🛒 Online Shopping

Updated at 2014-01-11 18:09

Online shopping is a form of electronic commerce where customer buys goods directly from a seller over the Internet. This note focuses on web stores.

There are three basic usage scenarios that you should optimize for:

  1. Finding and browsing a product group.
  2. Purchase of a known product.
  3. Finding the cheapest item on a collection,

Product descriptions should focus on the benefits of the product. Good descriptions and additional information reduce reclamations. Keep a personal but professional tone: "What can we offer you?". Try to replicate what you would say to the person in real life. Consider creating product videos mobile friendly.

- Name
- Colors (not azure, use azure blue)
- Sizes (offer a chart for sizes)
- Good quality picture
- Availability
- Price
- Benefits
- Product review
- Avoid using industry vocabulary,
  check what terms customers use and use those

  Kindle is designed to deliver the best reading experience.
  - No screen glare in bright sun, because of the e-ink display.
  - Read with one hand, 30% lighten than iPad mini.
  - Battery lasts weeks, not hours.
  - Built-in light to reduce eyestrain.

Products should be sorted to product groups. One product can be in many product groups if it is not clear where it should belong.

Product reviews are really good. You may send your customers an email 2 weeks after a purchase to review the product. Offer vouchers, include gamification and make reviewing easy. Product reviews should be from 0 to 5 stars with a text.

Support mobile. Mobile is on the rise as of 2013 so you should plan on creating a mobile friendly interface for your e-commerce. Simply put, those people that have time and money to browser web stores with fancy mobile phones are more prone to making a purchase. Avoid creating a separate application but create a responsive website. More in responsive design notes

Minimize website loading time. More about website loading speed optimization in web development notes.


E-commerce does not have any free marketing. You don't have people walking past your store. More about marketing in marketing notes.

Consider using urgency. Urgency is hard to reproduce in digital goods but as long the items are physical, urgency can be considered.

American Appeal: red alert text on product page when stocks are low.
Amazon: green text on product page when stocks are low.
Simply Hike: show countdown when you should order so you get it tomorrow.
John Lewis: shows count of different sizes still available.
Bottica: shows count of items in stock.
SecretSales: shows countdown on sales and stock count on images. notification stating how many have booked into the hotel in 24h.

Consider also offering a physical location to visit. As of 2013, majority of the general public still prefers street shops. Sometimes people just want to peek in and ask about a possible purchase. Try to find ways to bring online customer to offline.

Email a coupon code that gives a relatively big discount on
physical location purchase.

Think how different customer types think:
- Why a customer browses and buys online?
- Why a customer browses online, later buys on physical location?
- Why a customer browses on physical location, later buys online?
- Why a customer browses and buys on physical location?

Use campaigns. Sales and voucher campaigns are usual. One or two months is a good time span for a sale. More in marketing campaign notes.

Do not forget to give users discount if it is their birthday!


Adding an item to cart should be clearly visible event. Possibly a redirect to the cart page.

Count all input fields user needs to fill to make a purchase. Most web stores land between 21 and 28, which is not nowhere near optimal. Lower you can get, the better.

Page speed is really important in e-commerce. People will just navigate to another web store if your website is slow. More about website optimization in web performance notes.

Basic web store layout:

|       |                            |      | A = Logo, click directs to
|   A   |            B               |  C   |     homepage.
|       |                            |      | B = Main navigation
+-------+----------------------------+------+ C = Shopping cart,
|       |                                   |     logout,
|   D   |               E                   |     search
|       |                                   | D = Product groups
|       |                                   | E = Products and other content
|       |                                   | F = Contact info,
|       |                                   |     legal info,
|       |                                   |     secondary navigation
|                                           |
|                   F                       |
|                                           |

Search field:

  • Always on the same position.
  • Activate with a click or by pressing enter.
  • At least 30 characters.
  • Automatic check if searching with product ID or product name.
  • Show the exact matches first, then the close matches.


You must decide your web store focus. You cannot focus on everything.

- Premium Seller of Rare But Wanted Goods (impossible for most)
- Price (cheap is good but you must generate revenue)
- Special Service (building computers from parts, flower arrangements)
- Good Service (good product descriptions, support)

Regular customers are more important than new customers. Make sure you customer support is top class and focus more on satisfying your current customers. Regular customers provide more revenue and promote you. You should consider a customer to be regular after the second order. Keep a list of your regular customers.

Use analytics to figure out customer purchase funnel. Identify and remove bottlenecks. More about web analytics in web analytics notes.

You can affect each of these steps:
1. Recognizing the need for a product (marketing)
2. Finding or recalling options (marketing, SEO)
3. Comparing options (usability, product info)
4. The decision (marketing, usability, credibility, customer service)
5. Post-purchase evaluation (delivery, quality, customer service)

You must have good customer service. More about this in customer service notes.


Credibility is extra important. Without credibility, no one is going to order from you.

Clean Layout > Conservative Structure > Reputation > Content > Customer Service

Show all hidden costs as fast as possible. Show shipping costs and other extra costs as fast as you can. Offer free shipping for bigger purchases.

For a normal customer, always include taxes in prices.

Make product, price and delivery terms clear as sky. Not showing prices on products or vague product information reduces truthfulness of the site.

Avoid showing errors at all costs. Errors reduce your credibility.

Empty search should show some products, not an error.

Add social proof. Testimonial without a name and the company is useless. Add quotes from big CEOs and from average Joes alike. Best testimonials are meaningful, not just "they are good", short stories are the best. Use italics on the name and bold on the company or to emphasize part of the quote.

Add brand proof. Use well-known brands to increase your credibility. Prefer using their logos.

Check out your new Sony televisions!

Use social marketing. Keep customers updated by using social media but do not be spammy. More in social marketing notes.

Show clear information about the company. In e-commerce, this is really important way to appear trustworthy. Also include testimonials near the contact information.

Trade name
Legal name
Company ID
Few paragraph history about the company.
Pictures of employees and the office.


This is an addition to general pricing notes.

Optimize your purchase channels. You must understand your whole purchase channel and analyze why they are like that. Try to optimize the channels and remove the middleman.

    -> Dealer #1 (B2B)
    -> Dealer #2 (B2B)
    -> Dealer #3 (B2B)
    -> Retail Store (Your web store, B2C)
        -> Consumer

Competitive pricing should be avoided. Usually, you shouldn't act when a competitor reduces their prices.

There are a few situations where it might be required:
- You know you are more cost efficient than your competitor.
- You can cover the cheaper costs with cross-sells.
- The whole market (all competitors) is changing.

Dynamic pricing should be avoided. When users learn about it, you will be in trouble.

Ryanair web store increased the price for a flight when you check it many
times on a same computer.

Luxury goods should look expensive. If you sell high price items, make sure you present the products in a luxurious way.

Usually associated with luxury:
- High-resolution images.
- Good use of whitespace on website.
- Minimalistic UI
- Showing brand name.

Average Purchase Amount

Average purchase amount is the revenue that the business gets per purchase order. APA is very important measure to keep an eye on in e-commerce.

APA = Revenue in Time Period / Number of Orders in Time Period

Pricing is the basic way to establish baseline APA, but there are many additional ways to increase your APA. It is not unusual that these extra revenue streams cover over ~30% of your revenue.

  • Cross-selling is the action of selling an additional product or service to an existing customer. More personal you make it, the better.
  • Up-selling is offering alternative similar product which has better benefits, but also a greater profit for the business.
  • Required to buy over a specific price total. Rare, not liked but might work.
  • Free shipping over a specific price total.
  • Offering packages containing many products that could be sold separately.
  • Sell small products only in bulk packages.
When the customer is browsing for laptops.
Show the laptops with the best benefits and profit first.

There are many ways to do cross-selling:

  • Logical Cross-selling: Which products work well together.
  • Behavioural Cross-selling: Which products are likely brought together. Might they be willing to buy additional stuff after 30 days of the purchase?
  • Situational Cross-selling: Suggestions that are highly related to the surrounding context, placement and time. Never be aggressive with your suggestions. After making an order, say thank you and suggest a few more items.
- Buying a laptop, he may need a case of it.

- People who have brought a portable radio also brought batteries.
- Other people brought also: X X X

- When customer is heading to checkout:
  You are close to free shipping!
  When your total order goes over X, we will ship this order for free.
  Want to browse items that get you a free shipping?
  [Browse Items For Free Shipping]
- When adding a product to cart:
  Did you notice that ITEM_X had a deal: Buy two, get three?
  Want to add two more ITEM_X to your cart for the price of X?
  [Add Two More]

Focus on quality and personalization. People are not going to buy your suggestions just because there are many of them. It will just irritate people. Tell what are the benefits of addition items, not their features.

When buying SaaS service e.g. customer management software:
SSL 29€/month. <==> Cut your data leak probability with SSL for 29€/month.


Progress indicator for checkout page is nice. Consider having at least 2 steps in checkout. First step is to get people give you their name and email. After people have given those, they feel more relaxed to give out credit card information too.

Step 1 > Step 2 > Step 3

Show secure seal and trustmarks. Trustmarks are symbols which assure the user that the site is secure. Secure seal are essential on checkout page, but you should include them on each page of your funnel. McAfee, Verisign and PayPal are currently most efficient, but you can create your own generic secure seal.

SSL Secured
Your checkout is completely secured using SSL Secured order page.

Show FAQ at the end of checkout page. Most people arriving at checkout page are hesitating in some degree. Collect the most troubling doubts and write them down on your checkout page. Optionally provide 24-hour live chat shown only on the checkout page.

Frequently Asked Questions About Ordering:
What Is Our Guarantee?
What Payment Methods Do We Accept?

Less tech savvy people trust long forms. People may think that asking only for your credit card information is fishy. Consider who your target audience is. You can disable validation on those extra fields at your payment processor. More about Address Verification Service.

Billing Address

Seal the deal with an order confirmation. Always use email address that can receive emails.

TITLE: Order Confirmation #123456
SENDER: Web store name
    Web store name
    Order number
    Included items
    Prices for each, with and without taxes
    Prices for the whole order, with and without taxes
    Customer name
    Address of delivery
    Payment option
    Tracking code
    Estimated delivery time


Normal customers are used to paying before the delivery. Check and implement the most popular payment options in your target country. PayPal is a must in international trade.

          1st                   2nd
Finland:  Online Bank Payment   Credit Card
Germany:  Bank Transaction      Online Bank Payment
France:   Credit Card           Shop Specific Card
Norway:   Credit Card           Online Bank Payment
Sweden:   Credit Card           Online Bank Payment
England:  Credit Card           PayPal
Canada:   Credit Card           PayPal
Japan:    Credit Card           Cash on Delivery
China:    Bank Transaction      Cash on Delivery

Business customers are used to paying after the delivery. Business customers are most likely billed. Normally there is at least 14 days to pay the bill.

Know your local payment handlers. Popular Finnish payment handlers are Suomen Verkkomaksut, Checkout, Maksuturva and Point.


Make delivery feel special. When a person orders, always include something extra in the package. Vouchers, bookmarks, card, candy or other small gift. You may want to do this starting from the second order.

Raise prices and offer free delivery over a certain limit. Psychological difference between free and cheap is huge.

Focus on the package. Include web store sticker to remind the customer where the product came from.

A happy customer is your goal. How ever, if there is a problem with an order:

  • Call the customer, email if cannot call.
  • Listen what is wrong or what was wrong.
  • Admit that it is totally your fault, even if it is not.
  • Apologize sincerely.
  • Don't downplay the problem.
  • Don't explain.
  • Don't make excuses.
  • Don't blame someone else, even if it is their fault.
  • Don't blame something else, even if it is its fault.
  • Compensate accordingly, even if you fixed the problem.

E-commerce Implementation

With e-commerce software benchmark checklist:

  • Is it easy to use for the customer?
  • Are required payment options supported by existing plugins?
  • Does it show statistics on sales? By month? By campaign?
  • Is handling of orders fast and easy?
  • How automatic is it e.g. does it handle your inventory counts for you?
  • Can it be easily maintained by non-technical person?
  • How long does it takes to add or change a product.

Popular e-commerce Software as a Service:

Popular e-commerce focused Platform as a Service:

  • Most web hotels.
  • InMotion Hosting: Offer PrestaShop, OpenCart, Magento and osCommerce.

Popular e-commerce software to install on your servers (IaaS):