eCommerce is slowing becoming a major component of what we offer and businesses are starting to realize there are ways to monetize the internet. As an example, we used to do an eCommerce site every four to six months. Today we are averaging two to three full-featured eCommerce sites every month. Businesses want to invest money and grow their business while spending as little as possible. eCommerce is a great way of doing that with the integration in social media, search engines, and working for you 24x7. Today we are going to talk about some of the core items you need to look into before you setup your successful eCommerce solution and drive online sales for your business.
Choosing the platform
The first step in deciding your website is what technology is best suited for business objectives you are trying to achieve. This is often decided after the initial meeting discussion of all your business ideas. The biggest mistake we see people do is jumping onto the social bandwagon and choosing the name they know. Programs like Shopify, Etsy, and Squarespace are often the first names mentioned when we sit down with potential clients. After listening to their needs long-term (e.g. over a year from the launch date) those solutions often turn into being the worst solutions for the company. We do have many that utilize these systems but they fit their needs. For most though these solutions don’t work and is part of the original discussion process.
The key when determining a solution, you need to look at:
- Objectives Today
- Objectives Tomorrow (e.g. 1-year, 3-year, and 5-years out)
- You want to make certain you are not having to “throw out” previous work and having to learn an entirely new system.
- Core features you need (payment gateways, marketing, customer service, etc.)
Keeping the above while making your decision you can now make an informed and educated decision.
eCommerce Initial Design Decision
When it comes to eCommerce you need to realize that the purpose of a full-fledged email site is not bells and whistles (e.g. the flashy content). You need to focus more on speed, speed, and then once you have it fast make it faster. The faster your eCommerce the more you will sell. Flash and “cool stuff” are great for what we call brochure and informational websites.
The core of an eCommerce site is making sales and determining what add-ons you want and need to meet your business decisions.
The first choice for anything should be security for your customers. You need a system that is transparent, open, and honest. Any choice needs not just the green padlock (e.g. SSL) but a solution that fully encrypts and complies with PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) or often referenced as just PCI compliance. PCI compliance is needed to be in full compliance with credit card processors.
You need to make certain your website is backed up daily (or as needed), that it is “up” (available for use) as much as possible, that can scale without taking all of your profits, and that there is a support team available to help your business grow. You should make certain you load test your server prior to going live to make certain you can handle the demand you expect to be seeing. Don't under estimate your audience as you want to keep your customers happy.
Point of Sale System
If you have a physical store and want to directly tie in a point of sale (POS) system your choices in eCommerce systems will decrease tremendously. Your credit card, contract fees, and scalability have the capability of decreasing as well.
Speaking of credit cards this is one area that is often left unchecked by many. This is one area that needs to be thought of in the beginning as often this is the most time-consuming part of everything.
Now that you’ve had people add products to their shopping cart you need to make the checkout process as quick and painless as possible. Whatever you can do to speed the process, increase the accuracy (e.g. postal code validation) for delivery the better.
This is the true heart of an eCommerce system. Often you don’t have one or two products. You have hundreds, thousands, and for some millions of products. You need to have the information found by your customers as quickly as possible.
Next to search is having your products out there for people to make that choice to purchase. Give them multiple pictures at different angles, ability to compare products, and be easy to understand. Make certain that the information presented is clear and concise. If you have a product that can be customized a solution that allows customization.
You have more than just products on your site. Often there is an “About Us”, Contact, or a blog on the site. These don’t have to be super feature rich as the core is doing online sales. You want this to be friendly and effective.
You have UPS, FedEx, DHL, USPS, and many more for shipping carriers. Being able to integrate with these carriers and providing accurate prices is key to your success.
When it comes to ordering fulfillment you need to make certain you have the item in-stock, notify the persons/companies that will be shipping the product for you. You want the fulfillment to provide your customer with great communication of tracking numbers and informed throughout the post-order process.
Keeping the government happy is key. As state governments are looking to make more money they are looking at online sales to further increase their revenue. To achieve that you will need to have accurate records and be able to pay for the sales that have gone through your website.
Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)
eCommerce is all about sales. To achieve this, you need a site that is fast. Online sales through mobile devices is critical. This is where Google AMP pages come into play. AMP pages are often twice as fast as regular mobile pages. The faster a page loads the more capability you have of making sales.
Talking with current and potential customers is key. This is where having live chat on your site is beneficial. To achieve this, you need to make certain that you keep this operated by a human. When you have the majority of your online chat “offline” you risk losing sales than making them. If you know you will not be able to be actively available for your customer then do not do this. Make the contact form on your site easily accessible and reply quickly to those inquiries.
Being able to integrate with social media is key. Let people share all of your products online and when done well with the text and pictures you feel is best.
We hate returns but they will happen. Having the ability to handle customer inquiries is key. Make certain you can handle all core customer service needs your business needs.
No solution would be complete without the ability to market. Here are the top areas to make certain you comply in a world-wide environment. I say world-wide as whether you plan on selling online your customers are across the world (unless you block out other countries which we don’t recommend as money is green no matter where it is).
GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is personal protection for those in the EU. We have several blogs that we have already covered GDPR with the one cover USA companies at https://www.jm2marketing.com/Blog/Details/GDPR-for-American-Businesses.
A great way of staying in contact with your loyal customers or potential customers with a newsletter. We recommend doing the newsletters either quarterly, monthly, or weekly depending upon your client needs and how often your products change. We often fall into the monthly for many clients. For clothing clients, companies selling “swag” (corporate freebies), or clients selling small products weekly work for them.
When setting up your products you need to look at ways to cross-sell or up-sell your customers to purchase other recommended products.
Gaining sales is easier when you have positive reviews for products. Asking clients that have purchased your products to review is a great way of building up this review.
You need to know where you want your product to be in future years. If your goal is to build up a solid business and sell it then that is your long-term vision. If your goal is to grow by 20% per year in sales and products that is your long-term goal. The key is not starting your process without thinking of this at a high-level. This doesn’t mean it’s written in stone. It’s not and should evolve but you should be thinking about it.
Testing is critical to the success of your eCommerce site. Make certain to allocate enough time to test everything. The more you can “break” your site the better prior to launching. If you can no longer break your sites process, answer questions to everything you can think of, and have a seamless checkout process then you are ready for launch.
Prior to launch
Prior to launching start building momentum and desire in your audience. Build some scarcity into your launch. Three ways to build scarcity in your launch are:
- Price goes up – Give them a launch day/week special discount code.
- Remove bonuses – During the initial launch, they get something special that is no longer available after the first XX sales.
- The offer goes away – If you don’t buy during the launch they will never have this available to them ever again. This is often the most possible option. This doesn’t work for all launches but does for some.
On your final launch day when the scarcity aspect is going to end send two or three emails on that final day.
eCommerce sites can be built within a single day. They will typically create less than desirable results. Sometimes you’ll hit that magical needle that makes millions. That is rare and the unicorn in the room. To build an eCommerce system you need to go through everything and give it a lot of well throughout processes. Just prior to “launching” a site we have an “after everything” checklist that takes a minimum of two hours to complete for a basic 25 product site. The more complex the site the deeper the check gets.
Now that you’ve launched this is when the real work actually begins. You’re thinking… WHAT??? Yes, this is where it truly begins. Just because you’ve built it doesn’t mean they will come. This is where your marketing efforts start on the search engines, newsletters, and social media. This is where the true aspect of building your audience is key.