4 common mistakes that can turn an e-commerce site into a shopping nightmare

By Brad Smith

Your online shopping experience greatly depends upon the e-commerce site you visit. As you’ve probably noticed, some sites load slowly or feature navigation that is nonsensical, and the shopping experience? Forget about it. If the goal of your website is to sell more product, you need to make sure that your site makes a buyer’s shopping experience a joy, not a nightmare.

It’s time to shop your own website, as if you were the customer, and evaluate it from top to bottom. Whether you built your own website, work with a website provider, or are considering launching your first site, read on to learn about four of the most common e-commerce mistakes that result in a high rate of shopping cart abandonment and lost sales.

Your website loads s-l-o-w-l-y

The ideal load time for a website is under three seconds. However, a recent report by Radware1 clocked the average retail website load time at more than seven seconds. The drag is attributed to the usual suspects – large images, HTML, CSS and JavaScript files. Other factors that can impact website load time include third-party plug-ins such as Facebook and Twitter widgets, ad network tracking scripts and cloud-based content delivery systems.

Think about it. Do you wait for a website to load for more than a few seconds before bailing out to try a different site? According to Gomez by Compuware2, every two seconds of load time on your site equals an 8-percent abandonment rate. That same study shows that if your site’s load time drops from eight seconds to two seconds, your conversion rate actually jumps up 74 percent! It’s no wonder load time greatly impacts your bottom line.

Do you know what your website load time is? You can test it, with this cool tool from Pingdom: http://bit.ly/1ahcGJ (it’s free). You may be surprised by the results. Pingdom provides you with a detailed, actionable report of the load time for every single page of your website. Armed with that information, it’s up to you or your website provider to make any necessary changes to drop your load time and improve sales conversions. Based on the aforementioned statistics, you can’t afford not to make sure your site is up to par.

Your website doesn’t work the same in all web browsers

Are visitors to your website having the same experience on your website regardless of which browser they use? To find out, try accessing your website using a number of web browsers, including Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox. Viewing your site this way, you’ll see exactly what buyers see – Are the lawn mower images displaying properly? Is all of your content, including any how-to videos, loading correctly? And, more importantly, is the shopping cart experience flawless? Here again, it’s up to you or your website provider to take control and resolve any issues you uncover.

Since most of us naturally assume the entire world uses the same web browser that we do, going through this exercise is especially important. Are you still using Internet Explorer (IE)? With only 11.8 percent of the population using IE as of July 2013, then you are part of the minority. The far-and-away leader is now Google Chrome at 52.8 percent3. Check out more browser user stats at http://bit.ly/bTa0hm.

Your website isn’t properly secured

Today’s online shoppers are savvy. They’re aware of the numerous fraudulent websites that exist simply to trick consumers into providing credit card information for illegal use. Here’s three ways you can show your customers that your website is fully secure and reassure them their personal information is safe on your site:

* All pages that collect personal information should be secured with a Secured Socket Layer certificate (SSL) that automatically displays the pages in the address bar proceed with https:// (rather than unsecured pages proceeded by http://).

* A small lock icon should display in the address bar in browser windows on secured pages. This icon is clickable to view the sites SSL issuer, type and expiration date.

* Prominently display the shield icon and/or logo of your SSL provider on your home page to provide your site shoppers an added visual reassurance of your website security.

Your shopping cart isn’t optimized

Your shopping cart should make the shopping experience as quick and simple as possible while removing any unnecessary steps to improve conversion rate. Offer a simple, visual experience at all times. There’s nothing more frustrating than backtracking or scouring a site to hunt down your shopping cart. The cart and its contents, including item thumbnails of the parts or equipment, should be easy to access at all times so that online buyers can quickly double-check features, quantities and costs — no matter what page they’re on.

In order to convert more shoppers into buyers and increase your online sales, it’s critical that your website provides a shopping (or researching) experience that is easy to use and builds confidence in the products they’re considering. Take some time to check your website performance, compatibility with web browsers, security and shopping cart optimization to be sure you’re welcoming customers instead of shooing them away to your competitor’s.

 Brad Smith is ARI’s Director of Product. ARI creates award-winning software solutions that help equipment manufacturers, distributors and dealers “Sell More Stuff!” — online and in-store. ARI removes the complexity of selling and servicing new and used inventory, parts, garments and accessories for customers in outdoor power equipment, powersports, marine, RV, automotive tire and wheel, and white goods industries. More than 22,000 equipment dealers, 195 distributors and 140 manufacturers worldwide leverage ARI’s website (www.arinet.com) and eCatalog platforms to “Sell More Stuff!” Smith holds an MBA from the University of Wisconsin and is an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran.

1 Radware http://www.radware.com/newsevents/pressrelease.aspx?id=1632019

2 Compuware http://www.compuware.com/en_us/application-performance-management/solutions/ecommerce/overview.html

3 W3 Schools http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp


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