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6 Successful E-Commerce Sites & Why They're So Great

Apple

Posted in e-Commerce, and Website Design. 7 min read

Retail spending in the e-commerce sector is soaring.

Since 2007, e-commerce has been on an upward trajectory rivaled by few other industries in modern history. From a start around $30 billion in 2007, it reached a high just under $100 billion by Q4 2017.

The most successful e-commerce sites are some of the most successful businesses in the world, period. But how do they get there? What factors turn one site into a clear winner while another – with all the same products, even – falls flat?

Let’s jump in and get the scoop on the top e-commerce websites.

1. Amazon.com

E-Commerce is 74.1% of Total Sales | $79,268 Million Annual E-Commerce

Amazon

Amazon is the king of successful e-commerce sites, but it didn’t get there overnight. It first launched all the way back in 1994 – and like most websites of the era, it had a grating, text-heavy layout that would be impossible to put up with today. Plus, it only sold books.

How things have changed!

Although there are many reasons Amazon has rocketed to the top of the hill among successful e-commerce sites, we can distill it all down to a single factor more powerful than any other: Data.

Amazon leverages data in dozens of unique product category recommendation widgets across the site, drawing casual visitors in so they have more opportunities to buy. This is visible throughout Amazon’s broad and growing portfolio of services, like Amazon Video and Fresh.

Because the site can gather an enormous amount of customer behavior data – including granular info on how long users spend on each page and what attracts their attention the most – it has the ability to refine its e-commerce presentation like no other brand in the business.

Rich, comprehensive data from millions of users is what it takes to be the undisputed leader in e-commerce sites. But, even enterprises with less data to trade are on making waves on the Web.

2. Walmart

2.8% of Total Sales | $13,484 Million

Walmart

Walmart’s recent refresh of its long-time e-commerce website implements best practices such as a king-sized image slider with compelling hero shots, location-specific deals linked to your IP address, and data-driven product categories that adjust based on your needs.

It’s no secret to those watching successful e-commerce sites these days that Walmart is in a fistfight to keep its revenue healthy against Amazon. Looking throughout the site, you can find all kinds of ways the brand has adapted to this challenge.

For example, Walmart’s site prominently advertises its free 2-day shipping, reeling in customers who love the convenience of Amazon Prime and uniting its supply chain with its e-commerce. You can also find ancillary, local-friendly services like grocery pickup and credit cards here.

3. Apple

5.1% of Total Sales | $12,000 Million

Apple

Apple is one of the slickest brands in the world – in fact, the total value of the brand alone is estimated at $170 billion as of 2017 and actually grew 10% from 2016. Naturally, the brand itself is the company’s most valuable tool in forging a world class e-commerce experience.

Apple binds virtually all of its various services to the online Apple Store, and you might think this is actually a drawback. Anyone who has gone through the laborious process of resetting their Apple ID credentials knows it can add lots of unwanted stress to your day.

Still, the ability to tie things together – going one step beyond even Amazon – serves Apple.com well in its tireless efforts to cross-sell and upsell to its customers. Almost everywhere you go on the site, you’re sure to find product promos of all kinds, including snazzy video content.

Apple’s expertise in user interfaces and experience design shines through on its site, too: Even though there’s a huge amount of content to sift through, the menus are clear and concise. The clean, “product silo” approach eases navigation and enhances product hype, too.

4. Staples

55.5% of Total Sales | $10,700 Million

Staples

For a company to rely on its website for more than half of its total sales, you know it must be doing something right. The layout for Staples.com isn’t nearly as minimalist as some of the other entries on our list: It wants you to see everything and really soak it in.

Staples is one of the most successful e-commerce sites partly because it crafts a truly seamless connection between your online experience and your offline one. You can instantly access deals from your local store, leverage fast local shipping, and browse the latest print ads.

One of the most clever little innovations Staples has to offer is the way it positions the search bar above its main navigation – keeping search front and center so you can go right to looking for the product you need. Naturally, the sites translates smoothly to mobile, too.

5. Macy’s

17.5% of Total Sales | $4,829 Million

Macys

Macy’s and other legacy retailers have been caught up in what some call an “epidemic of boring” over the last several years. While righting the ship on traditional – or boring –in-store retail has taken some time, Macy’s has already figured out how to create a sharp e-commerce presence.

Looking back to the early 2010s, Macy’s website had attracted a whirlwind of complaints. Now, it has been completely revised. Its simple navigation and image-rich look provides a compelling compilation of curated deals, yet the site still looks and runs crisply on any mobile device.

6. The Home Depot

5% of Total Sales | $4,267 Million

Home Depot

Let’s face it: Home Depot probably isn’t #1 on your list of most successful e-commerce sites.

When most people think about a hardware store, they think about going there in person to check out all the neat tools, hardware, and materials they could use in their latest DIY project. The unique strength of Home Depot’s website is its ability to bring this experience online.

Home Depot has crystallized its deep insights about its customers in some amazing ways on its site. Instead of being limited to browsing by product category as on many other e-commerce sites, you can check by room of the home or by project – just like you would at the store.

Like many other e-commerce titans, Home Depot trades heavily on fast, free shipping to blunt the Amazon advantage. It also rolls out huge, email-backed promos on holidays corresponding with its peak buying seasons, like the 4th of July, Christmas, and Father’s Day.

So, what really makes the most successful ecommerce sites tick?

Lots of factors come together, but some things definitely stand out:

  • These sites use data to continuously refine how they serve their customers.
  • They focus on a great user experience, including a top flight mobile UX.
  • They adapt to their buyer personas and provide truly tailored messaging.
  • They leverage cross-selling and upselling in ways germane to the brand.
  • They emphasize convenience to curb the advantages of big box rivals.

Whether you’re in B2C or B2B, you can take actionable lessons from these six industry titans. Never stop looking for ways to provide an even more customer-focused site and your Web visitors will reward you handsomely.

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