4 Non-Negotiable Features You Need for a Successful Online Store
What makes an online retailer successful? Certainly it's not just high profit margins or a high conversion rate.
Plenty of companies have made lots of money (at least in the beginning) and yet had to shut down due to other issues. Toys"R"Us was certainly a success on paper, often buying out its competitors and generating billions in annual revenue. However, after a few poor financial decisions, the company was forced to close due to increasing debt from past deals.
You could argue that creating a strong connection with your audience and growing a loyal following is a sign of success. However, plenty of customers loved Blockbuster and were loyal customers — until it declared bankruptcy when it couldn’t keep up with emerging technology and the popularity of streaming entertainment.
What about a trustworthy reputation, a healthy internal culture, great products, or exceptional customer service?
The truth is that there's a lot that goes into a business, and each aspect adds to its success. In the e-commerce world, it's often easier to ignore these smaller details and, unfortunately, many online entrepreneurs get wrapped up in the bottom line.
While there's certainly a long list of items that add up to a successful e-commerce business, there are four key factors that are completely necessary.
1. Trusted Genuine Reviews
As an online retailer, your reputation is everything. Customers cannot come in to see and touch your product, so they have to rely on other people’s opinions and experiences to guide them. According to BrightLocal’s report, consumers read about 10 online reviews to form an opinion about a brand, and 27 percent look for reviews before each purchase decision they make.
It's also important to note that having only squeaky clean, perfect reviews can actually hurt your brand’s reputation. Here’s why: consumers are generally distrustful when they interact with businesses online. They know that some companies buy fake reviews, and have also likely encountered a business whose products didn't meet their expectations. Therefore, it's better to invite your customers to provide a 360-degree view of their experience, even if it means getting some negative feedback.
These prompts for Trustpilot’s customer reviews are designed to encourage people to leave a thoroughly detailed opinion about the product.
Instead of asking for a general review, customers are asked to specifically share both the good and the bad. Reviewers are even asked to give advice and recommendations to future customers so that other consumers can really know what to expect.
This is a fantastic way to build trust and create a library of thorough reviews that can help future customers with genuinely helpful information.
2. Several Payment Options
The checkout page is where the majority of your visitors’ fears will resurface. There are two main issues that could stop a conversion in its track at this point: fear of risk and issues with the purchasing process.
As more consumers become concerned with the safety of their sensitive data, they understand the risk of sharing contact and financial information. Unfortunately, only one-fourth of customers actually trust online businesses to keep their personal data secure. The other issues fall to the user experience. If a customer encounters any difficulties or snags in the checkout process, it could influence their buying decision.
The best solution to both of these issues is to offer multiple payment options. Here’s why: In addition to offering SSL encryption and utilizing programs to enhance website security, your checkout page should be optimized for a safer and more convenient experience. Consider including additional payment options that customers know and trust. For example, PayPal is regarded highly for financial data security, so including this option would make customers feel safer about entering in credit card details.
Multiple payment options also make the checkout process quicker. Offering options like Apple Pay and Android Pay are perfect for mobile shoppers unwilling to enter in their full credit card numbers. You may even want to offer features like AfterPay, which breaks up large orders into payment installments.
3. Customer Account Perks
Growing the number of customer accounts for your online store’s database serves many purposes. For one, it gives your marketing team valuable data for targeting and personalization. Two, it makes it easier for customers to navigate your site and check out.
However, there’s no reason why a customer would create an account if you offer no true incentives for doing so. According to Accenture’s survey, 83 percent of customers would be much more willing to exchange private information if they received specific benefits, such as customized discounts and offers. A 10 percent discount code, free sample on their birthday, or points towards a discount can increase the likelihood of customer account creation.
Customer relationships and loyalty plays a huge role in retailers’ bottom lines. Returning customers tend to spend more; your retention rate can have a big impact on your revenue rate. Having a reward program is a great way to increase the number of repeat customers.
Sephora does a great job of incentivizing its customers to make repeated purchases through its loyalty program. Shoppers earn points that can be redeemed for free samples, along with free birthday gifts and frequent buyer’s perks. As customers earn more rewards points, they can hit different tiers and earn additional rewards. The program incentivizes customers towards long-term loyalty and pushes them to make larger purchases more frequently to accumulate more points.
4. Personalization Details
Personalization is super important to customers today. Fortunately, it can be easier than you expect to incorporate personalization features into your site — without needing loads of data or technology.
Salesforce's report found that the personalization feature that had the strongest influence on purchasing decisions is displaying relevant product recommendations. When online shoppers clicked on a personalized recommendation, they were 4.5 times more likely to buy it and their final purchases were 500 percent larger.
Your customer account data will come into play here, therefore, be sure that you're using the information you gather properly. Take a look at purchasing data to see which items are frequently bought together for relevant cross-sell recommendations. Customized suggestions should also be heavily based on each individual’s browsing and past purchase history.
Of course, Amazon.com leads the way in offering hyperpersonalized product recommendations. It's important to note that the suggestions are not always directly related or obvious; Amazon uses purchasing data from other customers to create “frequently bought together” suggestions that can contribute to higher average order values.
There's no guaranteed formula for a successful business. Again, there's a lot that goes into establishing and maintaining a successful e-commerce business, but these four ingredients lay the foundation for a company that continuously pleases its customers.
Related story: 3 Ways to Maximize Global E-Commerce Revenue
Manish Dudharejia is the President and Co-Founder of E2M Solutions Inc, a San Diego Based Digital Agency that specializes in Website Design & Development and eCommerce SEO. With over 10 years of experience in the Technology and Digital Marketing industry, Manish is passionate about helping online businesses to take their branding to the next level.