woman blowing soap bubbles
The best e-commerce sites excite potential customers and trigger their digital dopamine. PHOTO: Alejandro Alvarez

The most successful online retailers have set the bar high in terms of digital customer experience. 

They've set a precedent online shoppers have come to expect, thereby encouraging other retailers to follow.

In the third quarter of 2016, e-commerce sales totaled $101,251 billion dollars — 8.4 percent of all retail sales. That represents a 15.7 percent increase in e-commerce sales from the same period in 2015.

Digital Dopamine

In a 2014 post on Forbes, Seton Vermaak, head of strategy at marketing agency Razorfish, links the growth of e-commerce to what he describes as digital dopamine:

"Dopamine is a chemical in the brain, a flush of positive feeling we’re now perhaps hard-wired to experience when our phone dings or we hear a new email in our inbox."

The "flirtation of delayed gratification is a huge opportunity for marketers to explore," he added.

10 Essential E-Commerce Features

So how can you excite your potential customers and trigger their digital dopamine?

Well, through experiences, such as hearing the sound of our mobile device, the ping of an email or the sound of a chat. The best way to enhance the user experience— and the likelihood of repeat business — is by adding features like these that pique your user's interest and whet their appetites to buy.

Offer Sales/Deals of the Day

The word sale is arguably a customer’s best friend. Personalized offers and sales can drive purchases on your website. Having “Deals of the Day” will give your loyal shoppers a reason to constantly return to your site, day after day. Returning customers tend to make larger purchases than first-time customers, so creating a relationship with established customers is crucial.

Provide Free or Discounted Shipping

If shipping estimates are not clearly stated, many customers will go to another website. So eliminate that worry by offering free or discounted shipping, ideally on an expedited basis. Remember, consumers want clear and reliable tracking, active and appropriate levels of communication, free or low-cost shipping and excellent support for the delivery.

Capitalize on Reviews and User Generated Content

Customers trust other customers. Many users will turn to social media to see what products are trending or how other customers like the purchase. Connecting with users on social media, from Facebook and LinkedIn to YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter, can help you identify your target audience and gauge their sentiment. Be sure to capitalize on positive reviews and comments that will entice other shoppers to follow through on their purchase.

Highlight Contact Information or Live Chat Options

There is nothing more frustrating than struggling to find contact information on a website. By adding a direct contact method or live chat, you increase the odds of a sale that is dependent on the resolution of a simple question. Making sure customer service representatives are proactive, customer-centric and willing to extend whatever help is necessary to gain the customer's trust and ultimately his business.

Don't Forget the E-Commerce Basics

Some e-commerce websites still fail to provide the basics for their customers, like a product title, image and an Add to Cart button. Having product details that include the dimensions will also help to reassure your customers. Bottom line: test your site to ensure customers have easy to access and navigable options to browse and buy.

Show Real-Time Availability

Customers want to know whether a product is in stock, so make sure you offer real-time availability. Persuading a person to add an item to a cart and proceed to checkout — only to discover the item is out-of-stock is a guaranteed way to lose business. Take steps to ensure that your inventory constantly updates.

Offer Multiple Payment Methods

Secure and varied payment methods are critical. So accept as many options as feasible and highlight these options on your site so customers understand before they hit the checkout. International pricing and payments is also nice to offer in this global economy.

Craft a Reasonable Return Policy

Every business can set its own return policy. But a generous return policy will give customers peace of mind and encourage sales. Whatever policy you adopt, make it transparent and easy to understand.

Provide a Size Guide

Selling clothing or items that require a custom fit like dog collars? Then having a size guide available is very important. As everyone knows, sizes vary from brand to brand. By showing the exact measurements, customers can save time and frustration.

Always Keep an Eye Out for Amazing New Features

Finally, keep trying to wow your customers. Maybe you want to add video product descriptions, which give them better views and clearer ideas about size. 360 views of the product can also help portray it more effectively by highlighting small details that would be hard to see otherwise. What's next? Make it a point to attend retail trade shows and conferences to keep your options current and innovative.