Designing an average functioning eCommerce website is not very challenging, but building a cutting-edge online store demands a lot of effort. Including certain special features and functionalities can help you build an advanced online store that drives sales by offering better user experience.
Forrester Research reports that consumer spending on online shopping in the US will increase by 45% by 2016. In 2012, shoppers in the US spent $226 billion dollars buying products or services online, and this number is expected to climb to $327 billion by 2016. Most developed and developing countries show similar trends: online eCommerce is getting bigger and bigger every year.
As a designer, I feel the impact of these numbers. Most shop owners realize the importance of building an online store and many entrepreneurs realize the potential of an online-only business model. More than half of the websites that I design offer online shopping, and I believe that quite a few of the web design projects that most designers will work on in near future will be related to eCommerce development.
If you have been designing eCommerce websites, you know everything about the areas that you need to focus on: product display and sorting, order tracking, simple and short add to cart facility and guest checkout. Getting these basics right is easy; perhaps, you can do that in your sleep.
On the other hand, designing an advanced eCommerce website that drives sales is something else altogether. Let’s take a look at five special features that you can find only in top-of-the-line online stores. You can use some of these features in the site that you are building to dramatically improve user experience and increase sales.
Inline Validation in Forms to Simplify the Checkout Process
A customer who selects a product and takes the time to fill out a form with payment and other details is dead serious about buying a particular product. If you create a form that frustrates the users by asking them to fill out missed fields, the web store may lose a customer. Designing a clear form with clear options is good, but creating a form with inline validation is great. It minimizes the possibility of error and speeds up the checkout process by instantly telling the users that the information in a particular field is invalid.
Advanced Suggested Search for Enhanced User Experience
A few of years ago, designers around the world were amazed by Amazon’s idea of showcasing similar products along with the main search item. Suggested search is an equally powerful technique. When user’s type in something in the suggested search box, advanced search does more than just auto-complete the query: it also shows products results with images and links along with other option. And all this is a part of a dropdown of the search results!
Responsive or Adaptive Design for Mobile Users
M-commerce is already a big part of eCommerce, and it is getting bigger. A substantial number of people buy products online, using their smartphones or tablet devices. Many smart mobile users also browse and collect product information from the Internet before buying the products through some other channel. By designing a mobile-specific website or by using responsive design, you can make it easier for mobile users to browse and buy products.
Interactive Shopping Carts for Driving Sales
As a designer, I work hard to shorten and speed up the checkout process, but I also don’t mind adding elements that keep visitors from proceeding to the checkout. Using simple animation effects, you can make the shopping cart interact with the user. An animated cart may consist of a panel at the bottom of the page that gives the user details about this purchase. The rest of the page can prominently display related items, encouraging the customer to buy more items. For repeat customers, you could also add a functionality that fills up the page with personalized recommendations.
Video or Slide Product Tours for Positive Purchase Decisions
A decent photograph of the products and list of its features is not enough. Designing an online store that can compete with the best in the field takes some extra effort. Video demos of the products or slide shows that showcase the products from different angles help users get a better idea of what they are buying. A short, live demo for product can persuade ambivalent viewers to make a positive purchasing decision.
For designers who want to build effective online stores that deliver the perfect shopping experience to online buyers, the above features are mandatory. Currently, only the best eCommerce stores have these features, but they will become the norm in the coming years.
FrontPage Image provided by Shutterstock
FrontPage Image: Message on keyboard pad, for online or internet shopping via Shutterstock