With so much of our daily lives spent online, it’s no wonder ecommerce has made such an impact on business. For small business owners especially, the creation of an online presence is vital. We’ve seen and built eCommerce websites of all shapes and sizes over last 7 years through our NJ web design company. From our firsthand experience, here are the five critical features that every eCommerce website should have.
1. Shopping Cart
Without a shopping cart, a website would not be an ecommerce site. Online shopping carts allow customers to select and purchase items, ultimately bridging the gap between browsing and buying. Since this is the main function of any ecommerce website, it is important that the shopping cart have certain features.
An ecommerce shopping cart is a software application that is integrated into a website to allow products to be browsed, searched for and purchased. There are various softwares, like osCommerce, CRELoaded, Miva Merchant, Zen Cart and Magento, which offer ecommerce solutions that can be used as-is, or customized to fit your needs. Make sure that your shopping cart is always intuitive and user-friendly for all so as to avoid losing customers.
Regardless of what software is used, shopping carts are made up of three basic parts: a database that stores product, customer and order information, your storefront shopping cart, order forms and checkout and an administrative backend where the site owner manages all the aspects of the ecommerce site. To make the payment section function and collect funds, a payment gateway (or merchant account) must also be integrated. Popular choices include PayPal Pro, Google Wallet, Linkpoint and more. Since payments and personal information will be collected, make sure that all aspects of your shopping cart and checkout process are secure by obtaining an SSL certificate for your ecommerce site through your web host.
2. Excellent Website Design
All of the most successful ecommerce sites have one thing in common: excellent design. Aesthetically pleasing websites have the best chance of gaining and retaining customers. The web design of an ecommerce site includes a few key aspects: clear product navigation, strong branding and messaging, a compelling call-to-action and intuitiveness.
Most online shoppers visit an ecommerce site looking for a specific product, thus, it is key that they be able to navigate the site easily and find their desired product. By creating descriptive top and side navigation menus breaking down products by categories, this allows users to not only find the original product they were searching for, but to see other product and category offerings as well.
Strong branding and messaging set your ecommerce site apart from the rest. Your ecommerce site should clearly reflect what you are selling and have a unique look and feel that customers associate with your company. Generally, a web designer should be used to achieve this goal. A good ecommerce web designer will understand this and work to come up with an eye-catching design that is easy to use and contains a compelling call-to-action to purchase your items.
An excellent example of all of these aspects is The Paper Store and More (www.thepaperstoreandmore.com), run by Paterson Papers, a New Jersey small business that has been operating for almost 100 years.
Their branding and messaging clearly shows they are a paper goods company, and the web designer created a visually stunning website. Their top navigation menu is easy to navigate and informative, while their side navigation has a search widget and a color family search option to easily find one of their 1200 product offerings.
Stay tuned for part 2…
Update: View Part 2 Here