Website features to help you get sales, Part 1

Some pages and functions are compulsory for an Australian online store. But do features like reviews, videos and personalisation result in more online sales? Here’s what you need to consider.

When you’re building an eCommerce website, some pages and functions – such as your check-out and privacy policy, for instance – are customer expectations or compulsory elements for an Australian online shop.

However, a quick visit to any major online retailer quickly reveals that there are many optional extras in terms of functionality and navigation that you might like to have on your website.

Here are the pros and cons of some common eCommerce navigation and functions, plus a quick refresher on the elements that your online shop has to have in place in order to sell online.

Compulsory elements

There are six compulsory elements that must appear on any Australian website designed for online retail. They are:

1. Business contact details You should include your ABN, a postal address, physical address, email address (if possible) and phone number.

2. Pricing You must clearly display the currency and the actual price of each item for sale on your website.

3. Refund policy Explain how customers can return or cancel an order and request a refund. Remember, your refund and exchange policy must be clear and comply with Australian Consumer Law (ACL). Goods and services bought online must meet the same statutory conditions and warranties as for in-store sales, and consumer statutory rights are also the same for online purchases.

4. Security policy Describe the measures in place to protect customer communications, personal details and payment data (for example, SSL certificates and SecurePay).

5. Terms and conditions Outline the legal terms governing the use of your website.

6. Privacy policy Your privacy policy should cover:

  • what customer data is collected and tracked (including if you use cookies, for instance)
  • what the information will be used for (such as marketing purposes)
  • who information is shared with (for example, delivery services that will receive some customer information)
  • how you keep data secure (internal privacy policies, access to customer information, and so on)
  • the process if customers want to access or correct their information (provide a contact email address or telephone number).

Beyond the basics

While your site must include the elements above, below we consider the value of a variety of optional extras that allow customers to search your eCommerce website more efficiently or that present visitors with new options and validation for their purchase choices.

Online videos

Product videos can take many forms, from catwalk videos for fashion items, to video reviews and comparisons, to how-to video guides demonstrating how to assemble, install or operate a product.

Pros Videos not only do well on search (giving your website SEO benefits), visitors who view product videos are 64–85 per cent more likely to make a purchase than visitors who do not. Also, if you create a video you can share it on the YouTube channel to draw traffic to your site. Educational videos such as “Five stylish ways to tie a scarf” and even product unboxing videos such as the ridiculously popular Egg Surprise videos can garner thousands of hits.

Cons Videos can be expensive and time consuming to produce. Why not trial a video or two for certain products and see whether you convert more sales? Alternatively, if you’re selling products from big brands you may be able to embed existing product videos on your own site.

Shop by brand

If you stock brand name products, customers may want to search just the items by a particular brand, label or designer.

Pros Shop by brand navigation is great for SEO (because customers are more likely to be searching for the brand name than your online store, unless you’ve already got good brand awareness), and it’s ideal for brand-conscious buyers if you sell well-known electronics and fashion brands, for example. It gives customers another way to sort products and gives you additional insights into the stock that’s most and least popular.

Cons How extensive is your selection? A shop by brand selection may make the gaps more apparent. You also need to consider how competitive your pricing is on brand goods, as shop by brand can make it easier for customers to compare prices.

New arrivals

New arrivals or new in store lets customers see your latest stock.

Pros New arrivals is a good search feature to have if you have lots of repeat visitors who may simply want to see what’s new since their last visit. It’s also a valuable search option for customers who want to be right on trend.

Cons New in store won’t work if you rarely add new lines. It might also stop you from clearing older stock.

Product comparisons

Product comparisons work best for online stores that sell items with objective specifications that are important to convert the sale: think electronics, tiered services, appliances, hotel accommodation and rental cars.

Pros Allowing customers to compare features and prices can help a customer find the right product for them, potentially decreasing returns and buyer’s remorse.

Cons Some customers may get overwhelmed or confused by all the choices and end up not making the purchase at all.

Ratings and reviews

Many online shops give products a rating (a score out of 10 or star rankings, for instance) and include customer reviews. Around 61 per cent of customers say they read online reviews before making a purchase, and having them on your site can lead to an 18 per cent sales uplift from increased conversions, bigger orders and repeat business.

Pros Ratings and reviews, especially ratings and reviews from other customers, give potential buyers social proof of the value, performance or suitability of an item. Even the occasional negative review isn’t necessarily bad because it shows that the reviews aren’t fake. Also, if customers are tentative because they can’t touch/try out/ try on your products, reading how other people found them may be the tipping point into purchasing.

Cons According to Reevoo, you can expect around 4.6 per cent more sales conversions if products have 50 or more reviews. That’s a lot of reviews. Many customers won’t write a review, so you need high traffic to ensure you get reviews for products. Alternatively, you may need to encourage customers to come back and write a review. If you have a loyalty program, you could use points or small discounts as incentives.

Installing new eCommerce and search features

Most of the optional features we’ve discussed here are available as free or paid-for plugins, depending on what shopping cart platform your online store uses. In some cases, there are multiple options available. You’ll probably also find additional comments and insights on how they work within merchant shopping cart forums.

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