The Anatomy of an Inbound Ecommerce Website

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Greg Wise
Greg Wise



vitruvian-manThis post originally appeared on the Ecommerce section of Inbound Hub. To read more content like this, subscribe to the Ecommerce section.

The parts of a well-designed ecommerce site are many and varied. All have some of the good elements, but not every site out there has all of them -- except perhaps ModCloth. I may not shop there personally, but I’m a huge fan of the ModCloth ecommerce inbound marketing model. When breaking down the anatomy of an amazing ecommerce site, ModCloth seems to have it all, from an elegant and intuitive design to pre-transactional educational content to email marketing that rarely relies on coupons.

I'm trying to get beyond the echo-chamber of sites on which I personally shop to find great examples of inbound marketing for ecommerce in action. So let’s take a look at what makes ModCloth's site such an inbound marketing powerhouse, shall we?

The Anatomy of an Inbound Ecommerce Site (As Told Through ModCloth)

1) Blog

ModCloth must know that business sites with a blog get 55% more visits than sites without. ModCloth uses their blog to move potential buyers through the marketing and sales funnel, just as it’s designed to do. The blog features products, how-to videos, images from customers, and general lifestyle information. In addition to working hard for the business, the blog is also a great way for people to spend a few minutes of downtime.

ecommerce blog example

Their great strength in blogging is that they're targeting the lifestyle -- or psychographic dimensions -- of their buyer personas. They're not just churning out keyword rich content to rank in search engines; they're building an audience of relevant consumers that they can nurture toward a purchase.

2) Filtering Options

In addition to the search bar at the top right corner, ModCloth also offers a very intuitive filtering process for every item. Users can search by size, price, designer, and popularity. The easy-click buttons leave little room for error, so customers can quickly narrow down options to find exactly what they need.

As an added bonus (and this shouldn’t be a bonus so much as a way of life), the filtering options really do return only relevant search results.

ecommerce filter example

3) Instant Customer Service

While ModCloth does offer an email option for customer service, they also make employees available through a live chat option, or by phone -- for those buyers looking for immediate service. These options can all be found in one spot, too, by simply clicking on their Customer Care link.

But ModCloth doesn’t stop there. Not only can you find someone to talk to about the questions or problems you might have, but you can also reach out to a stylist to receive personalized suggestions and recommendations.

ecommerce customer care example

4) Secure Checkout

Buyers love ModCloth’s checkout process because it’s clear and linear. You can see from the progress bar at the top of the page that you’ll be taken through each step in the process with no links back to previous pages or unnecessary paths toward other pages.

ecommerce checkout example

They also make sure to show their security certificates with large icons so they’re visible. This gives buyers the warm and fuzzies, letting them know personal information will be protected at all costs.

ecommerce security example

Finally, they also offer alternative payment methods so buyers don’t need to share credit card information if they don’t want to. The ability to purchase through PayPal is just one more way ModCloth makes buyers more comfortable.

ecommerce alternative payment example

5) Up-Front Information

One of the biggest reasons buyers abandon shopping carts before finishing the purchase is because the cost of shipping is a surprise. So, ModCloth makes sure buyers get up-front info about shipping. As you can see, buyers willing to wait a bit for their new threads can also take advantage of free shipping. Cha-ching.

ecommerce shipping information example

6) Well-Written Product Descriptions

It’s easy enough to simply list the basic product stats in your description copy, but ModCloth gives whimsical descriptions that still manage to convey the most necessary information. Sometimes, it’s fun to just read about the products even if you can’t afford to buy them all.

ecommerce product description example

Again, the key factor here is the customization of the website experience to the psychographic dimensions of their buyer personas. They're not cold, clinical recitations of the manufacturer specs; they're written with the tone and information that their best customers want to read.

7) Social Proof

This company does a great job of including and engaging with followers and friends on social media. As you can see, visitors have several chances to connect with various social platforms during the shopping experience.

The first time comes on the main page, where all the different accounts are listed. Next, buyers have a chance to tweet or Pin the items they’re about to buy (or just recently purchased). In addition to bragging rights for the customers, it’s also good press for ModCloth.

ecommerce social sharing example

Finally, the company does a great job of keeping social outlets current. Facebook includes images contributed by users -- not just those posted by the company. Twitter asks random questions throughout the day to boost engagement and make followers feel included.

ecommerce facebook page example

Instagram also features heavily on the site as both a user-generated style guide and a place where customers can share videos with their thoughts on the products and the brand.

ecommerce instagram example

Pinterest is used for various reasons, but perhaps most importantly as a secondary product catalog.

ecommerce pinterest example

Whoa. These guys are busy.

8) Customer Voice

Social media channels aren’t the only ways customers get to share their experiences. Located on each product page is a list of reviews for that particular item.

ModCloth doesn’t censor, either. For each less-than-stellar review, the customer service team reaches out with offers of assistance. Not only do the buyers get a chance to say exactly what they think, but ModCloth also uses that opportunity to improve customer delight.

ecommerce customer review example

9) Smart Email Marketing

Sure, ModCloth sends out discounts for their most loyal customers, but they don’t simply rely on coupons to keep their email marketing on track. Check out this particular email that simply informs users of new features coming soon. What a great way to keep building a relationship between buyer and seller.

ecommerce email example

Email follow-ups for abandoned carts are just as effective. Images are used to remind the user what they almost purchased, and a fun subject line prompts a smile instead of a growl. Well done, ModCloth.

10) Responsive Design

Because so many purchases are made on mobile devices, responsive design is a must. Fortunately, this site also makes shopping on smartphones easy.

First, the menu is very easy to read, and there’s plenty of white space around the links to make clicking easy for thumbs.

ecommerce responsive design example

The images are easy to see, and adding them to your cart just takes one click.

ecommerce responsive design example

Even the filtering options are easy to use -- you can drill right down to the very thing you want to buy right there on your phone instead of having to wait until your laptop is in reach.

ecommerce responsive design example 

All of these elements on their own are admirable, but finding them all on one site, as part of a cohesive inbound marketing program, makes ModCloth an exemplary inbound ecommerce site to follow. If you're looking for guidance on making your own site more inbound-friendly, this is a great place to find a role model.

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