Millions of customers and millions in sales: that’s the dream many ecommerce store owners have when they launch their store. As a designer here at Volusion, it’s my job (and passion) to help clients create the best website possible so that they can achieve their goals. Every day I think about what will work best for my clients' specific businesses and their specific customers. It's important to craft a website specifically for each target audience and each individual brand, because no two are the exact same. Nonetheless, there's also a lot to be learned from those who have come before us and achieved wild success.
We decided to take a deep look at the sites that have already achieved the pinnacle of success with loyal, repeat customers and millions in sales. For our analysis, we scored the top 50 ecommerce sites across the web to discover their common traits and best practices so that we can learn from them and gain valuable insights you can incorporate into your own site.
1. Homepage Elements
Your homepage is probably the most important page of your site. It’s typically the most visited page and also the page the majority of customers land on before diving deeper into your store. For those reasons, a great homepage is both a valuable sales tool and a great opportunity to showcase your brand. Since the average customer makes a decision about your brand within 15 seconds of landing on your homepage, it’s more important than ever to get your homepage right.
Etsy has a well-organized homepage. Their main promotion and graphic tells you exactly what you can expect to find on their site. They have quick access to products and popular categories to get customers shopping.
RedBubble’s homepage has very clear messaging and a beautiful grid layout of popular categories. It sets the brand feel and then goes straight into shopping. Simple and to the point, this is a great homepage.
What We Learned
The top 50 ecommerce sites have teams of people thinking about, scrutinizing over and testing their homepages to find out what works and what doesn’t, so there's a lot to learn from them. I was surprised by how many similarities they all shared, regardless of industry or target audience.
- Have a large promotion or slideshow as the main focus. The majority of the sites we analyzed had a very clear, large main graphic or slideshow as the first element of their homepage. These were typically very eye-catching, set the tone of their brand and also generally promoted some sort of product or category.
- Put products on the homepage. Featuring products on the homepage is a conversion best practice, so it’s no surprise that most of the top 50 ecommerce sites had featured products on their homepages.
- Use a grid layout of categories. In addition to having featured products, a very common element was some sort of grid layout consisting of different blocks of popular categories. These were usually visually enticing and made up of lifestyle or product images to represent the categories they linked to.
2. Site Navigation
Your site navigation is usually the main way your customers get around your site and find products. Site navigation can play a major role in capturing or losing a sale. If your customers can’t find your products, they can't purchase them.
Nike keeps their site navigation concise by consolidating their top level categories and hiding their subcategories in a pop-out menu.
Forever 21 has perhaps the cleanest, most well-organized header we analyzed. The simple row of categories and use of whitespace makes it very easy to navigate around their site.
What We Learned
While every ecommerce site has some sort of navigation, there are some best practices you can take into account to help your customers navigate your store with ease.
- Keep your navigation concise and organized. You can clearly tell that the sites we analyzed have thought about how their customers shop and organized their categories accordingly.
- Use popout menus for a better user experience. Most of the top 50 ecommerce sites lumped their subcategories into as few main categories as possible and used pop out menus for further exploration.
- Search is important. It may come at no surprise that 100% of the top 50 ecommerce sites have a search box. It’s pretty much a must-have.
3. Mobile Layout
With nearly half of all shoppers shopping on mobile devices, having a mobile version of your site is almost mandatory. Having a mobile site impacts just about everything from user experience and conversion to sales and SEO.
H&M has a beautifully simplified mobile site made up of a consolidated menu and focused homepage content.
Target also has a much more simplified mobile site when compared to their desktop site. They do a great job of reorganizing their content for easier shopping on smaller screens.
What We Learned
Unsurprisingly, all but one of the top 50 ecommerce sites has a mobile-friendly site. They all make some very important adjustments to improve the mobile shopping experience.
- Simplify your layout on mobile devices. To accommodate for the smaller screen sizes, many of the top 50 ecommerce sites removed portions of the content that was on the desktop version of their sites. This allows for a more focused, easier shopping experience.
- Consolidate your navigation for mobile devices. It's also very common to see the navigation menus consolidated to a single push or "hamburger" menu. The hamburger menu is the three-lined symbol you’ve probably seen on a ton of mobile sites that, once pressed, allows you to see more of the content.
So there you have it—there is quite a lot we can learn from the leaders in ecommerce. There's a lot of valuable best practices and techniques that you can think about implementing on your site. It’s still important to think about your specific customers, how they shop and to craft a website specifically tailored to their needs, but if you have to start from somewhere, why not start at the top?