Five Golden Rules for etailers in the credit crunch

Having worked with many of the world’s biggest ecommerce names senior technical director at WebTrends, Conrad Bennett has a wealth of experience and expertise in web site design, and has come up with a few basic rules for etailers that although simple, can have a huge effect if followed throughout the credit crunch:

  • I Want it Now: “Allow users to find what they want – and quickly. Competition online is intense and if you don’t get it right then unless you have the monopoly on what you sell then I’ll be off to Google to find someone else. There’s nothing worse than sending online customers on a complicated paper chase – and there’s no quicker way to lose them. So if you offer a search function on your web site – which is highly advisable – good indexing is crucial and don’t make it necessary to have a log-in to use the search function.”

  • Transparency: “Always let users know where they are in the buying process. With an online shop in particular, it is vital for customers to be able to see the step they’re at, and, just as importantly, how many steps remain. The buying process should be kept brief and to the point, and there should be complete clarity about the final cost from the outset. Customers hate nasty surprises at the end of the purchasing process and will often simply break off the procedure, never to return.”

  • Dropouts: “Understand why visitors interrupt the process and abandon your web site. Why do visitors drop off a web site at a particular point – and how can you optimise the process and remedy this point of abandonment? They are often more valuable customers than those that have actually bought something.”

  • Beware the Back Button: “Keep it simple – buying online is not, for most people, a recreational pastime. The technology should be basic and adapted to suit visitor behaviour and support normal browser navigation functionality. So make sure that using the ‘Back Button’ doesn’t ruin the process – it’s the most oft-used button on any website so why disallow its use?”

  • Don’t Get Flash: “Static web sites are a thing of the past – but beware of excessively data-rich applications. Customers will not wait an age for pages to load. The key is to find a balanced mixture and, above all, to find a page design that matches the product. While online videos, animations, blogs, etc. are right for some online retailers, they’re completely wrong for others. In fact, when in doubt don’t even think about Flash – it slows the process and unless it really does add value, you will be losing users every second it takes to load.”

“In the current financial climate, people are increasingly seeing the internet as an affordable and hassle-free way to do their shopping”, explains Bennett. “By gaining a firm grasp on how customers are actually interacting with their sites, etailers can significantly increase online conversions, which can be anything from buying a tin of beans, to booking a test drive in the latest Renault, at a time when every single sale is vital.”