites, blog and news articles help to create an immersive and ‘connected’ online experience. So, whether it’s tips on how to make the most of a product, ideas for gifts, or more informational-based articles that aid in the decision-making process, we recommend investing the time to write and publish new blog and news articles. (Blogs are also great for a bit of onsite SEO, to help bolster organic rankings.)
Here at CSI Media, we work with some of the leading CMS platforms in the industry including Sitecore, Umbraco, Drupal, and Magento.
All four are advanced platforms suitable for busy transactional websites.
Magento and Sitecore are particularly well suited to e-commerce with an extensive feature-list packed full of advanced marketing and analytics’ tools. For bigger businesses that transact millions of pounds per year, the annual licensing fee for these platforms is well worth the investment.
Umbraco and Drupal also provide powerful e-commerce experiences, and both are open-source platforms too (i.e. no license)!
One feature that is consistent across all these CMS platforms is a ‘Page Builder’ tool which allows you - the Marketing Manager or Content Editor - to place branded content blocks in any order you wish. This is especially useful for services’ landing pages and blog/news articles! In essence, each of these CMS platforms gives you a high level of autonomy over your website.
Optimising your e-commerce website is likely to involve significant investment in time and money, and you will need an experienced web development agency to advise on and incorporate new and refreshed design and development elements.
However, combined with your marketing efforts, you should start to see results and a healthy ROI.
There has never been a more appropriate time to focus on optimising your e-commerce website, or even developing an entirely new one. Contact us today with your requirements, and we will let you know if we can help.