When you load up your business's website, what's the user experience like? It's worth investigating, as the ease of use and appeal of your web presence will have dramatic effects on your reputation, your sales and your customer loyalty.

So what's an outdoor retailer to do to optimize its e-commerce site? Here are a few highly important factors.

Speed and Efficiency

One fundamental change you can implement to exponentially increase the appeal of your site is improving its speed and efficiency. Does your page-load time deter customers from staying on your site for very long? Are your pages laid out in such a way that customers know in what direction their eyes should go? Consult your website analytics to see where you land.

After all, speed and page-load time factor into where you rank in search engine results, increased conversions and customer loyalty and, in the end, decreased costs for maintaining your back-end hardware.

Visual Appeal

From the importance of mobile optimization (i.e., responsive design, app-building, etc.) to video content and imagery that appeals to your demographic, visual appeal goes a long way with outdoor customers. Your visual content needs to be nice to look at and have substance. It needs to answer customer questions, not just show off athletic or artistic feats. 

Lifestyle photography and video is a unique opportunity for outdoor retailers to draw focus away from the competition online. Your site should be app-friendly, and your app, when applicable, should streamline your website's services, be user-friendly and utilize the unique functionality of a smartphone (i.e., camera, contactless payments, etc.).

Customer Service

One calling card of a successful online retail space is live chat. It's begun to become something that consumers of all demographics are expecting from a buying experience online. There are varying degrees of commitment that may come with a live chat function, from customer-service agents to scheduling to automation, but the results will pay off in dividends.

Customers want the ability to ask questions during the buying process. It's estimated that about 28 percent of e-commerce websites include a live chat function.

Reviews and Feedback

Providing your customers with some guidance as to the highest-quality and most successful products to purchase can actually have a positive effect on your e-commerce bottom line. Consider adding a product-review function to your product pages.

A recent study from an outdoor retailer found that simply having product reviews available greatly increased conversions - in fact, products with 20 or more reviews had a nearly 84 percent higher rate of purchases than those without reviews.

Optimize away.

Your site is waiting for some adjustments. A few minor tweaks can work wonders for your customer satisfaction and position you as a highly valued and regarded player in the marketplace.

Sources: Bazaar Voice, CrazyEgg, Bruce Clay Inc.

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