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10 things IKEA can teach you about designing an online store

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Here I am. Standing next to a container with some funny, cushy slippers in it in the middle of an IKEA store. I don’t even know how I got here because there’s no particular thing I wanted to buy, yet I’m here.

I’ve managed to go pass the cashiers wielding a handful of things I don’t need, nor want. I’m packing my stuff, but something catches my eye, a small piece of paper with some survey on it. I’ve decided to give it a closer look.

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The survey seemed like a standard one. Simple questions about whether you like IKEA or not. However, what they were asking for, could be translated into some tips on how to create a well-organized online store. That small piece of paper has become a real knowledge repository for me.

So what does IKEA know about creating an online store? A lot. Here’s their advice on what you should pay attention to while building one. The kind of knowledge that might come handy when trying to knock your clients’ socks off during your first meeting.

1. Moving around in it must be easy.

Good organization is key in every online store. You have to make sure that everything can be found easily and quickly.

There are two types of users on the internet: browsers, and searchers. The navigation in your store should be easy to use for both of them.

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Browsers like to browse around and ultimately get to a specific product by visiting a category they find relevant. If you want to please them you should create a good categories structure that is intuitive and can be understood right away. Things like breadcrumbs come handy while dealing with browsers as well.

Searchers tend to use only one element for navigation. The search box. You have two ways. You can either create your own search algorithm or use a custom Google search box. By creating your own algorithm I also mean using the built-in search functionality in your store’s script. You have to make sure that your solution gives accurate results. Every product has to be reachable via the search box.

2. Exposition has to be inspiring.

What I mean by that? Well, it has to be inspiring for users to make the purchase. Each product has to be shown in a way that targets specific benefits a user might get after buying the product.

Just a simple presentation with a “buy now” button is usually not enough, and won’t get you myriads of sales. You have to have some other things in place just to show users that what you’re selling is exactly what they want.

Use things like: photos, testimonials, videos, reviews, and good copy (crucial).

3. Each item has to be easy to find.

This is similar to #1. Create a transparent and clear structure of categories, and make sure that your search box works correctly.

If a product can’t be found then no one will ever buy it.

4. The price of each item has to be visible.

There’s no point in hiding the price. The customer will see it eventually, and they will be angry if it won’t be what they’ve been expecting.

The price should be the most visible thing right next to the “add to cart” button. It should be perfectly visible during the checkout process as well. Customers should be given a very visible place where they can see the value of their current purchases at all times. The top-right corner is the standard for such a thing.

5. Every product has to be available.

This goes without saying really. If you don’t have something don’t try to sell it. Sadly though, it happens very often.

You get excited about some new gizmo, hit the “add to cart” button and all you see is an information that goes something like this: “we’re sorry but this product is not available at the moment, please subscribe to our newsletter and we will inform you once it’s in stock”. Not cool.

6. The prices have to be attractive.

By attractive I don’t necessarily mean low. Try to price products in a way that buying them sounds like a bargain for whatever reason.

You can be creative and attach a small price-tag to one or two products, and turning them into a customer-bait of some kind. Use them to lure the customer into your store and then try to sell them on other normal-priced products.

You don’t need attractive prices on every single product you offer. Just a handful of them will probably be good enough. When was the last time you visited a supermarket just because they had cheap beer and walked out with a heavy bag of other stuff?

7. Notifications have to be visible, complete, and understandable.

Notifications are the small messages that pop out whenever something happens just to notify the user about that fact.

At the time of appearing, the notification is the most important thing on the page, that’s why it should be perfectly visible.

Another thing is that it has to be complete and understandable as well. “Operation successful” is not enough.

When a customer just completed a paypal transfer say something like “your paypal transfer has been completed and now it’s being processed by our system, we will send you an email notification once your order is ready for shipping”. That sounds a lot better than a simple “operation successful”. Every notification should be created as if it was meant to be displayed to someone who doesn’t know what the hell is going on and has no internet-intuition at all.

8. Sales information need to be clear and understandable.

Whenever you’re selling something say exactly what it is. What are the elements of the product? What shipping packages are available? What is the guarantee? Etc.

Remember, if you want to gain trust you have to answer every question a customer might have before they even start to think about this question.

Whenever a customer has a question that is not answered somewhere in the sales copy you can kiss the sale goodbye.

9. The checkout process has to be transparent and secure.

Security is and always has been a problem on the internet. Your customers have to be sure that every transaction is secure and that their billing information is safe with you.

Try to use an external shopping basket and payment solution. Oneshoppingcart, paypal, Google Checkout, etc.

Inform the customer what they are being charged for and what happens with their data.

If you don’t know how deep you should get into this try to act as if you would have been explaining this stuff to your mum. Word for word.

10. There has to be a good help or FAQ section.

Again, whenever a customer has a question that is not answered somewhere on your site you can kiss the sale goodbye. A good FAQ section is crucial for customer trust and low numbers of emails asking the same questions every day.

The main purpose of the help and FAQ section is to assist your customers during shopping. Don’t attract their attention for too long though, because in the end you don’t want them to read the help section but to buy your stuff. So short, to-the-point questions and answers do great job.

My seemingly unproductive visit to IKEA turned out to be a 1,200 word article. Not bad for a Sunday shopping. What is your story? Do you have an online shop or planning to launch one for yourself or one of your clients? What do you think about these tips?

Oh, and one more thing. Here are some of the questions from the original survey:

Our store
Is it easy to move around in it?
Is the exposition inspiring?
Are products easy to find?
Are the prices visible?
Are the products always available?
Are the prices attractive?

Our salesmen and cashiers
Are they accessible?
Are they competent?
Are they polite?
Were you properly served by them?

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About Karol K.

Karol K. (@carlosinho) is a blogger and writer, published author, and a team member at codeinwp.com. Check us out if you don’t like converting your PSDs to WordPress by hand, we’ll take good care of them for you.



About Karol’s business: Karol is a freelance writer working with codeinwp.com, The top-notch PSD to WordPress service. YOU DESIGN, THEY CODE. As simple as that.

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  1. I would also add one – the store has to be very professional, and give the perception of being secure. This is critical as people will put their credit card in!


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