booking site ecommerce site tips

In 2020, the global online shopping market neared $4 trillion, and experts predict it’s only going to grow. That means reevaluating your e-commerce and booking website is essential. User experience expert Regine Gilbert returned to our small business webinar series to offer a user-first approach to serving your customers online, whether you run a product- or service-based business. 

Choose your online home wisely. 

There are almost as many kinds of website builders and e-commerce platforms as there are kinds of entrepreneurs. Many entrepreneurs will opt for marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy or Wayfair to sell their goods. While they do have big, built-in audiences, Gilbert cautions against copycat products, tough competition and fees marketplaces take for listing your products. 

Gilbert recommends that entrepreneurs looking to DIY their e-commerce or booking websites should consider cost, ease of use and payment features when choosing where to set up shop.

Cost
Having a web presence is going to cost you at least something. Several site builders offer a free version and a paid version, with the free version including the host’s name in the URL (for example: yourbusiness.wix.com). Buy a unique domain name to boost your credibility with potential customers.

Ease of use 
An area where business owners can save money? On hiring help. When you’re building your e-commerce platform for the first time, don’t shell out money for a web designer developer immediately. 

Because many small businesses start with teams of one or just a few, chances are, everyone will have to wear several hats, one of which is website manager. Entrepreneurs should have a site they can maintain themselves, without having to set up meetings (and send payments) to get help with minor updates. Your platform of choice should also make it easy for you to offer your clients a mobile site, since so many will be coming to you from their phones. 

Payments
How will you accept payments from customers or clients and how easy is it to issue refunds? When choosing your platform, look at the available payment integrations and the company’s information on data security. 

What is your homepage telling your customer, and what is in it for them?

Start building, content first.

Before logging in to your selected platform, get to know your customer and what they need to guide what you’ll actually put on your site. “If I’m going to your site, what is that homepage going to be able to tell me and what is in it for me as a customer?” said Gilbert. Answer those questions for yourself (and your clients) in writing and then organize it.

Though each business is different, Gilbert advised our community to have easy-to-find return or cancellation policies and contact information. It should also be easy for your customers to leave reviews. That’s a simple, low-effort way for you to build credibility. Even negative reviews can serve a purpose; business owners can respond to them on their site, showing other visitors how your company helps dissatisfied customers. “I think that if you’re able to address your users’ needs and their concerns, then you’ll be alright,” she explained.

Find the right features

Now that you’ve provided the basics for your customer or client, consider what additional features or plugins would be helpful for them. Do they need a search function to find a precise item? Will you include a scheduling plugin to set up a free consultation? Will you offer them wishlists or allow them to share your content directly from your site to their social media accounts? Again, let your customers’ needs guide your decisions.

Accessibility and inclusivity are key.

“Don’t leave any customers out of your experience,” Gilbert emphasized. Your site should be accessible to people with disabilities (think about the seven principles of user experience to get started). Some basic accessibility best practices are a high contrast between the text and background (it should be easy for digital readers to scan) and alt-text for images. Use tools like webAIM to evaluate your site’s accessibility. 

Gilbert also advised our community to use easy-to-understand and gender-neutral language where possible, so as not to alienate anyone. “Be mindful that you don’t know who’s coming to your site.” 

Tips to help seal the deal.

How do you actually get orders once you get a customer to your site? “You want to motivate customers to move from cart to conversion by making the process seamless,” Gilbert said. “Don’t add extras to block the user from completing their purchase.” She also advised that entrepreneurs make it easy for guests to go back to the site from the shopping cart or calendar scheduling page, and to offer guest checkout. Ultimately, your site should be thoughtfully designed but simple to use.