13 Must-Have E-Commerce Website Features

13 Must-Have E-Commerce Website Features

In recent posts we reviewed best practices for processing card-not-present transactions, offered a list of suspicious transaction characteristics and suggested a strategy for preventing e-commerce fraud. Following our suggestions will help you reduce fraud and some types of chargebacks, however it may not necessarily help you minimize customer disputes, which are exclusively associated with legitimate sales and can result in different kinds of chargebacks.

The biggest issues leading to customer disputes are:

  • There is a discrepancy between the advertised qualities of your merchandise or services and the way customers perceive them when he or she receives them.
  • Customers cannot easily reach the merchant’s customer support or cannot quickly get a satisfactory answer to a question or concern.
  • The merchant’s policies are not prominently displayed and / or sufficiently well communicated with customers.

It is immediately evident that developing and implementing customer-friendly policies and managing a well-staffed, highly-trained support department would go a long way towards keeping customers satisfied. However, providing certain information on your website can have an equally great impact.

Customer inquiries and disputes will be significantly reduced if the following features and content are present into your website:

  1. Accurate description of products and services. You do want to promote your merchandise, but you also want to be accurate in your description, if disputes are to be minimized. Provide as much information as available. Add images, if applicable. Try to make them as high-quality as possible, although you will have to balance that with the need to limit their size, so that it does not impact the load time of your website.
  2. Prominently display your customer service telephone number and email address. Customers must have an easy way to contact you by phone when they have a question. An email address is also mandatory, but insufficient by itself. Consider the following suggestions:
    • Display your customer service telephone number on your home page. Offer a toll-free number in addition to a local one. Remember that your customers need immediate attention and, if not provided, are likely to contact their card issuer and file a dispute, which will quickly deteriorate into a chargeback.
    • Display your customer service email address on your home page. Consider offering customers separate email addresses for different inquiries (product, shipping, billing, return, etc.).
    • Use auto-respond emails. Send auto-respond emails to customers to acknowledge receipt of their inquiries and to inform them when they should expect their questions to be answered. Make sure that you respond within the promised time frame. Feel free to use the auto-responders for marketing purposes as well, but don’t go overboard.
  3. Develop and communicate customer-friendly return, refund and cancellation policies. These policies should be developed to reflect your commitment to customer satisfaction and there are plenty of resources to help you do that. Once you develop these policies, you should:
    • Make them easily available to all visitors to your website through a link on your home page.
    • Obtain customer agreement to the terms of these policies during the order process. Have your customers click on an “Accept” or “Agree” button to confirm acceptance of the policies before submitting their payment information.
    • Send your policies to your customers with the order confirmation email.
  4. Send a pre-billing notification for recurring transactions. Recurring payment plans are one of the biggest sources of customer disputes and chargebacks. We have reviewed best practices for setting up and managing recurring plans elsewhere, but it is important reiterating that you provide a pre-billing notification prior to submitting each authorization request. Additionally, you should require customers to acknowledge acceptance of the recurring payment plan agreement.
  5. Develop a clear shipping policy and make it accessible from each page of your website. For best results, you should make your shipping policy accessible through a link in your website’s header or footer.?áWith your shipping policy you should:
    • Explain shipping options and expected delivery time-frames.
    • Provide full disclosure of all shipping and handling charges.
    • Develop an email response system to inform customers of expected delivery delays.
  6. Fully disclose your billing practices. Disclose your billing procedures in full to your customers at the time of purchase. Customers should get the following information:
    • When their cards will be charged.
    • How the transaction will be displayed on their credit card statement (managed through your billing descriptor).
    • A suggestion to keep a copy of the transaction.
    • A billing disclosure should be included in the order confirmation email.
  7. State the transaction currency. Do not assume that your customers will know what currency in which your items are priced. Remember that consumers from all over the world can visit your website. State your transaction currency and then you may provide a currency conversion tool to help consumers estimate the cost in their own money, but you should clearly state that this tool provides the conversion amount for information purposes only.
  8. State your home country. For the reasons listed above, you need to state on your website the country where your business is established.
  9. List any export restrictions. List the countries to which you ship and explicitly state that orders from other countries will not be accepted.
  10. 13 Must-Have E-Commerce Website FeaturesDevelop and display a privacy statement. You will have to develop a privacy statement and make it available on the home page of your website. Preferably, you should have a privacy specialist like TRUSTe do that for you. Either way, at a minimum you should tell visitors:
    • What customer information is collected and tracked.
    • With whom this information is shared.
    • How customers can opt out.
  11. 13 Must-Have E-Commerce Website FeaturesPurchase a brand-name SSL Certificate and display their logo on your website. SSL Certificates are mandatory for e-commerce websites and there are plenty of vendors to choose from. Select one with wide name recognition. VeriSign, for example, is known for the green URL bar, which immediately tells visitors that data is protected during transmission.
  12. 13 Must-Have E-Commerce Website FeaturesRegister with BBBOnLine and display their seal on your website. A membership with an organization like BBBOnLine is another way to show to your website’s visitors that you can be trusted with their money. Of course you will have to quickly address all customer complaints filed with the BBB, but you should do that anyway.
  13. 13 Must-Have E-Commerce Website FeaturesSign up with a security scan vendor and display their logo on your website. Security services like “McAfee Security Scan” tell visitors to your website that sensitive information stored on your server is well protected from hackers.

These are the thirteen features that absolutely must be present on your website. It is a short list and other items can be added to it, but it is sufficient to demonstrate to your potential customers that your business can be trusted and that if there is an issue with an order, it will be addressed quickly.

Image credit: Trust.ua.

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