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How to Make Your Retail Business an eCommerce Champion

According to eMarketer, retail eCommerce sales in Canada rose by 17.4% in 2014 over the previous year, and are expected to grow 73% by 2018 – continuing to greatly outpace the growth of traditional retail sales.

Not only are consumers purchasing online in greater volume, a web search is also the first place people turn to research purchases they plan to make. A retail study last year found that 80% of consumers research a major purchase online before they buy.

Here are four tips to help your retail business excel at eCommerce:

1. Start with Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is the art and science of trying to rank high in search engine results, which is important to drive traffic to your eCommerce website. One way to achieve this is to identify and integrate key terms in your web copy that your target customers are likely to search for when looking for the products and services you sell.

Although it might be tempting, it’s important to remember not to go overboard with SEO. Tactics such as keyword stuffing do not offer value to visitors and can actually harm your rankings. For more information on SEO optimization, here’s a post on ethical SEO with some additional tips to follow.

On a related note, it’s important to consider how easily your site can be navigated and accessed using a mobile device. In April 2015, Google updated its search engine’s algorithm to give preference to “mobile friendly” websites in mobile search results.

2. Have an engaging and effective website design

The key to effective web design is to  make life as easy as possible for the consumer, and to make your site as inviting as possible. For your site’s aesthetics, the so-called “flat design” made popular by Google, Apple and Microsoft, holds that less is more, and works well because of its simplicity.

But to maximize the number of customers who can browse and shop for your products online, implementing responsive design on your site is critical. This is because responsive websites are device agnostic and will format properly on any screen, making it easy for consumers to find what they need and complete purchases from a smartphone or tablet.

For more tips, check out our recent post on improving your website’s landing pages.

3. Customer experience is key to a successful eCommerce website

Always consider your site from the point of view of a prospective customer. If shoppers can’t find what they want, they will leave.

A basic eCommerce platform requires a product catalog that consumers can search, a shopping cart and a checkout for making purchases. But an online business can be a global business. To ensure shoppers can find what they want and complete a purchase from wherever they may be, you need more.

Look for an eCommerce platform and hosting service that’s secure, offers robust search capability to browse and find products, and tools to incorporate a variety of payment gateways, international currencies, local tax calculations, and shipping and handling calculations.

4. Serve it all up fast 

I have written before about the mistake of making consumers wait on a slow-loading website. A recent study on the performance of eCommerce websites found that every second shaved off a site’s average page load time results in an 8% improvement in page value. And note that since 2010, site speed has been a factor in Google’s ranking algorithm.

Slow load times can be symptomatic of issues with your web hosting service, problems with how your website is configured to load its pages, or both. And if you draw more traffic to your site and find online sales accounting for more of your total sales, your business will need more bandwidth to handle the increased volume. It may be necessary to upgrade your hosting provider and service package.

The bottom line

eCommerce is becoming an increasingly important channel for retailers to grow revenues, court new customers and be found online as consumers rely on the web as their primary tool for researching purchases.

Do you have a physical storefront with an online presence and eCommerce capabilities? Share your experience in the comments, below.

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