Small businesses that sell products online avoid many of the headaches (and costs) of running a physical store. However, there’s more to running a successful ecommerce website than opening your digital doors and waiting for the money to roll in. You must follow proven ecommerce best practices to convert visitors into buyers and create strong customer relationships.
A good shopping experience takes more than a slick site design
Your branding is a key differentiator
Customers want helpful product descriptions, professional images, a clear returns policy, competitive prices, and stellar customer service
Skimping on SEO and marketing can make it impossible for new customers to find you
Whether you want to launch a new ecommerce website or bring more customers to an existing online store, following the ecommerce best practices outlined below will help you build a successful ecommerce strategy. You’ll be able to increase website traffic, impress potential customers with a stellar experience, and ultimately increase sales.
Figuring out what to sell is one of the most important (and challenging) decisions when starting an ecommerce site. A print on demand ecommerce business allows you to build brand recognition around profitable products with consistent demand: think wall art; custom clothing for men, women, and children; phone cases; drinkware; and more. People always need these products, and as a print on demand seller, you’ll avoid the frustrations of inventory management and planning.
Once you’ve figured out what you want to sell, establish your niche within the market. Doing so lends authenticity to your brand’s voice and makes it easier to formulate a unique selling proposition for your products.
Start with a brute-force search engine blitz, but instead of typing in simple keywords like “planner” or “hoodie,” seek long-tail keywords in your category, like “Ramadan fasting planner” or “hoodie with short sleeves and zipper,” to short-circuit market saturation and find gaps you can fill.
A distinctive brand forges a powerful connection with shoppers and can drive sales from new customers and returning website visitors. Customers with previous purchases are often willing to pay higher prices for branded products because they perceive them as higher quality.
To build your brand’s story, browse businesses with a similar target audience on platforms and marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy, and Shopify. Let your research inspire a brand name that’s memorable, relevant to your niche, and easily spelled. Then, create a simple, instantly-recognizable logo that aligns with your brand image. Emphasize readability with your logo’s font choices and color scheme.
One of the key ecommerce best practices for bringing in additional sales revenue is to craft compelling, search-optimized product descriptions that take into account customers’ buying habits, preferences, and needs. In other words, they consider how the customer approaches the search bar on desktop computers and mobile devices.
Because your customers can only interact physically with your products after buying, ensure product titles and descriptions help bridge the gap with relevant keywords about product benefits and features, production materials, dimensions, and more. An online shopping experience that delivers only essential information about products may force shoppers back to their search bar - potentially sending them to another ecommerce website.
You may even miss out on the opportunity to capture website traffic in the first place. Keyword-optimized product descriptions help you rank for users' search queries and gain visibility in search engines like Google and Bing. Optimized product descriptions also help your online store rank when customers use the search feature on ecommerce platforms like Etsy or Shopify.
Capturing professional, high-quality photos for your store is one of the most important ecommerce best practices to help your bottom line. In fact, according to Justuno, 93% of consumers consider visual appearance the key deciding factor in purchasing.
You’ll need to invest in a “real” camera to capture high-quality images: don’t settle for your phone’s camera! Simple backgrounds, even lighting, and multiple angles or close-ups of essential features will help customers understand what they’re buying. You may also want to consider a tripod for steady shooting, include other objects for scale, and use post-processing software to ensure everything looks just right.
It’s a lot to keep track of, so the best solution is often to hire a professional photographer and let them tackle your product photos. But if a product photo shoot isn’t in the cards, don’t despair! The new Mockup Studio tool for Gelato+ subscribers can help you effortlessly create premium mockups for a variety of custom-branded items to integrate sales-boosting product previews into your store instantly. If your ecommerce site sells apparel, you can even display your mockup on models with various body types.
Setting competitive prices for your products is crucial to the survival of your business. The right price can entice customers to buy, cover your production costs, and add additional sales revenue that maximizes profit margins.
Store owners often underestimate the costs that go into producing their goods. When setting a price, consider the costs of any design software or services as well as actual production and shipping costs for the product. You should also factor in platform fees, marketing costs, and taxes. Gelato’s new pricing tools can help you quickly get a handle on costs (once you make an account, anyway).
Once you’ve calculated your per-unit costs, consider using cost-plus pricing - also known as markup - to set your prices. Simply add a fixed percentage of your expenses to every item you sell. To ensure your markup is realistic, browse your competitors’ stores and look at their prices. If your products are more expensive, does your unique selling point justify the higher price (and do customers care)?
Upselling encourages customers to consider a higher-end version of the product or service they’re shopping for. Using apparel as an example, you might nudge customers toward a more premium choice, like organic cotton.
Cross-selling provides suggestions for ancillary or related products to enhance a product's user experience. No need to provoke cart abandonment by being too aggressive: presenting a simple “You might also like…” or “You forgot these!” with targeted product choices on your checkout page can be very effective.
Effectively employing these strategies will increase your average order value and help customers maximize their product experience. When you help make customers’ lives easier, you drive long-term loyalty and increase their trust in your brand.
Worried about negative comments? Don’t be. The Medill Spiegel Research Center at Northwestern University found that “negative reviews … help establish trust and authenticity.” Use low ratings as a learning opportunity: reach out to the customer to learn about the issue and find out how to make things right.
Make sure it’s easy for your customers to leave reviews, and send follow-up emails after a purchase asking for feedback to show customers you genuinely care about their experience. You might even consider incentivizing reviews (even the negative ones) with a discount on a future purchase or an entry into a contest.
Search engine optimization (SEO) has the dual benefit of increasing your visibility to customers and improving your credibility: the higher you rank in search results, the more likely customers are to consider your site trustworthy (and click on it). Some common ways to improve SEO include using relevant keywords in your copy, creating ALT tags for your images, and identifying page titles and headers with appropriate meta tags.
Another of the key SEO best practices should also serve as the cornerstone for your marketing campaigns: creating original, high-quality, relevant content that provides value to readers. Content comes in many forms, including blog posts, videos, and infographics.
Make sure to create social media accounts on the major platforms and actively promote anything you produce. New content also gives you a good reason to blast an email or SMS to your contacts.
To maximize marketing efficacy, mix your content marketing with traditional nudges like pay-per-click sidebar ads, abandoned cart reminders, and announcements about sales or new product bundles.
A clear, easy-to-understand refund and return policy can boost sales and improve customer satisfaction. Shoppers who know they can return or exchange products that don’t meet their expectations buy confidently. Making good on your policy enhances customer relationships, increasing the likelihood of repeat business.
To create a clear refund and return policy, use plain, easy-to-understand language that clearly states the conditions under which customers can return products. Explain your process, timelines, and any special steps customers must take when returning products. Be ready to be flexible: considering exceptions for unusual circumstances can also help improve customer satisfaction.
Finally, ensure your return policy is easily visible throughout your store - especially on product pages.
Offering free shipping gives you a competitive advantage. It’s also an excellent way to increase your ecommerce website’s conversion rate, as high shipping costs are a common driver of cart abandonment. By tying free shipping to a minimum cart value, you’ll encourage customers to add more to their carts, allowing you to recoup (and maybe even surpass) any potential revenue lost from covering shipping.
Discounts and other promotions can help incentivize customer behavior. Still, it’s important to be careful about your margins and consider whether essentially paying a customer to take a particular action is worth it.
Certain activities like signing up for your marketing emails, leaving reviews, or following your accounts on social media platforms can help you add long-term value to your customer relationships, often making this a worthwhile tradeoff. For example, you can create a revenue-boosting sense of urgency by announcing exclusive flash sales over SMS and through your social media channels.
Stellar customer support can turn a negative customer experience into a positive one. And when customers know they can rely on you for help, they’re more likely to become repeat buyers. They may even talk about their experience with friends (or followers), further boosting your rep.
Treat customers how you’d want to be treated when it comes to customer support. Be responsive, empathetic, and efficient. Ensure your technology makes it easier for customers to get help rather than putting up barriers. After the support interaction, demonstrate your commitment to satisfaction by following up to confirm the customer’s issue was fully resolved.
Business analytics tools allow you to quickly assess various parts of your website and identify opportunities for further optimization. The easier you can make it for a customer to shop and complete checkout, the better off your web store will be.
Google, in particular, offers several excellent free tools to help you get started with business analytics:
Google Analytics tracks various events each time a user visits. In the past, marketers focused on data like time spent on a page and how many pages a user visited. The latest version of Google Analytics, GA4, focuses on engagement actions such as clicking and scrolling, giving you a clearer idea of how audiences interact with your content.
Google Trends analyzes a given query and serves up stats on search volume, regional popularity, and related terms.
Google Search Console provides detailed information about your website’s pages and how well you rank in Google search.
HotJar is a subscription-based tool that uses click heatmaps, session recordings, and more to help identify parts of your buying process that frustrate customers. You can even implement exit surveys and sidebar page ratings.
While there’s no surefire way to build an online shopping empire, leveraging the best practices above will give your ecommerce site a solid shot at long-term success in most product categories.
If you’re still unsure where to start, learn about creating a unique and competitive print on demand business selling popular custom products through Gelato. You’ll be able to showcase your designs and focus on bringing your creativity to life (and into business) - all without the frustrations of inventory management, product creation, and distribution.