19 Ecommerce Best Practices, According to Experts

19 Ecommerce Best Practices, According to Experts

Even though the U.S. retail ecommerce industry is looking relatively stable despite inflation and macroeconomic concerns, brands need to stay on top of things as we move into the second half of 2023. That includes continuing to keep customers top of mind — in addition to business goals.

It’s no easy feat. Yet by staying on top of ecommerce best practices paired with a strong strategy and the right tools, brands can increase sales while also providing a seamless customer experience. Learn from over 10 ecommerce experts across verticals on how to do just that below.

Prioritize UX Across the Site

From simplifying menus to enhancing product photos, here are some expert-recommended ways to improve the UX on your ecommerce.

1. Make navigation easier

Faceted search and navigation makes it easier for customers to find products from the home page. The difference between the two boils down to where they appear on your site. 

Faceted search — as the name suggests — deals with search results pages. It segments products according to attributes, allowing shoppers to filter their search further. An example is seen below with the search query “white shams” on Serena & Lily’s website.

serena and lily faceted search

Faceted navigation is used on other pages, like landing pages and category pages. Here’s an example of faceted navigation on Serena & Lily’s website for “shams and pillowcases.” 

Depending on your product discovery platform, facets are dynamic as well, changing according to clickstream data and hard rules set by your merchandising team. (This is another one of many hyper-personalization strategies to drive KPIs.) 

2. Get better product photos, videos, and descriptions on PDPs

Providing high-quality product images and detailed descriptions on product description pages (PDPs) assists shoppers’ online decision making process, says Jennie Hopkins, ecommerce manager at Instantprint

“Through captivating photos and detailed descriptions, you can provide clients with a tactile experience, enabling them to envision your offering and inspiring their trust in your products.”

Another ecommerce expert, Martin Seeley, founder and CEO at Mattress Next Day, echoes Jennie’s sentiment.  

“It is essential to provide detailed descriptions of products, including features, benefits, dimensions, material, sizes, colors, etc. This helps customers understand what the product can do for them and also reduces the risk of customers returning items due to misunderstandings about what they are buying.”

3. Remove clutter and simplify menus 

“Ecommerce sites need to make it effortless for clients to find the products they need right from the homepage,” Jennie continues. “A user-friendly navigation menu, search bar, and homepage banners should enable easy access to your entire product range.”

Birkenstock is a great example of this, keeping a clean top menu bar with a prominent search bar.

As a bonus, Jennie also recommends your team carry out regular “product findability” tasks. This not only ensures you’re maintaining a seamless experience, but also “simplifies the customer journey, leading to a higher likelihood of completing a purchase.” 

4. Make your ecommerce more accessible to those with disabilities

Creating an accessible website involves tailoring your site to those with vision impairments, health issues (think: epilepsy, where flashing designs can cause seizures), and other special needs. 

An accessible site doesn’t need to look drastically different from its non-accessible counterpart, nor require many resources for your team to complete. You’re still serving the same content and features to your customers. 

Birkenstock does this well. They’ve placed an accessibility button at the top left of their home page for shoppers to easily enter and exit accessibility mode.

When enabled, they display a banner in the footer across ecommerce pages to remind shoppers of their viewing mode.

Here are more tips to create an accessible ecommerce website:

  • Start with visual and hearing considerations, like screen readers and text transcripts.
  • Use color as a design element instead of necessary to understand the content.
  • Clearly indicate which text is hyperlinked via bolds, different colors, etc.
  • Reconsider the use of automatic pop-ups, allowing shoppers to exit effortlessly.
  • Provide top-notch customer service for those who are struggling with website navigation.

Check out more UX best practices to maximize your ecommerce revenue across your site. 

Improve the Checkout and Post-Purchase Experience

According to the experts, a better checkout experience involves offering a variety of payment options in a secure environment, using sustainable packaging, and much more. 

5. Include all extra costs on the product page 

Offer clear transparent pricing on PDPs, including delivery costs and taxes. 

This is crucial, especially since 21% of U.S. online shoppers abandon their orders because they weren’t able to see the total order cost upfront before initiating checkout. And over 60% look for shipping costs on the product page before deciding to add the product to their cart.  

“As an ecommerce site, you should always aim to eliminate any hidden surprises during checkout, fostering trust and confidence in your clients,” says Jennie. 

6. Offer more checkout options in a secure environment 

Martin encourages businesses to offer a variety of payment options for increased flexibility and to establish trust. Aside from more traditional methods, like credit card processing, offer digital wallets or payment systems like PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Pay.

He also stresses the importance of a hassle-free and secure checkout process, including features such as one-click checkout, guest checkout, and express pay options — which VP of Marketing and Sales at Proprep, Ariav Cohen, agrees with.  

“Your checkout process is the ultimate hurdle between the customer’s decision to buy and an actual sale. So work hard at simplifying the checkout process,” Ariav says.

He continues to share that the simpler the checkout process — including guest checkout options — the less likely the end consumer will feel dissuaded to complete the purchase. It’s also good for business as it reduces cart abandonment and increases conversion. 

“Offering guest checkout options even when customers choose not to sign up — and displaying a quick-moving progress indicator — go a long way in making customers happy and clocking higher sales too,” Ariav adds.

7. Boost confidence strategically during the checkout process

Mac Steer, owner and director of SimsDirect, re-emphasizes the importance of having complete description pages. 

He states that companies should “provide customers with clear, detailed information about where the product came from, what materials were used in its construction, who designed it (if applicable), etc. so that shoppers feel confident about the quality of their purchase before they even click ‘purchase.’” 

This will also help combat the costly impact of returns.

And Jeanel Alvarado, founder and CEO at RETAILBOSS, mentions that “offering a money-back guarantee and showcasing social proof, such as customer reviews and testimonials, can help establish trust and credibility with potential buyers.” 

Achieve larger lifts with simple changes.​

Discover our top 5 autocomplete UX best practices that have increased conversions.

8. Offer high-quality customer support

Providing good customer support can help prevent cart abandonment rates and improve customer satisfaction. Almost 100% of consumers surveyed in a recent Salesforce study agree that positive customer service makes them more likely to become repeat customers.

The same study revealed the following about modern-day customer support channels:

  • Phone. Phone (59%) recently replaced email (57%) as consumers’ first preference for reaching customer support.
  • Live chat. 42% of consumers prefer to use online chat when speaking with customer support. (This trend has stayed consistent for over a decade, when a Forrester report also found that online consumers want help from a live person when they’re shopping.) 
  • Mobile apps. The number of consumers who prefer to engage with customer support on mobile apps (28%) is now almost equal to those who want to use their daily messenger apps (27%), like WhatsApp and WeChat. 
  • Social media. Over a fifth of consumers (21%) use social media to interact with someone at the company.

Customer engagement is becoming more omnichannel, with consumers turning to an average of nine different channels to interact with companies.

9. Optimize the post-purchase experience 

Providing excellent customer service includes launching post-purchase email campaigns to collect feedback and nurture the relationship, providing real-time delivery updates, and more. But ecommerce companies shouldn’t forget to improve their packaging experience.  

“A core component of the post-purchase experience is packaging, with more than 20% of customers reporting that minimal packaging is extremely important when they are choosing retailers to buy from,” says James Wilkinson, CEO of Balance One Supplements.

He continues to mention that more than 18% of customers will consider a brand’s efforts towards offsetting its carbon footprint when deciding whether to purchase from said brand. 

“Customers want products that come with minimal, sustainable packaging while also demanding that the shipping materials used be recyclable or compostable. So, retailers should look to differentiate their brands and products by using sustainable packaging in order to maximize customer experience and satisfaction. Better customer experiences will translate to greater customer loyalty, higher volumes of repeat sales per customer, and increased organic brand advocacy.” 

Martin chimes in as well, suggesting ecommerce companies offer future discounts, loyalty programs, or referral programs to entice customers to purchase more.

“Word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful marketing tools available, and incentivizing customers to refer their friends or family for discounts can be an effective way to increase sales.”

Look for Other Ways to Improve Overall Customer Experience

Improving overall customer experience spans into other categories we’ve yet to discuss as well.

10. Fix website fundamentals

Improving the shopping experience for consumers often begins with ensuring your ecommerce website foundations are strong — i.e., having good website vitals and SEO strategy.

Work with a website optimization expert to improve the core web vitals of your ecommerce. This can include implementing lazy loading, creating mobile-friendly layouts, enhancing server time response, and instilling security measures (like HTTPS and regular software updates). 

“It doesn’t take long for customers to move to a competitor’s website, and a slow-loading website with hiccups in design and user experience is an immediate turnoff that can derail even a surefire sale,” warns Tony Angeleri, VP of Business Development at Lone Wolf Paintball

“When online, customers appreciate a shopping experience that involves quick-loading websites and pages that do not have them waiting for pages to be loaded or coming across glitches that hamper their experience. Invest in seamless development and design and hosting servers that provide fast speeds so that the online experience you offer your customers is a breeze.”

And while you’re at it, consider hiring an SEO expert to advise you on front- and back-end ecommerce SEO to improve your website’s ranking. This includes choosing the right keywords, building the right site architecture, using long and unique product descriptions to reduce duplicate content, and more.

11. Optimize for mobile 

“Ecommerce sites should invest in user experience (UX) design for mobile to make their websites easy to navigate, visually appealing, and mobile-responsive,” says Jeanel. “This will enable customers to find the products they’re looking for quickly and enjoy a smooth, hassle-free purchasing process.”

Data backs this up as well, with 65% of consumers admitting to using mobile ordering more than ever before.

When it comes to mobile optimizations, keep the following tips in mind: 

  • Use white space strategically to make your mobile website easier to navigate.
  • Make the most important information easily accessible. 
  • Enable one-click checkout and other mobile-friendly payment options.
  • Check your website across devices to ensure consistency. 
  • Ensure fast loading times by eliminating unnecessary content, optimizing images, and balancing the ratio of images to text.

12. Increase number of fulfillment methods

Almost half of today’s consumers prefer sellers who offer a range of fulfillment methods so they can choose the option that fits their needs. Aside from home and scheduled delivery, this includes third-party shipping, buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS), and locker shipments. 

We can thank the pandemic for the rise in BOPIS. Over a third of consumers cited COVID-19 as the main reason they chose this fulfillment method in a mid-pandemic study. 

Since then, demand for BOPIS has remained relatively strong, mainly because of supply chain issues. (Shoppers are concerned about longer delivery times and expected time of arrival.)

This contributes to the narrative that consumers are expecting more omnichannel shopping experiences that prioritize their needs. 

13. Merge channels and sync campaigns 

Aside from building an email list (from purchasers and those interested in staying up to date with your brand), Jeanel also recommends creating targeted promotional campaigns for different social networks to help drive traffic to your online store and convert visitors into paying customers.

“Using paid traffic through platforms like Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and Facebook can also boost sales by reaching a wider audience.”

Always Be Testing and Optimizing 

Humans change, and so do their preferences. Improve the overall customer experience and increase sales over time via continuous customer feedback.

14. Leverage tools and humans to optimize processes 

“By leveraging various feedback tools and cultivating a strong relationship with your client services team, you can gather valuable insights that allow you to enhance user experience and meet your clients’ needs effectively,” Jennie says.

Elisa Bender, co-founder at RevenueGeeks, adds that this data can then be leveraged in future campaigns. That way customers feel their expectations are being met. 

“Also, the campaigns will resonate instantly, which will boost sales. They will feel more connected to your platform. Plus, they will openly support it too. The idea is to make them a part of the process. And there’s no better way to enhance the customer experience than by taking their suggestions into consideration.”

Incorporating customer feedback at scale is just one of eight ways to build customer trust in ecommerce.

Go Past Standard Cohort Personalization

Ecommerce companies around the world are catching onto the importance of 1:1 personalization, as illustrated in our next expert tip below by Emma Zerner, co-founder and content strategist at Icecartel

15. Personalize product rankings for each user

Tailoring product recommendations based on individual customer preferences and browsing history significantly enhances the likelihood of conversion. Implementing AI-driven recommendation engines can dynamically showcase relevant products, increasing both sales and customer satisfaction.” 

And the best product search engines allow you to optimize product rankings for individual attractiveness and ecommerce metrics as well, not just relevance.

Optimize Product Discovery for Ecommerce

It’s not enough to optimize for search relevance in ecommerce. Doing so doesn’t translate to hitting hard business metrics — think: conversions, revenue, profit, inventory speed, etc.

This is where AI-powered product discovery engines can intervene, especially those built for ecommerce use cases.

16. Leverage AI-powered engines to optimize for business results 

“Instead of optimizing for ‘relevance,’ we optimize for a business metric,” says Eli Finkelshteyn, CEO and co-founder of Constructor. “An ecommerce company can tell us exactly what they want to solve for — more conversions, revenue, profit, better margins, etc. They can set that within the system, and the system automatically solves for that metric. In doing so, they take care of typos and synonyms, and they’re going to be learning from the clickstream to show products to the user that are most likely optimized for that business metric.” 

This automation is not only a way to create a better shopping experience for consumers, but is also positive for merchandising teams.

“If you can get companies to this par level, then you start to open up time for merchandisers to be able to do more strategic work, like managing by exception and going into the places where they think they can create unique value. The machine learning algorithm is never going to be able to do this because it doesn’t know as much about the business as they do.”

Choose the Right Tech Partner

Choosing the right tech partner has tangible benefits for both shoppers and ecommerce companies.

17. Cut down on excess grunt work

The right tech partner can make or break your searchandising experience, either shaving off over 10 hours a week to your workload or adding to them. 

“​​Some manual work is important, especially the work that substantially improves the customer experience,” says Rory Dennis, co-founder and general manager of Amplience, North America. 

“But when there’s a lot of it, the question is can we streamline that work to minutes instead of hours? Can we leverage technology solutions so that team talent isn’t wasted on manual workarounds to common ecommerce problems? The results matter, but the efficiency of the solution matters too, especially with limited resources and tighter budgets.”

40% of smaller teams (under 4 people) report a large amount of manual merchandising work, spending at least 30 hours per week on the task. This is compared to just 16% of large teams.

And this is where AI-powered product discovery solutions can help. Not only do they reduce merchandising grunt work, but they also identify opportunities for merchant intervention and warn merchants of potential oversights — automatically.

18. Keep up with emerging technologies 

Tech partners also motivate you to bring out the best in your ecommerce business. This includes experimenting with transformers and large language models (LLMs), which is key with product discovery as it’s a space predominantly driven by vector search and clickstream.

“With transformers, you start to get context with search queries. It understands the meaning of a whole phrase [example: couch not blue]. You can kinda see the beauty of this when you play around with ChatGPT, but the exciting thing for us is that the same exact technology is coming to search,” Eli says. “Transformers also help you filter out results that are least attractive, to increase the set of correct items and decrease the set of incorrect items.”

internal site search evolution

Nevertheless, companies should accept this emerging technology for what it is: emerging technology. And that’s why the most innovative are currently still experimenting with transformers to see if they can reap ecommerce use case-specific ROI before overpromising bloated results. 

You can learn about transformer-powered product discovery in The Art and Science of Searchandising, a webinar brought to you by Constructor and Amazon Web Services (AWS).

19. Optimize at a pace that’s right for you

Companies using legacy platforms aren’t currently keeping up with our current-day digital transformation. 

When you don’t embrace composable MACH technologies (Microservices, API-first, Composable, Headless), switching vendors requires lots of code and manual workarounds, work that cuts down on time invested in more important, needle-moving tasks. 

Other ROI-boosting benefits to composable commerce include:

  • Improved customer experience. With composable commerce, you’re no longer pigeonholed into using vendors that work with your current system. You can choose vendors that best suit your business and customer needs. 
  • Better insights and decision making. You can collect, store, and analyze data between platforms to surface better insights. For example, joint customers of Constructor and the headless CMS Contentstack can view and choose Constructor collections and send data from Contentstack to Constructor using webhooks. 
  • Better relationships with software vendors. You can be more selective with whom you choose to partner with when it comes to headless vendors since integration into your current tech stack is easier. This can pivot the relationship into a more positive, mutually beneficial one.  

Ecommerce Best Practices: Key Takeaways 

“By implementing these best practices, ecommerce sites can create an environment that fosters increased sales while delivering an exceptional customer experience,” says Jennie. “The combination of personalization, simplified navigation, high-quality visuals, social proof, and omnichannel integration lays the foundation for long-term success in the ecommerce and retail sectors.” 

When you pair this with nailing the fundamentals and partnering with a vendor who’s equally as obsessed with your business as you are, you’ll be able to weather any storm without compromising the customer experience.

Achieve larger lifts with simple changes.

Discover our top 5 autocomplete UX best practices that have increased conversions.