Creating and exploiting a SellerDeck website – Part I

Creating and exploiting a SellerDeck website – Part I

19th July 2011

Green Jersey is an enthusiastic user of SellerDeck (previously known as Actinic) e-commerce software to create online shops. Here’s a summary of the approach we take when creating an Actinic website to compete against the giants of retail. It also includes some of the advice we give clients to help them run and improve their sites.

David vs Goliath

We believe that retailers with SellerDeck sites can measure up well against their big-name competitors with huge budgets and seemingly limitless resources. Large retailers make huge investments in e-commerce and online marketing. How can smaller retailers possibly compete with that?

Use SellerDeck’s strengths as an integrated system. Many large retailers have impressive-looking websites but these are often very unwieldy and hugely inefficient, relying upon manual workarounds for minor changes and tweaks. Often their sites have grown quickly, and have problems with management, development & scalability, but changing to a new platform is too complicated and expensive to achieve.

For example, I met a client earlier this year who manages one of the UK’s biggest leisure and sports equipment websites. I was astonished to learn that this giant e-commerce site has no way of assigning specific “related products” when a user views a product’s details. All that it can do is show products that other customers bought. Because the infrastructure of this super-site is spread over many servers, databases and bespoke applications, implementing an upgrade is very expensive, technically difficult and commercially risky. Suddenly a SellerDeck upgrade seems rather easy in comparison…

Comparatively small sites can use their size to their advantage, though. They can respond very nimbly to a sudden change in the market, and far more efficiently than a huge retail site can. You don’t have the bureaucracy of a committee to decide how to respond to unexpected opportunities – instead, you can put together your deal and implement it straight away.

Take advantage of your small size to offer personal communications and customer service too. Learn from large retailers, but don’t necessarily take the same approach – be confident in your own business and develop your own style.

Don’t Hide Your Products Away

Let customers use the site in the way that suits them. You might not be able to offer the layered/filtered navigation of large sites, but you can offer your customers many different ways of browsing your product catalogue and identifying the product they want. So structure the navigation so that customers can shop by product type, by brand, and by any other attribute that would make sense to them. Add “sort by” functionality (you can customise Drillpine’s sort-by extension) so they can sort by price, colour, brand, etc..

You can also enhance the Actinic search script to help people identify the products of interest. In other words, don’t lose a sale because a customer can’t easily find what they want.

Consider implementing a third-party search tool like Google Site Search within your site too. This can be useful within SellerDeck sites in particular because the standard site search only works with product catalogue content, not brochure pages, integrated blogs or other parts of the website.

Be Consistent

With web design generally, consistency is important, but for an e-commerce site it’s vital. Design a set of templates with a consistent, predictable overall approach to navigation, typography and positioning throughout. Then implement that design in HTML, CSS and Actinic code 100% faithfully.

Devise a logical styling scheme for button and text link/hover states (e.g. up, down, over) and apply the scheme reliably throughout the site. The easier your customer can orient themselves and naturally navigate the site, the more likely they are to stay on your site and buy from it rather than give up and head to a competitor’s site.

A consistent approach here allows you to create a variety of different templates using different colours and styling (for different sections of the site perhaps), but still ensure that the site holds together and feels like a single website, and that your customer always feels oriented.

We often see SellerDeck sites with a hotch-potch of different font faces and font sizes, and with elements on the page which “jump” a few pixels as you navigate the site.

Customers see these things as real indicators of a quality site and a professional business, so don’t settle for anything but 100% consistency throughout the site.

Carry Your Branding Across All Media

I can’t think of a single successful e-commerce merchant that doesn’t carefully use its branding across all media. Whether it’s print ads, email newsletters, shop signage, social media, or the packaging that products are despatched in, use consistent graphics, colour palette, fonts and alignments. It’s surprising how many small businesses don’t establish a professional “brand”, and customers are less likely to see them as credible suppliers.

The Devil Really IS in the Detail, I’m Afraid…

Actinic sites are often easily identifiable through use of out-of-the-box templates. Even when they have been created from a custom design, a lot of the default SellerDeck design elements remain in place. It takes time and effort to do it thoroughly, but another sure sign of a credible online shop is the careful customisation of these elements in line with the rest of the site:-

  • Basket pages
  • Checkout
  • Mini cart (i.e. the basket summary often shown at the top of the overall template)
  • Payment pages (e.g. Actinic/SellerDeck Payments)
  • Default “next”, “previous”, “cancel”, “continue”, “add to basket”, “checkout” etc. buttons
  • Layout of search results
  • Contact page
  • Third-party plug-ins (e.g. menu systems)
  • Breadcrumb trail
  • Error 404 page (i.e. “page not found”)
  • …and many others

Test regularly for broken links or missing images – not just before a new site is launched. There are plenty of online tools available to make this easy.

In Part II we’ll look at re-assuring customers, displaying products, and communications with customers.