History of the List
When ConversionIQ was founded in 2010, we wanted to solve the questions around “What are Best Practices for eCommerce?” At that time, Amazon was “stealing the show” and thousands of internet retailers were struggling with how to optimize their sites in the depths of the Great Recession. Knowing this, we went to work compiling the list of eCommerce sites we thought did the best job of serving its customers and inventoried their features, so we could share the learnings with our clients who were battling to come out on the other side.
And so it started, with the simple observations of a couple eCommerce consultants, maintaining a list of great sites to help clients through the deepest recession in 70 years. Since then, and with the first publishing of the list in June 2013, ConversionIQ (now a proud part of Inflow) has continued to evolve the list to be more and more useful.
Who made the list and how
Defining a “Best-in-Class” list may seem highly qualitative and opinionated, and to some degree it is. However to another degree, we recognized how uniquely qualified we are to compile such a list, and, in some ways, even feel obligated to do so in order to help eCommerce site stakeholders learn, avoid mistakes and speed up site optimizations to realize more profit with less risk.
To learn more about how we arrive at this list, see our Our Methodology below.
What You Can Learn
From this list, we’ve compiled a 100+ point matrix of eCommerce features and qualities for eCommerce sites so you can learn:
More important than best practices are conventions. If users are used to something to the degree that it throws them off when a site does not behave a certain way, then you have just added “friction” to the experience, reducing the chances of that user eventually purchasing.
Example: Showing the number of items in the cart, even if it’s zero (something a lot of non-best-in-class eCommerce sites still do). Williams-Sonoma.com does this on desktop, but does not do it on mobile.
There are some features that are so innovative, and solve a problem so well, they are rapidly adopted by testing oriented sites with great teams. Our list and matrix shows us what some of the best teams in eCommerce are adopting after seeing results in testing.
Example: Adding top navigation to mobile with mega menus (just like on desktop, only smaller, with a sliding bar to fit all the menu items), as implemented below.
Legacy eCommerce Features
There are a lot of features that just are not best practiced anymore (and perhaps never were) and should be removed from your eCommerce site. This is evident from the Best-in-Class list in the way that these features are absent from most, if not all, of the sites on the list.
Example: Drill-Down Facet Navigation: When facet navigation first became popular five or so years ago, a lot of them only drilled users into a subcategory and did not allow for users to select more than one option in a given category. Today, all eligible sites on our list allow for multiple option selection, with none doing it the “old way.”
We’ll be detailing conventions, emerging trends and legacy features in a future post.
Best-in-Class eCommerce Mobile Sites:
Best-in-Class eCommerce Desktop Sites:
Access to the Data (updated monthly)
It took six people more than 300 hours to identify, arrive at, and inventory this list of Best-in-Class eCommerce sites, and the same team spends a few hours each month keeping it up to date so we, and now everyone, can reference which sites are doing what and how easily.
We hope this list and its accompanying matrix of features are valuable to you from this point on. We will keep it up to date, and you can have complete access to it at anytime. This should give everyone a resource to use as a guide and source of inspiration to get your site and your site’s audience to where you want to be.
Methodology for Compiling Best Practices from the Best-in-Class eCommerce List
Over the years, the Conversion Team at Inflow has grown to appreciate how valuable maintaining a “Best-in-Class” list for eCommerce sites is, and the benefits of making sure the best sites we could find were on it, with their features inventoried. Below, is the methodology used to arrive at the Best-in-Class list:
Which eCommerce sites makes our Best-in-Class list starts with the building of a master list of sites that had been identified as potentially being Best-in-Class by pretty much anyone (our clients, industry experts, ourselves, etc.).
To make our initial cuts of the potential Best-in-Class sites, we had an expert panel comprised of five eCommerce conversion advisors, with more than 50 combined years of experience, divide up the candidate sites and review them. If any eCommerce conversion expert disagreed with a site being Best-in-Class based on heuristics and/or our own extensive testing experiences, the site was eliminated from consideration.
After the first round of elimination above, only about 50 sites remained. From here, the remaining sites were reviewed by all experts. The end result is the list of 20 sites that were unanimously agreed upon (it was a bit more actually, then we kicked out the weakest few sites to get this list to 20).
Here is how we looked at each of the eCommerce sites in considering who made the list:
Consideration 1 – Heuristic Analysis
At Inflow, we look at websites all day. We have the 30 or so eCommerce sites that subscribe to our Continuous Improvement Program, and for each of those sites, we keep a list of other sites that are:
- Similar sites in different regions (i.e., Australian sites selling the same thing)
- Sites in parallel industries (i.e., other “consumable” eCommerce sites
- Sites our clients* look to as overall Best-in-Class (i.e., Amazon.com)
- *Our clients are eCommerce entrepreneurs and professionals who are extremely invested in evaluating other eCommerce sites relevant to their own
The client-site specific list we maintain is typically about 10 sites, which gives us about 300 sites we are constantly looking to for examples of how a particular insight we gain can be handled treatment wise.
We have reviewed each of these sites against the same heuristics we evaluate our client’s site; based on the target audience’s “goals” (what they want), their buying cycles and the four personality modes users are likely in while on the site (Methodical/Analytical, Humanistic, Competitive, and Spontaneous, as well as articulated by online marketing pundit Bryan Eisenburg).
Consideration 2 – Test Bed
Inflow runs more than 1,000 tests a year with more than 60 tests running at any time. This gives us a good test-bed to test innovative features and validate nearly every possible feature seen on eCommerce sites today. From all this testing, we have learned what works and what does not, giving us insights into which sites are delivering well against their customer’s objectives and in-turn, where great teams are continuously improving great sites.
In short, our test bed not only identifies Best-in-Class sites, but also the teams behind the site that really deliver against their customer’s wants and needs.
Consideration 3 – Awards and Industry Accolades
To supplement the list of sites we are already familiar with, we also frequently review eCommerce sites that have received awards and industry recognition. This includes sites listed on:
- Shopify Design Awards
- Big Commerce Awards
- Internet Retailer top 1000 list
We may not agree with the “expert evaluations,” which mostly come strictly from a designer perspective, but we do pay attention and give those sites the time to see which trends and elements today’s top website designers are propagating.
Access Our eCommerce Best Practices Data Set and Report
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