Welcome to the first in our series of e-commerce website evaluations, where we take one site and dive deep to find what it does well, and where it can be improved. We’ll discuss which tweaks and changes can be made to increase visitor numbers, conversion rates and overall sales.
These are the opinions of the full EKM team: 70 experienced account managers, design gurus and social media specialists that have helped tens of thousands of people create their own successful online businesses over the last 17 years.
The first business to put themselves forward for a closer inspection is the Tring Astronomy Centre (www.tringastro.co.uk)
Make good use of prime real estate
The first thing a visitor to the Tring Astronomy Website will see is a massive photo of a telescope, which takes up the whole screen: a huge wasted opportunity.
You only have a few seconds to grab a visitor’s attention, so use this first page to entice people in. A better idea would be a button that goes to a key page, or the details of a special offer.
This website also wastes a lot of space showing products which are out of stock. If they won’t be coming back into stock, get rid of them (or hide them, if you need them for SEO purposes.) If they are only temporarily out of stock, you should still accept sales but with a warning about delivery times. Don’t turn business away!
Inconsistencies, no matter how small, can make your e-commerce site look amateurish. For example, some product shots on this website have a plain white background, others are in a box. When searching by brand, some are represented by their logo, others by a photo of their product. It looks messy, and like the business couldn’t be bothered – yet this would be so easy to fix.
The top product category in the main menu is ‘special offers’. But this takes you to Cyber Monday deals, which ended months ago. As a potential customer, I’m now wondering: is this site still live? Are they still in business? Have they gone bust?
Keep everything consistent and keep it up-to-date. No e-commerce website, especially one with big-ticket products such as these telescopes, can afford to give potential buyers a reason to feel cautious about making a purchase.
Focus on user experience
This website is great from a user’s point of view. Aside from the huge image, mentioned above, it loads very quickly on mobile devices. Around 60 per cent of your visitors will be using their phone, so this is crucial. It also loads quickly on desktop. When a potential buyer’s attention span is just a few seconds, this is critical.
The search bar across the top is great, and I love that it’s predictive, shows instant results and can be filtered by category. People that search a site are five times more likely to buy from it.
The user experience could be improved by being more selective about the products listed on the homepage. Our team conducted a heat map review and found that less than a quarter of visitors scrolled as far down as the fifth row of products.
The site would also benefit from a ‘gifts’ section. At present, it’s entirely catered towards the astronomy fan, but a section where someone could buy something for their astronomy-loving partner or friend would be a great opportunity to diversify sales.
Similarly, product pages should include a section showing related products. For example, if I’m looking at a beginner-level telescope, the site should also be encouraging me to buy a book about finding the stars: a quick and easy upsell.
All e-commerce websites need to prove that they are trustworthy, and this one has to work especially hard because of the price of its goods.
There are a few things it does well: there is a phone number and physical address. There’s also a VAT registration number, which gives the impression that it’s a big business – even though any size of business can request one.
The checkout process is solid. It’s simple and straightforward and it’s easy for the user to understand what’s happening at every step. The businesses accepts multiple currencies and payment methods, which is great.
Where this site falls down is in telling me about itself or its products. First of all, there is a great photo of its real-world showroom, full of telescopes. This sets it apart from a back-bedroom operation, yet it is buried so deep in the website that most users will never find it.
The products also lack detailed descriptions, photos or videos. Every big online retailer – from dishwashers to cars – uses photos and videos to show you what their product looks like from every angle and what it’s like in use. You have a 64% greater chance of making a sale when you include video. At its simplest, you can incorporate the manufacturer’s own videos. But you can make your own with just a smartphone, and upload it to YouTube which can become an additional way for new customers to find you.
This site would also benefit from the inclusion of reviews. One nice touch is a logo that shows products have been recommended by Sky At Night magazine. But apart from this, there’s very little to entice me to buy either a specific product – or even from that company at all.
Maximise social media
Tring Astronomy Centre makes good use of social media. They’re in this review because they reached out to us via Twitter.
That said, they should consider adding Instagram shopping, which allows people to make purchases straight from their social media. I also didn’t see any evidence of remarketing, such as placing ads in my Facebook feed and around the internet. This is a great sales technique because it focuses on individuals you already know are interested.
It also appears that they publish a newsletter, but they need to add an incentive to sign up. This could be organised stargazing events, or details of what astronomers will be able to see in the sky this month. If you don’t offer the user something valuable in return, they’re unlikely to hand over their details.
On the whole, Tring Astronomy Centre has a very good e-commerce website. On the plus side, it loads quickly, the SEO is great and the checkout process is simple.
However, they need to do more to build trust. We suggest adding reviews and product videos. The inconsistencies need tidying up to give a more professional appearance, and by making better use of its space, such as swapping large photos for a call-to-action, the site will generate more sales.
If you would like to nominate your site for an evaluation by our team, send your details via our Twitter or Facebook pages or find out more about how the EKM platform can help you launch and build your e-commerce brand.