Games eCommerce companies play
We explored some of the most popular eCommerce websites to learn more about their secrets to success and what makes them stay strong in their respective top places. What exactly are they doing so well to engage and convert customers that visit their sites? How do they keep their customers loyal and happy? What we’ve found in the process is highly enlightening for new takers in the eCommerce business.
Join us in this survey that will put the spotlight on the ‘best of the best’ - some of the best practices by the best eCommerce websites. Although strictly speaking, this is no more a survey than an analysis of the leading retail eCommerce companies in the US that we’ve chosen and explored under various parameters.
The buyer's journey from start to finish
But first things first, before we proceed with our analysis let us take a look at a typical customer's purchasing behavior, highlighting the various stages of their purchase journey in the process.
1. Need emergence
Every customer in their life goes through these moments when they feel the need for some specific product or service. Sometimes this need can be well-defined or ambiguous, sometimes quite obvious and at times very latent. But for sure the need would be lurking around somewhere, waiting to spring out and be fulfilled.
This phase when a customer experiences the emergence of a need makes it ideal for eCommerce stores to push the envelope in grabbing the customer’s attention through email marketing, comparison & review sites, blogs, etc.
It’s also possible that the customer might be unaware of such a need, in which case it could be the perfect opportunity for an eCommerce company to create that need. Consumerism if you please.
2. Information search
With the need identified, the customer now looks for product options that will satisfy the need by searching for relevant eCommerce sites (in addition to offline sources). eCommerce companies can capitalize on this by ensuring that their sites figure in the top search results, displaying information that will entice the customer to click on their link.
Once on the site the customer’s information search will usually include product details, pictures and videos, 360 degree views and demos, customer reviews, prices, payment options, trial and return policies, related products and so on to help them make the right choice.
3. Evaluation behavior
Based on the information thrown up by the site, customers will apply a product evaluation model such as conjunctive or disjunctive, expectancy-value, ideal brand, etc. to take a pick, or none at all. Either that, or the customer may simply postpone the decision for a later time.
4. Purchase behavior
Based on the “add to cart” and “direct checkout” options, their budget and other financial parameters, customers will go through further sub-stages to make a purchase. These include order details, billing and shipping info, payment options, order review and closure before the sale is complete.
5. Post purchase feelings
With the purchase now complete, the next phase is the customer’s satisfaction or lack of it with the product, its delivery, packaging, first use, extended use, return or exchange (if necessary), etc. Depending on the experience, customers also leave reviews and/or referrals on the website.
How the big ones played it right
Let us now look at how some successful eCommerce sites in the US have used the above understanding in applying best practices to their advantage.
American eCommerce giant Amazon is predicted to close the year 2020 with a record retail sales figure of USD 269.41 billion and that’s saying something about its commitment to success goals. So what makes Jeff Bezos’s contribution to online shoppers so addictive?
I think most of us will agree when I say that Amazon is a leader in the eCommerce industry with a lot of firsts including features like Prime user benefits, global delivery, multiple payment options, lightning deals, “save for later”, customer reviews and so on. Add to that a simplified eCommerce site that anyone can familiarize with in a jiffy.
Following closely on the heels of Amazon to bag the second place with a retail eCommerce sales forecast of USD 41.01 billion by EOY 2020 is America’s most popular retail outlet Walmart. One of the biggest reasons Walmart achieved this feat is its grocery pickup service that it introduced in 2013.
With 3,600 pickup locations and 2,900 same-day delivery locations, Walmart’s eCommerce business in the US rose by 97% in the second fiscal quarter of 2020, offering a tough challenge to Amazon. Amidst social distancing and other recommended safety measures in the wake of the raging pandemic, it can only grow bigger as retail eCommerce sales in the US keep reaching new heights.
Founded in 1995, San Jose, California-based eCommerce pioneer eBay is a well-known facilitator of B2C and C2C sales operating in about 32 countries. Its claim to fame - the first ever online auction site to facilitate person-to-person transactions. Since then, the eCommerce site evolved to include “buy it now”, shopping by UPC/ISBN/SKU, online classified ads and even online event ticket sales to strengthen its game.
Another innovative and a popular feature among buyers that eBay introduced is the eBay Money Back Guarantee, in which you either receive the item you ordered or your money back. With this one move, eBay made sure no buyer was going to be taken for a ride by receiving a fake or damaged product. Now, that’s what I call a customer friendly service.
America’s favorite home improvement store Home Depot needs no introduction. Founded way back in 1978, the company sells more home improvement tools, DIY tools, construction products and services than anybody in the US. By 2008 it’s eCommerce store hosted more than 120 million visitors annually. By 2019 Home Depot facilitated 1,616 million customer transactions worldwide.
Their eCommerce site is simple, informative and very rewarding for buyers, even as they are ramping up their delivery and pickup services for customers' convenience during the COVID. According to Statista, Home Depot is predicted to close the year 2020 with retail eCommerce sales of USD 13.38 billion.
The 8th largest retailer in the United States, Target has an estimated monthly visitor count of 258.34 million to its website, which clearly tells us they really know what they're doing. Apart from the fact that online sales on retail eCommerce sites have surged dramatically because of coronavirus, Target does offer some pretty good deals as a consumer goods retailer.
It houses everything from electronics, fashion, furniture, groceries, home decor to personal care and sports. And with a website that is clutter-free and well organized, who would not take the bait?
True to its name, the retailer targets customers looking for discount shopping across multiple categories, especially in fashion. Even the retailer considers itself somewhat of a big thing in this area, dubbing itself as a cheap-chic success story.
As for debunkers of this claim, Target is poised to end the year with an estimated USD 10.32 billion in retail eCommerce sales. So, that should pretty much do it to make Target a roaring success in the eCommerce category.
American consumer electronics retailer Best Buy is somewhat of a household name. The fact that Yahoo! Finance declared it the largest specialty retailer in the US consumer electronics retail industry is testimony to that.
Though technically a consumer electronic retailer, it houses much more than that, including all kinds of electronics, furniture, games & toys, health & personal care and sustainable living products. So, when you’re given all these goodies bundled with services like 1-hour curbside pickup ready, same day delivery and free next day delivery, you have an eCommerce retailer called Best Buy that rightfully enjoys 192.70 million visits monthly.
Best Buy has a website design that is neat, clutter-free, informative and navigation friendly. Plus, the most vital information and the best offers pop up right on the homepage and that’s what a successful online store looks like.
8 crucial lessons to learn from top eCommerce sites
So, here’s a little summarization of the top eCommerce stores in the US and what we can take away from them:
- Homepage must be built on the key offering/s of the company. It could be an all-inclusive product site like an aggregator, a design-oriented fashion wear company, a service-oriented company (e.g. an insurance company), a design-plus-functionality company selling audio equipment or even an Industrial goods company.
As long as the homepage gets the message across in the most easily comprehensible manner without unnecessary information, it will get the job done in holding the visitors' attention to prod them further toward the inner pages.
- The scrolling on the homepage must not disengage the trademark/flagship product that the store has to offer on the top. Pop-ups can be done away with or should be cut down drastically so as not to push away customers who simply want to navigate through the range of products to find what they are looking for.
- An attractive and minimalistic web design, even if it’s a dynamic website, goes a long way in creating the right impression on the visitors. The extent of design sophistication should only get more dynamic in direct proportion to the extent of design expectation from a product that gets sold.
In other words, as the store grows bigger and you sell more products, that should be your cue to amp up the design game.
- We cannot stress enough on the importance of ease of navigation on your online store. That, and “explore similar products” or “recommended products” pages can always make your visitors come back for more and convert to loyal customers.
Product range pages must be neat and spacious, offering relevant and sufficient information for a particular product on mouseover. Virtual features like 360 view, demo video, 3D try-out, etc. can enhance the buying experience and bring it closer to the physical and real experience.
- Related products options offered as a suggestion on the same page as the actual product are a way of telling the customers that you have much more to offer and are making an effort to make them happy.
- Customer reviews (even the critical ones), testimonials, awards, reference sites, home-trial program, loyalty program, etc. must be used effectively to convert the visitor into a buyer.
- One-click checkout, convenient payment options (minimal steps), order review page, trial and return policies, delivery timelines, etc. must not only be included, but be followed up to the last point without errors.
- With 70% of US consumers choosing the buy online and pick-up in store option in 2019, BOPIS is clearly the future of retail eCommerce industry. As the popularity of this shopping method increases, 90% of retailers are expected to offer BOPIS by 2021.
BOPIS is a game changer in the retail business, giving teeth to both buyers and struggling retailers in the current sombre mood brought upon by the pandemic. Easy and encouraging for additional revenues as it may sound, it may fall flat on your face if you don’t do it right.
One of the things that eCommerce retailers need to understand is that the success of BOPIS and customer patronage depends on how personal it is. The biggest reason buyers choose this method is to cut out the delivery fee. Of course, contact-free shopping is another reason.
So, to make it work, retailers should adopt a personal approach by offering updated lists of products, real time product availability info, best deals, on-time pick-up and same-day pick-up.
I’m not saying that you’re definitely going to make a big splash with your eCommerce venture right after applying these key lessons because a lot more go into the success of an eCommerce business. What I can assure you is that you won’t complain of traffic drop-offs to your eCommerce site if you follow them smartly.
0707 is an eCommerce web design company that specializes in offering eCommerce business debutants with the perfect foothold by preparing them for an impressive entrance in this crowded industry. Reach out to us and share your ideas so we can set you up for a date with success.