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Just as a beautifully dressed shop window can lure shoppers through the door, a brilliantly designed e-commerce website can inspire, educate and encourage online customers to make a purchase.
Take inspiration from these five award-winning websites that incorporate clever design features, user-friendly tools and stand-out content to convert online browsers into buyers.
Swimwear brand Seafolly is all about bringing Australian beach culture and colourful summer fashion to life. E-commerce and multichannel retail analyst Grant Arnott says that, from a site optimisation perspective, one of the best features is Seafolly’s “quick look” functionality on the category pages.
With any fashion retailer, photography is key, and Seafolly gets it right online. “Seafolly clearly recognises its brand, and sales are dependent on the perception of beauty in all that it does,” notes Arnott.
Again, the brand has invested in content through its Swim Report online publication, which Arnott says engages customers “beyond flogging them swimwear”.
A less sexy element of Seafolly’s website – but one that is arguably more important than the stunning photos – is its clear messaging around security, refunds and returns. Arnott says this is a vital box that all online retailers must tick, regardless of what product or service they are selling.
“This applies to all online stores. The more prominent the trust markers – site security logos, contact details, delivery and returns information, and physical address – are, the more comfortable customers are going to feel about transacting.”
Appliances Online’s website uses clean design and a symmetrical layout to ensure easy navigation. Last year it landed an Online Retail Industry Award (ORIA) for Best Pure-play Online Retailer.
While the site is equally easy to use on a desktop or mobile, Arnott says Appliances Online’s content is really what puts it head and shoulders above the rest. “The best feature is its use of content to provide helpful, instructional buyer guides via text and video,” he explains. Arnott says this type of detailed information is important for customers who are considering a high-value purchase, such as whitegoods, online. “Customers need as much information as possible, beyond specs, brand and price,” he notes.
Appliances Online also dedicates a lot of space to its product logos, which highlights the depth of its range. Its social media buttons indicate that it has 300,000 Facebook fans – highlighting to new customers that it’s a trusted and well-known retailer. “That’s 300,000 customers who are a lot less likely to buy from a competitor,” Arnott says.
Despite beauty and cosmetics being one of the most fiercely competitive industries in the world, this Melbourne-based e-commerce business has managed to make its mark. It has won a 2012 SmartCompany e-commerce award in the process.
Arnott says Fresh Fragrances and Cosmetics’ best features are its clarity of navigation, its merchandising and the depth of its useful, quality content. Crucially, the website is optimised to minimise the number of clicks a customer needs to make to complete a purchase. “There is a richness of options available to help customers decide what they want and how to find it, including searching by the type of concern (for instance, acne or sun damage).”
It’s on the content side, though, that Fresh Fragrances and Cosmetics really stands out. The Beauty School section provides information and inspiration on how to use products to create different looks. It also showcases celebrities and their different looks to inspire users to try something new.
“With no customer service representatives on hand to demonstrate, recommend or discuss the products, content initiatives like the Beauty School are fundamental for improving conversion rates and attracting more customers,” Arnott says.
Some products are naturally easier to sell online; for example, books and music. Sunglasses and reading glasses do not fall into the “natural e-commerce fit” category. However, that hasn’t stopped Melbourne-based glasses retailer iframes, which won a SmartCompany award for Best eCommerce Site in 2013.
To help customers choose their perfect pair of specs, the website allows users to upload a photo of themselves and then try on different styles in a virtual fitting room. Arnott agrees the virtual try-on tool is one of the site’s best features. “I like the way they suggest solutions for a range of different face types. It has more novelty value than practical value, but it’s a good indicator at least and can make consumers feel comfortable that they’re making a choice that suits their face,” he says.
iframes also delivers free within two days and accepts returns within 100 days of purchase for free.
Arnott points to the wide range of glasses available on the iframes site, too, but cautions that the home page could confuse customers by offering too many choices.
It’s said a picture is worth a thousand words, and in the case of this 2013 Australian Web Awards winner in the eCommerce category, it’s true. Mainpeak, the adventure gear retailer, has designed a visually compelling, well-optimised site that has easy navigation. It is also optimised for mobile, giving users a great online experience across all platforms.
Arnott says: “Mainpeak’s photography is a key feature of its online store. They’ve incorporated the aspirational images of the great outdoors into the fabric of the site, to get the juices flowing in their target audience.”
Mainpeak also has a prominent community section online, featuring experts and a range of discussions and how-to videos. Arnott describes the community factor as “a cornerstone of any effective marketing strategy today”. He adds the videos and Mainpeak Gear Gurus help create a destination through “great content, imagery, interactivity and connection”.