The goal of an ecommerce website should be to increase your sales. That starts with people finding the site – so an eccomerce site needs to provide a good SEO foundation. Speed also plays into it – a website that is slow to load will hurt you in search, and also frustrate potential customers that are likely to just go back to the search results and choose a competitor.
Once the customer is on the site the concern moves from SEO to CRO (conversion rate optimization). This is the science of turning visitors into customers, of making sure that the people that come to your website buy something from your website.
This is complicated stuff, and CRO experts obsess over it. They use tracking and heat maps to watch exactly what visitors do while on your site. They use this information to do everything possible to make it easier for the customer to find the items they want, enter the information you need, and collect payment.
Even small differences can bring huge results. Someone that was serious about CRO might spend huge resources to get their conversion rate from 5% to 6%. Is that an increase of just 1%? No – it means 20% more sales.
It's helpful to think of an ecommerce website as a second store. If you were going to open another store you would want to make sure it was in a visible, high traffic location where customers could find you. That is the SEO part.
You would also want to make sure that customers could, if at all possible, get parked and in and out easily. When they called to place phone orders you wouldn't wait until the eighth ring, you would jump on it. That is the speed and performance part.
Inside the store you would want things to look good. You would try and showcase the items you wanted to sell. You would make it easy to get around. This is the first part of CRO.
You would make paying easy – if someone is in the mood to give you money you want to make it as easy as possible. You wouldn't make them look for someone to ring their sale in. With phone orders you would take credit cards – you wouldn't create a barrier by making them come in and pay cash. This too is part of CRO.
And if someone started to walk out of your store empty-handed? This is the real world equivalent of what is known as an abandoned cart. Hopefully you wouldn't just let them walk out the door. Hopefully you would engage them and try and make a sale.
That is the new frontier in CRO – ecommerce websites that have features to "recover" those many sales that were started and not finished.
There are other things we can draw from this comparison. If you were opening a second store hopefully price would not be your only concern. You probably wouldn't choose the cheapest possible rent if it meant being in an area with no traffic or visibility, no parking, or outrageous crime. Price would only be the deciding factor if all other things (location, traffic, visibility, neighbourhood, etc.) were equal.
Same thing with the interior of the store... you wouldn't make choices based solely on what was cheapest. You would, hopefully, also include expert opinion. If you were running a flower shop you would have an expert help set up the coolers. If you were running a restaurant you would get help setting up the kitchen. Not all choices would be based solely on what is cheapest.
And it can't all be about what is easiest either. If you live on a farm far out in the country it would be easiest to just open up a store in the barn out back but, again, there would be no traffic or visibility. Instead you would likely choose a shop with traffic and visibility, and make the commute in every day. You wouldn't base your location solely on what is easiest for you, and you shouldn't base your website decision that way either.
Store or website... they have a lot in common. Saving money is good, easy is good too – but only if all others things are equal. If price and ease are the only factors you will end with something that doesn't perform – whether it is a brick and mortar store or ecommerce website.