While the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions hit physical businesses hard, online retailers thrived
As a result, retailers moved in their droves to take advantage of online opportunities – with research suggesting 85,000 businesses launched websites in the first few months of the pandemic alone.
However, unlike opening a retail store on a busy high street, online businesses have to go the extra mile to attract and retain customers.
Rich Kenwrick, Website Specialistat LCN, discusses the top priorities when building or migrating to a new eCommerce site.
Choose an eCommerce platform
Ecommerce websites demand greater functionality than blogs or news platforms. Users must be able to access product descriptions, high-quality images, interact with products and make payments – and do all of this securely.
So, it’s critical that this functionality is built-in to the website from the start. Those who opt purely for design over content, risk driving away customers who simply want to purchase products quickly and effortlessly.
Most companies will either build a custom content management system (CMS) with a team of web developers or invest in an out-of-the-box eCommerce platform that integrates with a hosted website.
Either way, the key to eCommerce success is understanding how customers interact with the brand and website at every stage in their buying journey and considering how they can cater to their needs.
Another consideration is which other commerce channels the business operates on – like Amazon or social media pages – and which eCommerce platforms effortlessly integrate these with the website? Is it possible to customise the checkout experience, and if so, how easy does the platform make it to do so? How simple is it to customise and edit prices, sales and discounts?
These questions help companies identify which platform meets both their needs and those of their customers. And the value of hitting the ground running cannot be underestimated, with those who invest in the wrong platform putting thousands at risk in software costs and rectifying the mistake.
Once this functionality checklist is complete, companies can begin to compare popular platforms like Shopify, Magento and LCN’s Online Shop.
For smaller businesses, these platforms offer the responsiveness and technical support to successfully navigate teething issues. However, for established online retailers looking to migrate to a new website, the additional costs of building a CMS are typically offset by the benefits of scaling their website with custom apps and add-ons.
Safety and security considerations
Despite the world returning to normality and physical shops reopening, reports have revealed that 63 percent of shopping sessions will begin online.
However, while online shopping is often quicker and more convenient than visiting physical stores, it presents unique challenges in cybersecurity and data protection. And with 44 percent of consumers claiming they would stop spending with a brand following a single cybersecurity breach, keeping users safe is vital for retaining valuable custom.
The most common security threats for eCommerce sites come in the form of phishing, malware, ransomware, SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS) and e-skimming, as well as compliance issues. These all threaten to compromise customers’ personal data, including their confidential payment details.
So, businesses must take significant steps to protect both their own data and that of their users. Firstly, shoppers should be encouraged to register unique passwords when creating customer accounts, to protect against hackers and malicious software.
Then, protect the company’s devices with anti-virus software and firewalls and only store the customer data the business needs, to avoid breaching privacy regulations.
Conduct regular cybersecurity audits of the website, including checking that it’s updated with the latest software, regularly reviewing the validity of any plugins or third-party solutions, and getting an SSL Certificate to guarantee secure HTTPS hosting. SSL Certificates act as a trust indicator for existing and future customers, too.
While this may seem like a long checklist, ensuring robust online security is key to eCommerce success. Businesses that fall foul to data breaches not only risk the potential costs of recovering from cyberattacks – and the fines associated with data protection laws – but will also suffer the impact of damaged reputation.
Create an intuitive experience
The frightening reality for online retailers is that it takes less than a second for users to form an opinion of a website. If consumers encounter design issues, can’t find the information they’re after or feel concerned about their data security, they won’t hesitate to leave for a competitor.
So, businesses must consider the user experience from the second they land on the homepage to when they convert – and tailor their content accordingly.
This means creating a natural path for the user, with clear and intuitive navigation menus, comprehensive service and product pages, natural and useful calls to action and effortless – but secure – checkout processes.
Using a website builder tool takes the guesswork out of meeting these user needs, providing tried and tested page designs – from blogs to product pages – that are speedy, responsive and flexible across all devices.
Users should also be able to pay in a way that suits them. This means offering multiple payment integrations – including third-party apps like Amazon Pay and Klarna – for convenience.
About the Author
Rich Kenwrick, Website Specialist at LCN. Rich Kenwrick heads up the Website Design Team at LCN. He takes care of everything from guiding the team of web designers to organising projects and getting stuck in himself – building and launching customers’ websites.