8 Common Ecommerce Website Sins (And How To Avoid Them)

Often when we meet ecommerce website owners, no matter what the size of their business, they are guilty of at least one of the following 8 ecommerce website sins.

When we start a project, addressing the things included on this list is often our highest priority because we know that addressing these things will give us an instant lift in conversion rates. It’s the proverbial low hanging fruit.

And let’s not pretend it’s just small businesses that make these mistakes. Some of the biggest businesses we’ve worked with have had to overcome these issues in order to grow. So let’s look at the most common ecommerce website mistakes and how to avoid them.


Ecommerce Website Sin 1: Inconsistent or low quality product images


Product images are one of the most important factors when a user is deciding whether to buy and studies have shown consistently that better product imagery can impact conversion rate.

Clearly, when we can’t touch and feel the product, we need great product images in order to connect with it emotionally and want it.

Ideally the images should all fall in line with your company’s brand and your overall website aesthetic but that can be hard if you sell lots of products made by other people.

To improve the amount you sell, ensure your photos:

– are lit evenly, with a plain background and a consistent style
– are high enough quality for users to be able to enlarge them to see product details like texture and stitching
– include some shots of the product being used so you can show the user how it works and give them more context.


Ecommerce Website Sin 2: Bad navigation


If a user can’t find a product, they can’t buy it. Everyone knows that don’t they. But many ecommerce websites still don’t give users the ability to filter products by key product attributes.

This forces the user to wade through pages of products which may be in the category they are interested in, but aren’t what they are looking for because they’re too expensive, the wrong size, the wrong colour, etc.

By giving the user categories and sub-categories to choose from we allow them to reduce their choice down to a manageable level. By also giving them filtration options when they get to the sub-category level, we allow them to drill down further and make their choice more quickly.


Ecommerce Website Sin 3: Lack of website value proposition


Value propositions for ecommerce websites are often overlooked in favour of the products they are trying to sell. The website does a great job of communicating the value proposition of the products they are trying to sell, but they forget to tell the user why they should buy the product from their website.

Unless you sell something no one else sells, if a user doesn’t like the look of your business when they arrive, they can go straight back to Google to search again. That means we have to set ourselves apart from everyone else that sells what we sell and a clear website value proposition is the way to do that.

So if you are specialists in the products you sell, communicate that quickly so people understand that they can trust you to sell them the right gear. If you give users additional value when they are selecting a product with video reviews or comparison tables, shout about it. Sell your website as well as your products.

Having a clear value proposition which is well communicated to the user as soon as they arrive will help people understand why they should buy from you.


Ecommerce Website Sin 4: Uncompetitive or complex delivery charges


Ecommerce Website Complex Shipping Fees

People don’t like to pay for delivery. Even if the product is cheaper than it would be if they went to a physical store, people are often really reluctant to pay for delivery and studies have shown that free shipping plays a massive part in the decision to purchase from a website.

If you are charging for delivery, you should definitely work out of there’s a way you can stop and measure what happens to your conversion rate when you do.

The obvious option is to increase your prices in order to cover the shipping costs. Clearly this isn’t always possible as you are no doubt competing on price as well as shipping fees.

Another approach is to try to upsell the user to a product which doesn’t cost a lot of money for you to make or sell but covers your shipping fees. For example, take this fictional example of SmithsonCameras.com.

They offer free next day delivery on all products. They do this buy upselling their customers with the following options which have no additional cost to them:

1. Camera insurance (they are an affiliate for ProtectYourBubble.com)
2. Exclusive access to a 5 part short video series they created (at very little initial cost) which teaches a specific aspect of photography and camera ownership (hosted on YouTube)

They get a percentage of the insurance value from their affiliate commission and they get at least 5 times the cost of delivery for their video series access.

If 25% of people go for one of these options, they more than cover their delivery costs for all customers.

So by thinking how they can offer free shipping, they have added value and given customers another reason to buy from them.


Ecommerce Website Sin 5: Fussy returns policies


No one likes returning products they have bought online. It often involves post office queues and hassle we can all live without. Add to that an argument with a customer services representative and you have yourself a big fat reason not to purchase an item you aren’t sure about. And let’s face it, if you haven’t ever seen the product you are buying in the flesh, it’s very common to feel uncertain about the purchase.

By offering a no quibbles returns policy and easy way for customers to send their purchase back, you alleviate some of the hassle and increase the chances someone will buy the item.
If you fast and free delivery to the mix, you have now removed a huge amount of the friction that exists when people buy online and started to make your website value proposition stronger than that of 80% of the websites out there.


Ecommerce Website Sin 6: Making people register before they can buy


Imagine the scenario, you’re about to make a purchase and the website asks you to register an account – what’s your immediate reaction? Mine is, ‘I can’t be bothered’ or ‘I’ll come back later’.

Studies have shown that users perceive creating an account as getting in the way of their transaction. All they really want to do at this point pay for their items and leave. In reality though, they’re giving you the same information, the only difference is what we call it (checking out rather than creating an account) and the fact that they can create a password in order to log in again at a later date.

By moving the ‘set password’ to the end of the checkout process, they are free to create an account if they want to but it doesn’t feel like it got in the way of their purchase and you still made the sale. This is ecommerce 101 but it’s a sin I still see being committed on so many websites.


Ecommerce Website Sin 7: Not communicating credibility effectively


Lack of a belief in either the website or the products on the website is always going to negatively impact conversion rate. If a customer can’t see your address and landline number, or they can’t see your returns policy, or if your product reviews are all short and extremely positive like ‘Great! I love this product.’ then users are going to start to suspect you aren’t a credible seller.

If you don’t have loads of reviews why not consider doing your own video reviews rather than relying on customers to review the product. An honest video review done by a member of your own team is always going to be more credible than lots of dodgy sounding user generated reviews.

Other ways you can increase your website’s perceived credibility are by featuring:

– trust symbols to indicate your website is secure
– your company’s address and phone number
– photos of your team and your office
– a web chat feature
– a well-written blog
– great design
– a fully functioning website on all the main browsers
– a mobile responsive design
– good quality product imagery

Lastly, if you want people to believe you are credible and trustworthy, you must make sure your website loads quickly and images are optimised for the web. Amazon found that every 100ms delay in loading time costs them 1% of sales.


Ecommerce Website Sin 8: Bad experience on mobile


Mobile responsive ecommerce website

According to MoPowered, 30% of mobile shoppers abandon transactions if the experience is not optimised for mobile. Imagine being able to lift your conversion rate by 30% with one action – you’d do it I’m sure. Ultimately, any website which isn’t mobile responsive in 2015 is just throwing money away.

In addition to buying online, people use their smart phones to perform research on products they plan to buy at a later date. Studies show that many people use their mobile device for activities related to shopping as well as actually making a purchase, such as researching of locating the product they plan to buy at a later date. So if we provide the user with a bad experience on mobile, there’s a good chance we’ll lose them on desktop as well.

When you come to design your website for mobile, all the usability best practice applies but in particular, make sure users can find products easily, checkout quickly and view product imagery clearly. These things are all central to a great experience on mobile.



Nina Mack

2nd June 2015

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