Practical Ecommerce

7 simple website improvements that can make a big difference

You’ve probably noticed many ways a website could be improved as you shop online.

Here’s a handful of ones which I encountered recently on other people’s websites, as well as my own, which are so easy to fix.

Allow customers time to use coupons

I Googled for double basin bathroom vanities over the holidays and saw a company selling the type I wanted, which offered a $50 voucher to sign up for their newsletter. I then received a welcome email that gave me precisely three days to use it. While I appreciate the sense of urgency, this was over New Year’s Eve and I wasn’t even sure the company would be open if anything went wrong. I think 7 days would have been fair.

Honour coupons, if you offer them

The welcome email directed me to select “Credit card on phone” as the payment method to apply the $50 voucher. I selected the option as directed, paid via Paypal and gave instructions on the “Special instructions” section. The email I received included none of my instructions and included an invoice for the full amount, so the $50 discount hadn’t been applied. It took some to-ing and fro-ing with the owner to get the voucher applied before I paid.

Provide a live human being if you have a freecall number

This same Australian bathroom website company has a free call 1300 number. However, in the many times I called them over the month regarding the ongoing delays in delivering the vanity (it was broken, they missed the pick-up, there were torrential floods in Brisbane preventing them from leaving etc), no-one ever answered, with a recorded message to email them if you had an order. If someone had been there, even an operator taking messages, I would have felt more reassured.

Don’t require login for testimonials

I bought some lovely stationery from the UK which arrived quickly for Valentine’s Day. However yesterday I received an email asking me to give them feedback. I would have been only too happy to, but I had to create a login and password to do so and so I didn’t bother. Perhaps I’m being lazy, but that’s too much work!

Make content in onscreen fields the same in email confirmations

I’m guilty of this one. While customers filled out the person’s name to whom their gift was to be shipped, my order emails until very recently – ahem – somehow didn’t include this. It was only when I emailed a customer to thank them for their order and to let them know when I would be sending it, that they reiterated it had to go to Person B the recipient, not Person A the purchaser.

Make links underlined or different colours

My website is currently undergoing a redesign which will address one of the issues which have – embarrassingly – existed since it was last launched in March 2011: the text colour of my website is, um, navy. The links are also navy. Until someone pointed this out, they were almost impossible to see. The blog posts now underlines all links to I will do this on my newly revised website, too.

Uniquely identify each order email

When my website was relaunched two years ago on a new platform, I began receiving order emails with subject headings that just had the product name listed. In no time at all it was impossible to determine individual orders without opening up each email. I had to request to get subject headings with [product] for [customer name] for [date] to make searching them easier. I’ve ordered online and received emails with a multi-numeric order number, but no mention of what it is. Surely spelling out the name, product and date makes it easier to search your emails?

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