As anyone who has experience with either soda fountains or toddlers will attest, most of the time something being sticky is not a good thing. One notable exception: an e-commerce website.
For many sites, getting people to stick around long enough to buy something is a significant problem. Evidence of that is the abandonment rate for online shopping carts averages over 68 percent. Think about that – two-thirds of the people you lure to your site through your extensive and costly marketing efforts walk away without buying anything. And will probably never come back.
As a software engineer who specializes in creating web and mobile and applications for our clients, I’ve seen it all. And I can tell you that when people come to your site, they’re not just looking to buy something and hand you their money. They want—demand, actually—a full customer service experience that allows them to do everything from conduct product comparisons and research, to read authentic online reviews from actual users of the product, to complete a purchase quickly and easily.
Pricing is an open book, product quality is expected—those are basically table stakes, and won’t make customers flock to your site and buy stuff. What will make your site standout—and make people buy—is a superior online experience. So let me offer a few tips on how to make your e-commerce site sticky.
Include plenty of product detail
One way to differentiate your site over those of competitors is the quality of the information you provide. If you’re selling a physical product, detailed, high-resolution photos are a must, showing every angle, with the ability to zoom in, and providing scale. People want to be able to see the product as well as if they were in a brick-and-mortar store, turning it over in their hands.
It’s also important to provide as much detail as possible for the specifications. If your product has moving parts, how many decibels of noise does it make when running? If it runs on AC power, how much current does it draw? If your product bolts on, give every dimension of the bolts required or included. If it’s wearable, what size is it really? A Zara XL is like a J. Crew medium. These kinds of details go beyond the usual tech specs found on the side of a box. And how does the product—whatever it is—compare to similar competing offerings? Graphs, infographics, and other at-a-glance comparisons are tremendously valuable. The richer the detail you can provide, especially content that addresses customers’ needs, the more sticky your site will be.
Use verified customer reviews and photos
People can spot a canned, phony product review from a mile away, and if they smell it even for a second then you’re done. Helpful hint: if all the product reviews on your site are 4 stars and higher, that will set off the klaxon on the BS-O-Meter instantly. Unless you’re a big name like Amazon, shoppers will probably find your review suspect – particularly if they’re uniformly 4.5 stars. At the very least they’ll assume you’re cherry-picking and posting only the best reviews.
The reality is if they don’t trust your reviews, they probably won’t buy from you. The solution is to use a third-party review site like those on Google’s list of approved third-party product review aggregators. If you plan to share your own user reviews, ensure that the process appears open and honest – that means leaving the one-star ratings and incorporating real user photos to demonstrate authenticity. And by the way, if you see a product you carry regularly getting good or bad reviews, consider that excellent market feedback on what to stock!
Make checkout easy
Set up an account? Submit my phone number? Create a password?…Password too long!?! Get me out of here! This is the point where many e-commerce sites fail big time, and what probably accounts for those high abandoned-cart stats—first-time checkout is a royal pain.
Here’s the tip: make checkout as easy as possible. You can ask customers for more info later and suggest they set up an account on the order confirmation page, but right now you’re just trying to get that first sale. Ask for as little information as possible. Usability is key – think limited vision and clumsy fingers, particularly on smartphones, which growing numbers of consumers use as their primary Internet devices. Autofill as much information as you can, such as city and state from the postal code or credit card type based on the number. Use big, easy-to-read fields, proper tab key behavior, and the ability to type dates and states instead of using drop-down menus. Including payment options like Amazon, Google and Apple Pay as alternatives to typing in credit card info can improve your conversions big time.
Whether you’re selling fishing lures, computer hardware or plush toys, your e-commerce site is your storefront just as if it were a brick-and-mortar business and you want to make it just as inviting, comfortable and easy to navigate. Don’t give people an excuse to turn around and walk right back out without making a purchase. If you provide a good experience the first time, you give your new customers every reason to come back again and again.
Jason Garber is a Senior Software Engineer and Co-Founder of PromptWorks, a Philadelphia-based consulting shop delivering customized web and mobile web applications which has grown into a multi-million dollar business in less than two years. At 14 years old, he founded his first website development company and then went on to be a passionate advocate for Ruby on Rails, clean code, and automated testing. He’s consulted with clients large and small through his web development work, and previously held positions at Rosetta Stone and Eastern Mennonite University, where he earned his BA/BS in Economics, Business Administration, and Computer Information Systems.