Despite a decline in the traditional UK high street revenue, the ecommerce and mobile ecommerce business is booming - not only can consumers purchase with ease at a time which is convenient to them, it is also cheaper for retailers to sell online - win, win!  Taking an average of two seconds to judge a website, 92.6% of consumers rank visual elements as the most influential factor affecting their purchasing decisions. So, looks really do matter!

We’re not saying bricks and mortar are dead. In fact, retailers who look to merge the physical and digital experiences will be the real winners. But, ecommerce is your opportunity to scale your business and reach potentially international audiences at the click of a button.

With ecommerce sales expected to hit £370 billion by 2017 and more demanding customers than ever before, websites which are aesthetically pleasing and offer an excellent, all round customer experience are likely to increase sales. Don’t forget, your competitors are also only a few clicks away, and there are countless others bidding for your audiences’ attention, so take a look at our top tips for developing fantastic ecommerce websites.

Mobile Mad

In the UK, mobile is expected to account for 24% of all retail sales in 2014, rising to 35% by 2017. Considering this is where a great deal of your customers will be spending their time, what are you doing to meet them there!? When faced with a website which isn’t responsive or mobile friendly 50% of users will refer back to the search engine to find a better alternative. However, upon reaching a website which is responsive, 51% are likely to make a purchase. If that isn’t enough to sway you, 70% of searches on mobile devices lead to action within the hour and 61% of consumers will form a better opinion of your brand if you offer an excellent user experience. Add to that the fact that Google explicitly states that it gives preferential treatment to responsive websites and it’s clear that this is a no brainer!

Search Me...

If you have a large website offering an exhaustive list of products which are poorly laid out, customers are likely to become frustrated scouring page after page to source what they are looking for. There are a few elements to consider here - clear information architecture (looking at prioritising key content and structuring it effectively in line with UX best practice), intuitive menu structures, SEO and smart site search functionality. A sophisticated search function empowers customers to be self-sufficient and locate products with ease. Looking for some inspiration? Take a look at Amazon and Tesco to see their excellent search function.

It's all becoming clear now

Transparency is key when it comes to business - the more transparent the purchase process, the better the user experience. There is nothing worse than reaching the end of a lengthy process only to be presented with further steps, an extortionate delivery charge or unrealistic delivery date so it’s very important you are upfront and honest with customers from the beginning. Isolate the purchase process and clearly indicate the stages, to allow the user to see exactly where they are in the purchase and how much more effort is required of them. Outlining delivery charges and estimated delivery time alongside any discounts and added costs from the outset ensures the buyer is informed from the beginning. If you charge an additional 2% on credit card purchases - let them know! Any unexplained costs can lead to basket abandonment and low levels of trust.

Buying made easy

When it comes to site navigation, the simpler the better we say! Not only do breadcrumbs show customers where they are on the website and how to navigate back to previous items, but they can also be used to indicate how far they are into the purchase process. Sites that use breadcrumbs tend to have lower bounce rates, provide better usability and can be used in a way which is visually pleasing. For best practice, breadcrumbs should be placed at the top of the site, make it clear to the user exactly where they are within the process and should be in addition to the main navigation, not in place of it.

A feeling of security

Recently, Google announced it would reward HTTPS encrypted websites with higher positions in search results. Traditionally, HTTPS was implemented only on login or payment pages where sensitive data would be transferred, however it’s now worth considering this to feature throughout the whole website. When developing your website, we recommend full HTTPS implementation as this can put the user at ease over security concerns.

Don't sell yourself short

Think about how you can cross and up-sell, by making use of tagged content and presenting users with features such as “Customers who bought this also bought X”, “Other products in this range”, “Special package offers with this product”, etc. If you don’t make this content visible to them then they may not even think to look for it in the first place.

A personal touch

Where possible get up close and personal. As an ecommerce business your customers provide you with incredible amounts of data, which can be used to present them with more relevant, targeted communications and offers. There are plenty of things that you can take into consideration, including location-based offers, targeting based on purchase history, retargeting basket abandoners and tailoring e-communications (beyond simply name and looking at preferences, favourite purchase categories and the likes).

Be our guest

Finally, when it comes to ease of purchase and user experience, the ‘guest checkout’ is a firm favourite. Customers loathe nothing more than a lengthy sign-up process, so make it easy for them. Allowing users to purchase and then sign up at a later date (or indeed save their details from that purchase) is thought to increase sales and customer retention. So, why not give it a try!?

In the coming weeks we will be delving into some of the best ecommerce websites out there so keep your eyes peeled!