By Seth Litwack

Over the last few years, the retail sector has seen a major restructuring, especially when it comes to shopping experience. Businesses are no longer relying on the traditional way of physical, face-to-face interaction with customers.

With the robust internet and digitization, shopping has gone online with customers increasingly preferring to shop and make purchases online. Most of them would rather shop from the comfort of their personal computers or mobile devices wherever they are, rather than physically visit a store. This has seen the emergence of giant online stores such as Amazon and eBay with more and more businesses joining the trend.

In this day and age, it is either this or nothing at all. The ecommerce sector keeps evolving and stores have to keep up with the changing trends in order to adequately serve their ever-expanding pick-and-click client base.

This, however, means that ecommerce businesses have to design their processes accordingly in order to enhance their customers’ experience. In order to thrive and remain competitive in this dynamic environment, ecommerce store owners have to streamline their processes and make it easier for users to not only shop but also make purchases in an easy and quick way.

If you’re focused on making your ecommerce business survive, these five tips will go a long way towards helping you stay relevant in this fiercely competitive sector.

1. Improve Your Online Visibility

Needless to say, it is pointless to have an online store that has no strong online presence and visibility. In this digital age, commanding a strong online presence is essential to the success of your online store. There are a lot of ways to make this happen, thanks to a vibrant internet community. Designing a search engine optimized website is the greatest of these ways.

The website is, in fact, the foundation of your business. Design one with a simplified user interface and a smooth user experience. Capitalize on social media to create awareness of your store and target your customers. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and many others have the potential of linking you to many potential customers. Link building efforts will also help drive more traffic to your web store and drive your sales up.

2. Capitalize on Product Images and Descriptions

The importance of high-quality product images coupled with detailed and catchy product descriptions cannot be underscored. The visual aspect is a key element in our world, especially when it comes to shopping. Since online shopping does not offer customers the opportunity to physically interact with the products, they have to rely entirely on the product images and descriptions provide the online stores. As such, it is important that ecommerce stores strive to present high-quality product images on their online platforms.

The images should be captured from all angles in order to accurately reflect the actual product. Let users feel confident that what they see is what they will actually get. A high-quality product not only stimulates customer engagement but also significantly impacts on conversion and customer retention. Basically, a good product image easily converts into a sale.

The kind of equipment used, background and lighting and level of expertise will determine the overall quality of the product images. The bottom line is, always make sure that they are optimized for maximum conversion.

3. Design a Smooth Checkout Process

Customers will obviously prefer an online shopping experience that is simple, quick and easy as opposed to a complicated one. It is pointless to have a good shopping experience only to be frustrated at the checkout point. It is, therefore, important for ecommerce stores to keep their user interface simple and easy to use. The fewer the steps involved, the better.

The checkout process, especially, will determine whether or not the customer will finalize their purchase and return as a repeat customer. You don’t want one-time customers now, do you? If a customer feels frustrated by the checkout process, chances are they will abandon the shopping midway and move to optimized stores instead. It just a matter of simple clicks, remember.

While designing the checkout process, it is important to limit the steps to the essentials. Ensure that activities between the shopping cart and purchase confirmation remain relevant. Also, provide clear and simple instructions and communicate with customers as soon as the purchase is confirmed about product tracking.

4. Provide Excellent Customer Service

All businesses strive to create a base of repeat customers. One of the easiest ways to achieve this is by making customers happy through excellent customer service. When a customer is satisfied with your service, they are bound to stay loyal to your web store. Online users can now make purchases round the clock and expect immediate response and service. Ecommerce stores should, therefore, invest in an efficient and polite customer service. Consider utilizing all digital platforms including social media, emails and live chat to provide customer service in real time.

A satisfied and loyal customer can be a great asset as a brand ambassador. A positive review made to their friends both online and offline give more credibility and pass off your business as efficient and trustworthy. As a result, more visitors become confident enough to try out your services hence more sales. Dissatisfied customers will immediately give a bad review of your business and this could damage your reputation.

5. Streamline Your Shipping Process

The right shipping strategy is one of the key steps towards growing your online business. A unique shipping strategy will differentiate you from the numerous online stores that take the basic approach. This strategy should, of course, integrate both shipping rates and time taken to deliver products to customers.

To make this happen, however, you need to first assemble the right team. You should then set clear, ambitious and realistic goals. The goals have to be clearly defined. Think along the lines or whether or not you are ready to go international. Keep in mind shipping considerations such as product size and weight, destinations, and shipping options. When deciding on the shipping options, pick on carriers that will cheaply and quickly deliver products to your customers.

To thrive in the competitive ecommerce business, you need to differentiate your store and stand out from the rest. Design your website in a way that will engage, convert and retain your customers. Focus on making the user experience as smooth as possible so as to ease and quicken the shopping and purchasing process. Remember, it is always about the customer!

Photo credit: Ecommerce concept from Makistock/Shutterstock