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The landscape of online shopping is dominated by a handful of huge companies. Of course, anyone can sell online, but there’s no doubt that names like Amazon, eBay, Zappos, Wal-mart and Alibaba rule the roost.

Growing your business to join this kind of elite company seems like a massive, almost insurmountable challenge. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take a few hints from the way they operate. I mean, there are reasons why these guys are so dominant, right?

In this article, we want to look at a few things these brands do really, really well, from which you can learn ecommerce lessons that are guaranteed to help you grow your own store.

1. Loading time

It may not be the most glamorous facet of selling online, but it’s clearly one of the most important. Amazon carried out their own research in this area and discovered that, for every 100ms of page load time, there was a 1% decrease in sales. Put simply, customers are in a hurry, and aren’t likely to hang around too long if your website under-performs.

WebPageTest allows you to run a totally free page speed test on your website. When you’re done, if you’re dissatisfied, you should check out this article which gives you 7 tips to make your websites load faster.

Marketing ingenuity is all well and good – but make sure you don’t neglect the basics. Your store is doomed from the beginning if it isn’t functionally sound.

2. Be available to your customer

The biggest retailers are invariably committed to awesome customer service, and offer a number of different ways for customers to get the help and advice they need.

Zappos, for example, very publicly offer 24/7/365 service via a plethora of channels – phone, email, live chat and more. This stellar commitment to customer service has earned the company many fans.

Amazon offer similar channels – but customers are given an insane number of options to ‘help themselves’ before they reach this point. A simple, plain English help manual allows users to, in many cases, get the information they need without even interacting with another person – resolving their problems quickly and almost effortlessly.

Be as available as you possibly can to help your customers. Integrate Live Chat with your store – Spark Pay is fully integrated with LivePerson , BoldChat and Live2Support. Remember the basics, too; list a phone number, and take enquiries by email. Check them regularly!

But also invest in the creation of content that lets customers answer questions for themselves. We love this article by TodayMade which lists 10 tips for creating a killer FAQ page.

3. Personalization

Again, many of the Ecommerce giants absolutely rock at personalization. Forget about cookie-cutter, ‘one size fits all’ experiences – user experience on their site is heavily personalized and tailored towards user needs and intent.

Again, we have to give a special shout out to Amazon here. As a retailer that sells pretty much everything, they rely heavily on their personalized home page experience, which expertly pulls past user experiences and interests into a range of neatly tailored recommended products. This avoids the feeling of the user being intimidated by the breadth of purchase options available, and forms a logical and effective starting point for the shopping experience.

Once you hit the product pages, the recommended products continue to come thick and fast. Items are displayed that are ‘frequently bought together’ and occasionally a bulk discount is even offered for buying them all together.

Find out how to enable upsells and cross-sells in your Spark Pay store right here…

4. On-site Search

Again, with attention spans and patience levels being so low among consumers, you have to make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for. One thing the top retailers have in common is an omnipresent on-site search function. This invariably sits at the top of the window – whether users are on the home, category or product page.

A quick and effective keyword search remains probably the best way for customers to get what they need quickly. And, indeed, customers who use an onsite search box result in an average conversion rate of 2.4% as opposed to 1.7% for those who don’t.

Check out this helpful article by KissMetrics which lists 5 Ways to Make Your E-Commerce Website Search Feature Convert.

5. Testing

Given their dominance, you could maybe forgive the Ecommerce giants for resting on their laurels – but they don’t. As Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos famously said, “If you double the number of experiments you do per year you’re going to double your inventiveness.” Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, reflecting on why some businesses fail, said A lot of people don’t just go ahead and try things.’

That same spirit of restless innovation is intrinsic to many successful online merchants. They recognize that the perfect Ecommerce site is never truly finished. You need to test your site regularly, whether it’s usability or performance. Here are 23 tools to test your Ecommerce site.

6. Transactional Email

Email marketing is a powerful addition to your toolbox and transactional tool increases its value even further. It’s been reported that transactional emails get 4 to 8 times more opens and clicks.

Transactional email takes many forms, including order confirmations, abandoned shopping cart reminders and shipping confirmations. Check out these 5 keys to transactional emails.

One oft-neglected transactional technique is to encourage shoppers to provide reviews. Amazon do this incredibly well by including many recent purchases in one email, and giving you the chance to submit a rating right from the email itself.

7. Reviews and social proof

While we’re talking about reviews – it’s impossible to overstate just importance these can be. 88% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as they would a personal recommendation.

And not only that. Reviews are, essentially, a form of content marketing, generating unique content for search engines to index.

Check out Amazon’s review page – it’s fantastic. Reviews are displayed according to star ratings. They can be upvoted by other users according to how helpful they are. They can then be filtered – users can read 5 star reviews as well as 1 star reviews to get a nuanced idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the product.

Amazon also provides a place for customers to ask and answer questions to help reach informed purchase decisions. Realistic expectations and educated decisions, hopefully, lead to happier customers and reduced returns. It’s a virtuous cycle.

Don’t forget, you can add Reviews by Yotpo to your Spark Pay store.

Closing Thoughts

A handful of larger companies sit at the top of the Ecommerce tree. And, when you spend any amount of time exploring how they work, you realize that this hasn’t happened by accident.

Their success is rooted in a methodical approach to doing the basic things brilliantly. They put the customer at the heart of every part of their business model, and use technology to deliver an experience that wows them.

Sure, these companies have insane resources that are beyond the reach of most businesses. But the things that actually put them in this position ARE within reach with smart decision-making, a patient approach and wholehearted commitment to delivering an amazing ecommerce experience.

This article was written by Spark Pay from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.