5 E-commerce Tips You Need to Know

by | Nov 3, 2011 | Insights | 0 comments

Recently, someone we met at a social gathering asked us if we could take a quick look at their e-commerce web site and make some quick recommendations. They were not having great success in getting ranked in Google, and even less success in converting visitors into buyers. After taking a look at their site, we realized that our recommendations made good sense for anyone operating an online retail business.

The following are pretty much the same five recommendations we offered to our new-found friend. We didn’t get into whether his products were price competitive or not; our focus was on what he could do to improve his chances at getting more sales.

#1 – Use Better Photography

Since online shoppers can’t touch and feel your products, you have to give them all the opportunities you can to fully analyze a product as if they were actually holding it in their hands. Don’t just rely on the same manufacturer-supplied photos your competitor is using. Learn how to take product photos or hire someone to do it for you. Take shots from all angles. Do close-ups (or crop high resolution photos) to focus on important details.

If you’re selling a stereo receiver, for instance, show a close-up of all the plug-in panels on the back. Like most of us, pictures speak louder than words. Even though you may have “3 HDMI Inputs” in your product description, showing those inputs is much stronger.

Show close-ups of labels, contents, etc. Photograph the product in a lifestyle setting, if you can. If you’re selling a table lamp, show the lamp sitting on an end table in a living room.

Use Adobe Photoshop or a similar tool to adjust colors and overall exposure. Use large photos (but not too large they take forever to view). We generally shoot for online product photos in the 600 px X 600 px range. With most contemporary web sites, you can post photos what show as thumbnails on the product page, but enlarge when clicked on, as in this screenshot from the Turbo Shaker store.

Screenshot of how a product enlargement can help provide product details.

“Lightbox” zoom feature shows larger product photo.

#2 – Use Original Content

Especially for your most important products, write your own product descriptions. Don’t just copy and paste descriptions provided by the manufacturer. Know what your ideal keyword phrases are and  include them in the copy. Search engines tend to penalize sites with duplicate content, so be original. It takes more work, but it will pay off well in the end.

#3 – Explain Who You Are

We never buy online from a store that hides or omits information about who they are or where they’re located. Phone numbers are important, too. While we might never visit the seller’s office or call them on the phone, it’s nice to know we could. Legitimate businesses are upfront with their information. Shady vendors are not.

While you may not want to include email addresses to keep spammers from scraping your site, you should offer a convenient Contact Us form for people to use who may have pre-sale questions. If you can take phone orders, offer a telephone number and the hours of operation.

Wash Safe's Contact Us Page

Wash Safe provides offline and online contact methods for shoppers.

#4 – Offer FAQs or Helpful Hints

Don’t assume your shoppers know as much about your product as you do. American Dictation provides a wealth of information, for example, about digital dictation beside having in-depth product information. This not only improves the sites search engine rankings, but the company regularly gets calls from shoppers who say they appreciate how well American Dictation explained how digital dictation works.

American Dictation About Dictation Screenshot

American Dictation devotes dozens of pages explaining digital dictation.

Inform shoppers. Teach them about your products and how they can be used, and you’ll find an increasing number will choose to buy from you, rather than your competition.

#5 – Explain Your Policies

We know you don’t want to handle returns. You hate handling shipping problems. And the last thing you want is someone chewing you out on the phone. If you don’t have a clear, complete shipping and returns policy, that’s exactly what you’ll get! It’s not the policy that matters, as much as the fact that you have one. Shoppers want to know what to do if they have a problem.

One additional note here: we’ve read many policies online that are almost nasty in tone, or, in the least case, not friendly. Write your policies to sound helpful, rather than confrontational.

For instance, instead of stating “We are not responsible for products damaged in transit,” why not use this: “In rare cases, packages get damaged during shipment. If you receive an order in a damaged container, immediately contact the shipping company (phone numbers are below) for assistance. While we’d like to take care of this for you, you will need to contact the shipper to file a claim. If the container is fine, but your product is damaged inside, please contact us immediately.”

Doesn’t that sound more helpful?


We realize that even these five points can be quite time consuming. If you’re not experienced with product photography or copywriting, it can be an even greater challenge.

If you feel you have a product line that needs to perform better, we may be able to help. We offer an E-commerce Success Program designed to allow you to concentrate on orders and customers, while we concentrate on attracting and converting more traffic.

Contact us today for a free, initial consultation.


Bret Williams

Bret is the a co-founder and the Managing Partner of novusweb®. He is also author of several books on Magento and e-commerce and is sought as a speaker and trainer. Bret has been crafting internet innovations since 1995.


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