We know you’re busy and need to get working on your ecommerce business, so we did all the “must know” reading for you.
– Entrepreneur.com: Exploring Ecommerce [link] – Huffington Post: 5 Ecommerce Must Knows [link] – Hong Kiat: 10 essential things ecommerces sites should have [link] – Entrepreneur.com: 10 questions to ask when creating an online store [link] – Atul Jain’s Tips To Increase Your Ecommerce Sales [link] – Modern Life Blogs: What you need to know to start an ecommerce store [link] – Instabill.com: 3 Steps Every Ecommerce Site Builder Must Know [link] – Newfangled: Ten Frequently Asked Questions About Ecommerce [link]
This article was adapted from The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Doing Business Online, a 30-page PDF by Rieva Lesonsky. It’s a great read if you’re just starting out. You can download the entire PDF guide here.
Why go online?
– You can reach more customers, and reach them quicker.
– You transcend geographic (and chronological!) limitations.
– It’s a growing market, projections are rosy (more business, and at lower costs)
– Small businesses can compete with large ones.
The planning process
– Does the web make sense for this business?
– What are other companies doing? Do your research and differentiate yourself!
– What type of resources will the business need? Will you work alone? With a team? Hire freelancers?
– Who is your target audience? Identify them as precisely as you can.
– How far will your business cast its net, geographically?
– What about shipping charges?
– What are the elements of the customer service policy?
Design and navigation
– Immediately tell visitors on the site what the company does.
– Get users to the information they want in two clicks.
– show a “link tree” branching from the homepage to the current page.
– Visitors should know where they are within the website at all times.
– Allow visitors to find answers to questions easily.
– Think about making your site accessible to users with disabilities.
– Ensure that the text is written well and spelled correctly.
– Use buzz words sparingly.
– Link to the homepage on every page so that in one click, users can be led there.
– Develop visuals that are useful, not flashy and distracting.
– Useful visuals include illustrations or photos of products, graphics that separate categories of products, or maps with directions.
– Avoid overkill (excessive flash animation, heavy graphics, etc). Serve the sale.
Product Marketing on the website
– Take great pictures. Use a variety of angles and make sure the viewer gets a clear sense of scale.
– Avoid over-describing or over-selling offerings on the site. Everything must serve the sale.
– Offer complementary products or partnerships to bolster a store’s offerings. Businesses that don’t carry a wide variety of products often partner with other merchants to offer complementary items.
Attracting New Customers Online
– SEO Figure out the keywords that your customers use to look for you. Buy appropriate ads.
– Email: Have an opt-in newsletter, and give useful information rather than hard-sell your subscribers.
Editor’s note: There are many other ways to do this, of course! Blog content, social media.
Understanding Technology Needs
– URL. Get a good one and keep page load times as short as possible.
– Shopping Cart. Pick one that works well for your customers.
– Turning shoppers into buyers. Make it as simple and easy as possible for them to give you their money.
Accepting Payments Online
– Processing payments through a merchant account.
– Intergrating online payments service
– Ensuring transaction security
Written by Julia Rogers.
1. Ecommerce transcends “products.”
It’s about services, branding, relationships. You can sell yoga classes and game tickets.
“It all comes down to recreating the in-person sales experience and packing all our values, loves and goofiness into our online presence.” – Dave Radparvar, founder of Holstee, a clothing and accessories company
2. “Embrace the shift.”
“Focus on a manageable number of initiatives in any given time period. It is easy to see the 100 things you could be doing to improve your business. What is hard is picking the five things to tackle first and doing them well.“ – Craig Dalton, DODOcase founder
3. Retain the bargain hunter, but avoid the cheapskate.
“Find your most passionate and dedicated customers and fans and celebrate what they do as much as they celebrate what you do.” – Dave Radparvar
– You MUST learn to use Google Analytics. There is unanimous agreement on this. You’re blind without it. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by how much information these create, so hone in on the important signals.
– ‘Bounce rate’ = interest level of your visitors. A high bounce rate can mean you aren’t attracting the right customers to your site or that you need to make some changes or updates to products or services to make the offering more interesting.
– ‘Conversion rate’ = amount of friction your customer is experiencing. Low conversion rate? Walk through your check-out flow, identify and remove obstructions.
– ‘Average $ per visitor’ = is a helps ballpark figure. It helps you understand how much you can afford to spend on driving a customer to your site and can be useful as a guide to making marketing decisions.
4. Get social.
Nielsen stats: We trust our friends more than other sources. (90% surveyed trust friends, 70% trusted consumer opinions online) [source] Other stats: We buy stuff from brands we follow more than brands we don’t.
You’re disadvantaging yourself if you’re not tapping into referrals and recommendations from friends and family.
“When a referral comes from a trusted source such as a friend or family, you’re way more likely to check it out and potentially purchase it. Before social networks you used to rely on friends recommending products and services by word of mouth. Let’s say you’re in the market for a new pair of shoes and a friend recommends a particular brand or model. When you finally make it to the shoe store, you will be more inclined to search for that brand — if you can remember the name of it. Social networks allow you to do the same, but with a wider reach and instant response.” – Chris Peters, founder of Opena Case
5. Go mobile.
Nielsen stats show that about half of Americans access ecommerce sites on mobile. You’d be crazy to ignore them. [source]
Written by Ann Davlin.
The 3 Main Goals Of an Ecommerce Home Page:
1: Make your store sell. Don’t look cool at the expense of helping the sale. Serve the sale.
2; Show the advantages of your products. Special deals, new arrivals. People don’t always know what they want, make them want it.
3: Make your visitors trust you. They won’t buy if they don’t trust you. Give them everything they need to be comfortable.
The 10 essential features:
1: Clear logo. So they recognize and remember you.
2: Deals, Freebies, Free Shipping. Everybody loves sales, deals, etc. Read up about their psychological effects, then implement them as appropriate for your brand.
3: Latest news / most popular products. Guide people’s attention so they don’t get overwhelmed by the entire catalogue.
4: Brand Products “have the most eye-catching and interesting offers readily accessible. This trick makes a huge difference for retailers who have a huge product catalog.” Shop by brands (shoes, power tools, beauty products?)
5: Shopping cart, login, search. Especially important for big stores.
6: Payment systems icons Let people know what they can pay with. Warm them up to the idea of paying.
7: Social Media Links. Make sure your social media profiles are active.
8: Phone Numbers & Online Chats. People like being able to talk to other people. This makes them trust you better.
9: Store finder. For offline stores, this makes it easier (and therefore likelier) for your customers to find you and buy from you.
10: Trust Marks. Small images that show a security guarantee. (Editor’s note: I’m not so sure if this really matters to people. Better to have a very professionally designed site, active social media profiles, etc. It’s easy to fake a trust mark.)
BONUS: How-to guides. Teach people how to do stuff with your products, and they’re more likely to buy.
Written by Kim Lachance Shandrow.
1. How do I start building my online store?
2. How can I best customize the overall look of my online store?
3. What type of payment system should I use?
4. How will I handle customer service?
5. How should I determine shipping costs?
6. How do I create the best product images and descriptions?
7. Should I allow customer reviews and social sharing?
8. How will I start to attract shoppers?
9. How should I handle returns?
10. How can I track the success of my store?
Written by Atul Jain.
– Simplified Navigation. Serve the sale.
– Intelligent Search. Auto-complete, auto-suggest, deliver product images.
– Product Ratings and Reviews. Make them available!
– Use Retargeting Campaigns. Results won’t be instant, but they maximize your customer value.
– Customer Service. Great service is always a talking point for customers.
– Encourage Future Visits. Give away great content regularly.
Also, here’s a teaser from his ebook,
Things To Know Before Starting an Ecommerce Business:
1: Understand Your Product Well
2: Calculate the Economics
3: Create a Unique Selling Proposition
4: Create a Business Plan
5: Plan your Supply Chain Well
6: Check the Legalities Involved
7: Identify your Target Audience
8: Identify your Target Geography
9: Calculate the Market Size
10: Research your Customer’s Buying Behavior
11: Identify your Competition Well
12: Position your Business Differently
13: Plan your Investments
14: Plan your Resources Well
Written by Kimberley Laws.
1. How will you meet demand for your product?
Find suppliers that can both provide you with a quality product at competitive prices and large orders quickly.
Shoppers are more likely to engage in comparative shopping online, so pricing is extremely important. (The plus side is that they’re also more likely to order in large quantities.)
2. What payment methods will you offer?
You will need to accept credit cards online, or you may wish to team up with a Third Party such as PayPal.
3. How will you ship your products?
– What shipping provider will you use, will you ship out of country, and will you offer multiple services?
– How much will you charge for shipping?
– Will you offer free shipping on purchases over a specified dollar value?
– How will you track a package during transit?
4. Will you promote your product using social media?
– Many successful online retailers use social media platforms to interact with customers and attract business.
– You will need to become social media savvy or hire someone to engage in these duties on your behalf.
5. Who will photograph your products?
– You will need to create top-quality photos of the products that you sell and you will need to keep them up-to-date.
– Either brush up on your photography skills or develop a working relationship with a skilled and reliable professional.
6. How will you handle returns?
– Ecommerce customers will need to be able to contact you or your employees via telephone, e-mail, or an online chat.
– They will also need a method of shipping the product back to you.
7. How will you instill trust?
– Ensure that customers can contact your business and interact with actual humans.
Written by Ran Rafael.
1: Know Thyself
Be precise. What exactly are you selling? To whom, exactly? For what precise purpose?
2: Know Keyword Research
Keyword Research is your first step to customer exposure. Learn how people will search for you. Know how they find you. It gives you a huge advantage.
Protip: Begin by defining your closest successful competition, and research their keywords.
3: Know SEO
You don’t need to know everything there is to know, but you should know the basics. Learn about meta descriptions and link building techniques.
Written by Christopher Butler. (Turns out there are 13. You really gotta read this one yourself.)
1: How does accepting credit cards work?
2: Instead of building something custom, are there third party shopping cart tools I can use?
3: Can I also let users pay with their PayPal account?
4: Can I connect my online store directly to my existing merchant account?
5: What else do I need to know about data security?
6: Will my online store automatically keep track of all my inventory?
7: Do I have to charge sales tax?
8: How do I make sure I’m charging enough for shipping?
9: How do discount codes work?
10: Can I display different prices for the same product?
11: Can products be bundled together?
12: Is there a way to prevent customers from abandoning their shopping carts?
13: How much does it cost to set up an online store?
That’s all we’ve got for now.
We’re confident that you’d have encountered some concept or idea that’s relevant to you on your ecommerce journey. You’d surely have spotted some recurring themes, too.
A friendly word of advice- remember to spend as much time doing as you spend reading! There’s no better way to learn. To echo Craig Dalton of DODOcase- pick something and execute it! Good luck!