E-Commerce best practices

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Between cyber Monday sales, post Christmas and January sales, I finally have enough angst to write this post regarding e-commerce sites, specifically their “hook” and usability for consumers like me who increasingly spend more money online than brick-and-mortar stores.

I summarized them in 3 buckets but I will spend the most time discussing the last item since the first two are really self-explanatory. So, here are the things that motivate me to click on that “buy” button.

1. Return policy. I’m buying something that I’m looking at online and haven’t touched or tried on; I don’t always know my size especially if it’s an untested brand; the site better allow for returns or I’m not buying anything. Except if I had time to “showroom” the item I’m buying.

2. Shipping rates. I’m an Amazon Primer so I’m a little spoiled. You want me to pay $6 for shipping, sorry, I’m moving on. The only time I would pay shipping is if the item is truly unique which in my case would apply to luxury brands *and* if returns are free. Otherwise, I’ll look at the item, search for it somewhere else, most likely on Amazon, and buy it from there.

3. Usability. This is where there’s room for so much improvement that I’m surprised I still have to talk about it. Some are finer points, I admit that may only appeal to users like me but some are just basic. In an effort to be coherent, allow me a few sub-bullets and prepare for screenshots.

  • Please don’t insult me with Flash. I understand that some brands equate Flash with the coolness factor and think that it’s the best way to showcase their brand identity. But if you something other than ogle you products and expect me to buy from your site, then don’t do flash. And yes, you have enough money to make a mobile site but it still doesn’t help with the usability. Why not use responsive web design instead and save both of us the trouble?


  • Give me high-quality pictures with plenty of details. I’m supposed to trust the quality of a product on a bunch of pictures and the description to plunk down hundreds of dollars and I get this:

In Saks Fifth Avenue’s defense, zooming in to the picture still yields a good picture but the details are lost in the thumbnail view. Contrast that to this:

Which brings me to my next point.

  • Don’t give me too many clicks. Using the examples above, in order to filter for brands or style, I need to click on a drop-down menu for Saks, click on the filter, and then click “Apply”. In Net-a-Porter, the filters are on the side, I can scroll-down if needed and once I click on the checkbox, the page immediately refreshes. Now, that’s refreshing.
  • Details. I touched on that briefly but I want the dimensions of the product. And models are not only for clothes, they can also model accessories. Like so:

And if it’s about the clothes, knowing the size on the model helps as well.

Those are the top-of-mind that I have for retail sites. I’m sure there’s more details that I’m missing. What do you think?


2 thoughts on “E-Commerce best practices

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