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What Makes a Successful Ecommerce Website – more than just shiny pictures and a payment option.

A few quick words of advice for starters on making your e-shop attractive. First, think about the overall customer experience. Online shopping is a fiercely competitive sector, especially if you are new to ecommerce, so it is important to be clear what you want to achieve. A successful website should inspire your customers to take action. Excellent Web Design involves the flow of text and pictures, and tells a story. If you want to be successful commercially, it must be visually arresting and make your messages clear and concise. Poorly organised sites do not perform well and struggle to make sales. If your visitors have to consume too much information or it takes a lot of effort to navigate your site, they will lose interest rapidly and move to your competitors. The only way to keep your audience engaged is to make sure your website is easy-to-use. Commercially available e-shop templates are a great help.

Once you have a website in place, it can be tempting to put all the content on one page. One of the biggest mistakes in ecommerce design is having too much information in one place. Customers do not have time – attention spans are precious. Keep your website simple and prioritise content. Give your most attractive products an exclusive spot for maximum audience exposure. Or prioritise big promotions.

Customers will form an opinion on your website in a matter of seconds, so having high-quality images with good lighting is crucial. If you are selling small or intricate products, such as arts and crafts, then adding a zoom function will provide details of the products that you are trying to sell. Adding a couple of photos from different angles will also help your buyer take an informed decision. Remember in ecommerce, illustrations are your shop window. It is amazing how many e-shops fail either to provide a photo, price, and product description for each item!

Make sure to include the following information when listing products:

  • Price
  • Fees (shipping, commission, customs)
  • Size
  • Materials or fabric (wool, cotton, etc.)
  • Dimensions/weight
  • Warranties

Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) sections are also very helpful.

In addition to good design and navigation, it is important that all the information you present is accurate. Pay particular attention to the quality of your text, spelling errors, broken links, blank pages etc. All of these will quickly result in your visitors questioning the professionalism of your business and losing trust. You need to reassure the buyer that you are a serious and trustworthy business. Think of adding any trust marks (see EFSA’s trustmark –, reviews from existing clients, certificates that reinforce this view. Accurate information will save you time and money in the future so take the time to get things right from the outset.

Although returns can eat into your margins for most goods the SA Consumer Protection Act requires e-shops to return goods if the consumer wishes. One way to reduce returns is by having easy-to-understand product descriptions. A clear returns policy on your website will give your customers’ confidence and trust in your business and reduce the likelihood of getting your products returned. Finally remember that a very large percentage of African internet use is vie mobile phones so make sure your website is mobile optimised.

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Alastair Tempest

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