THE BLOG
01/20/2015 04:46 pm ET Updated Mar 21, 2015

12 Ways Online Retailers Are Cutting Through Competition

The world of ecommerce thrives on exceptional branding, ease of use, and online visibility. Even if you know your product is a winner, you may find it difficult to sell without knowing the secrets of success in ecommerce. In 2015, ecommerce sites will need to be at the forefront of marketing trends to remain relevant and encourage high conversion rates. The world of online marketing is changing swiftly, and we've got the secrets you need to cut through the competition.

Consider these crucial components before you revamp your ecommerce marketing strategies:

1. Target market. One of the most important things an ecommerce site needs to do is define and understand the target market. Unfortunately, it is not realistic to market to everyone. In fact, doing so may be mildly alienating to all site visitors. Instead, identify those who would most benefit from your product or service and cater your site content to them.

2. The initial site interaction. Every ping your site gets is a potential buyer, and your website should be optimized for ease of use in several categories to encourage visitors to stay on your site. From the moment a visitor clicks on a link, you have roughly 3 seconds to capture his or her attention. Your homepage should be quick to load, aesthetically pleasing, and easy to read. Use visual cues strategically to draw a visitor's attention to the important points of your site.

3. Calls to action. Having a shopping cart in the top right corner is a start, but listing your company's benefits throughout the page increases the likelihood of a conversion. Use free shipping, add to cart buttons, and sales information to encourage buyers, but don't overload your site. Overloading can appear too sales focused or too good to be true to shoppers, making them want to leave a site. Keep it simple, visible, and color coordinated through the rest of your site.

4. Checkouts. Focus on making the checkout process as simple as possible. Don't require your buyers to create an account or sign in to be able to make a purchase. Instead, add benefits like discounts to those who want to complete the optional sign-up. Offer multiple payment options, including the use of PayPal and all major credit cards to make it as simple as possible for your buyer to make those last minute purchasing decisions.

5. Mobile. To keep up with what repeat customers expect, ecommerce sites need to focus on making their mobile site experience as seamless as their desktop site. Responsive site design that takes original site content and formats it to whatever device a visitor is using is one of the best ways to improve conversion rates.

6. Ad Retargeting. If you've ever been to an ecommerce site, left it, and seen an ad for that site pop up elsewhere, it is not a coincidence. Ad retargeting focuses on bringing a site's previous visitors back, time and time again. It's a very personalized way to remind an interested party about your brand. Retargeted ads can be simple and should always lead back to your site. After so many visual cues, your likelihood of driving repeat traffic back to your site increases tremendously.

7. Content. Improving your content at every level is the best way to win over customers. Product descriptions should paint a picture and provide pertinent information about a product so that buyers can make an informed decision. Keep your descriptions short, use bulleted lists, and include size and weight information. All the content on your site should be easy to read, succinct, and relevant.

8. Platforms. In addition to optimizing your website, use blogs, social media, and other site references to improve your brand visibility. While not directly linked to improved conversion rates, social media interaction shows users the personality and culture of a brand, and happy customers are more likely to share and recommend your product through social media than any other way.

9. Analytics. Use analytics to track your site information. Doing so is the only way to truly understand what is and is not working for your particular site.

10. Online support. Make it easy to access help from a real person at your company. Site glitches, information clarification, and other questions that visitors have should be as easy as possible to address. Consider adding a chat feature to provide instant access to company employees.

11. Languages. To reach an even wider market, consider offering your site information in a number of different languages. Now, you can have your site relayed in several of the most used languages. This allows a diverse range of customers to use your site and buy your products more easily by using their preferred language.

12. Surveys. One of the best ways to understand what site visitors really think is to use an emailed or after-purchase survey. A short, easy to use survey is a great way to get the feedback you need to make meaningful changes to your ecommerce site experience.

By using visual cues, large fonts, and a streamlined page format on site, sites like Taggler have been able to improve conversion rates and receive plenty of positive feedback about their user experience from first time and repeat buyers. Columbia Sportswear's site, like many other apparel based sites also uses visual cues and relevant information in an easy to navigate display.

Older sites that look like they haven't been updated since the mid-1990s and feature bright, obnoxious coloring and far too much text are prime examples of companies who haven't optimized their user experiences. Others, like eBay and Yahoo!'s shopping site are conveniently centralized, but are difficult to navigate and clunky because they provide so many different products on one site.

Now that you've seen what a great ecommerce site should include, it will be easy to spot the cluttered and difficult-to-navigate sites that haven't been optimized. Use these secrets to improve your ecommerce game and see the results in 2015.