A look under the hood of profitable e-commerce websites




  • Tools are only effective if they are simple and straightforward because today’s customers expect a website with self-service tools to answer questions quickly.

    Steve Jobs put it well when he said, “Simple can be harder than complex…but it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

    This mantra has worked for Apple for decades, and it certainly holds true for digital design as well. Particularly when you’re talking about e-commerce websites. Simplicity has been proven to routinely yield higher conversion rates, deliver a more positive experience, and even build trust among visitors. Why? In short, calls to action become more prominent, users aren’t overwhelmed or frustrated, and there are often fewer site issues.

    We’re logging more hours online than ever before, so naturally, we crave digital experiences that are intuitive, visually calming and straightforward. But creating simplicity on the frontend doesn’t necessarily mean the backend infrastructure of the website is uncomplicated. Simplicity often requires greater behind-the-scenes complexity.

    The devil’s in the details and so is simplicity.

    If your website isn’t clear cut and easy to navigate, there’s not enough attention to detail going on behind the scenes. The road to attaining a minimalistic website that delivers a streamlined user experience is paved with important design considerations.

    First impressions are just as important on the web

    The reality facing any website owner is they have less than 15 seconds to capture the attention of a visitor –– and that’s being generous. Your website’s bounce rate is contingent on how your website looks to the visitor. According to The State of Content report conducted by Adobe, 38% of people [pdf] will stop engaging with a website if the content or layout is unattractive.

    Unsurprisingly, 94% of negative website feedback can be attributed to bad design. But the key to successful web design is still all about paying close attention to detail and ensuring your visitors not only have the information they need but that it’s easy and quick to access.

    Clutter does not spark joy

    Eye-tracking technologies are already highlighting how digital distractions and clutter can dramatically affect the conversion rates of website users. Tobii Pro, a Swedish company that develops and sells products for eye control and eye tracking, turned this challenge into an opportunity by using eye tracking to help KLM Royal Dutch Airlines redesign their online travel ticket system. By tracking overall flow through the buying process and comprehension of the individual steps, they were able to design a ticket-buying tool around behavior and user need that increased conversions by 30%.

    Clutter also directly impacts loading times, which is extremely important when it comes to the user experience. In fact, according to the aforementioned Adobe report, 39% of people will stop engaging with a website if the images won’t load or take too long to load. Which seems par for the course when considering 53% of mobile users will leave any web page that takes longer than three seconds to load.

    Slow load times are a direct result of having too much on one page and are one of the key indicators of bad decision making and sloppy backend work.

    The importance of having a clear call to action

    It is no accident that many of the highest-performing e-commerce sites feature a clear call to action. CTAs, if done correctly, can dramatically increase conversion rates. But they must be visible, clear and compelling. Don’t make visitors work for the desired next action.

    One quick and simple way to increase site conversion is to put CTAs “above the fold” so that visitors don’t have to scroll down to see it. In fact, one study revealed content placed above the fold was seen by visitors 102% more times than anything placed below it. And when a software company that produces landing pages experimented with this theory and moved its CTA above the fold, conversions spiked 41%.

    To realize an even bigger boost from your CTAs, personalize them. When visitors are met with tastefully done personalizations and specific product recommendations, it demonstrates you understand them, which helps build loyalty.

    Make it easy for customers to reach out

    One of the top complaints most site visitors have is not being able to locate the company’s contact information easily. If you rely on local foot traffic, your name, address and phone (NAP) should be on every page. Nothing will frustrate a visitor more than having to hunt for contact information.

    Even if you are an e-commerce seller, drop shipper or wholesaler, it is imperative you have your NAP information strategically placed in plain view – in many cases above the fold to eliminate the need for your buyers to scroll down or jump through virtual hoops to find it. Having a clearly labeled NAP validates your store’s legitimacy and eases the minds of shoppers who always have the option to hunt for a similar product on Amazon, Target or other online retailers if they find your website’s information too confusing.

    Empower your customers

    It goes without saying that a happy customer will be a returning customer. And to keep them happy, your website should be well-equipped with a variety of self-service tools to help them identify the answers to their questions – and fast. Today’s customers expect a website to have a self-service application and now, many prefer self-service over human contact.

    Self-service tools can take the form of on-site calculators, downloadable guides and checklists, and even quizzes. Having these in place can also significantly cut down on inbound customer service requests by proactively answering questions before they become an issue. For instance, we recently worked with a skincare product retailer that operates exclusively online. One challenge they routinely dealt with was customers wanting guidance on which products were best for their skin type. The retailer wanted to empower its customers to get this information instantaneously while also reducing demands on their customer support team. By simply developing a quiz, they helped customers identify the product best-suited for their needs, cut down the number of customer service calls and help build confidence and trust between the company and the customer.

    Keep in mind, these tools are only effective if they are simple and straightforward. That requires time spent behind the scenes thinking through the customer’s path, the desired goal or outcome and how it will match your brand’s look, feel and tone.

    Complexity always precedes simplicity – and simplicity is what today’s consumer craves. Take a look at your online presence through that lens. Will it move mountains or has it inadvertently become a barrier?


    Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


    About The Author

    Sahil is a software developer turned strategist for medtech, martech, e-commerce and nonprofit organizations. With over 10 years of experience working in software development and digital marketing, he leverages his experience and knowledge to build robust digital products, bringing a unique perspective to product development lifecycle and marketing strategies. Sahil leads the team at AKOS Digital, an agile digital agency that believes in outcome-based innovation to design, develop and launch full-scale digital products. Based in Phoenix, Arizona, AKOS holds expertise in web applications, website design and development, SEO, UI/UX, and strategic marketing.

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