Online retailers have the advantage of not having to invest in physical locations to house goods, but they must still optimize the accessibility of their digital properties. The format and layout of the ecommerce website is essential for delivering a positive online shopping experience. Highlighting several common design mistakes, Practical Ecommerce contributor Dale Traxler suggested there are a number of areas that companies could improve.
Once a reliable ecommerce hosting provider is secured, retailers can leverage rich media content to engage potential shoppers. Traxler noted that many landing pages are ineffective because companies do not direct traffic to relevant areas of the site. For example, a company that runs a promotional campaign for a specific offering should include links to the product's landing page rather than the site's homepage to reduce abandonment.
It is also essential to include robust site search functionality so consumers can easily find what they're looking for. Businesses can test their site search by inputting common search terms related to their products. By thoroughly analyzing features such as search, companies can gain an understanding of their content's accessibility from the consumer's point of view and answer questions such as whether the most relevant offerings appear early in the results. Traxler identified several key features of effective site search, including:
- Error tolerance
- Search suggestions
- Guided navigation
There are a number of free tools for improving website search functionality and ensuring that results are displayed in a user-friendly manner. One such solution is the FACT-Finder module for Magento. In addition to providing core features, FACT-Finder supports integration with a number of optional modules to further enhance the effectiveness of a built-in website search tool. For example, the module's recommendation engine uses visitor histories to make personalized suggestions.
"For my recent online shopping experiences, the reason that I chose one store over another did not necessarily involve the products they sold or the prices," Traxler wrote. "In fact, I didn't get to that point in several stores because they failed to land me where I expected - from a pay-per-click ad - or because they did not provide good search or navigation."
Solutions such as Magento hosting offer a distinct advantage in that they give businesses access to robust tools and are optimized for the ecommerce platform's architecture.