Do I need an ecommerce website?
 
We specialise in ecommerce websites here at Designer Websites, and so we often receive enquiries from business owners who are wondering whether or not ecommerce is the right choice for their company.
 
More often than not, the answer is a resounding 'yes' - ecommerce is a fantastic way to grow your business, reach new customers, and increase your profits. However, we do occasionally come across clients for whom an ecommerce website simply wouldn't make sense; sometimes, it's better to have a simple brochure website that drives lots of enquiries than to have an awkward ecommerce website that makes life difficult for potential customers.
 
So which side of that line does your business fall on? Read on to find out whether or not an ecommerce website is the right choice for you...

An ecommerce website is ideal if:

  • You sell a wide range of products. Websites are capable of showcasing far more products than a bricks-and-mortar shop, and if you have a lot of different items on offer, an ecommerce site will probably be the single most efficient way for you to sell.

  • You wish to market to a wider audience. If you're only selling from a physical location at present, you're only reaching a tiny percentage of the market (i.e. those within travelling distance of your shop). Even if you have multiple locations, that's still nothing compared to the reach of an ecommerce website - imagine what could happen if you made your products available to the entire country, or even the entire world!

  • You already have a non-ecommerce website that gets a lot of traffic. If you have a website that doesn't allow people to buy your products, chances are you're missing out on a lot of sales. Many internet users now expect the option to purchase online, and if your website doesn't offer this, you'll lose your customers to a website that does. The solution, of course, is to upgrade your site with ecommerce functionality - you'll be improving user experience, and since your website already has some history with the search engines, it will likely rank much higher than a brand new website would.

An ecommerce website probably isn't right for you if:

  • You aren't equipped to deal with a large volume of orders. Opening up your business to the whole country (and possibly beyond) will almost certainly result in a lot more orders. This is great news if you can handle the demand, but if you can't, things will very quickly turn sour, especially if customers aren't receiving the goods they've paid for. In the age of the internet, disgruntled consumers can ruin a company's reputation astonishingly quickly!

  • You only want to target a small area. Want to keep your business local? If so, ecommerce may be the wrong choice for you, particularly if you don't have the means to fulfil orders from outside your chosen territory. That said, we have produced ecommerce websites for a few region-specific businesses, and they've done very well indeed - just make sure that visitors know right from the outset that your site only caters to one location!

  • Your products are too complicated for ecommerce. Some things simply can't be sold directly over the internet. This is often the case for companies who specialise in bespoke items; it is possible to integrate some customisable features into an ecommerce website (for example, we have built sites that sell things like personalised clothing and customised labels), but after a certain point, it just becomes too complicated for the end user. Alternatively, perhaps you'd rather get people on the telephone instead of selling to them online - giving your customers a phone number instead of an online checkout allows you to speak to them personally, provide a better solution for their requirements, and perhaps even upsell your products and make more money!
Click here to get a quote for your own ecommerce website, or - if you're still not sure - feel free to email info@designer-websites.co.uk for more information.
HenStuff's new website

HenStuff.co.uk is an ecommerce website that sells a huge variety of hen party accessories and novelty gifts. The site attracts a colossal number of visitors - especially at this time of year - and desktop users only account for around 50% of this traffic. The others are using smartphones, tablets, and other portable devices to shop for their hen party supplies.

In light of this fact, the HenStuff team decided that it was time to go responsive. They contacted Designer Websites and asked us to come up with a responsive design that would give mobile users a better experience on the HenStuff website. They also requested an updated payment system that would make it easier for their customers to complete online purchases.

Responsive Design

HenStuff's old website was good-looking and reasonably user-friendly, but it had been designed with desktop computers in mind, and didn't cater to mobile users very well. We addressed this by creating a brand new responsive design that adapts to the screen on which it is viewed, meaning that all visitors now get an equally excellent browsing experience, regardless of what kind of device they're using.

The HenStuff brand has been around for quite a few years now, and it was important for the new website to retain the image and personality that the company has established for itself over time. As we reimagined and restructured the HenStuff site, our design team kept a close eye on all branding elements (including logos, site copy, and images used) to ensure that everything remained consistent - after all, we wanted to make sure that HenStuff's customers still recognised their favourite party store!

Improved Payment System

The new HenStuff site uses Sage Pay Version 3, the latest version of Sage Pay's much-lauded payment gateway, to process customer payments. Simple, user-friendly, and exceptionally secure, we feel that Sage Pay is a superb choice for any ecommerce website, and HenStuff have already been reaping the benefits of this improved system (as have their customers!)

Tokenisation is a major feature of Sage Pay's latest version, and we incorporated this functionality into the new HenStuff website to make life easier for loyal shoppers. Customers can now make use of a Fast Pay option, which uses Sage Pay's fast and hyper-secure token system to store customer details, allowing near-instant checkout on future purchases.

This is a particularly great feature for HenStuff, a company that gets a lot of business from repeat customers who organise/attend a lot of hen parties. HenStuff.co.uk is one of the first websites in the hen party industry to utilise a tokenisation option like this, and this - together with the new, mobile-friendly design - will really help to give the company an edge over its competitors.

Visit www.henstuff.co.uk now to see our latest work for yourself!
Online payment systems
 
An ecommerce website is a great way to boost your business's revenue, but before you start making sales online, you'll need to select an online payment system for your site. Eager ecommerce entrepreneurs have many different payment providers to choose from - here are some important things to consider before making your decision:
  • Will this payment system make it easy for my customers to pay me?
  • Does this payment provider have a good reputation for security and reliability?
  • Is this payment system reasonably cheap to use?
  • Is the interface for managing payments and refunds easy to use?
Here at Designer Websites, we are extremely well-versed in the selection and implementation of online payment systems. We have built ecommerce platforms for hundreds of businesses, and in this blog post, we will look at three of the most popular payment providers on the web. Do they meet the above criteria? And how will their services suit your business?
 
 
Sage Pay logo
 
Sage Pay is a well-known payment gateway provider that caters to more than 50,000 customers across Europe. We at Designer Websites recommend Sage Pay to most of our ecommerce clients. Why? Well, let's go back to those three all-important questions...
  • Will this payment system make it easy for my customers to pay me? Yes. Sage Pay's user interface could scarcely be more straightforward - it's simply a case of entering your details and clicking 'Proceed'. The system also has tokenisation capabilities that allow users to save their details and skip all that tedious typing next time around.

  • Does this payment provider have a good reputation for security and reliability? Sage Pay have a Trustpilot rating of 9.6 out of 10, which should give you a good idea of how trustworthy they are. Furthermore, the Sage system uses a variety of fraud prevention tools and security measures to ensure that payments are completely protected. 

  • Is this payment system reasonably cheap to use? Sage Pay's ecommerce system is one of the most cost-effective on the market, offering a range of reasonably-priced payment plans to suit businesses of all sizes. In our opinion, their charges are more than reasonable.
  • Is the interface for managing payments and refunds easy to use? We believe that the MySagePay console is one of the best features of their payment gateway. It is incredibly intuitive, comprehensive, and simple to use.
 

Worldpay logo

 
Many of our clients ask us to integrate Worldpay into their ecommerce websites, so we have a lot of experience with this system as well.
  • Will this payment system make it easy for my customers to pay me? Again, yes; Worldpay is relatively good and makes taking payments online easy. However, the Worldpay interface is not as user-friendly as that of Sage Pay. 

  • Does this payment provider have a good reputation for security and reliability? Worldpay's ecommerce system is very secure, but their Trustpilot rating of just 4.1 out of 10 reveals some serious problems with their service levels, reliability, and customer management. 

  • Is this payment system reasonably cheap to use? Worldpay isn't the cheapest payment provider, but they are far from the most expensive. It does depend on your payment plan, but this can be quite a cost-effective choice for some online sellers. In some cases, they are cheaper than Sage Pay.
  • Is the interface for managing payments and refunds easy to use? Um...no! We think that the interface is very poor (at the time of writing this article), and sadly this lets Worldpay down significantly. They do have some nice features, but the interface is generally very clunky and awkward to use. 
 
Paypal logo
 
PayPal needs no introduction - it is probably the best-known payment system on the web. If you've ever bought anything on eBay, there's a good chance you used PayPal to pay for it. But is it the right choice for your business?
  • Will this payment system make it easy for my customers to pay me? Yes - if the customer already has a PayPal account, transactions can be completed in a couple of clicks. Even if they haven't registered an account already, it's very simple to sign up, and once they've registered, they'll never have to enter their card details again (unless those details change).

  • Does this payment provider have a good reputation for security and reliability? They wouldn't be so popular if they didn't! That being said, PayPal have an extremely poor rating on Trustpilot (just 2.1 out of 10), with many people complaining that the company's customer service is very bad indeed.

  • Is this payment system reasonably cheap to use? This is the biggest problem with PayPal: they know how popular they are, and they know that many online shoppers now expect all ecommerce websites to include a PayPal option. For this reason, they are perfectly happy to make you pay through the nose for their services, taking a sizeable percentage of every sale they process (more than 3% in some cases - this can really add up if you're taking a lot of orders via PayPal). In particular, Paypal is very expensive to use if you take a lot of transactions; if you don't, they may be a good choice.
  • Is the interface for managing payments and refunds easy to use? Yes - they have clearly spent time designing this for ease of use and it shows. The interface is both very functional and very easy to use. 
 
Further Reading:

Cooker Spare Parts site preview

Your website should be as user-friendly as possible no matter what field you're in, but that user-friendliness becomes even more crucial when you work with something as technical and as complicated as cooker parts. Cooker Spare Parts is a Cardiff-based enterprise specialising - as the name suggests - in replacement cooker parts, and we have just completed a brand new website design for them.

Now, there are literally thousands of different items that you can purchase through Cooker Spare Parts; in all our years developing ecommerce websites, this may well be the largest product database we've ever worked with. Factor in the very real possibility that the average CSP customer may not know exactly what they are looking for, and things start to get very complex indeed - even if you know your cooker's brand (e.g. Rangemaster), you won't necessarily know the specific model number, and this is the information that companies like CSP need to give you the correct part.

Clearly, this project would be a big challenge, but we're pleased to say that we have well and truly conquered it. Upon arriving at the new Cooker Spare Parts home page, users are prompted to enter their appliance's manufacturer and model number right away, therefore eliminating as much ambiguity as possible right off the bat. Once this is done, the site ONLY displays parts that are suitable for that specific cooker, ensuring that the customer purchases exactly the right item.

Aside from the improved user interface, we also gave Cooker Spare Parts a sleek new design. The site is now fully responsive, allowing people to order replacement parts with ease on any device at all. The crisp, clear page layout ensures that the user knows exactly what (s)he is seeing at any given stage of the buying process, and we feel the red and white colour scheme looks very sharp and modern. Visit cookerspareparts.com now to see our work for yourself!

Mobile Ecommerce

More and more people are using smartphones - instead of desktop computers - to browse the web, and as mobile internet usage increases, so too does the amount of money spent online via mobile. In fact, shopping is one of the most common things that people do with their phones nowadays; this Econsultancy report suggests that 24% of mobile internet users have made purchases using their phones, and since that figure was just 20% back in 2013, it's probably safe to assume that smartphone shopping will continue to get more and more popular as time goes by.

If you have an ecommerce website, these statistics are not to be ignored. You have probably already noticed a swing towards mobile traffic on your site, and all the facts suggest that this trend is going to continue, so it's very much in your best interests to take a good look at your site and ask yourself how well-optimised it is for smartphone users.

If you want to turn your mobile visitors into mobile customers, here are three tips for giving them a better experience and boosting your mobile conversions:

It's a small screen - don't clutter it up!

The most obvious difference between mobile phones and desktop PCs is the screen size. When you're thinking about how your website should look on a mobile phone, be sure to make the most important elements instantly and clearly visible - this may mean stripping back the less essential parts of each page (such as promotional banners and unnecessary text) so as to fit everything in without making it hard to read. If users are having to scroll back and forth and squint at their screens just to find what they're looking for, there's a pretty strong chance that they'll give up before they reach the checkout.

Speed is everything!

This mantra doesn't just apply to loading times (although these are obviously critical on any device); it also applies to the user's journey through your site. Bear in mind that mobile users often have limited time to spend on your site, particularly if they're on a train or in the loo (you may laugh - 75% of people admit to doing it!)

If you want users to be able to fit a transaction into this short window of time, you need to make the whole process as quick as possible. If your site doesn't already use PayPal, consider adding it, as this will save a lot of users from having to painstakingly enter their payment details. An 'express checkout' option can also help - is it really worth forcing new users to register for an account before purchasing? Some will do it, but many will simply go elsewhere.

More generally, it's a good idea to go through each step of your site's buying journey and note down any steps that could be streamlined or removed - remember, each step is another opportunity for your customer to change their mind and leave the site!

Keep payment simple

We've already mentioned PayPal, but that's not the only way to make payment that little bit less painful for your customers. Another important difference between smartphones and PCs is the lack of a mouse or keyboard, and this can make entering one's details on a mobile extremely fiddly. Make sure that the data entry boxes (card number, customer name, etc.) are of an easily-clickable size, and try not to include too many of them (do you really need their address, their telephone number AND their email address?)

Some more quick tips for the checkout page:

  • Instead of forcing everyone to enter their addresses manually, use an address lookup system that allows users to enter a postcode and select the correct address from a drop-down list. This cuts down on the amount of typing required to complete a purchase.

  • Make your delivery options as clear as possible. If, at a glance, people don't know a) how soon their items will arrive and b) how much it will cost, they'll be reluctant to go through with the purchase.

  • Are there boxes to tick? If users have to tick a 'Terms and Conditions' box at the checkout, make sure it's nice and big - that way, they won't miss it, and it'll be easy to click on!

 Want to make your site more mobile-friendly? Why not consider upgrading to a responsive design?