Things to consider for your online shop

Online ShoppingLast week, we had an email from somebody who was pretty desperate. He had set up an online shop, filled it with thousands and thousands of products and in the three or four months after release, still nobody had found his shop or ordered his products. The online shop at hand sells women’s cloths.

This guy isn’t the only one with that mindset. Unfortunately, a lot of people still think the internet will magically bring them a fortune without any more promotional work to be done. “If you build it, they will come”. If only.

Now we could easily sell people like this a review, and then have them rebuild their shop. But it only seems fair to guide the ignorant a bit, right? Here are some things to consider when setting up a webshop.

What’s the Unique Selling Point (USP) of your online shop?

A Unique Selling Point (or Proposition) is the main reason for a customer to switch products or shops. It’s the thing that makes your online shop better than the all the other out there. The concept was “first proposed as a theory to explain a pattern in successful advertising campaigns of the early 1940s” (from Wikipedia). I’ve also heard people saying the USP is dead and replaced by UBR, the Unique Buying Reason. Whatever you call it, your webshop needs it to stand out from the crowd.

Have you thought about this? Why is your collection of shoes better than the next? Perhaps you kept the environment in mind, like a lot of others? It’s tough to find that one reason why you’re better than the competition.

With your USP in mind, you can start building your online shop. In our reviews, we’ve found more than once that an online shop is just a collection of products and the human factor is entirely left out. That doesn’t mean you should add a live chat or whatever, but you should focus on a great About Us page. And for instance loads of positive testimonials and reviews for both your products and your shop as a whole. Something that’s left out even more is a blog. If you have a unique product or service, you must have something to say about it.

What’s the main eye catcher on the homepage?

Why would anyone list all their available products on their homepage? One of my favorite words is ‘clutter’. I just really dislike an online shop that shows a million different options for me to click on. I either already know exactly what I want to purchase and use Google to find it, or I visit your shop to see what you have that will make my life a bit easier. That’s a bit black and white, but it does emphasize the need for a great call-to-action on the homepage of your online shop.

A lot of online shops use sliders as their call-to-action. You already know our take on sliders, but unfortunately a lot of shops do use them. Especially when cloths are involved, an online shop comes up with great images in a slider. Apart from the discussion if static images or copy would convert better, you should at least create an obvious link or button on that slider. If possible, keep the same look for that link or button for every slide. And keep it in the same place.

Unlike thinking of a decent USP, it really isn’t hard to set up a decent call-to-action. Think along the lines of featured products or links to your sale or outlet page. Perhaps even a special page you’ve created for your summer collection.

Did you write great content for your product pages?

This will take some effort. Most online shops we’ve reviewed in the past year used manufacturer descriptions for their product pages. Just import that database or XML file and you’ll have a content filled webshop and Google will start showing your product pages in their search result pages. Think again.

This is probably the most common reason for cross-domain duplicate content for online shops. Most of your competitors will use that exact same description. So you can either:

  1. Forget about ranking with your product pages (which can be a valid decision sometimes), or
  2. Write unique product descriptions (or have someone write them for you).

Option one is only valid when you have common products that are offered all over the internet. You should at least use Product schemas and allow for customer reviews (unique content!), so you can focus on other content to make your site rank. Choose your categories with care and set up killer category pages. Maintain or set up that blog on your website. In short: focus on your Unique Selling Point.

The second option is much, much harder. Not if your webshop only has ten products of course, but with thousands of products it’s a whole different ball game. Hiring a copywriter might not be a bad idea in this case. It’s amazing in how many ways a good copywriter can tell the same story over and over again for similar products of the same brand. And prevent that duplicate content by doing so.

Do you create a safe environment for your customer-to-be?

Make sure a visitor feels safe enough to submit personal stuff like credit card details on your website. That doesn’t mean your online shop should just contain a lot of security signs. Yes, these should be added, but a secure feeling is also enhanced by other things, such as testimonials. And how about inline validation? Feeling secure is also about doing things right yourself.

An obvious one that is unfortunately forgotten by a lot of online shops: contact details. That large telephone number in your header makes sure I know I can contact someone if things go wrong. That address in the footer tells me you have an actual location I can go to with my complaint or damaged goods. It seems like some online shop owners just want to sell and prefer not to be contacted afterwards at all.

One more thing: Refund policies and Money Back Guarantees. Most of the times these are defined by law, so why not display these clearly on your website? A lot of your customers don’t realize they are protected anyway and don’t have a lot to worry about when purchasing anything from your shop. Listing these near checkout buttons is a great way to take away that last doubt.

Does your internal search work like it should?

Another pet peeve of mine. When you do a search in a webshop for “iPhone cable” and the results give back Galaxy covers. This might be personal, but when I do a search in a shop, I would like to:

  • See an image of the product,
  • view the product price so I can already compare products in the search results,
  • add cheaper items to my cart directly from these search results,
  • have a clear ‘click here for more details’ link,
  • be able to list all items instead of having to click to the next page (I can scroll really fast, you know),
  • have these results ordered by relevance.

If you do this right, I’d be in and out your online shop in no time and you can send over all these great products you offer.

Gives you something to think about, right?

This is just the tip of the iceberg. In our reviews we cover this, and a lot more, so if you’re willing to spend money on getting our opinion, get one of our website reviews.

Also, if you run a website or build websites: you must have customer stories about this, or additional considerations. Perhaps you were that ignorant online shop owner in a past life? I’m looking forward to your additions in the comments.

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!