When it comes to making money online, there’s no shortage of options. But if you want to build a sustainable, successful ecommerce business, there are certain best practices you need to follow.
In this complete guide to ecommerce best practices, we’ll cover everything from choosing the right platform to building a great product catalog to marketing your store effectively.
Why Ecommerce Best Practices Are So Important
Ecommerce has empowered the world for both sellers and buyers.
For merchants, the ability to sell from anywhere in the world to customers all over the planet is a game-changer. No longer do businesses need to rely on brick-and-mortar locations to reach their target audiences. And if they drop ship, they don’t even need to carry inventory.
What this means is that work-life balance becomes a real possibility for business owners. You can now run your ecommerce business from anywhere in the world, whether that’s a beach in Bali or a coffee shop in your hometown.
For buyers, ecommerce provides access to a much wider range of products and services than they would find in their local brick-and-mortar stores. They can shop around the world for the best deals and have items shipped directly to their doorsteps.
Ecommerce has provided opportunities for entrepreneurs that simply didn’t exist before, but it’s also a crowded marketplace. In order to succeed, you need to stand out from the competition and offer a superior customer experience.
This is where ecommerce best practices come in. By following industry-proven guidelines, you can give your store the best chance of success.
Let’s take Happy Trails, for example.
Happy Trails is a family-owned retailer for off-road motorcycles, dirtbikes, and off-roading gear and accessories.
The business’s ecommerce platform was struggling to convert visitors into customers, despite its website being the biggest source of revenue. Once they adopted some of the best practices we’ll be sharing in this guide, they were able to save over $90,000 in sales and increase their revenue by 30-35% year over year.
Furthermore, they managed to save more than 600 hours of development time per year by targeting specific customer issues on their site, which they were able to reinvest into other areas of their business.
Let’s take a look at how you can achieve similar results in your ecommerce business by following some essential best practices.
Quick Tips to Improve Your Ecommerce Store Today
While there are lots of things that can improve your ecommerce store’s online presence over time, there are also some quick and easy changes you can make today that will have an immediate impact.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Tip 1: Fix Your On-Page SEO
One of the most important factors in determining your ecommerce store’s visibility is on-page SEO. This refers to the practice of optimizing individual web pages in order to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).
There are a number of factors that contribute to on-page SEO, including title tags, meta descriptions, header tags, and keyword density.
Here are a few things you can do to optimize your pages:
- Include relevant keywords in your title tags and meta descriptions
- Use keyword-rich headlines and subheadings
- Optimize your product pages for conversions
- Make sure your images have alt text
- Fix content that has too many or too few keywords
- Improve your page’s loading speed
- Audit your site for any 3XX, 4XX, or 5XX status codes
Most of these things can be fixed in a few hours with free tools and a little bit of knowledge about the front end and back end of your website.
If you aren’t sure how to pinpoint these optimization opportunities on your own site, consider using an SEO analysis tool. This will help you quickly identify areas where you can make improvements.
There are several free options, such as Screaming Frog SEO Spider, which allows you to crawl up to 500 pages on your site for free. Once you’ve identified areas that need improvement, take the time to make the necessary changes.
Tip 2: Take High-Quality Product Photos
The best way to show off your products is with high-quality, professional photos. If you’re selling physical goods, this is an absolute must.
Your product photos should be clear, well-lit, and taken from a variety of angles. You should also have at least one close-up photo that shows off the details of your product.
If you’re selling digital products, such as ebooks or courses, you can get away with using graphics or illustrations instead of photos, but make sure they’re high quality and on-brand.
If your ecommerce store is marketing to a specific demographic, you should also be sure to use photos that represent your customers.
For example, an ecommerce store that sells beachwear and activewear may want to shoot photos of its new sunglass collection on a real person at the beach. This will give potential customers a better idea of how the product will look in use, and it’ll help them visualize themselves wearing the product.
If you don’t have the budget to hire a professional photographer, the good news is that you can take your own photos with a DSLR camera or even a smartphone.
Tip 3: Offer Free Shipping
Free shipping is the number one incentive that would make buyers more likely to shop with a particular online retailer.
While it may seem counterintuitive to offer free shipping when you’re trying to increase profits, keep in mind that customers are often willing to pay more for a product if they don’t have to pay for shipping.
In fact, a study by ComScore found that 36% of abandoned carts were the result of unexpected shipping costs. That proportion makes it the most common reason for cart abandonment by 10%.
Unless you sell on Amazon, you will need to calculate your own shipping rates and find a way to incorporate them into your pricing structure. However, the small price you pay for shipping will be worth it in the long run when you consider the increase in sales and customer satisfaction.
The best thing about this small change is that you can do it right away. All you have to do is go onto your website and make a policy change. Then, be sure to advertise your new free shipping policy prominently on your site so that customers are aware of it.
Tip 4: Use Urgency and Scarcity
Urgency and scarcity are two effective psychological techniques that you can use to increase conversions on your ecommerce store.
People have a natural fear of missing out (FOMO), so by creating a sense of urgency, you can tap into that fear and encourage people to buy your products before they run out.
Here are a few ways to implement a sense of urgency in your ecommerce store:
- Display the number of items in stock on your product pages
- Use countdown timers on your website and in your email marketing campaigns
- Offer time-sensitive discounts and coupons
- Create a sense of urgency by advertising an upcoming sale or event
Urgency is a major component of any ecommerce expert’s strategy, but the key is to use these techniques sparingly. If you overdo it, you’ll just end up annoying your customers or you will lose credibility.
Scarcity is another powerful psychological technique that you can use to increase conversions on your ecommerce store.
When something is scarce, it’s perceived as being more valuable. This is because people have a natural desire for things that are rare or hard to find.
You can create a sense of scarcity in your ecommerce store by:
- Limiting the number of items in stock
- Offering products on a first-come, first-served basis
- Running flash sales with limited-time discounts
- Making products available for a limited time only
- Taking your website on and offline intermittently for product launches
Using scarcity is an effective way to increase conversions, but again, you need to be careful not to overdo it. If you use scarcity too often, it will lose its impact and your customers will catch on.
Tip 5: Provide Multiple Payment Options
If you want to increase conversions on your ecommerce store, it’s important to provide multiple payment options.
While some customers are loyal to a particular brand or type of credit card, others may not have a preference.
By offering multiple payment options, you can make it easier for people to buy your products and increase the chances that they’ll complete their purchase.
A few popular payment options include:
- Credit and debit cards
- Apple Pay
- Google Pay
- Amazon Pay
- Venmo and other money-sending platforms
In addition, it would be smart to integrate an installment-based payment option, such as Afterpay or Klarna, into your ecommerce store.
With these types of payment options, customers can pay for their purchases over time, which makes it more likely that they’ll complete their purchase even if their total order cost seems high.
To offer these payment options, all you have to do is sign up for the different payment processors and integrate them into your website. In most cases, you can do this with a few clicks.
Tip 6: Highlight Customer Reviews and Testimonials
Social proof is a powerful psychological phenomenon that you can use to increase conversions on your ecommerce store.
Simply put, social proof is the idea that people are more likely to do something if they see other people doing it.
When it comes to ecommerce, social proof takes the form of customer reviews and testimonials.
These are powerful because they show potential customers that other people have bought your products and been happy with their purchases.
Here are a few ways to showcase customer reviews and testimonials on your ecommerce store:
- Display customer reviews on product pages
- Include customer testimonials on your homepage
- Feature customer stories on your blog
- Mention customer reviews in your email marketing campaigns
- Include customer quotes in your social media posts
If you have customer reviews already on your website, highlighting them should be easy. If you don’t have any yet, consider reaching out to some of your most loyal customers and asking them to write a review.
You can also offer an incentive, such as a discount on their next purchase, to encourage them to leave a review.
Tip 7: Add an AI-Powered Chatbot to Your Website
AI-powered chatbots are becoming more and more popular on ecommerce websites. And there’s a good reason for it.
Chatbots can provide a level of customer service that’s simply not possible with human employees. They can answer customer questions 24/7, help them navigate your website, and even upsell and cross-sell products and make suggestions.
Furthermore, chatbots can be used to collect customer data, such as contact information and purchase history. This data can then be used to create more targeted marketing campaigns that are more likely to convert.
There are lots of free and low-cost options for AI chatbots, such as Manychat and Chatfuel. All you need to do is sign up for an account and paste a bit of code into your website.
You can then start training your chatbot and adding it to your website pages.
Long-Term Strategies for Ecommerce Best Practices
When it comes to managing your ecommerce store, it’s important to focus on both the short-term and long-term. The tips in this section will help you do just that.
Strategy 1: Search Engine Optimization
SEO is the process of optimizing your website for search engines. The goal is to improve your website’s ranking in the search results for relevant keywords and phrases.
There are two main types of SEO: on-page SEO and off-page SEO.
On-page SEO refers to all of the optimizations you can make to your website, such as title tags, meta descriptions, and header tags (which we listed in our short-term strategies).
Off-page SEO, on the other hand, refers to all of the optimizations you can make outside of your website. This includes things like link building and social media engagement.
Both on-page and off-page SEO are important for ranking well in the search results.
Long-term on-page SEO strategies include:
- Updates to website copy
- Content planning and strategy
- User experience (UX) optimizations
- Structured data
- Website speed improvements
Long-term off-page SEO strategies include:
- Link building
- Content promotion
- Social media engagement
- Local SEO
Both on-page and off-page SEO are critical for your ecommerce website’s long-term results.
Link building, for example, is a powerful off-page SEO tactic. But it can take months or years to see results.
However, once you rank well for your target keywords, sitting on the first page of Google is one of the best long-term marketing strategies you can have.
Strategy 2: Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising
PPC is a type of paid advertising where you pay to have your ads displayed in the search results. One of the biggest advantages to this is that you only pay when someone clicks on your ad, meaning that you may have a lower upfront cost.
The most popular PPC platform is Google Ads, but Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms also offer PPC advertising options.
PPC is a great way to get instant traffic to your website. And if you’re running a sale or promotion, it’s an effective way to drive even more sales.
PPC is also a great way to test different keywords and phrases to see what converts best. Once you know which keywords work, you can then optimize your website and content for those keywords.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when running PPC campaigns:
- Your ads should be relevant to your website and products
- Your ads should be well-written and persuasive
- You need to track your conversions so you know what’s working
- A/B testing is critical for finding the best-performing ads
Strategy 3: Content Strategy
A content strategy is a plan for how you’ll create and publish content. It includes things like what type of content you’ll create, how often you’ll publish it, and where you’ll publish it.
Creating a well-thought-out content strategy is important for two main reasons:
- It helps you attract new customers and website visitors
- It helps you build trust and credibility with your audience
Content comes in many different forms, such as blog posts, infographics, ebooks, and more. The key is to create content that’s relevant to your target audience and that provides value.
If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at your competitors’ content and see what’s working well for them. You can also use Google’s Keyword Planner to find content ideas that are relevant to your target keywords.
A good thing to keep in mind when planning your content is to consider the audience’s intent for each keyword you want to use.
For example, a hair and skincare ecommerce store may want to rank for the keyword “best shampoo for oily hair.” But someone who types that keyword into Google is likely looking for reviews and comparisons, not to buy a specific shampoo right away.
Similarly, a different user may look for “shampoo after dying hair.” In this case, the user is looking for information on what kinds of shampoo to use after dying their hair, and how to use it.
Understanding user intent is critical for creating content that’s relevant and useful.
It’s also important to consider the different stages of the buyer’s journey when planning your content.
For example, someone who’s just starting their research on shampoo may not be ready to buy a specific product. But if you have an article that’s helpful and informative, you may be able to build trust with the user and eventually convert them into a customer.
Strategy 4: Retargeting
In ecommerce, retargeting takes on many forms. But in general, it’s a way to reconnect with website visitors who didn’t convert into customers.
For example, if someone visits your website but doesn’t buy anything, you can retarget them with ads for the specific product they were looking at. Or, you can show them ads for similar products.
Another way to retarget is by emailing users who abandoned their shopping carts. This is a great way to remind people about the products they were interested in and encourage them to complete their purchase. You could even send them an exclusive discount to sweeten the deal.
Strategy 5: Email Marketing
While email marketing generally involves some form of retargeting, it’s worth mentioning as a separate ecommerce marketing strategy.
Email marketing is a great way to stay in touch with your customers and build relationships. It’s also a great way to increase brand awareness and drive sales.
There are many different ways to use email marketing, such as sending out newsletters, special offers, and product recommendations.
You could also use email marketing to nurture leads that aren’t quite ready to buy yet. For example, you could send them helpful content that’s relevant to their needs.
The key is to make sure your emails are targeted and relevant. Otherwise, you run the risk of annoying your customers and causing them to unsubscribe from your list.
Here are a few tips for running email marketing campaigns:
- Keep it short and simple. The purpose of email marketing is to get your customers to take a specific action. So, make sure your emails are clear and to the point.
- Don’t overdo it. You don’t want to bombard your customers with too many emails. Once a week or once a month is generally sufficient, but find a cadence that works for you and stick to it.
- Make it personal. Include the customer’s name in the subject line and in the email body. And if you can, segment your list so that you can send more targeted emails.
- Include a call to action. Every email should have a clear call to action, such as “Buy Now,” “Sign Up,” or “Learn More.”
- Test, test, test. Always test your emails before you send them out. This includes testing the subject line, the email content, the call to action, and the CTA button.
If you are interested in getting into email marketing, tools like Klaviyo, Mailchimp, and Constant Contact offer great email marketing services at inexpensive prices.
Once you’ve got your ecommerce website optimized, it’s time to start driving traffic to it. The best way to do this is through a combination of paid and organic traffic.
Paid traffic, such as PPC and display advertising, is a great way to get people to your site quickly. And while it may cost you money in the short term, it can be a great way to jumpstart your ecommerce business.
Organic traffic, on the other hand, is free (if you grow it on your own). But it takes time to build up. The best way to drive organic traffic to your site is through SEO and content marketing.
Ready to get started? Check out our guide to the best ecommerce platforms to learn more about setting up your online store.