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10 Simple Steps to Optimize Your Retail Web Site

by Lily O'Halloran

1. Show Some Originality

With new retail web sites sprouting up all over the Internet, many web site owners feel pressure to get their store up and running as fast as possible. These web site owners often opt to use their e-commerce software’s default layout. Sure the default layout looks nice, but it also makes their store look like every other store on the Web.

Show some originality to attract new customers and maintain current ones. Originality gives your web site a sense of style that makes it stand out from the crowd. Your sense of style also shows customers that you care; you’re not just out to make a quick buck. Coherent styles that flow well are much more interesting to potential customers.

2. Cut, Crop, and Enhance Images

Optimizing your digital pictures provides two main benefits: increased image view-ability and decreased page load time. Cutting, cropping, and enhancing your photos will make product images easier to view, and give them a polished, professional look. Images should be high in quality, but low in size for the most benefit. The smaller the file size, the faster the file will load. Customers are not going to stick around for slow-loading web pages. Not every user has broadband Internet, some customers use dial-up service. Faster pages offer a better shopping experience.

3. Use Thumbnail Pictures

Thumbnail pictures should be used on web pages containing a large number of photos. Thumbnail pictures allow the web page to load quickly, while still allowing the customer to view many products at one time. Each thumbnail photo should be linked to a larger-sized photo, so the customer can easily view products of interest. Images heights and widths should always be used when coding your site. Browsers use these figures to load the page. If you don’t specify the height or width, then the browser will have to load the pictures before loading the rest of the page. This process considerably slows down the page load time.

4. Include Comprehensive Product Details

Customers want the details. They want to know the measurement, weight, volume, color, size, shape, and condition of your product. Well, maybe not details that don’t apply, but you get the point. Customers want to know about the features of the product. What makes your product better than a competitor’s product? Product reviews, customer testimonials, and frequently asked questions about the product can be used to provide product knowledge.

5. Determine Your Target Demographic

It is imperative to define your target demographic. With this knowledge, you can gear your marketing campaigns to focus on this specific group. Once again, originality comes into play. You need to set your store apart from the mass of online stores. Why would this target group of people choose to shop at your store rather than your competitor’s store? Your writing style, graphics, and the look and feel of your web site should speak to your target demographic. This type of marketing takes research, but the time spent researching is well worth it. A unique store with a fresh look will attract more customers.

6. Incorporate Web Site Security

Web site security is crucial to the well-being of your business. With identity theft at an all time high, consumers are becoming more aware of web site security and methods used to keep their private information safe. Adding a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate to your web site will show customers that you are enabling secure e-commerce transactions. Many customers look for the https url or a little padlock in the browser window, before filling in their credit card information. Secure web sites aid in increasing customer satisfaction.

7. Establish Easy Site Navigation

Web site organization should be coherent, easy to understand, and flow well. The navigation system should be consistent on every page in your web site. A popular method that works well is to have both top and left-side navigation bars. This technique accommodates customers that are used to either format. If this method looks too cluttered for your taste, you might consider a left-side navigation bar with a search feature at the top of the page. A search feature allows the customer to find products quickly. Without a search feature, a customer should still be able to locate products with ease. Use logical categories to implement easy navigation. Breadcrumb navigation can be used to allow users to keep track of their location, which enables them to backtrack when desired.

8. Make Ordering Easy

The goal of your retail web site is to entice customers to place orders. Therefore, the checkout process should be as quick and easy as possible. Customers don’t want to fill out several pages of information just to place an order. In fact, a growing number of customers don’t even want to register with a site before placing an order. A quick buy option can be implemented to better serve these consumers. Offer customers the choice of registering, or ordering without registering, to gain the most sales. If you are concerned that customers don’t want to register, entice them with a discount coupon code with registration.

9. Post Contact Information

Customers are leery of web sites that do not contain contact information. Contact information is one of the first elements used to determine the legitimacy of a business. Customers are unlikely to order from a store that does not list contact details. How will the customer contact you, if something goes wrong? Contact information shows the customer that there is a real person behind the business, and helps create customer satisfaction.

10. Privacy Statement

Privacy statements inform customers of your intention to maintain the privacy of their personal information. Customers are wary of registering with new web sites, because they fear that their personal information will be shared. Personal information that gets into the wrong hands can lead to serious issues, such as identity theft, or annoying issues like spam. Customer loyalty can be earned by ensuring your customers that their information will not be shared.

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