What does an ideal online store look like?

Remember how you ordered sushi, farm products, sports equipment, whatever. What was so painful about it? Stupid sorting? A multi-page catalog that works slow, gets confused and takes you back to the very beginning after viewing the product? A search that persists in saying “nothing has been found to your request”? The need to register to place an order? Endless attempts to buy an item that is out of stock?

I can enumerate such things for a long time, and you will remember all your online shopping experience and, definitely, feel the bitterness that it left behind. It seems to me that very often this is a separate kind of masochism — trying to order a product in an online store.

Why so? Because someone didn’t want to invest a lot of time and effort. Someone trusted unreliable developers. Someone out of inexperience chose a template from a popular CMS, where “everything has been implemented long ago”. Someone wanted to save money. Someone thinks that the customer journey map is where those customers who do not reach the checkout are sent.

So, having gathered together the experience of large corporations I decided to understand how a perfect online store would look like.

I expect comments like “expensive”, “not for the small business”, etc., but we’re talking about the perfect one!

It means the one to strive for if you want to build a long, romantic and loyal relationship with your clients. and not just grab their money and make them suffer in each of the 7 circles of hell that they will meet on their way until the goods are delivered.

What is an online store?

My story is not about a catalog of goods on a one-page website, not about an Instagram account and replies to Direct. My story is about an online store as a full-fledged line of business. After all, selling something to a client on a website is only 40% of the task. Another 60% is about organization of delivery, service, interaction after sales, personalization.

This means that the online store has a back office, organized logistics and all necessary integrations are thought through, and not “leave your number and we will contact you”… maybe. As an example, you can take a marketplace that needs to aggregate products from different sources, bring them to uniformity, merge cards of identical products, etc.

What does an online store consist of?

Architecturally, it looks like a framework from at the backend, which has the documented API, and anything can be “put on” this framework: even a website or an application.

For example, we have a client, an official distributor of two brands of electronics in Belarus. We make the backend for him, on which we put on 2 different sites, an application and everything he needs further down the list.

This is briefly what concerns the filling. What does a typical customer see in front of him? Let’s call him John.

John sees the menu

What’s on this menu most often? Product categories. For example, household appliances, TVs, smartphones, etc. It seems that it all is just a piece of cake (I love cakes btw).

In fact, menu is an entity that has to always be done separately from the category tree. For example, you had “TVs — smartphones — household appliances” in your menu tree. Then the owner sends a request for a new item “TVs with Wi-Fi”, so, where shall you put them, what to fill with?

But it’s late, you should’ve thought about it earlier.

Therefore, the category tree is created separately and serves for the internal organization of goods. And there is a menu tree that is formed by a content manager. It looks like this:

There is a menu item “TVs”, which includes all products from the category “TVs”. If we need to create the item “TVs with Wi-Fi” in the menu separately, then goods of the category “TV” and the parameter “Wi-Fi” will be there.

The fundamental difference from the first variant is that every time you add a new menu item, you do not need to re-form all products, because you have categories for that.

This makes life much easier both for buyers and SEO specialists, because you can create pages for low-frequency requests.

For example, it is expensive and time-consuming to advance on the request “TV Minsk”, but the request “TV with Wi-Fi” is much more profitable. By creating such pages in the menu, we make life easier both for the user and search engines.

John sees filters that help him find products

Filters are different for each menu item. Obviously we will look for TVs and refrigerators by different parameters. But for some reason it’s not obvious to everyone that the types of filters are also different. And their choice is explained not by the client’s requirements, but by the convenience and logic for buyers.

John sees the sorting of goods

What is usually there? Price, novelty, popularity. Okay, what does popularity mean? What product is popular? The one with the most views? Bullshit. This way the same products will only increase views and remain in the top forever.

Therefore, a perfect store has an algorithm which estimates the popularity of goods with a calculated frequency and using a special formula. The formula is always individual. For example, for one of our clients we took into account the markup, brand popularity, time of product appearance, number of views with incrementally.

The next step is to predict the popularity of products. Here machine learning, or some service like RetailRocket can help us.

John sees the search bar

Firstly, in a perfect online stores John really can see it, and doesn’t have look for it throughout the site. Secondly, John can enter a request in a different keyboard layout, use synonyms, all because there is a full-text morphological search in a perfect store.

We do it using Elasticsearch or PostgreSQL.

John sees the product page

The product page for a perfect store tells him if the product is in stock (and this information is updated every 5 minutes). And if the goods ran out while John was thinking, he will be notified about it immediately. Product page also has brief information on the methods and time of delivery, payment.

In addition, you can show several products on the product page that are slightly better than the one picked by the user and a little more expensive. According to our estimates the conversion of such block for a home appliance store was 10%.

That is, 10% of users viewed products that were slightly more expensive than their initial selection.

And, of course, you need to add products for cross-selling. Both on the product page and on the cart page.

John sees the cart

John can start putting goods into his on his work computer, continue doing this in the application on his way home and complete his purchase at home from his laptop. Because all carts are combined.

It is also better for John to divide the shopping process into stages so that he could understand what steps must be taken before the product becomes his own.

It’s cool to devote some time to making a hiding footer and menu at the checkout page. This will reduce the temptation to look somewhere else while completing the purchase.

Interesting observations. We added a block with three popular desserts of the day to the cart of a sushi bar. So when you finish placing an order and proceed to payment, you see desserts.

7% of people made additional orders from this block.

Let’s consider that while John was thinking on his way home whether he should buy the selected jeans or not, someone “stole” the last pair of his size. In a perfect store John would immediately know about it as soon as he entered the cart from any device.

John sees payment methods

It’s not only about a bank card. It is also about Apple Pay and Google Pay. However, even here we can go further — provide an opportunity to link the card directly to the site. Like DodoPizza did, for example. You will reduce the checkout time to a couple of clicks and make life easier for regular customers.

And a perfect offline store already has new tags on clothes and any other product. They are smarter than ordinary magnetic strips and allow not only to see that the client has left the premises, but also to withdraw money from the attached card for the “purchased” item. That is, John took the goods, put it in his bag, left the store, the money was written off. Cool.

Or John saw the product, scanned its code, paid with a linked card via Apple Pay and left the store. If the goods are paid for, everything is ok. If not, the alarm will ring.

What does John not see?

Like I said before, selling something online is only one part of success. It is important to build all internal processes. Everything that users won’t see, but that’ll make them return to you, advise others, love with all their souls until death do you part.

Customized analytics

Today you can’t leave without it, even with machine learning in your pocket. Even at the moment of creating a website, you need to understand what data and why you will collect. Think, the main thing is — what for?

It is equally important to track the path of a person on the site. To understand which blocks are conversible and which are not. Measure all you come up with, so you’ll get a lot of new insights. For example, it was a surprise to me that online consultants are still in demand. I learned this thanks to one of the projects with an audience of 40+. Do A/B tests. Look for flaws and improve them. Only constant work makes an ordinary online store perfect.

By the way, it is worth stipulating that if you make this very “consultant”, it means prompt answers, not call-backs. Because when a person writes to you, and does not call, there are reasons for that. All stories about “Unfortunately, all operators are busy, leave your phone and blah blah blah” very often end in nothing.

Omnichannel

We all remember that omnichannel is a connection between the offline and the online. So, if the tastes of a person from online are easy to track, then how can we figure out what people were buying the old fashioned way?

We found such answer for one of the clients and transferred the discount system to the application. That is, firstly, we said goodbye to plastic.

Hello to Greenpeace, the customer saved a lot of dollars and there is an empty cell in the customer’s wallet.

And secondly, when inviting a person to log in to the application using a phone number when paying for a product (and never think about passwords), we asked to show a QR code instead in order to make a discount. This also meant that now we had information about what was purchased not only from the site, but also in a real store.

Inner mechanics

First, managers. Yes, yes, sometimes they stand in the way of a business to huge amounts of dough. There is only one way — an independent check, mystery shoppers, etc. How quickly do they call back? How do they communicate? How do they use all knowledge they have about a person? Integration with Internet telephony is very useful for it. It helps to track all stages of sales funnel in one place.

It is also useful, btw, if you want to check how many people from offline advertising reached you in reality. The phone numbers for each of the carriers (TV, billboard, radio) are “replaced” for this purpose. And when a potential client calls you using one or another combination of numbers, you immediately understand which had worked for him.

Second, CRM. Yes, in some cases batch versions help out, in other you have to install additional add-ons. But, as our practice shows, for very large clients with large amounts of data, customization of the “framework” can cost a pretty penny and still not bring the desired result.

Therefore, we create a CMS from scratch. They allow projects to scale. And to segment customers. Not just by gender and age, but, for example, divide into customers who spend a lot, who spend little, who buy only on Fridays, order in the evening, buy for themselves, for women.

All this is necessary not in order to arrange “Black Fridays”, but to reach the level of personalized sales. Modern approach to the client also allows you to communicate with him in any convenient messenger or social network, collect this information and also use it for personalization.

It is equally important to create some kind of triggers in the service by which clients will understand that they are being taken care of. For example, Yandex.Taxi shows us how the car is arriving, and Domino’s guarantees to deliver pizza in 30 minutes, etc.

Can’t guarantee anything? At least make an illusion.

If you cannot call back within 20 minutes, send an SMS with the text that “Everything is OK, we are checking the goods, we will contact you from 12 to 13.” Inform the client about all stages of order delivery. After all, it is the lack of information that makes a person very vulnerable and makes him overthink. However, do not forget about time zones, sending SMS in “personal time” is bad manners.

What else would be cool for John?

Unfortunately, so far for many this is really unachievable. But I really believe that it will be implemented more often. Because, finally, concern for the customer’s comfort will come to the fore. Because, showing it, you yourself will surprisingly notice how people will happily carry their money into your pocket.

New Retail

New Retail means complete digitalization and optimization of all retail components in general.

Mobile CRM applications already serve as guides to New Retail. They help by scanning a QR code to get all the information about the product right on the spot: in which stores, what size, what color, how to wash, etc. Then everything is limited by your imagination — even how much this product will decompose (this is important if you are pursuing the trend of eco-friendly business).

Or, for example, you looked up a product in the app, came to the store, and the seller says to you, “I know you added this product to your favorites, would you like to try it on?”

Generally speaking, New Retail is a deeper penetration, digitalization of all processes, where we no longer divide buyers into online and offline.

D2C

Direct To Consumer is a model that eliminates the middleman between the producer and the consumer. It means to provide goods directly from the factory to the buyer. The sales chain is shorter, the benefits are greater.

In fact, it means getting rid of offline stores. Although let everyone decide for himself whether he needs a shining showcase in a shopping center or not.

Social commerce

I must say right away that this is not just usual maintenance of a company’s profile on Instagram with posting beautiful photos. Here we need to think broader. For example, create professional video content that will allow you to make customers from leads.

A Ukrainian online store Rozetka already has more than 1 million subscribers on its main YouTube channel. But they also have additional channels, for example, with household appliances or unpacking goods. These videos are automatically added to cards on the website and link all resources together.

Augmented reality

First, you can show in augmented reality where the store is located. But this is already old. Second, you can track where the thing you need hangs. So John enters the store and looks in the application for some goods that he has added to favorites, and the application shows him where they are located and in which direction to move. Here is the future.

Conclusion

A perfect online store is a full-fledged business in which absolutely all processes are thought out and all communication is built. It is a project in which buyers are in the first place, not the desire to cash in and get loads of dough.

It is highly personalized approach and the desire to anticipate the client’s wishes.

It is quality content and going beyond sales. It is a place where no more than 15 minutes pass from the moment of search to the moment of purchase, during which you never swear. And it is something that can be scaled without destroying the old.

Would you like to use such online store? Write us hello@dev.family!

Our team is based in Belarus. We are focused on Custom Software Development and Web & Mobile Applications Development.