How to Design Your E-Commerce Store for Success in 2020

If you have an online fashion startup without a physical retail location—or are considering starting one—you should think of your website as your brand’s storefront. Just like with a physical location, you want your website design to be welcoming and engaging. Below, we’ve detailed four things to keep in mind for a successfully designed e-commerce store. 

1. Keep a long game frame of mind

In the same way, you’d rotate displays and merchandise in a physical location, designing your website is an ongoing process. At the very least, you should have a full website refresh every five years. If you have a larger budget for maintaining your website, play around with ongoing optimizations, like heat mapping user flows and updating according to their behavior. If you’re unable to do continuous updates, you can still do consistent ones. New photography is one of the best ways to update your website, and it’s multipurpose—you can use it across channels like social media and newsletters. Check out our video above on the photography you should consider for your e-commerce site.

2. If you don’t have a custom website, customize your template

To minimize initial overhead, an online fashion startup might skip hiring a designer and use a platform like Shopify for managing both their business and website. While Shopify has robust tools for managing the backend like business orders and inventory, its templates are limited and you can often tell when a brand uses one straight out of the box.

If you start with a template, customization is key—not only for differentiating your brand but also for building trust with customers. A strong, consistent brand style gives you immediate legitimacy (even if you’ve just launched yesterday). 

3. Build an e-commerce experience 

Historically, physical retail has had an edge over online fashion startups because it offered an experience websites couldn’t capture. But lately, we’ve been noticing a new trend in online retail all about experiential e-commerce. Look at the “Play” section of Man Repeller’s e-shop, or the mobile game Hermes released in 2018. These experiences are available for the casual shopper to discover or loyal customer that wants something a little extra, while still easily skippable for those not interested. 

It’s true that these experiences require an investment—but you don’t have to build an entire game to capture the essence of “gameifying” e-commerce. Here are a few creative ways to delight customers with engaging experiences:

  • Create a scavenger hunt. Drop hints throughout copy and images that lead your customers to a special prize, like a limited edition item or a special discount code. 
  • Build interesting product collections. Maybe you group products around a holiday or create an occasion like a virtual road trip—if you can’t do an actual one, like  GANNI’s—with pieces inspired by places that are important to your brand. 
  • Use interactive elements. For example, Scandinavian shop Femme & Fierce has photos that bounce off your mouse on its homepage. While something like this would require custom code, it’s not nearly as expensive as building a full game. 
  • Find unique twists on site elements, like your 404 page or site menu. VEDA takes a traditional site menu and dials it up with extremely bold type and interesting placement. Even swapping your hero image with a video can add new excitement to your site.

Don’t forget that if you have an interesting idea but don’t want to change your whole website, you can use a microsite. A microsite—similar to a physical pop up—is small, curated, and the perfect place to experiment with engaging design and experiences. 

This shift into experiential e-commerce makes sense when you consider that Generation Z is growing old enough to change the fashion industry based on their shopping habits. They’ve grown up with technology and are used to apps and platforms trying to capture their attention. To really break through the noise you have to offer them an engaging experience. 

4. Design with accessibility in mind 

Accessibility is no longer just a nice-to-have element to your website—it is becoming a must-have. After all, 1 in 4 adult Americans has some kind of disability according to the CDC. Here are a few questions to ask yourself, or your designer, as you build your e-commerce store: 

  • Is your website content properly displayed for the visually impaired? Are illustrations and photographs given proper meta tags? Consider installing a screen reader to test how well your website translates. 
  • Is it easy to navigate and checkout? While we love the idea of a product scavenger hunt, customers shouldn’t have trouble finding their carts.
  • Is there a customer service number, email, or chat option easy to find? Some customers may require more one-on-one assistance than others and customer service shouldn’t be hidden.

The cultural shift toward inclusivity does not just mean D&I in large corporations—it also means online fashion startups designing their stores with accessibility in mind. 

When it comes to designing your e-commerce store for success, it’s all about balance. If you don’t have the resources to build a custom website from scratch, make sure to customize your template. No online fashion startup is exactly the same, so your websites shouldn’t be, either. Similarly, if a scavenger hunt on your website is too whimsical for your brand, consider how to engage customers in another creative way. Above all, remember that your e-commerce store should offer customers an engaging experience unique to your brand.  

If you’re interested in more information on designing a successful e-commerce store, check out some of our other posts: 

Are you ready to breathe new life into your website or want to have a conversation to see what’s possible? Send us a note at hello@scalingretail.com. Our team would love to hear your unique needs and work with you to develop a comprehensive e-commerce strategy. 

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