In a world where you compete with giants like Amazon, Costco, and Walmart, you may wonder if you can succeed in the e-commerce environment. The short answer is “yes”. Considering that this sector is expected to grow between 8% and 12% in 2019 in the USA, compared to just 2.87% for brick-and-mortar stores, now is a good time to have an online store. You might just be able to grab a small piece of the 436 billion dollars that will be spent online this year. But what does it take to be a competitor in this race? Assuming you already have a business plan, let’s walk through creating and managing a successful e-commerce website.
Set-up basics: name, hosting, platform
It all begins with your online name. Go for something unique, simple, easy to spell and to remember. Use search engines to check for similar names and try to avoid being confused with them.
When it comes to hosting, first, you need to understand the differences between the hosting so that you can pick the best hosting provider for your e-commerce website, take into consideration the number of products and the associated media you intend to have on your website like high-quality (even 360 degrees) pictures or videos. Also, have a good estimation of the number of total and simultaneous visitors to escape the risk of downtime.
For eCommerce, you can choose dedicated platforms like Magento or Shopify or use a more general content management system like WordPress with appropriate plugins, for example, Woo Commerce. DIY solutions like Wix and Squarespace have risen in popularity due to low starting costs and a wide range of designs. Still, they offer little scalability and no customer-centric solutions.
Branding: logo, color scheme, tone
Once you have your framework in place, it must be filled out with branding elements and actual products. Take enough time to develop a visual identity and ask for professional help, as it could mean the difference between receiving the customers’ attention or being ignored. The site should be consistent regarding the tone, fonts, colors, and images. Be very careful with pictures and make sure you have the right to use them or pay the appropriate fees, or you could face legal problems. Check with your developer on this aspect or use a reputable company.
Architecture: search, organization, shopping cart
The way your site is organized has a direct impact on the volume of sales you will make. You need to walk a mile in your ideal customer’s shoes and think about categories, tags, search options, product comparisons and inventory management. Always be accurate and truthful about the offer. Using a CRM or an ERP system helps you track sales, remaining stock and money earned.
It is paramount to consider how each product page is organized, how pictures are displayed, the amount of detail provided, and additional information such as intended use and accessories. Learn from Amazon and at the very least, incorporate simple recommendation engines to boost sales. Don’t be thrifty about performing UX testing at this stage. Responsive design is no longer an option but a requirement since mobile traffic has surpassed desktop queries.
Go for a simple, clean design and aim for as little input as possible from the customer. Make buying options clear and invest in creating a straightforward and easy-to-use shopping cart. Adding or deleting products should be self-explanatory. Allow clients to buy without creating an account, but present them with the associated benefits before they leave the site. Add incentives to make them save their details so you can use them for future marketing campaigns.
Payment and shipping: payment gateways, shipment rates, shipment tracking
It is best to associate with a dedicated payment gateway such as PayPal or an e-payment solution via bank card. Always provide, if possible, traditional payment options and prepare your website for international currency if that is your target market.
Be open and fair about shipping rates and display such info next to each product or offer simple fare calculators. Don’t let the client get to the end of the buying process only to be disappointed by the required shipping rates. Boost sales by offering free shipping for larger orders. You can use extensions to make your shipping function more user-friendly; many other extensions can help you customize your e-commerce website for users and search engines.
Most clients want instant gratification, so some prefer to pay higher prices for the same item in a brick-and-mortar store. To give them a sense of control, implement a shipment tracking system that gives them the whereabouts of their order in real time.
Security: SSL and backup
Security is one of the primary concerns of online buyers and businesses. They are worried about how their data is stored, updated, and manipulated. Include a section with these answers in the FAQ. Install SSL if you allow users to create accounts and they share sensitive data with you. If your site is a guest check-out and you process payments through PayPal or similar services, this is not mandatory, but it is still good to have as Google pays attention to this aspect when ranking pages.
Regardless of all the precautionary measures, the best thing is to have an up-to-date version of the website saved and stored in a different location.
Third-party integration: social media, analytics, CRM
The rise of social media has taken client testimonials and reviews to a whole new level. Now, you need hundreds or even thousands of followers and excellent ratings to make a good impression on other potential customers. A successful eCommerce portal naturally incorporates links to relevant social media platforms and review opportunities.
Integration with vendors, logistics, and payment should be flawless, and the developer must collaborate with testers to ensure no unexpected bottlenecks.
It is just the beginning.
This is just an overview of the most important items you should know when designing a website. As technology advances, new options are available to online retailers, and early adopters have the pioneer’s advantage. Enhancing the sensorial experience of the customer is the missing puzzle piece in online retail and perhaps the only reason brick-and-mortar stores are still around.