E-commerce is more competitive than ever, and it’s not just because of online shopping giants like Amazon. An increasing number of small- and medium-sized e-commerce businesses are entering the market, and it’s getting harder for e-commerce stores to stand out in the crowd.

If you’re thinking of starting an e-commerce business, you may be wondering how your store can attract first-time shoppers who have seemingly endless options for where to shop. And when you do, how can you retain them and turn first-time buyers into loyal customers?


This advice will help you build an e-commerce business that doesn’t just meet customers’ expectations but leaves them wanting more.

The Importance of E-Commerce Website Design

A great website is the foundation of any e-commerce business. It also gives your store credibility with customers — which is essential if you want customers to trust your site enough to enter their credit card numbers.


Because minor website issues can have a big impact on your sales, it’s worth the expense to hire a professional web designer to build your site. If you don’t know a web designer, use an online marketplace to hire a part-time, full-time, or recurring designer. When vetting web designers, Upwork recommends hiring someone with a specific set of skills, including web fundamentals (HTML, CSS, and JavaScript at least), strong UI and UX design and the communication skills to work collaboratively with all members of your team.


Before hiring a web designer, think about your e-commerce business’s brand. A brand is more than a name and logo; it’s the colors you use, the voice of your content, and the other traits that define your business’s image. Your brand vision informs the design of your e-commerce website.

Using Free Shipping to Attract First-Time Shoppers

More than any other perk, online shoppers want free shipping and returns. These conveniences have grown so ubiquitous that they’re practically necessary to attract first-time buyers.


How can small e-commerce businesses balance the demand for free shipping with their profit margins? One option is raising prices, and for businesses selling a specialty product, this is a viable option. However, raising prices too much could cause existing customers to leave — and it’s always easier to keep a customer than find a new one.


A different strategy is restricting free shipping to orders above a certain amount — while Amazon’s minimum is $25, a small business might set a free shipping threshold of $50 or $100. This keeps shipping costs down and encourages shoppers to spend more per purchase.

Surprising and Delighting Online Shoppers

E-commerce takes the face-to-face interaction out of the shopping experience, but customers still expect an exceptional customer experience when shopping online.


Special touches make online shoppers want to buy again, which is why some online retailers focus on creating experiences that surprise and delight. As Sellbrite points out, delighting customers causes them to remember “why they buy from you and not the other guy.” It also encourages word-of-mouth marketing; when customers have a great experience, they want to share it.


Delighting customers doesn’t have to be costly. Whether it’s handwritten notes or free gifts, making customers feel valued is more important than the dollar value.


Customer service is another chance to impress customers. Contacting customer service isn’t anyone’s idea of fun, but businesses can pleasantly surprise shoppers by providing prompt, personal service through multiple channels. If you succeed, 93 percent of your shoppers will be likely to make a repeat purchase.


A great website and free shipping get e-commerce shoppers in the door, but it’s how you treat buyers after they spend money that really makes the difference in customer loyalty. By showing customers how much they matter to your business through customer experience and customer service, you can build an online store where people want to shop.

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