Woman on a computer in front of a Christmas tree

Defining Features of Successful e-Commerce Brands

As we approach a holiday season most expect to be historic in terms of online shopping volume, companies of all sizes should be ready to seize this opportunity to optimize their online presence. Here's how.

The 2020 holiday season is an opportunity for companies to engage new shoppers and galvanize current customers.

2020 has forced businesses across the globe to face a wide range of challenges. As we approach a holiday season most expect to be historic in terms of online shopping volume, companies of all sizes should be ready to seize this opportunity to optimize their online presence. The foundation laid in the coming weeks can serve as a framework for a broader “online-first” transition in shopping behaviour.

In the e-commerce space, some brands have managed to push beyond mere survival, strategically using the pandemic as an opportunity to connect with and delight their customers digitally as trends shift towards immersive, multi-device online shopping experiences. 

Businesses that currently boast a robust online presence now have the opportunity to go all-in. If you’re less digitally-attuned, now’s the time to reallocate resources, moving key sales and marketing efforts online in order to thrive. 

A frictionless, customer-first experience

Did you know that 65% of Canadian holiday shoppers plan to do more shopping online this holiday season? In response, savvy e-commerce brands have made a seamless shopping experience their top priority.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, 30% of Canadians have shopped with a retailer that was new to them, which means there’s tremendous potential for brands to expand their customer bases through thoughtfully designed and seamlessly integrated online shopping experiences. 

Research also shows that shoppers planning to visit physical stores are doing their research and even making final purchase decisions online. According to Tribe Interactive, 50% of consumers spend 75% or more of their total online shopping time researching or finding inspiration. This includes the 15% of shoppers who spend a staggering 90% or more of their shopping time researching their intended purchases. 

Your e-commerce store’s strategy should centre on your buyer’s journey— it’s all about anticipating needs, serving up products and content before your users even realize they want it.

Intuitive e-commerce navigation and user journeys 

Do you remember your last subpar online shopping experience? Maybe the product you wanted was hard to find, or you were overwhelmed by steps before you could complete your purchase. Did this experience turn you off? Do you see yourself using that site again? 

Potential pain points and your efforts to counter them are crucial when it comes to turning digital window shoppers into loyal customers. 

Audit your e-commerce website and its structure, keeping the following elements top-of-mind: 

  • Seamless navigation: Are your products easy to locate? Can shoppers find what they’re looking for and make a purchase decision in as few steps as possible?
    • Ensure the intended user journey is logical and straightforward, from the moment they land on your site all the way to checkout.
    • Measure your intended user journey using a website analytics tool like Google Analytics. Identify drop-off points as areas of focus in tightening up that user journey.
    • Keep your site’s search tool up-to-date with newly released products and broad-match search queries that consistently return relevant results.
  • Thoughtful design: Optimize your UI/UX experience to help boost customer trust and generate more conversions.
    • Keep it simple! The best interfaces should be nearly undetectable to the average user. 
    • Be purposeful, and build your pages with clear objectives in mind. Avoid clutter to keep shoppers focused on the most critical information.
    • Typography, white space, colours, and texture should reinforce hierarchy and lend clarity to guide users to their destinations.
  • E-commerce checkout flow: An overly-complex checkout experience is one of the top reasons shoppers abandon online purchases before checkout.
    • Eliminate hidden fees. There’s nothing worse than mentally preparing for one price only to be blindsided by another just before you’re about to click “Buy Now.” 
    • Simplify the process. Reduce the number of steps and amount of information required to check out securely. The shopper’s experience should feel like as little work as possible. 
    • Consider integrating your site with Google Pay, Apple Pay, or other automated purchase methods to expedite the process. 
    • For brick-and-mortar/e-commerce hybrids, update your Google Business Profile’s info on store hours, pickup options, and safety measures. In a sense, this is the in-person checkout flow!

Powerful e-commerce product pages

With your overall user experience optimized, dive into your product pages and consider what makes them stand out. Showcasing exclusive products, offers, and values will serve real value to your customers and strengthen trust and loyalty over time.

Let’s look at an example to illustrate this. Rocky Mountain Soap Co is a personal and beauty care brand based in Canmore, Alberta. Early on, the business was operating out of a 450 sq. ft. office and generating around $86k in annual sales. Today, the company has 172 employees across its locations and generates $48.85 million in annual sales. 

This evolution didn’t happen overnight: it was built on the back of an e-commerce shopping experience that distinguishes Rocky Mountain Soap Co’s products with thoughtful page designs and highlights their unwavering commitment to their environmental values.

Check out this page for their Minty Tea Tree Soap. Everything the customer needs to make their purchase decision is readily available at first glance, without being overwhelming:

  • They’ve harnessed the power of a modular page design, with careful use of page sections, white space, and a clear call-to-action. 
  • Product price, description, ingredients, shipping details, and “how to use” information are clearly displayed, with user reviews embedded directly on the page for easy reference. 
  • The product image gallery is vivid and up-to-date: customers know exactly what to expect when their order arrives.

On product page design and execution, Rocky Mountain Soap Co is checking all of the boxes. In general, there are a few “must-haves” all online stores should adhere to when it comes to product pages:

  • Clearly display all key info, including name, price, features, how-to-use, and customization options. Make sure that the “Add to Cart” button stands out!
  • Feature at least one image or a gallery of product photos
  • A concise, evocative product description 
  • Highlight customer reviews or ratings + company-generated product demos 
  • Suggest similar products, i.e. “You Might Also Like…” 

These best practices will help make sure your user buying experience is seamless.

The power of social proof

Social proof—both in terms of ratings or feedback from customers and company-generated product demos—illustrates your product’s value, builds credibility, and answers any questions shoppers may have when considering a purchase. These tactics can help beef up your e-commerce site’s social proof: 

  • Embed reviews on product pages
    • Product recommendations and reviews increase average order value and conversion rates. According to Smart Insights, 92% of consumers will hesitate to purchase a product or service if they don’t see genuine customer reviews.   
    • Address bad reviews, questions, or concerns immediately. Future customers need to see that your company takes the time to answer customer pain points.
  • Create stunning visual content
    • Your product is the real deal—show it off. Professional photography and video can tell the story for you.
  • Collaborating with influencers
    • Studies show that what you say about your product matters less than what someone else does. In fact, 30% of American internet users between the ages of 18 and 34 report purchasing something via social media. It’s not just inspiration they’re looking for—customers research and convert via social media at surprisingly high rates.
    • Keep it 100. Work with influencers who can authentically represent your brand and product while connecting with your ideal audience. Determine how your customers consume content and hone in on specific channels to give yourself a leg up. 
    • User-generated content can inspire your most passionate customers to share their experiences with a product. Look at that: you’ve just built your own personal influencer network of real people. 
      • Gear Guides by Moment Lenses are a perfect example of this concept. Their industry experts give advice, write reviews, and help customers set up new gear. If your business can recruit a similarly enthusiastic team of product ambassadors and customer care reps, the Gear Guide concept is an investment worth exploring.

Personalized campaigns

Once you’re confident in your online customer journey, product pages, and social proof, it’s time to get personal. Make the shopping experience unique based on each user’s behaviour, geography, and preferences. 

Retargeting or remarketing campaigns have proven to be among the most successful tactics for recapturing lapsed leads. Your remarketing strategy is like a hyper-personalized reminder of what a visitor was just about to buy. Maybe they got distracted—bring them back to your site with a gentle, personalized reminder. 

Retargeting serves relevant ads to your warmest leads. These are shoppers who’ve already been on your website—they may even have viewed or added product(s) to their cart—but dropped off before making their purchase. Following up helps keep you top-of-mind.

According to WordStream, retargeting ads are 76% more likely to generate a click through to your landing page than a standard display ad. By adding a basic tracking pixel to your website, you can retarget website visitors who didn’t make it all the way through the conversion funnel. These campaigns can even feature specific products a visitor has already viewed, so you know they’re in the consideration phase of the buyer’s journey. This could be the “nudge” that brings them to the decision stage.

Product collections or sets can help you anticipate buying trends around certain times of the year since holidays and other cues often drive purchasing behaviour. Curated collections help shoppers find what they’re looking for while introducing them to similar or related products. These collections can be especially compelling if you can sell grouped items at a discount. Do the work for them—it may even help you entice shoppers who are on the fence. 

Check out the Save on Sets by Moment Lenses (psst: if we mention them twice, you know they’re doing something right) for a great example of effective product collections. 

If your store has multiple versions based on location, help users get to the right domain before making it through the buyer’s funnel—no one wants to restart or leave a site to complete their purchase. Consider adding a “Select Location” pop-up based on the visitor’s location, or ask customers to select their country before entering the site. Tracked and catalogued (appropriately and anonymously, of course), this data can help users start in the right place when returning to your site.

Keep those gains!

The shift towards online buying, especially this holiday season, presents a unique opportunity for retailers to either experiment further or optimize their existing sites for digital. Online shopping is the future—position yourself for success.

A frictionless, customer-first experience should be the driving force behind your e-commerce philosophy. Add in intuitive site navigation and user journeys, and your customer’s online shopping experience should be close to seamless.

Map out your ideal customer journey, and then use your analytics to see how reality stacks up against your expectations. Use modular design principles to make sure your content is intuitively navigated and easy to consume. Make your products pop with powerful product pages that harness the power of social proof. Finally, anticipate buying trends with collections that deliver on your customers’ expectations. 

When you’re ready to go beyond best practices, it’s time to consider the competition. Monitor online conversations, engage in a little good-natured social listening, and keep your eye on the future of the e-commerce landscape. With trends evolving on an almost-daily basis, prioritize building your capacity internally or engaging a third-party specialist to help manage and optimize your online brand. If you’re looking for a little support on that front, well, we might know some people.

Want to learn more about how you can optimize your e-commerce presence? Drop us a line.