An FAQ is a list of frequently asked questions you can provide your customers so they can quickly and easily get their most common questions answered. FAQs are an essential part of every ecommerce merchant’s online store. In fact, in a recent ZenDesk survey, 67% of respondents said they preferred being able to self-serve over contacting customer service, and 91% say the would self-serve if they had the option.
But, creating an effective FAQ is not as simple as it may seem.
So how do you create an effective FAQ for your ecommerce store?
The most important part of writing an FAQ is making sure you are writing it for your specific customers. You must know your audience before you write your FAQ or there is a good chance it won’t be effective. Any FAQ is probably better than no FAQ, but it’ll be worth putting in a little extra time to build the right FAQ for you.
Writing an FAQ has four essential stages: research, write, add to your website, and maintain.
The first thing you need to know: What are the questions your customers need answered?
If you already have an established store and customer base, you likely already have most of the information you need to get started. Talk to your support staff about the most common questions they answer every day. Or, if you are a small operation, review your customer emails personally.
If you are a brand new merchant and can’t rely on a history of customer questions, don’t panic! Start with a list of questions you would have if you were shopping on your online store. Then, ask your friends and professional contacts what their questions would be if they shopped on your site. You can also check out the FAQ pages of similar stores and competitors.
Here are a few of our favorite ecommerce FAQ pages:
If you are still stuck, start with an FAQ that focuses on Shipping and Returns!
List all of the questions in a Google Doc or other digital text tool so you can move them around easily. When you come across the same question while researching, add a mark - like a hashtag or asterisk - to the question in the list. When you’re done, you’ll have a pretty good idea which questions are the most frequent.
Review the list of questions you just made. Identify questions that are similar to each other - you may be able to consolidate them into a single question and answer. Here’s an example: “When can I expect my package?” and “How long until my package ships?” Both of these questions are about shipping time frames.
Identify the types of questions people ask. Questions about shipping should all go together, as should all questions about returns. If you have more than 10 questions, you’ll want to organize the questions on your FAQ page by type as well. This will help your customers find what they are looking for more quickly.
There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel with how you group your questions. Here’s a good start:
If your research shows you need to add, remove, or alter one of these categories, go for it! One word of caution though - try to avoid creating an Other or Miscellaneous category. Category names should be meaningful to your customers. Adding an Other category might be tempting when you have questions that don’t appear to fit into any other predefined category, but it can cause confusion.
Once you’ve organized your questions into categories, you have some options on how to sort them.
One good method is to start with the most frequently asked questions first (which questions on your list have the most marks next to them). These are likely the most important. But, maybe it makes more sense to start with the question that has the most impact on your customers. This is a bit of a subjective assessment, so go with your instincts and pick one!
The series of questions should have a logical flow, as well. For example, it makes more sense to start an International Shipping Questions section with more general questions, then progress to more specific questions as you go down the list.
For example, “Do you ship internationally?” would come before “Can I add insurance to international shipments?”
Your research doesn’t stop with your list of sorted questions. You’ll also want to research your preferred page design and layout. Having your list of questions will help, since you’ll have a better idea of how many categories you have and how many questions you have in each category.
This is the fun part of your research! Now that you've compiled expert FAQs, the next step is determining design and page elements. In your research take note of how other merchants use color, text, and graphics to organize their FAQs. What do you like, or not like, about their approach? What do you want your page to look like?
Here’s a list of some excellent FAQs for stores using the Shopify platform. Check them out to get some ideas!
Now it’s time to get to writing. You need to rewrite your list of questions so they are consistent and conform to the tone you are trying to set for your company website. You also need to write out each question’s answer as effectively as possible.
There is no single right way to do this. But, these guidelines will help:
For example, “How do I request a refund?” or “How do I update my billing information?”
Use we and us if you mention the company in your answer. For example, “Send us an email” or “We’ll send a replacement within 2-3 business days.”
An FAQ answer shouldn’t be more than a few sentences. If you need more than that to answer a question, it may be that this information should live somewhere else on your site, like your company About or Shipping Policy page.
If it is a yes or no question, the first word in your answer should be yes or no! Then, elaborate to provide the additional information your customer may need to proceed.
If a customer needs to take an action, tell them clearly what to do. For example, “Send us an email with xyz details.” is better than, “You can send an email to our customer service team.” or “Sending an email is the best way to reach us.”
Never use a complicated word when a simple one will do! Say “use” instead of “utilize” or “go” instead of “navigate”. This has the added benefit of being easier for online translation tools, like Google Translate, in case you have customers who require translation.
For example, if the question is about how to update billing information, include a link to your Account Billing page.
Your FAQ should mirror the tone you’ve cultivated on the rest of your website, and any terms used in your questions and answers should match the terms used throughout your website, as well. If you have a big enough team, consider writing a style guide so everyone in your organization uses consistent messaging.
An image is worth 1000 words, right? If something is difficult to explain, many times an image will help (don’t forget to add alt text to the image to make it accessible).
Best practices for images: Show enough details to help your customer know what’s going on, but not too much that they get overwhelmed. Use markings on the images - like arrows, boxes, or highlights - to draw their attention to something specific. When adding markings, use colors that stand out. For example, if your store uses mainly cool colors, use red or orange markings.
Always have someone other than the writer proofread the FAQ. No matter how good you are, if you wrote it, chances are you’ll miss something. The proofreader should check for typos, misused words, and confusing sentence construction. They should also ensure there is no conflicting information in the answers. If there is, revisit your policies to ensure your customer facing communications don’t conflict with each other!
Finally, no FAQ will answer all possible questions your customers may have. Make sure there is a way to reach your team if the FAQ doesn’t answer a customer’s question.
To add your FAQ to your website, you’ll need somewhere for it to go. We recommend a dedicated FAQ page with a highly visible FAQ link in your store’s main navigation. Consider also adding it to your site footer and any order notification emails you send to your customers.
Some ecommerce platforms provide a standard FAQ page you can add to your store. Here are a few resources for popular ecommerce platforms:
Other popular platforms, like WooCommerce and Magento, require 3rd-party plugins to create FAQ pages. Check out their app stores to see what options are available.
Finally, here are a few guidelines for making your FAQ easy to use for your customers:
Adding a bottom border or background color to the headings can also make it easier for your customers to quickly find the topic they need.
If you have several questions per section, you should also consider making each question collapsible so the answer is only revealed when your customer clicks on the question (often called an accordion). This technique helps prevent your customer from having to scroll down a long page. Here’s a good tutorial on adding accordions to a Shopify FAQ.
Adding a slight indentation to the answers beneath the questions also helps make the page easier to read. Much like this sentence is indented in relation to the list numbers.
The last phase is the maintenance phase. Don’t just set it and forget it! Your FAQ is a living document and you must keep it up to date.
Make sure someone in your organization is in charge of it. They should regularly check that the FAQ content is accurate — adding, removing, and editing the FAQ as needed. A monthly review is probably sufficient for most FAQs, but at minimum you should review your FAQ once every quarter!
Be sure to note when there is any significant change to an answer in your FAQ. For example, “As of December 25th, 2020, we no longer offer returns on items with free shipping.”
No FAQ is perfect, but don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. You can always start small and then add as needed.
Don’t try to answer everything. There will always be outlier questions or customers that want a more personal touch. Give them a way to reach you!
Always get others to review your questions and answers to make sure they make sense and conform to your company brand and policies.
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