Ecommerce websites are often hit or miss. They come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and conversion tactics. Some of these bold strategies meet their intended purpose of parting visitors with their paychecks. But just as many fall flat when it comes to conversions. So what are the determining factors? What separates a successful ecommerce site from a failure?
Pizzazz, shine, a certain je ne sais quoi... There's an intangible quality that goes into creating a successful ecommerce site. Some otherworldly x-factor that convinces you to open your heart, mind, and wallet. So what exactly are these criteria?
Usability is paramount. No one wants to wait even a few seconds longer for an expansive page element to load. This is a big reason why flat and minimalist looks are a big hit in web design right now.
You've got to let the customer know who you are in the most visible and consistent way possible. That means a large and attention-grabbing logo in an easy-to-see location on your website, usually at the top in a header.
Social commerce is becoming more important. Link to social media profiles and allow customers to share your content. Create a conversation around your brand.
Be accessible to your customers. Have an email, phone number, and physical address on your ecommerce site. Add a live chat option if at all possible.
Every brand has a story. Tell your own tale for added credibility and a personal connection your visitors can relate to.
Let your customers know the score up front. Transparency pays big dividends in customer loyalty.
You want your customer's information, but you don't want to hold their purchases hostage for it. Communicate the benefit in creating a customer account, but make the checkout process available for non-members too.
Don't skimp on this one: Gorgeous high-resolution images will sell your products more effectively than almost anything else.
User-generated content makes a powerful statement to other visitors. It shows that your brand is capable of delivering a product that people feel compelled to respond to. Your visitors see that and herd mentality sets in. The end result? Higher conversions for you.
Now that you know a little about what makes for a powerfully persuasive online sales venue, let's take a look at some examples you should look to emulate, or improve upon for your own web presence.
Luhsetea (don't ask me how to pronounce it) is a wonderful example of the power visual storytelling wields in terms of online selling. The front page draws you in with highly stylized comic art, and a short (violent) video featuring gun fire and hot tea. It immediately entertains the viewer and raises questions about the brand, such as, "what do machine guns and hot tea have to do with one another?" Guess you'll have to explore the site to find out!
Note the social media buttons and shopping cart icon at the top right of the screen. These are fixed elements that unobtrusively serve as constant calls to action throughout the duration of a user's visit.
Bored of Southsea is a niche clothing company with a fantastic web presence. The home page has bold, high-quality images on a slideshow that serve to subtly advertise their latest offerings. The design is simple and to the point: tabs to help you locate specific categories, images linking to products, and no frilly extras to take your attention away from the moneymaking elements the site wants to emphasize.
Another niche clothing company with minimalism at the forefront of its web design strategy, Bird and Knoll focuses on luxury designs, stunning imagery, and cause marketing to further its share-ability.
The flat design employed on the front page creates better contrast between the images contained within the boxes and the background. Moreover, the image elements on its front page are really nifty.
RFRM employs one of my personal favorite design techniques, parallax scrolling, in which a top layer of elements scrolls over top of a background layer of imagery. This creates an interesting aesthetic that I find massively appealing, especially when done well. Taken in conjunction with flat design on the top layer, it adds a little extra zest to an otherwise unspectacular jewelry site.
Half of Spunky Bubs' appeal is the name of the website. It's already adorable before you see the images. The other half of the appeal is the design. Again we see the recurring, layered background being employed. This time the images are not flat, but skeuomorphic in nature, which means they imitate objects in reality (in this case, photographs).
It also has prominently featured social media buttons, as well as attractive service features: free gift-wrapping, free shipping for orders over $200, and international shipping. Spunky Bubs' emphasizes who it targets, lets you know what sets it apart, and does so in an attractively uncomplicated package.
Eartheasy runs counter to the "less is more" trend that has been so apparent in our examples so far, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The site packages its products as "solutions for sustainable living" and offer numerous products that fall under that altruistic label.
The site is crowded, but organized. Everything is distinctly labeled and as a result, Eartheasy is intuitively navigable. It prominently advertises the latest offerings, featured products, and a frequently updated blog. The overall impression I get is that Eartheasy offers socially conscious, useful, and user-friendly products as well as free content. The site also makes an effort to be accessible with the live chat functionality fixed in the bottom right corner.
I'm a sucker for funny T-shirts, so One Horse Shy didn't have to do a lot to impress me. Still, this is an awesome ecommerce site. Highly visible (and pretty reasonable) pricing, high-quality images of the products, and a sedated off-white/beige background that really makes the colorful tees pop. This ecommerce site has everything it needs, and nothing it doesn't. You've got to admire that kind of utility.
Ziiiro is an oddly named ecommerce site that sells really sexy watches. It's got more of the same design and functionality that we've discussed thus far. High-quality images, a minimalist interface, a live chat function, pointed sales offerings, a simple and intuitive sidebar for navigation, and some social media buttons at the bottom of the page.
It's nothing new, but everything necessary for a great site.
Kershaw is another parallax site with attractive imagery, and content promoting its products. The reader is enticed to check out the stories surrounding the products with short, simple, and effective headlines. The uncomplicated navigation makes for a positive user experience, and the social media buttons let you tell your friends about your most recent purchase.
Plus, Kershaw sells a Duck Dynasty knife. You have to appreciate an opportunistic company that knows its audience.
There are high-quality images, and then there's photographic art. Storyville's website features a lot of the latter. With full-page spreads featuring fancy architecture, beautiful interior design, and of course, shiny new coffee gear; this ecommerce site makes a real effort at selling its products almost wholly through aesthetics.
Made.com is a furniture website with a typical flat minimalist approach, and some interesting add-ons. For example, the site has a tiny cycling banner at the top of the page that informs visitors of recent purchases made by different customers. This constantly updating feature is a clever way of leveraging consumer interaction to encourage other visitors to become customers.
As if Bloomingdale's wasn't already doing stellar business at its brick-and-mortar locations, the company has decided to step up its ecommerce game as well. Cute and clever advertisements cycle along a speedy slide show layered beneath a bold and easy-to-use sidebar. The moving target of the slideshow grabs visitors' attention while the sidebar and top navigation banner both continuously anchor the site for better usability, making it another example of how simplicity factors into attractive ecommerce designs.
DIY.com caters to the home improvement hobbyists of the world. You'll note all the usual features that pull successful ecommerce sites together: stunning imagery, a navigable interface, and a flat design. DIY.com takes the busier approach with text-heavy product boxes, (not pictured in the screenshot) and a busy top banner. Yet none of the text does anything to take away from the bold product offers or the call-to-action buttons scattered about the front page.
L.K. Bennett takes a collage approach to product image display. It works out well for the site's overall aesthetics, especially in conjunction with the flashing call-to-action button inviting visitors to take a look at the line of Spanish-made shoes. It's an assault of beauty on the senses really, one that leaves you wondering where to click first.
John Lewis offers an eclectic selection of products targeted toward the domestic needs of starter families. The vast selection speaks to a number of niches honestly, but the most prominently featured images seem to scream "new mothers."
With so many different products, it's no surprise that John Lewis' drop-down menus are extensive, but intuitive. Everything you're looking for is only a click away, and it ends up providing you with a very user-friendly online shopping experience.
Here we're moving from an eclectic offering to an eccentric design. Inkefx is another clothing company with an eye for the surreal. It features high-quality images of the site's trendy designs as the main attraction for its front page, and complements these with cleverly crafted copywriting in its product descriptions.
Even its social media buttons play into the quirkiness of the design. They ask you first to follow the company on Tumblr, rather than the more popular Twitter or Facebook. It's a clever effort at penetrating deep within a youthful niche audience.
The front page of Nasty Gal just oozes with attitude, and clever color awareness. Even the models' haircuts match the subdued pink color scheme. I especially enjoyed the drop-down menus on this site, which also have imagery embedded in them.
United Pixel Workers somehow manages to be busy and minimalist at the same time. With relaxing shades of primary colors dotting the homepage and product descriptions juxtaposed with product images, there is definitely a lot to look at. But upon closer inspection, the multiplicity of the images and colored boxes becomes a bit more uniform, and the images don't seem so crowded because of the ample blank space filled with those product descriptions.
The text contained within the colorful boxes is simple and easy to read, and scrolling down through the front page's various images takes the color-scheme from warm to cool, which makes for an intriguing sense of flow while browsing.
Privateer is my final example of a parallax scrolling site, and it is quite attractive. Privateer seems like it really wants to speak to the cycling niche about the beauty of the open road, and the passion the owners have for cycling. This visual message is reinforced by the blurb in the "About Me" section of the website.
What I like about this ecommerce site is it puts its content offerings above the products. This indicates a desire to be helpful, informative, and entertaining. And it's an intensely effective manner of marketing cycling gear to other passionate hobbyists.
Urbanears encourages visitor interaction right off the bat with its main image. The drag-and-drop interface allows you to paint a sampling of the site's most popular ear-bud/headphone models with the colors of your choice. Engaging potential customers right off the bat is always a good strategy, as it persuades them to see what other fun interactive functionality might be found on the web page.
Other than that, the Urbanears offerings are designed nicely, with contrasting colors and compellingly written product descriptions. It's got a flat design with extremely prominent social sharing buttons at the bottom of the page. Again, all the elements of a successful ecommerce site are in full effect.
That's it for our list of ecommerce examples. What other online stores do you know of that tick all the right boxes and make you want to pull out your wallet? Let me know in the comments!