The Five Components Of A Successful Digital Storefront

storefrontAlthough brick-and-mortar sales are far from dead in the water, today we’re seeing an ever-increasing volume of consumers who choose to do the majority of their shopping online.

Part of this has to do with the prevalence of mobile devices – with the widespread availability of smartphones and tablets, the world of online retail is more accessible now than it’s ever been.

In short, E-commerce is big business.

Of course, most people are already aware of this – which is why E-Commerce is a booming business, slated to grow to $370 billion in value by 2017. In short, it’s a growth market, and more and more businesses are chomping at the bit for a piece of it. What that means for you – for all online retailers – is that you’re going to be dealing with some stiff competition.

It’s imperative that you do everything you can to ensure customers come to you instead of one of your competitors. To that end, I’ve compiled a list comprised of some of the most important elements of a successful storefront. These are elements shared by all the most popular retailers on the Internet, and you’d be wise to emulate them in your own shop.

So, what do all the most successful online shops have in common?

A Simple, Navigable Interface

Not surprisingly, many of the same qualities which make a physical retailer successful can also be applied to the online world. That is to say, a store based in the real world that’s confusing to navigate and purchase from isn’t going to see as much business as one where everything is simple and streamlined. While it might be tempting to make your storefront as flashy as possible, keep in mind how it impacts navigability.

Oh, and one more thing – you absolutely need to make sure your site is easy to browse on mobile devices. It doesn’t really matter how great your store looks on a desktop if mobile visitors can’t find their way around it – after all, they represent a huge chunk of your business. Social Media Examiner has a fairly decent guide that’ll walk you through the process of mobile optimization – I suggest you read it and take it to heart.

A Well-Designed Search System

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume your storefront offers a fairly comprehensive selection of products. That’s great – the more choice your customers have, the more likely they are to buy from you: assuming, of course, that they’re capable of finding what they want to purchase. That’s where your search bar comes in.

Whether you build it from scratch, use an application platform to design it, or simply set up a custom Google search, it needs to work intuitively. Each and every product you offer should have a number of keywords associated with it – every search term a prospective buyer is likely to use. In addition, be sure to separate your products into categories.

Information About Your Business (And Maybe A Blog, Too)

Let’s step back from our primary topic for a moment to talk about something else – namely, social media. See, one of the biggest changes brought about by social networking is the way consumers relate to their brands. In the past, many of us were basically fine with buying from a brand we knew very little about – so long as the product worked, we were happy as clams.

That isn’t necessarily the case anymore.

Look at Amazon.com, and scroll to the bottom of the page. They’ve an entire section dedicated to the company behind the store – everything from careers to press releases to information about the company and its initiatives. Follow their example, and provide users with a bit of information on who you are, what you do, and why you do it.

While you’re at it, it couldn’t hurt to put together a blog, as well. Not only will it drive more traffic to your storefront, it’ll also serve to give your customers more insight into the people behind your brand. Trust me – that’s always a good thing.

A Strong Marketing Pitch (And A Great Brand Behind It)

In conjunction with the above, you need to have a clear idea of both how you want to approach customers and clients and how you’re going to differentiate yourself from the competition. What is it about your brand that makes it great? What’s your brand’s story, and what about it makes you unique?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, then there’s no way you’ll be able to connect with your customers.

Security And Privacy

Last, but certainly not least, you need to make sure your storefront is safe for the people who use it. That means using SSL certificates, writing up a comprehensive privacy policy, and regularly testing whatever security measures you’ve put in place on your server. Data breaches are devastating to any business, but they’re particularly damaging to an online retailer, which regularly deals with financial information.

You can’t afford to be struck by one.

Shopping For Success

Online retail today is more popular than it’s ever been. That’s great news for a digital merchant who knows what they’re doing – but not so great for those who aren’t knowledgeable enough to take on a flood of competitors. With the information presented here, hopefully you can file your own business into the camp of the former, rather than the latter.

Image credit: Paul Townsend