What is eCommerce?
What many don't realize is that eCommerce is and has been the fastest growing segment of our Valparaiso Indiana company for over three years. When you think of a web design and marketing company the thought of eCommerce doesn't seem to be the thought of many. What is more interesting for us is why it isn't. A good eCommerce site requires a beautiful design, software development to make it function the way you want, and a way to market it to the masses. Even those that come into our office for eCommerce don't fully know the core capabilities of what eCommerce provides to a business. They think Amazon, Shopify, or Etsy when it comes to online sales but selling is just a very small part of it. Let's take a look and discover what online sales are and why your business needs it.
When you want to sell online you need to think about more than providing products and services that people can add to a shopping cart, purchase, and have delivered (electronically or physically). There is an entire science behind eCommerce and it can be used in many ways. As an example, we have one client using eCommerce to purchase walks in nature. You could use a scheduling app for that but this particular client wanted to not be like other companies and also wanted to sell some products and services beyond the nature walks. Putting into an eCommerce met her needs perfectly.
- Mobility – We're going to start with one area many people think of last and that is being mobile friendly. This is more than just resizing the screen. You need to reduce the amount of annoyances (e.g. popups, screen notifications, etc.) due to the small screen size. You also need to limit the amount of information that is sent to the screen to facilitate even faster load times due to slower speeds.
- Speed – Talking about slower speeds you need to have a site that loads quickly. A great eCommerce site will have lots of pictures from multiple angles. These images need to not only be optimized for fast loading but have key items like hover effects so you can see deeper details that you can from a smaller screen.
- Multiple stores – Many times businesses that decide to do retail sales online have multiple locations. Let's say you are a warehouse dealer. You might sell (or rent) items. Your eCommerce solution should allow for both scenarios but also the ability to ship from the closest store, the store with the inventory, allow local pickup, etc.
- Shipping – Speaking of picking up and shipping you need to be able to automatically tie into UPS, FedEx, DHL, USPS, and others to determine the lowest cost to the consumer and give them the option to choose the best option without overwhelming them with more options than they truly need. A key to any type of shipping is to have a packing slip created for every distribution location. If you do drop shipping then each item should be sent to the appropriate drop shipper with the correct packing slip information.
- Vendors & Suppliers – You might be a consignment shop and want your vendors to log in and maintain their products so that you don't have to maintain all 100,000+ items on your site. This should be an option and not a requirement.
- Configurability – Speaking of items not being a requirement you should have a ton of control without being overwhelming. Online documentation should be available so that you can figure out what to do in a very short period of time.
- Expandability – We have clients that have a single item on their site to some with over 10 million products within their eCommerce system. The speed for one product should be the same as that of one with millions.
- Inventory control – Any good ordering system should be able to keep track of quantities (if you want), allow back ordering, allow shipping of what is in stock and then sending the rest once you are re-stocked.
- Products – Every product should be able to be assigned to multiple categories, allow ratings and reviews (with approval), security, custom pricing levels, multiple images, weights & dimensions, and return policies. You should be able to cross-sell and recommend other products the person might be interested in.
- Search Engine Optimization or SEO – Not only should you have search engine optimization for individual products but also for each individual product.
- Social Media Integration – In today's marketing space you need to think about growing your customer base as efficiently as possible. An easy way to do that allows for sharing on multiple social media outlets, including ones you might not be on.
- Marketing – Speaking of marketing the system should allow for signing up for a newsletter, ability to send a newsletter either in the system itself or with a program like MailChimp, Constant Contact, etc. The system should have the ability to remind users that have logged in, added items to their cart, and haven't checked out that they have items sitting in their cart. You should be able to have specialized discount codes for everyone or individuals or groups of individuals.
- Checkout – Speaking of all the above any eCommerce system would not be complete without an easy to use checkout system. You shouldn't ask more questions than needed. You should be able to upsell, provide recommended other products, and more.
- Money – Building on checkout you should be able to handle and accept money from a multitude of sources. This could be pay on pickup, check, credit cards, PayPal, and more.
- Taxes – No one likes taxes but the system should make certain you comply with all the latest laws as they change. You should have simple reports so that you can pay the taxes on-time and without overpaying.
- Customer Service – Any great eCommerce system will allow you to handle all customer service from within the system. This being inquiries, returns (yuck), live chat integration options to help people through the purchasing cycle, and supporting all local laws (e.g. EU cookie law). Beyond that you should be able to easily support multiple languages as part of doing eCommerce is growing beyond your normal sales process. You will now be able to sell items anywhere in the world, if you want to.
As you can see eCommerce can do a lot more than allowing the purchasing of products and buying them. You have the capability of running your entire company and getting your good word, your products, and your services out to the masses efficiently and effectively.