Optimizing your e-commerce site with Dragons’ Den’s Michele Romanow

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This post is our third blog post about our E-commerce Crash Course with Dragons’ Den’s Michele Romanow.In it, we examine the third video in our four-part video series on how to set up an e-commerce business for lasting success.  

All great e-commerce businesses have one thing in common – they all have a great website. In this post, we share tips from Dragon Michele Romanow on how to optimize your e-commerce website for maximum performance and functionality.

If you’re unfamiliar with Michele, she is one of the newest Dragons on CBC Dragons’ Den. She’s also the youngest Dragon to date, at age 32. She has a vast wealth of knowledge about business – especially e-commerce – thanks to her time at the helm of several huge e-commerce successes including BuyTopia, and Snap by Groupon.

In video number three, Michele dives deep into how to optimize your e-commerce platform for success. Grab a pen or save this blog post – her tips will come in handy:

Tip 1: Your website is never finished

“As the market evolves, so should your business, and so should your platform,” says Michele.

Michele’s first tip for entrepreneurs is to remember that their website needs regular maintenance and changes. You may complete your website and launch it, but be aware that as time passes, it will need to be improved upon and must evolve to hold its own in the competitive e-commerce market.

For those unsure of what changes to make as time goes by, Michele breaks down the most important aspects to maintain and update for an e-commerce platform:

SEO

If you’re not sure what SEO is, it stands for search engine optimization, and it is key to your website’s performance.

“Search results can be hugely influential to your site traffic, and you want people to find you,” explains Michele. After all, there’s not much point to building a website if no one can find it, and that’s where SEO comes in.

If SEO baffles you, take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. Luckily, many website platforms, like Shopify and Magento, come with easy-to-use SEO tools that walk you through how to set up and optimize your website SEO accordingly. If your website platform does not have an SEO tool, it is generally in your best interest best to hire a qualified SEO specialist to get your site on the right track. Be careful and read reviews as many unqualified people claim to be SEO “experts” and charge exorbitant fees for vague services.

If you intend to tackle your own SEO, Michele has some advice:

“…Make sure each page has an individual meta title, and use keywords in that title that accurately reflect what customers are going to see on the page.”

The meta title of a webpage is your opportunity to give search engines a brief description of the contents on the page. It functions as the title when the page comes up as a search result on a platform like Google, or when the page is bookmarked.

Analytics

Website analytics offer a window into your website’s performance. They show you what’s working and what’s not, and let you know how people are finding you, and engaging with your content.

Basic analytics tools, that generally come with most website development platforms, do not always offer much insight into your site’s performance. Michele’s advice? “Invest in analytics before, during, and after your launch so you can understand how people find you, and how they engage with your website.”

Detailed analytics offer valuable insights. They help you figure out what is attracting visitors to your site, and how long they spend on certain pages – which really shows you what’s working and what’s flopping. With this knowledge, you can “…maximize what’s working, and take away what’s not,” says Michele.

Some marketing agencies and consultants specialize in analytics and can assist you with analyzing yours. Google Analytics™ is a great tool to install on your website should you want to monitor and assess your own analytics accurately.

Test everything

The last thing you want is for your website to underperform. “Don’t disappoint customers with a glitchy interface,” says Michele. “Go through your entire website every time you make changes and make sure that everything works.”

“Remember that not everyone is going to be coming to you from a desktop computer. Most people go online on their phone, so check how your site is working on a Mac, a PC, an iPhone, an Android, and definitely all the different web browsers,” advises Michele.

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Tip 2: Build your website with mobile in mind

“If you build your website with mobile in mind, you’re definitely more likely to be discovered,” says Michele.

Many marketers and website administrators make the mistake of only optimizing their website for desktop. This is a huge mistake that you must avoid to be successful in e-commerce – especially as the world becomes more mobile with every passing year. A staggering 1.8 trillion US dollars are anticipated to be spent worldwide in 2018 on e-commerce purchases made via mobile devices. That’s 62.5% of all anticipated e-commerce purchases in 2018!

So many people surf the web and shop on their phones these days that it is critical to ensure that your e-commerce website is optimized for mobile devices.

“When we started Buytopia, three years ago, 85% of our traffic was from desktop. If you can believe it, three years later, 85% of our traffic was from mobile phones. The world had flipped entirely in three years, and it’s not going back.”

Make sure your mobile website experience is as attractive, enticing and functional as the desktop version – and that it works on all mobile phones and mobile browsers.

Tip 3: Pay attention to your page load times

Find out how long it takes to load your website. If it’s not lightning fast, you have a problem that needs to be addressed.

“Nearly half of us expect a webpage to load in 2 seconds or less! Even a one second delay can mean a 7% reduction in conversions,” says Michele. Don’t miss with a slow-to-load website.

A good tip to improve your load time is using low to medium resolution images across your website instead of large high res files. The larger and more detailed the graphics, the slower your website will load.

If your site is slow for other reasons, and you can’t figure out how to fix it yourself, talk to a website developer. Avoid flash-based websites as they are notorious for being slow to load. Keep your site simple and streamlined. The less there is to load, the faster your site will load.

Tip 4: Don’t underestimate the value of good design

Good design can make a world of difference for any website. What we mean by good design is attractiveness and functionality. Michele recommends keeping the following key components of great design in mind when designing your e-commerce website:

Navigability

“Make it easy for customers to find things on your e-commerce site. Invest in customer-friendly design and it will pay off.”

This pro tip has a catch – for truly good design, you might need to hire help. A qualified website designer can help you ensure that your site design is on point, and that your website is functional and attractive. If hiring a designer is not in the budget, aim to use a website development platform like Magento or Shopify to ensure that the site you build will be attractive and functional. Their themes are beautiful, practical, and easy to customize.

Make your buy button pop

A buy button that stands out is always in your best interest. Make it pop to make them shop.

“My sales increased about 3% just because I changed the colour of the buy button to red. A red buy button is the best colour for optimizing site conversion,” advises Michele.

Keep it simple

A simple, streamlined website can be attractive, functional and ideal. “…Don’t overcrowd your page. Have great pictures, keep the product descriptions short and sweet,” advises Michele.

Simple checkout rules

“…Make sure the checkout process is as quick and easy as possible,” notes Michele.

There’s nothing worse than struggling to check out of an e-commerce website when you’re crunched for time. Most customers demand an uncomplicated and speedy experience – or they will abandon their carts.

You also want to ensure that you get the right information in your online orders at checkout. A customer who types in the wrong mailing address may never receive their order, and may never shop with you again. Luckily, “Canada Post …has a great tool that allows customers to have their addresses autocomplete, which really increases site conversion,” advises Michele.

With these tips, you’re well on your way to creating a successful e-commerce business. Stay tuned for part four of our E-commerce Crash Course to learn about how to sustain a successful e-commerce business over the long term.

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