Building Feature-Rich Online Stores: Unleashing the Potential of Platform Extensions
Creating an online store that stands out from the crowd is becoming increasingly challenging.
There are an estimated 12 to 24 million online stores globally — and this number is likely to grow exponentially in 2024.
A wide range of online store builders like Opencart makes it easier for online store owners to set up shop, yet the market is too competitive, and just having a shop with a custom domain isn't enough.
That's where platform extensions help. They come with a wide range of advanced features that extend your website's capabilities and improve a user's shopping experience.
In this blog, we'll cover the top 11.
1. Appointment and booking systems
Appointments and booking systems are a great addition to an online business operating in the service industry, particularly healthcare, beauty, and hospitality.
The system would allow customers to book, reschedule, or cancel an appointment at their convenience.
Without an online booking system, customers would need to ring or email whenever they wanted to amend their booking, which is time-consuming and inconvenient.
A standout feature of online booking systems is its ability to assist customers after business hours. People are busy at work during the day, or an emergency might occur after hours, requiring them to amend bookings immediately. It'd be frustrating for anyone needing to wait until the next business day to change their booking.
Not having an online booking system can hurt financially–image source
Online booking capabilities are make-or-break in some sectors. Research shows that when spas don’t provide online booking, they risk losing nearly 46% of their appointments.
Additionally, such systems usually come with an appointment reminder, which reduces no-shows by an astonishing 90%.
This not only benefits customers, but it also saves staff countless hours in booking and amending appointments for customers. The saved time can be used to improve the customer experience in other business areas.
2. Live chat integration
Live chat is fast becoming the number one way to improve customer experience, surpassing all other support channels.
So, why do customers prefer live chat?
On the first level, email queries can take a handful of working days to respond to, while being on hold on the phone isn't only irritating but stops someone from getting on with their day.
Adding a live chat to your website is powerful because it's instantaneous, allowing customers to resolve their queries faster. And even if they have to wait 10 minutes for an answer, they don't mind because instant messaging isn't as restrictive as being on the phone.
It's also highly convenient. A customer can live chat sitting at work without it being disruptive or use it on the phone if they're on the go.
Live chat can work out profitable for online business owners–image source
3. Robust security extensions
Security extensions such as SSL certificates and anti-fraud tools are crucial for protecting online stores from web-based threats.
It's scary to know that there are 172 attacks per day per website!
Malware is software that helps attackers gain unauthorized access to websites–image source.
Cyber attacks are costly financially, and customer data leaks can damage reputation irreversibly.
4. Product recommendation plugins
Product recommendation plugins personalize each customer's screen with items they're most likely to be interested in. It calculates this using the following data sets:
Customer online behavior patterns, i.e. what pages they visited
Customer purchase history
The tool strategically places recommended products in areas like the checkout or on a product page. Some even allow you to set up a specific type of recommendation campaign, such as:
Upselling–asking customers to buy a more upgraded version of an item. For example, buying a 512 GB MacBook instead of a 258 GB one.
Frequently bought together–asking customers to purchase products that complement the existing one in their basket.
Cross-selling–asking customers to buy insurance for their electronic items.
Amazon commonly uses the 'frequently bought together' method–image source.
Research shows that shoppers who engage with recommended products have a 70% higher conversion rate in that session compared to those who don't engage with recommendations.
5. Multilingual support
If you serve a global audience, your website needs multilingual support capabilities. These can allow visitors to translate the website into their preferred language.
Multilingual support is crucial in increasing customer loyalty–image source.
Allowing customers to communicate with you in their preferred language reduces the likelihood of conversations getting lost in translation. It also makes the customer feel good and represented–although not quantifiable–you can't dismiss its impact on customer retention.
6. SEO tools
According to research from Bright Edge, 68% of online experiences begin with a search engine.
Combined search i.e. using search engines to find a website, is 2.5x more common than other methods–image source.
This means that most online users try to find a website through Google (or other) search engines, making it imperative to have the right SEO tools to increase online visibility.
Content management systems like Opencart include a variety of SEO plugins that make it easier to become visible on search engines by offering SEO content generation options.
7. Mobile-first optimization
As of late 2019, mobile browsing officially became people's preferred method of browsing websites. Since then, the gap has widened.
Mobile browsing is approaching 60%–Image source.
Google's 2024 page experience update will also prioritize mobile websites on the search engine results page, making mobile optimization and a responsive design crucial for visibility.
It's not essential to have web development knowledge to make mobile-friendly sites. Some CMS platforms come mobile-ready, and others allow you access to specific mobile plugins that transform your website instantly.
8. Interactive analytics and reporting dashboards
Analytics and reporting tools are crucial for businesses seeking to understand and improve their online performance.
These tools provide detailed insights into user behavior, traffic patterns, and conversion metrics, enabling informed decision-making.
Opencart’s data dashboard–you can see it for yourself here. Use ‘demo’ for both the username and password.
For instance, an online retail store might use an interactive dashboard to track visitor interactions on its site. This data can reveal key patterns, such as the most visited pages, the average time spent on the site, and the conversion rates for various products.
With this data, a business can:
Understand the customer journey to identify where they drop off in the purchasing process to make necessary adjustments to streamline the buying experience.
To improve conversion rates, use the conversion data to test different website elements, like call-to-action buttons or page layouts.
Understand where users spend most of their time deciphering good website practices to be applied sitewide.
Make stock planning based on the most popular products.
Use historical data to forecast future trends.
With proper use of data, you can refine your strategies to meet customer needs better and drive sales.
9. Email marketing
Platforms like Klaviyo are powerful email marketing tools that enable personalized emails to customers.
Klaviyo experts can help set up and optimize these email marketing strategies, ensuring that your store not only attracts but also retains customers. This integration is key in building a feature-rich online store that stands out in today's competitive digital marketplace.
10. Multiple payment options
Payment gateway integrations are essential in today's e-commerce landscape, as they offer customers multiple and secure payment options.
For instance, an online bookstore that integrates various payment gateways, including credit cards, digital wallets like PayPal, and even cryptocurrency, caters to a wide range of customer preferences.
Multiple online payment solutions are crucial, given a significant number of shoppers prefer online payment services–image source.
11. Product filtering
Product filtering capabilities are critical for e-commerce websites, allowing customers to easily navigate and find products that meet their specific needs. The quicker customers find what they want, the happier they're–but many websites aren't good at promoting filters.
According to a UX benchmark by the Baynard Institute. The greener the spot, the better companies are at promoting filters. Unfortunately, a large conglomerate remains in the red–image source.
For example, an online clothing store can implement size, color, brand, and price filters to help customers narrow down search results that match their preferences.
As we enter 2024, the necessity for various website-enhancing integrations has never been more pressing.
We're living in a time when technology is advancing at an unprecedented state. Increased competition means consumers are offered far greater choices, and it's up to businesses to keep up.
Opencart, a free beginner-friendly ecommerce platform, is ideal for lean businesses looking to grow in 2024. Its online marketplace is bustling with integrations to take your business to the next level.