eCommerce for many businesses is their lifeblood and their sole source of income. For others, it is a value-added service to their loyal following and those too far away to come into a physical store. We all know companies like Amazon, Target, and Walmart that sell their products online so we all know what the purpose of what eCommerce has. What many don’t realize is an eCommerce is not the same as a regular website. All the items of a regular website matter but in different ways. A third of all our clients doing online sales it’s time to truly look at what works for eCommerce.
- Marketing Plan – A marketing plan allows you to determine who your audience is, where you are going to market, and what you need to achieve to be successful not only today but years down the road. Your marketing plan will also cover items related to branding your business for consistency and success. You will look at ways to advertise whether it is in print media, television commercials, infomercials, paid internet advertising, billboards, etc.
- Competition research – As you get started your competition has a head start on you. Not always but in many cases, there are other companies already doing what you do. Research them, fall in love with them, and learn from what they have already done. Competition is good for business and you can learn from what you like as well as what you don’t. This will help define areas you focus on as you create your eCommerce website.
- Speed – Speed matters. Flash and “wow” does not matter as much as speed. Unlike a traditional website where you want to have more eye candy. An eCommerce you want to provide information and detail to help convert your browsers into customers. Speed is a factor so eliminate all that flash and eye candy and make a solution that is consistent and easy to use. Want inspiration take a look at Amazon.com and you’ll see that they provide information, great content, beautiful pictures (with zoom), and a consistent look-and-feel.
- Features – This is the one area we see people starting out messing up. They look at what they need today but not what they need tomorrow. When they start adding these “extra” features many will start feeling depressed as their profits which were already small diminish greatly. Make certain you think not only the short game but the long game. If during your marketing plan creation you learn you will need the option to pick up in your store, ship overseas, provides re-targeting, provide affiliations, etc. then make certain that if you don't have them to start you are able to handle them and will fit your budget accordingly.
- Nickle and diming you out of business -This is the one area we see people truly fail as they are so focused on getting online. They look at the features they need and then start being charged for items they thought would be free and end up costing them money. This causes a business to double back and, in many instances, start over again or spend money they don't truly have. This is disheartening and kills the passion of many business owners. Our advice here is accepting the change, change is good, and everything you’ve already learned you can incorporate into v2.0 of your eCommerce business. Ideally, you skip this one but for many, that isn’t the case.
- Recommendations – Recommendations are for the products you are selling. Your eCommerce system will have a few to thousands of products. You should have a review/testimonials section which are recommendations from past purchasers to your future purchases. These recommendations can help sway your browsers into purchasers and give you more money.
- Check out – The first time anyone checks out the process will be longer as they’ve never purchased from you. Don’t ask questions you don’t need to get the purchase done. When you do this you often see cart abandonment increase which is like someone filling their grocery cart, going to the checkout line, and then leaving without purchasing anything. Simpler is better in this case just like everything related to eCommerce.
- Spreading yourself too thin – We see business owners, especially new ones, wanting to do everything, having a hard time relinquishing responsibility, etc. to others. Whether your assistance is a spouse, friend, or an employee many business owners have a control complex. It’s the hardest thing to lose but one that needs to happen for you to truly spread your wings and grow.
- Social Media – Be on the social media channels your customers are on while keeping in mind to not spread yourself too thin. If Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest are the best for your eCommerce then use all three. Start with one though and work your way up. Your time is going to be limited to social, your website, and hopefully fulfilling orders. Grow consistently and be consistent through the entire process.
- Retargeting – When people come to your website you can track them. Facebook and Google have some great tools to do this and they’re free. The cost comes into play when it comes time to advertise. Don’t overspend here. $5 goes a very long way on Facebook and a few pennies go far (per click) with Google. Don’t invest in the most expensive keywords but the ones that will garner you the most sales, brand recognition and get you’re the growth you need to further grow.
- Search Engine Optimization or SEO – eCommerce is a blessing that you can sell anywhere in the world. The downside is you are competing with millions of other businesses also selling online. If you are fortunate to be in a field with a few hundred competitors selling online there are only ten (10) spaces available on the first page of the search engine results. You need to be out there and you need to stay on it. SEO is not something you do once and leave it. It is constantly changing, evolving, and improving. Make certain you change, evolve, and improve with it.
- Blog – Blogging is a great way of keeping your audience engaged. Give them tips and tricks on how to use your products. Use it to sell and cross-sell other products. Be consistent, be informative (and not TOO sales pushy). Provide a value that makes people want to read it and the search engines coming back for more.
- Newsletter – All too often we see a great site and either a halfway done newsletter or no newsletter at all. Ask for email addresses, inform, don’t push too much in sales (but some), and link to your blogs to push people back to your website. Don’t keep them in their email but get them to go to your website where you can walk them through your sales funnel.
- Test – You’ve done everything above. Would you buy from yourself? What would you change? Is what you would change a deal breaker? If so, high-priority fix. If not, put it as part of your regular update queue. Don’t test just once. Test often, solicit feedback from friends and family.
eCommerce is one of the greatest sales tools a business can have at it's disposible if their products or services can allow it. If your able to sell online we strongly recommend it for businesses. I say that not because more than a third of our clients sell online. It's because we truly believe that it is a great avenue to grow. Your eCommerce website will work for you while you are sleeping, allows you to look bigger than you really are, and provides avenues for growth at only a few dollars a day.