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8 Rules for a Successful Ecommerce Website

Part 1: Enticing Ecommerce Visitors to Shop Online

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Woman shopping online with credit card
Martin Barraud/ OJO images/ Getty Images

Successful ecommerce website design starts with applying the basics of retail success. To run a successful ecommerce website, you need to do what successful bricks-and-mortar retailers do. Follow these rules to get your ecommerce site visitors actually shopping online.

1) The retailer has a product or products that she wants to sell.

Everyone in ecommerce or thinking of getting into ecommerce has this one figured out. Want a new car? Fresh spinach? A replacement part for your ancient typewriter? You'll find it on the 'Net. But a product, no matter how superior or well-priced, does not a successful ecommerce site make.

2) The retailer needs a place to showcase his product. Traditionally, this is a building of some kind.

Online, it's an ecommerce website. But think about the traditional retail store. There are products in the window to entice the customer inside. There are aisles leading to shelves of more products, all conveniently arranged for the customer.

Navigation is critical to ecommerce website design; visitors to your online store need the same kind of visible, easy-to-follow pathways. They need to be able to examine your products and compare them with other products easily.

And visitors to your online store need to be able to access your products easily. They can't just pick them off the shelf and carry them to the till as they would in the bricks-and-mortar store. The back end of your ecommerce site is just as important as your front end in terms of ecommerce website design. You need to arrange the supply and distribution of your product before your ecommerce site goes "live". You must be able to deliver on your promise to the customer.

Too many ecommerce ventures collapse because the people involved didn't bother to secure the supply and distribution of their product ahead of time. What happens when people shopping online don't get the product they ordered in a reasonable amount of time or don't get it at all? They get angry, and chances are good, no matter how nicely you apologize to them, they'll never buy anything from you again. And they'll tell all their friends how unhappy they are with your crummy customer service!

3) The retailer chooses a building for his store that is in good repair, and has all the facilities such as electricity and heat that are necessary to make his customers comfortable. If the building isn't in good repair, he fixes the problems.

Too many ecommerce entrepreneurs don't bother to do this. They throw up websites that have large sections under construction, or have their sites hosted by providers that provide erratic or slow service. If a potential customer tries to access your website and it's down, what does she do? She clicks through to another website where she can view the products she's interested in. Will she be back? Probably not.

You must have consistent, 24/7 hosting if you want to operate a successful ecommerce website. You must present a fully functional, complete store to get visitors shopping online. No 'Under Construction' or 'Coming Soon' banners.

Usability is another important component of website design. For instance, if potential customers can't navigate your site easily, they won't bother. Pay special attention to the ease of the buying process. Your competition is always only a click away.

And you must maintain your website regularly and often. An ecommerce site that's littered with dead links kills online shopping. An ecommerce website that never offers any new content will bore visitors. If you can't afford to maintain your site, you can't afford to have one.

But even if you have excellent website design, site visitors still may not shop from you. The next page of this article discusses how to get visitors to your online store to trust you enough to become  shoppers.

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