The eCommerce industry is in continuous expansion and transformation especially as we’re seeing consumers stick with behaviors they picked up during the pandemic and expect convenience and personalization with every purchase. According to Statista, 2.14 billion people have shopped online in 2021. In this realm of opportunity, elevating customer experience for the digital consumer is on top of every eCommerce business’ agenda.
To help eCommerce businesses thrive and respond to changing customers’ needs and expectations, we’ve put together a list of things to consider when developing an online store, which helps in sustaining a profitable eCommerce business.
1. In-depth and sustained customer research
Whether you’re just getting started with your online business or you already have an online store, constant investment in knowing your customers is one of the keys to success. Your mission is to take a look at your target audience and determine how you can build an eCommerce shop that meets their demands and expectations.
In this stage, it is essential to address user experience by adapting everything to your potential customers. Keep in mind that designing your online store with the user in mind ensures that your visitors will be able to easily accomplish their goals while shopping on your website. To achieve this, on one hand, you’ll need a competitor analysis that uncovers addressable customer pain points insufficiently tackled by the competition; you can explore them and strengthen your offering and positioning. On the other hand, proper user research conducted through user surveys, usability testing, search-log analysis, or analytics reviews can guarantee an optimum user experience. We deep-dived into these user research methods in one of our previous blog posts.
2. eCommerce platform selection
Once you have a clear view of your customers’ needs and expectations, it’s time to look for a platform that can technically support everything. In this stage, you need to be aware of the functional aspects of your online shop, like shopping cart, user account, payment methods, customer relationship, or analytics. If you envisage a stellar customer experience, you might want to consider additional functions, such as chatbots, online assistants, or personalized product recommendations. Moving on, customer loyalty will seem like something to invest in. Therefore, your online store should be able to easily integrate certain marketing plug-ins like promo codes, special offers, discount systems, or newsletters.
While you need to consider all these aspects when setting up your eCommerce business, answering the following questions is essential in the eCommerce platform selection process:
- Is the platform I’m building able to grow along with my business?
- Will the platform be scalable enough or will I experience a drop in performance after the business exceeds a certain traffic or sales threshold?
- Does the platform provide all the most critical core eCommerce features natively?
- How much will I need to invest in extensions, integrations, updates, or to fill in missing native functionalities and keep the business going?
There are plenty of eCommerce platforms available you can choose from. For a small monthly fee, an aspiring online retailer can set up an eCommerce business relatively quickly with a SaaS solution from providers like Shopify.com or Bigcommerce.com. eCommerce platforms like Magento/Adobe Commerce, VTEX, or WooCommerce can be set up by someone with strong technical knowledge, which allows for more customization of the platform. On the other hand, a custom solution offers retailers exactly what they are looking for from their eCommerce platform, but it comes with much higher requirements for customization and technical expertise.
When selecting an option, think about the demand and store-keeping units you are anticipating for your product inventory. In addition, these key features should also be a part of the eCommerce platform you decide to power your online store with:
- Responsive design: the platform should offer a consistent experience whether it’s being viewed on a desktop or on mobile;
- Product management: adding, editing, and keeping track of inventory should be simple to accomplish;
- Content management system (CMS): an easy update of the dynamic content should be a given;
- Shopping cart: the platform should provide enough customization options for the shopping cart and checkout;
- Payment processing: the platform should incorporate various payment methods.
3. Compliance and customer data handling
When it comes to online operations, the following areas are regulated and susceptible to compliance processes on the eCommerce businesses’ side:
- Payment gateways
- Copyrights, trademarks, and patents
- Business insurance
- Licenses and permits
- PCI compliance
- Customer privacy
While the matter is highly complex and does not constitute the scope of this article, we’ll resume to customer privacy. eCommerce websites can collect valuable insights to create a data-driven customer experience, but they need to be aware of how to handle data properly. Data privacy laws prohibit merchants from using customers’ personal identifiable information (PII: full names, addresses, social security numbers, debit, and credit card details) for analytics purposes. Also, some countries and regions oblige online shops to explicitly ask for customers’ consent for collecting, storing, and processing their data. For example, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the EU-member state-wide act that puts down must-follow regulations online businesses must abide by when it comes to customer data. GDPR has been notoriously advertised as the stingiest customer data privacy law due to the steep fines, compliance being mandatory. More on GDPR in one of our previous blogs.
4. Online shopping experience
As digital maturity grows, the competitive eCommerce landscape requires providing the best online shopping experience to avoid losing potential and current buyers to competitors. The process of offering the best online shopping experience through your eCommerce website can be done through:
- Easy navigation
- Clear and prominent call-to-action buttons
- Visible product value
- Powerful search features
- Social proof
- Security badges and customer support
- Geo-location targeting
- Speedy checkouts
We elaborate on each of these eCommerce UX principles and best practices for a seamless user experience in one of our blogs. The success of an online store lies in improving the shopping experience, keeping it simple and winning clients’ trust. This will not only result in higher conversion rates, but will also influence brand perception and, therefore, have the right impact on customer retention and loyalty.
5. Ongoing digital marketing
Once you’re up and running and ready to take orders, you need to drive visitors to the website. In this stage of your online business, there are ongoing digital marketing considerations you need to address:
- How will you segment your users and deliver personalized communications?
- How will you build an overview of your users to see how many times they are returning, where they’re coming from, and how they are engaging with your brand?
- How will you measure website traffic?
A well-optimized platform will get noticed by search engines, but in the long run, it is necessary to actively draw in relevant traffic to your website to drive orders. It’s important to plan your digital marketing activity, quickly understand what drives interest and sales and promote your website for the longer term.
Talk to an eCommerce expert
If you have any questions or would like to know more about growing your eCommerce business, send us a line. We’re ready to take on your eCommerce idea or project, no matter how complex or ambitious it is.