The ease and accessibility of starting an online business is everywhere these days.

Jonas Valančiūnas of the Toronto Raptors and the Itty Bitty Ballers” campaign for GoDaddy.com is a great example of how host companies pitch the seeming ease of crushing it online. (And no, it’s not a real website. I checked.)

If only it were so easy.

While there may be a million reasons to start an online shop, it seems like there are also about a million things that need to go right in order for it to become at least mildly profitable. 

Here are some of the ugly lessons that I’ve learned on my way to designing my website, YourSwimBook.com.

1. Test across every device. Especially mobile. 

One of the problems I had when putting my website together was that it was done on a desktop. Every time I hit preview on my site, it was done on a large, wide monitor.

But that’s not how a vast majority of people will view the site. Here is a quick snapshot of traffic from a recent day of traffic to give you an idea of just how many will be seeing your site in the palm of their hand:

As you can see, a wild majority of the traffic coming to my site is on a mobile device, over 70%

When designing, creating and building your site and checking functionality through the sales funnel don’t lose sight of the mobile mindset. This means checking how it looks and functions across all the popular mobile devices and browsers, and not just your designing browser of choice on your desktop.

2. No matter how devoted your fan base, trust signals matter.

How many times have you gone to a website, looked around, and thought twice about punching in your payment details? If you are like most customers, often.

Some research done by Actual Insights found that 76% of participants said trust logos affected their sense of trust in a particular website.

So what does that mean? 

Adding trust logos to your sales page, cart page, and checkout page. For larger websites and businesses this isn’t much of an issue, as there is some ingrained trust along with the brand name, but for smaller online stores this kind of trust (or lack thereof) can be a serious difference maker.

Adding a personalized quote at the end of the sales page plus trust logos (credit cards + PayPal icons) helped boost conversions by just under 9%, and took all of about five minutes to put together:

3. Make checking out a breeze.

The ease and access that the internet provides has spoiled us in a lot of ways. When we see something we want we expect to be able to purchase it right away, so when you are prompted to fill out a series of fields that don’t seem immediately applicable to your purchase, it creates needless resistance and friction in the purchasing process.

I’m not a fan of registering for things online, so why would I ask customers to do so as well?

There were two things that I stopped doing that saw my conversion rate increase by about 15%:

Not forcing customers to register an account before purchasing something. Allow them to check out as a guest, or pitch them an account sign-up after they have purchased.

Giving them a visual representation of how far along the checkout process they are. This one is super easy–throw together a couple quick graphics that give customers a “you are here” bearing when they are checking out. As mentioned, the ease of the internet has made people weary of hoop-jumping, so make usability seamless and without surprises.

“You are here” checkout graphic. Easy as 1-2-3!

Adding a radio button to subscribe to the newsletter is easy enough, and exceptionally unobtrusive.

4. Speed matters.

By the time I had put together my first long form sales page it was 3,000 words of highly charged copy. It had all the guarantees, multiple CTA’s, testimonials, and (eventually) the aforementioned trust signals.

Additionally, there were lots of high quality images of the product itself.

Because people can’t physically touch it, or go to a local store to put their hands on my product, it was important to load the sales page up with vivid images. The only thing I didn’t think about when doing this was that photos, when not properly optimized, increase the page size very quickly. Oops.

Not great, not bad!

Google has hinted that page speed matters (evidenced by the fact they encourage developers and web builders to test and improve on it with Google PageSpeed Insights). How much of a role it plays in rankings is a matter of speculation, but even intuitively we know that slow websites stink.

The numbers on slow sites aren’t very forgiving, according to research done by Akamai and Gomez.com showing that 79% of web visitors won’t come back to a website that is experiencing speed issues, with users tending to abandon the site altogether if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.

We want page speed, and we want it now!

In Closing

Despite how easy a lot of online retailers and marketers make it look, building and maintaining an e-commerce shop is hard work.

After all, it’s not enough to have a great product and a great pitch–you need to have the technical and UX fundamentals in place in order to insure a smooth purchasing experience for customers. 

Image Credit / Flickr

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Olivier Poirier-Leroy is an entrepreneur, publisher, and owner of YourSwimBook.com, a blog and shop for competitive swimmers.

 

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