Building Sites For Mobile Ecommerce

1st January, 2018 by

Despite some undoubted success stories, online shopping hasn’t taken off in the way many people expected. Global ecommerce in 2018 is predicted to total $2.75 trillion – impressive enough, but only a small percentage of total retail spend.

The reasons for this are many. Mobile connection speeds are often unable to cope with dynamic homepage content like cinemagraphs, while desktop-oriented site design doesn’t display well on mobile devices. Security remains a major concern following a raft of data theft stories, and some ecommerce platforms are awkward or difficult to use.

Whether you’re designing a new platform or overhauling an existing site, there are certain steps every company must undertake before launching a mobile ecommerce platform. The first stage involves conducting SWOT analysis on competitors – such as purchasing items from rivals. Is it difficult to add items to a basket during the checkout process, or is it not possible to use separate billing and shipping addresses? Do product pages display quickly, with sufficient information about the products or services they offer?

With conclusions drawn, it’s then time to consider your own site. We’ve outlined five main areas to consider when building websites for mobile ecommerce, whether you’re using a WordPress template or a LAMP stack…

Identity

Your company may already have a name and matching website domain. If not, consider how to identify your industry and/or location. The Pittsburghplumber.site domain would be ideal for a Pennsylvania-based utilities business, and WestHost is currently selling this domain for just $1.49 a year. Shorter names are easier to remember (preferably containing words everyone knows how to spell), but unusual top level domains like .wow and .fun are best avoided.

Identity extends beyond your choice of domain. Your company’s personality is reflected in its logo, general use of humor and any social media presence. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram provide free platforms for promoting your brand while developing its identity, and every post or tweet should include an inbound link to your website. These boost search engine optimization, ensuring your site appears more highly in ranking results than competitors.

Expand on this principle by registering with as many legitimate directories and ecommerce sites as possible. Also consider the keywords and phrases (known as long tails) you want to perform strongly for, and incorporate them into key pages. Tools like SEMrush help to define which words and long tails customers typically look for.

Functionality

Single-page ecommerce websites are inevitably compromised in their functionality, so design a site with a small number of subpages. This will accelerate loading times, freeing the homepage for key USPs or hero images. Deploy a couple of well-chosen fonts throughout the site for consistency and readability.

Customers expect mobile ecommerce in 2018 to be intuitive, so give each page an obvious title, and avoid sub-menus wherever possible. Filtered navigation should help people to find their perfect item by color, size, price, etc. On item pages, use text previews and thumbnail images that are expandable for more information to accelerate loading times. Customers won’t appreciate ‘buying’ an item when it’s actually out of stock, so consider drop shipping from multiple suppliers and ensure product databases are cleansed and up to date.

With three quarters of online shopping carts abandoned rather than checked out, mobile ecommerce in 2018 has to prioritize simplicity. Allow people to check out as guests and register an account later, or save their basket with a simple username-and-password combination. Testimonials about successful transactions provide reassurance, as do well-managed and frequently updated social media timelines. And don’t hide postage or tax costs until the end of a transaction – this is the single biggest cause of checkout abandonment.

Security

Last year wasn’t a good one for data security, with thefts from blue-chip brands including Verizon, Yahoo and Equifax making the news. HTTPS encryption is essential for mobile ecommerce in 2018, while two-factor authentication is recommended. Test SQL forms by submitting an apostrophe and looking out for the appropriate error messages, and protect the site behind a firewall if you’re not using a hosting provider like WestHost. We provide firewalls as standard.

Publish a privacy policy outlining your use of personal data and cookies, bearing in mind cookies work differently on mobile devices. Customers need to be able to change their contact or payment details at any point prior to order confirmation, with password resets requiring a verified email address or an additional data field (mother’s maiden name, for example).

Directing customers off-site for payment portals can trigger security warnings and cause site abandonment, so keep people on your site throughout the checkout process. Register with bodies like VeriSign and display their logo prominently, ensuring each payment method is equally secure. And finally, remember automatic data backup tools are worth their weight in gold in the event of a disaster.

Flexibility

Most online traffic is displayed on mobile devices, so a responsive site template is imperative. This means that a page design recalibrates to suit desktop or mobile devices, optimizing presentation without compromising functionality. It’s also crucial to streamline the coding and design for 4G connections – white space and compressed images improve the loading times considered by Google as part of their search engine rankings.

Customers prefer a variety of payment options nowadays, with conventional credit/debit card payments or bank transfers complemented by PayPal and possibly Bitcoin. If you work in IT, Ethereum is another cryptocurrency worth considering. Your clients will expect a real-time helpdesk if anything goes wrong, so set up social media notifications and a live chat form, with email enquiries sent to a constantly-monitored address for 24/7 flexibility. Flexible exchange/returns policies in a prominent Q&A can preemptively answer many questions.

On a related note, allow consumers to decide how much information they want about their order’s progress, and whether they’re happy to receive future marketing communications from you. If they are, add an “Unsubscribe” button to every subsequent email and encourage them to follow your brand on any available social media channels.

Reliability

It’s easy to design a site for Chrome and assume it’ll look just as good in every browser. Sadly, that’s not always the case, with JavaScript prone to glitches and Flash incompatible with mobile devices. Beta-test every page prior to launch across as many browsers as possible, including the obsolete Internet Explorer and the fringe Tor browser. Look for display problems, slow loading times or broken links, and fix everything prior to launch.

It’s especially important to test ecommerce functionality, deliberately entering incorrect CVV codes or going offline mid-transaction to see how back office systems cope. Due to the huge fines imposed for compromising customers’ financial data, it’s best to ask external specialists to store payment details for future visits.

Unless you have your own server room and an IT diploma, a dependable hosting partner is strongly recommended. WestHost has a variety of hosting options for companies of all different sizes, with plentiful bandwidth and a cPanel user interface for site modifications. Our data centers boast military-grade security to protect against DDoS attacks and malware, with 99.9% uptime agreements ensuring your site will always be ready to receive new customers. We also specialize in WordPress websites, which are great for ecommerce thanks to all-in-one plugins like WooCommerce.

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