6 Features Your E-Commerce System Should Have

By Kristopher

shopping cart

Here at ShuttleBox, we consider E-commerce to be a part of our bread and butter. As self labeled experts in the field, it pains us to see poorly implemented, hard to use e-commerce sites that are sorely lacking in needed features to help direct customers and increase sales.

That’s why we’ve composed a list of six features that we think every e-commerce application should have. These features exist to enhance your sales, market your products, increase customer satisfaction and ease of use of the web site. Some of them are so simple and basic, we’re amazed that some sites don’t have them… but we won’t be naming names.

Categories/Catalogs and Tags/Keywords

It amazes us whenever we come across an e-commerce site that doesn’t have products organized into categories or catalogs, and doesn’t have some kind of tagging (or keyword) system to lump similar products together.

Let’s say you run an apparel site. It may make sense for you to lump all your products into several categories: Shirts, Pants, Shorts, Hats and Accessories. You may even break these categories down into Men’s and Women’s, or Adult’s and Children’s for each of the previously mentioned categories.

Why do this? Simple: it makes it easy for people to find exactly what they are looking for. If I’m looking for a t-shirt for my favorite baseball team, why would I want to wade through pages of pants and hats to find it? Worse yet, if I’m a man looking for a pair of jeans, I wouldn’t want to have to click through dozens of women’s leopard print and Hello Kitty sweat pants.

Using tags, we can provide a greater way to lump similar products together without having to have 273 different categories. Let’s say the aforementioned Hello Kitty sweat pants had a tag of both sweat pants and Hello Kitty. Our excited shopper could click on the Hello Kitty tag and be brought to a listing of all products tagged Hello Kitty, including items from all categories (shirts, pants, hats, etc). Similarly, when clicking on the tag sweat pants would show all sweat pants (most likely all from the Pants category).

These features combined provided fast and easy ways for your customers to narrow down the products that they are looking for, and a great way for them to find and buy related products without much hassle.

Product Options

Some products that are sold quite possibly come in one size, one color, one shape fits all. Other times, there are a slew of options that customers can choose to customize their product, such as size, color, material, etc. Sometimes these options add additional price to each product. For instance, a steel handle on a product might cost more than the wooden handle.

A proper e-commerce system should be able to handle these options and their associated pricing an an easy to manipulate (for the customer) and easy to report (for the seller) manner.

The other way (read: wrong way) to handle this is just to create a new product record for each option, but that can very quickly become a nightmare to maintain and just looks silly. Let’s say you have a shirt that comes in 4 different sizes and 3 different colors. That’s 12 different products you have to create when you really just have one product with 12 different combinations. What happens when you notice a typo in the description or the price changes? You have to update each product individually. Now imagine you have 11 different shirts, each with 12 different options. That’s now 132 products that need to be updated when prices change, instead of 11 in an option based system.

So why do some e-commerce solutions not have this feature?

Quantity-based Pricing

In the real world, the cost of producing something usually decreases per unit as the number of units being produced increases (until it levels off). For instance, it’s far more efficient for me to build 300 pens at once than 3 pens. We waste less man hours setting up and tearing down a machine or process, and our equipment takes time to warm up and get to optimal production speed.

If this is true, why would we sell those 300 pens at the same unit price we’d sell 3 pens? Of course we’d make more money, but we’d make happier customers if we provided them a kickback for purchasing more pens at once. Plus, that’s better for us for them to buy 300 pens from us once every 6 months than by 3 pens from us once a week.

Good e-commerce systems provide the ability to sell stock at quantity based pricing when available. For instance, we charge $0.15 a pen for up to 50 pens, but if you order 50-100, we’ll sell them for $0.12 each. Or buy 100-200 and we’ll sell them for $0.09 each.

This allows us to provide incentive for larger purchases when it matches an increase in our margin.

Related Products

When I add that pair of Hello Kitty sweat pants to my shopping cart, shouldn’t you nicely let me know that I can add a matching Hello Kitty t-shirt or baseball cap? Or pink fluffy Hello Kitty slippers? Why wouldn’t you? For all you know, I might actually add all of those to my shopping cart, and your sale just quadrupled.

If your e-commerce system doesn’t provide this method of up-selling to your customers, you could be losing out big. There is a chance I might have gone and searched for those matching items, but there’s also a bigger chance that I wouldn’t have thought of looking for them. There’s also a chance that you might convince me to spend more than I was intending to by pointing out their existence.

This is one of the most basic and most helpful feature to increasing sales, and is utterly baffling why all e-commerce website don’t have it.

Coupons/Sale Functions

Online coupon codes are all the rage these days. Just checkout sites like retailmenot.com. So why doesn’t your e-commerce system provide you a system for creating coupons to advertise to your customers and incentivize them to shop with you? If it’s so common, shouldn’t you have it?

A good e-commerce system should provide you several ways to generate coupons:

  1. One Time Coupons: These coupons can only be used once, and are good for targeting specific individuals. For instance, you can advertise a 10% off coupon on your next purchase, and to prevent users from sharing the coupon, only allow it to work once.
  2. Limited Time Coupons: These coupons can be used more than once, but they expire eventually after a set period of time.
  3. Free Shipping: These coupons do eliminate shipping charges and, of course, can be One Time or Limited Time Coupons.
  4. Percentage Off Coupons: These coupons give a percentage off a purchase or a specific item. They can also be One Time or Limited Time Coupons.
  5. $ Off Coupons: These coupons remove a certain dollar amount from the purchase. They, again, can be a One Time or Limited Time Coupon.

Is your e-commerce system giving you all these options? We’ve found quite a few that don’t!

Abandoned Cart Reporting

You notice through Google Analytics that potential customers are flocking to your website. Your traffic is up 400% and you’re ecstatic about all the sales that are soon to come flying through the door. But they don’t come. What happened? Why did only 2% of those 400% of new visitors actually buy something?

It’s possible that those visitors spent a good deal of time on your website and even added some items to their cart. They might have actually started to check out. Abandoned Cart Reporting allows you to track the activity of anyone who adds product to their shopping cart. It allows you to see what they did after adding a product to their cart. Did they add more? Did they start the checkout process? How far did they get into the checkout process?

This reporting can help you identify problem areas in your website that prevent people from completing their purchases. Maybe you have a confusing checkout process. Maybe your site doesn’t work with a specific web browser. Maybe it doesn’t work with JavaScript disabled. Perhaps you don’t have adequate payment options (maybe everyone doesn’t have a PayPal account to checkout with).

Abandoned Cart Reporting allows you to discover what happened to potential sales and where they dropped off at, and can be one of the most instrumental tools to increasing your sales. If your e-commerce system doesn’t have it, you’re likely lacking a great deal of information and losing money.

These features seem pretty basic, but it’s amazing how many e-commerce systems aren’t equipped with them. If your system doesn’t have these features, it’s time to start looking for something new.

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