If you're looking to launch your own online store, WooCommerce is a great choice to build your business with. Coupled with WordPress, WooCommerce is a robust and flexible system that puts a range of powerful tools at your disposal to sell your products and services the way you want. And it certainly doesn't hurt that this full-featured, extendable and widely supported plugin is free to get started with, and that there's tons of great themes for it on ThemeForest, plugins on CodeCanyon, and more.
But how do you go from building an online storefront to running a successful business? The key is to focus on improving your users' experience, so that shopping at your site is easy, quick and delightful. Let's go through a few ideas that you can use today to make shopping a pleasure for your customers, keep your site running smoothly and bring shoppers back time and time again.
1) Use Great Photos
Getting great pictures of your products are an important step towards getting your customers to browse through, and eventually buy from your store. Source good shots, or arrange to have appealing photographs of your products taken so that users can see the details and finish of your products, and if possible, see them in action too.
If a user visits a product page, they definitely want to see the item, so show it to them. Use large images on product pages, and include shots from multiple angles. Implement a lightbox plugin that allows users to zoom in on individual images and cycle through multiple images so they're in complete control.
If you're arranging to have your products shot, ensure that they are photographed with a consistent style, setting and lighting conditions. This will allow customers to compare products on your site easily and accurately decide what they like best.
2) Great Copy Goes a Long Way
An online store isn't just a collection of products and a checkout page: it's also a showcase for your unique brand, and that's what customers will be able to connect with. Use copy with a consistent tone of voice to tell your brand's story and show off your personality—on your About page, in your product descriptions and in complementary content like your blog and help pages.
When writing about products, be sufficiently descriptive and skip the hyperbole. Focus on helping customers understand whether the product is a good choice for them—mention use cases and address potential questions that buyers may have: is that jacket waterproof? How long do the batteries in this Bluetooth speaker last? Is this preserve good for more than just toast?
3) Create Useful Content
As an online business catering to your specific market, you and your company have a unique experience to share. From the processes you've set up to ensure the best quality products, to engaging with customers to learn about their needs, everything you go through in setting up and running your store can form the foundation of your brand blog. From there, you can build upon your blog content by talking about what your brand stands for, what your customers are into and how they can get most out of your products.
Home Depot's The Apron Blog does a terrific job of keeping customers engaged—the home improvement and construction products store regularly posts DIY projects around the home, trends in interior design, and ideas for decorating rooms and gardens. By inspiring homeowners to do more with the space they have through this blog, Home Depot creates a deeper connection with their customers, even when they're not actively making purchases.
4) Reach Out Regularly With a Newsletter
Email newsletters have been around for ages, and they're still a favorite mode of communication among marketers who want to reach customers with news about products, offers and events.
Email marketing is a great way to privately share useful information with customers who are interested in your brand, with the added benefit of being able to track the response from your audience—when they choose to unsubscribe, which links they click on, and how often your emails are forwarded.
The more you target and personalize these mailers based on users' habits and purchase history, the higher the returns. Follow these practices when sending out newsletters for the best results.
5) Include And Involve Users
Today's shoppers are vocal, and want to share their experiences with the products they buy—and that's a wonderful opportunity for your store to capitalize on. Allow users to submit reviews and ratings of your products to let others know what they liked and what they didn't. These reviews will also give you insights into what customers are interested in and what's important to them. Reviews often help increase product conversions; ecommerce experts Bazaarvoice found that conversions increased by as much as 12.5% in a study they ran on innerwear retailer figleaves.com. And all you have to do to make this happen is enable a setting in WooCommerce.
You can take things further by offering discounts for reviews. In the same Bazaarvoice research, products with over 20 reviews had a 83.85% higher conversion rate than those that have no reviews. By offering discounts, you create an incentive for customers to shop in the future, and their reviews help lend credibility to your store.
There's a great WooCommerce extension that lets you do just that. And it certainly doesn't hurt that reviews do wonders for your SEO—each new review serves as fresh content for search engine indexers to find and highlight when people are looking for what you have to sell.
Don't be afraid of negative product reviews—these offer you a chance to flex your customer support muscle. Address these issues by engaging with customers as best as you can, whether that means a personal phone call, a refund or a replacement.
According to a study, 63% of online shoppers say they are more likely to buy on sites with positive reviews. If you've got customers who love your business and shop with you often, contact them personally and encourage them to write you a testimonial.
WooThemes offers a great free plugin that lets you showcase testimonials from your patrons with custom styling to incorporate easily with your site template.
6) Increase Visibility With SEO
As an online business, it's imperative to ensure that your site and products can be found easily by users on search engines. Taking a few steps towards optimizing your site content for search engines to properly index your store will help improve your ranking on search results and bring in more visitors.
One of the best things you can do is use a comprehensive SEO plugin like WordPress SEO by Yoast, which allows you to easily add meta descriptions, keywords, optimized permalinks and more to ensure that search engines know where your content is, and what it's about. Oh, and it's free!
7) Offer a Helping Hand
Customer support is a crucial part of running an online store. It's not only about handling problems with shipping and refund, but also about helping customers find products they want and making them feel comfortable shopping on your site.
The easiest way to get started is to answer the most common questions shoppers usually have, such as those concerning shipping policies and pricing, returns and guarantees. Write these up on an FAQ page and encourage customers to contact you with any queries they might have, using a contact form.
You can also assist shoppers with live chat. Olark's incredible support service adds a discreet tab to the bottom of your site window that lets customers ping you when you're available to ask questions. Plus, it shows you which page a customer is browsing through, allows you to save chat transcripts, and generates detailed analytics and reports to give you a better overview of your customers' support needs. Olark is easy to install on any WooCommerce site, is very reasonably priced and you can even try it out for free.
8) Enable Power Shoppers to do More
So you've got great products and happy shoppers, and business is humming along. The next step is to get customers into the habit of shopping with you regularly, by making it easy and fun to do so. There are a couple of things you can do to get started:
Sometimes customers might visit your store just to browse or compare products to purchase later. Or, they might want to create a personal registry for others to easily find the right gifts for them.
The nifty WooCommerce Wishlists extension allows them to do all that and more, and lets you fine-tune the functionality to suit your store and audience best. With Wishlists, you don't have to turn customers away if they don't want to buy something just then—and you'll have a reason for them to come back.
Vouchers, Coupons and Store Credit
Granting users flexibility over how they choose to spend money at your store puts more power in their hands, and more transactions on your balance sheet. Here are a few ways to do that:
- Instead of only allowing purchases, consider offering gift vouchers that customers can present to their loved ones—great for when someone can't decide on the perfect gift.
- Discounts are great for getting both new and existing customers in the door and through to the checkout page. Create offers, market them through social media and newsletters, and watch your sales go through the roof.
- Putting a store credit system in place allows customers to shop at leisure and makes the purchase process even smoother than your existing checkout system. It also allows shoppers to stick to a budget, and by helping them do that, you build trust and win the confidence of your clientele.
The Smart Coupons extension for WooCommerce enables all this functionality and more, with total control over how you choose to implement it in your store. Whether you want to create special seasonal, holiday and event-based sales, or draw in new customers by marketing your offers on a deals listing site, this plugin makes it easy.
A word about housekeeping
Running a tight ship on your site backend is just as important as keeping your accounts in order or properly managing your inventory. While WooCommerce already helps you take care of those essential processes, here are a couple more things you should handle to ensure that your site runs quickly and without issues.
9) Use a CDN For Speedy Performance
CDNs or Content Delivery Networks are services that you can plug your site into, to take on the task of delivering heavy files like images and CSS sheets from a server optimized for speed and geographically closest to your users—and drastically reducing page load times in the process. Quicker sites reduce bounce rates, increase customer satisfaction, and also help sites rank better on Google search results. Choose a well-known and reliable CDN like MaxCDN, who offer quick and simple setup processes and competitive pricing.
10) Backup Your Site
Whether your site faces a hacker attack, needs to be migrated to different server or web host, requires upgrades or even changes to the theme, it's always a good idea to have a recent backup of all your files, content and databases so that you can restore order at a moment's notice.
Go with a quality backup service like VaultPress to make sure your site is safe at all times. This top-of-the-line service from the folks who built Wordpress features real-time backups, automated restorations and a full backup archive and offers an optional security scanning functionality for additional protection.
Running a successful online store takes a lot of work, right from stocking quality products to bringing in customers and keeping them interested over time. It's not easy, but with these tips and tools, you should be well on your way towards making sales and creating lasting connections.
If you're looking to get started with WooCommerce, we have a couple of great tutorials right here on Tuts+ to help you with getting WooCommerce set up, launching your WooCommerce store, and even designing and building your own custom WooCommerce theme.
Once you've settled on WooCommerce as your platform of choice, be sure to check out our extensive range of over 210 customizable, high-quality WooCommerce themes on ThemeForest to give your online store a unique look that captures the essence of your brand.
What are the challenges you face with your ecommerce business, and how are you tackling them? Let us know in the comments below.