How to Build a Successful E-commerce Website

7 Min Read

Over the past several years, the number of businesses proliferating their online presence is astonishing. It’s estimated that in the U.S. and Canada alone, there are approximately 1.3 million e-commerce sites. Given the rapid growth of online storefronts, how is someone with no prior experience supposed to create a website that cuts through sales and develops a loyal following?

As the backbone of some of the most successful e-commerce sites out there, the Weebly team has prepared a list of best practices that can help any online store drive repeat business.

Create A Unique Design and Layout

The key to starting is shedding the long to-do list and beginning with a solid framework. A creative site domain, an attention-grabbing picture, and “coming soon” text are good starting points to start generating momentum. Once that’s done, find a color palette that reflects the look and feel of your offline brand touchpoints. Your website should have the same look and feel as your Instagram feed, store, packaging, and any place potential customers interact with your brand. When considering site design, less is more. Maintain a clear call to action and direct your visitors to where you want them to go. While you will feel compelled to fit everything on one screen, drop-down menus and white space can be instrumental in designing a beautiful and engaging online platform. Remember that consistency is key: fonts, colors and style should feel the same throughout.

Be a Picture Perfectionist

Once products are available to promote online, it’s critical to integrate product and lifestyle photography that accurately represents products’ features and how they will be used by the people purchasing them. Gifs and video have become increasingly popular, as they are more likely to draw attention. Try adding a video that showcases your best work or a behind-the-scenes tour of your latest photo shoot and creative process.

Another key design component is making sure your products look just as good on mobile devices as they do on a laptop. Close to 60% of all traffic to a Weebly site is coming from smartphones, which is why our sites are optimized for mobile-first, but it’s important to test the checkout process from a phone or tablet to make sure everything looks as it should.

Word-of-Mouth Still Reigns Supreme

Audience growth can happen in a variety of ways, but the most important ones are email marketing, an active social media presence, and a regularly updated blog. Asking visitors if they’d like to sign up for email updates increases your chances of repeat shoppers. Integrating social media with your marketing plan is vital to promoting easy content sharing capabilities that drive additional traffic. Social media can also be used to analyze consumer sentiment, conduct research, and share important moments for your brand. Last but not least, blogging is an effective way to engage with customers and express yourself by establishing a voice for your brand.  Some examples for blog topics include seasonal offerings, new products, and major announcements.

Read Your Online Reviews

Online first-time visitors to your store need encouragement to gain trust in your brand and the quality of what you’re selling. Positive online customer feedback can lead to new sales and hopefully, brand loyalty. According to PeopleClaim, 70% of customers consult reviews or ratings before making a final purchase. Your email marketing platform should automatically prompt customers to leave a review on every purchase is a way that solicits feedback organically. Positive reviews are what help engineer a credible reputation, and even negative reviews can be strategically managed. Replying to unhappy customers with timely and attentive customer service can serve as a strategy that encourages customers to either update their review or remove it altogether.

Be Real

Millennials are the most ethically-conscious generation of consumers, and companies should aim to create a site that doesn’t just sell, but also creates a personality. Bring your business to life by sharing inspiration, stories, and the process of how everything came together. If your product comes from a sustainable resource, shoppers will want to feel a connection to supporting that. A well written “About” page can be just as important as the products.

Be Human

Starting an online store is a combination of excitement, adrenaline, and fear; most new business owners believe it requires a perfect homepage, thousands of social media followers, and professionally curated artwork. However, some of the most important aspects of e-commerce success stem from personal touch, carefully shot photography, and simple mobile integration.

When all is said and done, it’s important to remember that your website visitors are people like you and not Twitter bots. If you were interested in making an online purchase, what would you hope to see, read, and interact with? In the long term, a lasting business can’t be faked – to be authentic compels transparency. If you create captivating stories and look to build a reliable and responsive persona, that’s what will attract customers to invest in you.

Authored By:

Katie Swett, Director of Product at Weebly

Katie Swett Miller is Director of Product at Weebly, an e-commerce and website hosting company recently acquired by Square.  She oversees customer facing Weebly products that help entrepreneurs grow their business through the platform. She spearheaded the creation of Weebly’s email marketing platform,
insights dashboard, and Facebook Ad creator. She also leads the team that builds the core web product and 5-star rated Weebly mobile app. She is passionate about building products that delight customers and allow them to express themselves digitally while
encouraging growth.
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