As a marketer, I always take note of how effective an online store is.
There are obviously huge sites like Amazon that spend a lot of money into market research and website design and most people would agree that Amazon is highly effective from both the view of an Amazon affiliate and as a buyer.
As I live in New Zealand, I can’t always buy the items I’m after locally. Additionally, if they are available locally, they are generally much more expensive than buying them from overseas.
Therefore, I tend to purchase quite a few products from various sites.
One thing you quickly realise when you live outside the US or UK is that many sites don’t ship internationally. This is where my biggest gripe on website/shopping cart design lies.
Essential Information That Should Be Available
I can’t remember the number of times I’ve found a product that I’m after on a particular website and then I have to hunt around all over the place to eventually find that they don’t ship overseas.
Then on the sites that do offer international shipping, they often make the shipping costs very inaccessible. Sometimes, I have to add the items to the shopping cart, then register a user account, add all my address details and then, and only then, is the shipping costs displayed. Quite often, the shipping costs are so expensive that it would more than double the cost of the item, so it really annoys me when I can’t find that information up front.
Now don’t get me started on sites that offer international shipping and assumes the rest of the world uses the same address formats as the US. New Zealand does not use zip codes (we have postcodes) and we don’t have states.
My next gripe is sites that don’t clearly state what forms of payment they use. I like using Paypal for most of my online purchases and generally favour a site that has a Paypal payment option. However, it isn’t always easy or obvious to find whether a site has a Paypal option or not.
The same applies to credit cards. Not everyone has a Visa or Mastercard, so it’s good to know what other forms of payment are accepted.
I have come across a few sites where this type of information is cleared displayed on their homepage and it certainly saves time knowing if you have a valid method for purchasing items on the site.
Applying This To Your Own Sites
Browsing various shopping sites is a good way of doing market research into the aspects of the site or shopping process that you like or dislike.
If you have your own site selling physical products, please ensure you have clear information as to your shipping and payment methods on the home page (or at the very least, prominent links to appropriate pages that contain all the details).
Even if you don’t directly sell physical products, but are an affiliate for physical products, you should still have the shipping and payment details available.
On one of my Amazon affiliate stores, I used to get a lot of queries from people outside the US asking if shipping to their country was available. After replying to quite a few emails, I made sure I updated the shipping information on my site to state that shipping was only within the US.
This hasn’t entirely stopped all the queries about shipping, but it has certainly reduced the number of them.