6 Tips for Creating a Successful E-Commerce Website


Online shopping is rapidly being embraced as a more accepted form of purchasing items. According to MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse report online sales of $36.4 bilion during the holiday season through Christmas Eve 2010, a 15.4% increase over 2009 sales during the same period.

Although providing personal information such as credit card numbers and e-mail addresses will always be a concern to some (and rightly so), companies such as PayPal and PayTrace are providing secure means for customers to shop conveniently 24/7 from the comfort of their home, office, or almost anywhere in the world.

While developing the new E-commerce website for Pen and Inc. Gifts (www.penandincgifts.com), a 75-year-old New Hampshire-based gift and greeting card company that sells their products around the world, several key items were considered to ensure the site was not only viewer friendly, but efficient for the company to process orders for their 250 items on the site:

  1. Easy and Organized Navigation

    A top priority was to ensure the website was consumer friendly. We wanted to be sure it would be easy for consumers to search and browse through their products to discover the items in which they might be interested. Pen and Inc. offers a myriad of items which are popular both for personal use as well as for unique gifts for weddings, graduations, anniversaries, retirement, employee recognition, etc. From birthday of the month cards and calendars to lamp finials and nautical note cards, visitors can select which type of product they want to preview when they visit the home page.

  2. Pictures Speak Louder Than Text

    Most people are very visual and want to have the best possible view of a the product before buying it, especially online where all they rely on is photos to make their buying decision. Take as many quality pictures from as many angles as needed for each product and make sure they are large enough for the consumer to see the product’s details.

  3. Make Paying for Your Products Simple and Painless

    People need to pay for your products and you want it to be as quick and easy as possible. The easier it is to purchase, the higher your browser to buyer conversion rate will be. Things like forcing users to go to a third-party website to make payments rather than accepting credit cards through your website can discourage a visitor from buying. Make the buying process easy and secure, offer great products at a fair price and watch your sales increase.

  4. Make Incentives Easy and Time Sensitive

    As with other media like direct mail, print and broadcast advertising, incentives can be a way to gauge buyer interest in your products or services. The same is true for the online buyer. Free Shipping Day sales increased 61% ($942 million) in 2010 compared to the on-line sales on Free Shipping Day in 2009 ($586 million) according to comScore. Again, make your incentives easy to understand and implement and track your sales results carefully to determine which incentives work best. Use easy to remember promotion codes and be sure to have a time deadline in which to take advantage of the incentive to help create urgency in your offering.

  5. Making Your Site Look Professional and Secure

    If a user comes to a site that doesn’t look professional or secure, they aren’t going to enter their credit card information into your website and you will lose sales. Getting an SSL Certificate is an absolute must with E-Commerce as well as having a professional looking site. The look of your site needs to match your brand and the image you are trying to portray to your customers. Many of the products on Pen and Inc. Gifts’ website are designed by well-known Maine artist Anne Kilham. The design of the website that features many of her products reflects the tone of Anne’s artistic style.

  6. Creating a Community for Your Returning Customers

    Allowing users to create an account on your site offering many benefits will bring them back and create recurring sales. Things like allowing ratings and reviews, community polls, sharing links to products through social media, ability for one click re-ordering, viewing past orders, saving details like phone number and address so they don’t need to be re-entered after the first purchase, creating wish lists, and signing up for newsletters are all great ways to create happy and returning customers.

If you would like our help and expertise with an E-commerce website, please contact us. Have any other tips to add to our list? Feel free to post them in the comments section along with any other questions you may have.


About Author

Rich Carlson has 37 years of advertising, marketing, and public relations experience working on national, regional and local levels. In the 11 years prior to founding Carlson Communications in 1989, Rich worked in senior management positions for three prominent real estate developers in New England and Texas, specializing in real estate marketing and sales. He frequently speaks at conventions, seminars and annual meetings and is author of "Are You Prepared for the Recovery?" in addition to writing numerous articles for national and industry publications.