To say that eCommerce is big business is along the same lines as saying the Eiffel Tower is just a crappy radio antenna. The internet, without any doubt, has changed the landscape of how we do business. From how we sell, what we sell, and how we deal with customers has all changed. Years ago, you had your brick and mortar store and you sold that way. Things progressed and you may have found catalogs a nifty selling tool. Along comes the internet and now you're on the global stage trying to keep up.
The Super-Silly Fish Analogy Analogies are great learning tools because they give us a frame of reference we may not have before. We can better see the scope of something we're about to embark on which helps to remove unfamiliarity and, hopefully, drive home the importance of the information. Enter the goldfish analogy. The way the internet is treated today, and the prevalence of eCommerce, your website; your baby, is entering this great unknown. It's a lot like dropping a goldfish into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and expecting it to find its way home. Spoiler alert: it won't. It will tire itself out and eventually get swallowed by something bigger. It's not because the fish can't swim. Clearly, it can, it's a fish. It's not because it doesn't have the heart to make it; or the ability to do what needs to be done, but because it isn't fast enough to push itself through the waves and traverse the current (it being a freshwater fish and the Atlantic Ocean being saltwater, notwithstanding). Basically, it's not efficient enough to swim with the big fishes. Don't be a goldfish.
The Slower You Are, The Deader You Are One hundred years ago, people were much more patient. People walked to work, stayed in their little areas, and didn't travel as much. When they did travel, it took time. A lot of time. Sometimes months. Nowadays, everyone is on the go. They want it yesterday, and, what’s worse, expect it. If you can’t deliver, they’ll pick up their ball and move on to the next viable source for what they want. Basically, when you have a customer looking to buy, if it takes too long, they'll go somewhere else. It really is that simple. It doesn't matter - at all - how much money you spend on Facebook ads, Google AdSense, or any other marketing-in-a-box program. If those thousands of people coming to your site aren't pulling the trigger, then you're just throwing money out the window. Companies spend millions conducting research on what causes visits to convert to sales. Out of all the factors contributing to why people buy, speed of your site is at the top of the list. To put it into perspective, when Mozilla redesigned their pages to load 2.2 seconds faster than what they were loading at, the downloads of Firefox increased by 60 million a year. Shopzilla went from 6 second load times to 1.2 seconds. Revenue increased by 12% and views by 25%. And the biggest eCommerce giant, Amazon, increases revenue by 1% per 100 mil liseconds of increased speed. If you want to compete for a piece of Black Friday or Cyber Monday money, then it's time to take notice.
Speed Check You don't enter the Indy 500 with a Go-Kart. The numbers don't lie. If you want to make money, and you want to convert sales, you need to optimize your website with performance in mind. There is no point in going through all of this work if performance isn't actually a problem. If your site loads fast, then you need to consider other things that may not be covered here. Regardless, focusing on site speed requires you to know how fast you currently are. Making use of website speed testing tools and sites will tell you how fast everything works so you know where to speed things up. And don't be shy about using them often because speed does change due to many factors.
Content Delivery This sort of thing only applies if you're selling all over the globe. Hopefully, you will, if you aren't currently. When you do, you need efficient ways to deliver your content. Essentially, you are hiring multiple hosts and servers to house your site. This may seem redundant, but there is a point. These other servers are positioned throughout the world so that where you are doesn't affect how fast someone gets your content. If your current host is in Nebraska, and someone from Japan accesses your site, it will load slower than someone closer to your home base. With an implemented content delivery network (ICDN), that visitor from Japan will be accessing your content from a server closer to his or her region.
Check Under the Hood If eCommerce sites were easy to make - and easy to make effective - everyone would be doing it. Unfortunately, there are a lot of companies out there, making sites, that aren't very good at it from a coding perspective. Your site may look great, but having a second or third pass at the code could speed things up for you. Any line of errant code, comment lines, or notes, can all hinder speed. These lines aren't integral parts of your site so removing them only helps. It's like getting a second opinion from a doctor.
Shopping Cart Troubles Here is a good rule of thumb for any eCommerce site needing up their conversion game: don't make your customers work for it. Checking out should be an easy process. They shouldn't be made to feel like they're trying to crack the DaVinci code. They navigate through your site, add products to buy, then they just leave. Why? Because check out is complicated.
- Making people create accounts
- Pop-ups for more marketing
- Carts timing out
- Multiple-page process
- Sign-up pages
Safety Matters Let's be honest, shall we? There are a lot of unscrupulous people out in the world. Identity theft and hacking are huge concerns for everyone. If your customers don't know your site is safe - that they are safe - they will turn tail and leave that shopping cart full and unloved. Furthermore, they'll leave you scratching your head as to why they didn't buy after they spent all that time picking things out. Build trust to earn conversion. Install SSL site-wide (if not possible, then just on your cart), use images of trusted payment methods, like PayPal, as people know they're safe, and, finally, any type of logo for a trusted name in cyber security like GeoTrust or McAfee will go a long way in creating trust. But be honest, okay? Don't just add an image, be secure. If you aren't, and you say you are, and something happens, well, that's another story that ends with you losing a lot of money you can't afford to lose.
A Short Word About Images Images are very important to your site. They help sell you and sell your product. The problem is that images also slow down your site. You can use smaller images, or decrease resolution, which will help, but you are still adding to server HTTP requests. Use CSS whenever you can to help decrease calls to images. Also, ensure the images being called all share the same addresses. That way, multiple instances of the same images - like a logo - will be stored in cache to be deployed as necessary. If your site is rich in content, then page compression may be the route you need to take to speed it up. Keep in mind that a delay of even 1 second can mean a 7% conversion loss, over 10% fewer views, and as much as a 16% growth in customer dissatisfaction. And, one last thing about images. People absolutely love infographics. They not only look good, but give whatever you're selling, saying, or doing credibility. Also, considering the average attention span of an internet user is less than a goldfish, if you can entice the creative centers of the brain - like with a neat image - you will get your point across much faster.