Thinking of starting an eCommerce Business? Start with these tips
So, you’re thinking of creating a new website to sell goods, an e-commerce business. We all want to be successful when we “go live” with our website and watch the sales come rolling in from day 1. The reality of it is that it could take days, weeks, even months to make that first sale. We want to talk about some of the necessary things you’ll need to do to expedite your success, aside from all the stuff you need to do in order to get open in the first place…Register with your state’s Secretary of State for an Employer Identification Number (EIN), get a state sales tax certificate, make a business plan, accumulate funds, decide on what you are going to sell, and if you’re not an HTML guru you will need to hire a web designer. That’s the short list of “Must Do” items to get started, but we want to talk about some things that can get overlooked if you are not an experienced online seller. Your budget will determine what you can and can’t spend money on such as marketing and website buildout. With full disclosure that we are a web design company, do not go cheap on website design as this is both your #1 selling tool, but also probably your #1 marketing tool as well. This is not necessarily a job for your buddy who learned some coding on the side either. If you want to be successful, do it right the first time. Take it from someone who made the mistake of creating an inexpensive website; you will end up spending more down the road if you don’t build it properly. You have to build it not just for the psychology of what makes some websites more successful than others and how people react to certain elements, but you also have to build it so you can be found early and often on Google and the other major search engines. Now, the trend to stay relevant is to create a website that is “Responsive”, or a site that is as or more appealing when viewed on a cell phone or tablet. Especially when you consider the fact that 25% of consumers in 2013 use their phone or tablet to make all of their online purchases.
Responsive Design (Mobile Ready Website)
Certainly the trend in online retailing is Responsive Design in websites because of the proliferation of smartphones and tablets among shoppers. But some of the basics are as important today as ever. So first on our list of Must-Do’s is Responsive Design, or having a mobile version of your website. And doing so is making sure you have the correct text size that’s easily viewable on a mobile device. Also consider extra space around clickable links so people can easily click the links with their fingers and not bump into links. If your site is not user friendly on their phone, they will go elsewhere. You should also consider using less images to decrease load times of your site on people’s phones.
Load Time of Web Pages
This is a perfect segue into what is critical for both phone and desktop shoppers on your site…the amount of time it takes your site to come up. Some stats have it at around 40%, the percentage of people who will abandon your website if it takes 3 seconds or longer to load up. Load time is also becoming a major factor in SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Google’s crawlers and bots and their updates to the latest search algorithms are now placing a deeper emphasis on website load times into factoring your search ranking. All other things equal, your site will rank higher than another if your site loads faster.
Consumers are likely to become more and more leery and skeptical of new websites, especially when major players like what we have seen with Target, are compromising their customers credit card information. This is only going to get more attention now as it is making headlines almost daily now. You must get approved with any number of internet security companies, like Veri-Sign, and purchase an SSL certificate. When enabled, your website address will appear as HTTPS:// instead of just HTTP://. This should be standard especially in the checkout process and shopping cart. Even though it won’t guarantee anything, it lets people know you have taken the steps necessary to make a safe transaction on your website.
Easy and Fast Checkout
Some estimates have shopping cart abandonment at around 60% of all online transactions. What’s responsible for this alarming rate of abandonment? There are many factors, but some of the most common include too many pages and links to reach the actual checkout page, requiring shoppers to register for an account before they can checkout, unannounced shipping charges or higher than expected shipping charges, and coupon codes that don’t work. If you are going to require people to register before they purchase, do it as the first step, not in the middle of the process. Give clearly defined steps in the process and buttons that reiterate this. Like instead of a “continue” button to go on to the next step, specify distinct buttons of “continue shopping” or “Continue checkout”.
Calls To Action (CTAs)
Seems like an obvious one, but not many do it very well. Essentially, a call-to-action persuades someone into clicking on a link for a specific reason. They elicit a reaction that you want them to take such as “CLICK HERE to BUY” as opposed to “BUY”, or “See the Video HERE >>” instead of “Video”. You get the idea, but ideally you want to generate a moderate of excitement with the button or link.
It may seem intuitive to add contact information somewhere on your website, but where you put it and how often can determine trust in your website. Most good websites nowadays offer at the very least a contact form which allows people to ask a question via email. But most people want their questions answered in shorter order…like NOW! This can be done in a couple ways, but likely you should offer both. A customer service phone number and even a chat feature on your site that connects to a real person in real time. We recommend having contact info such as a phone number and an email address at the top of every page, and not buried at the bottom in small print or even in a “Contact Us” page. If people can’t find contact information when they need it, they will go elsewhere. Also offer a clear policy on shipping returns that is easily found as well.
You always hear that you should have fresh, useful, and usable content on your site, but where do you put it and what should it be about? A blog, either on your site, or offsite, is almost a necessity for reaching new customers, building brand loyalty, and increasing SEO as well. This is a place to talk about new and old products, stories and articles pertinent to your industry, and maybe even product reviews and testimonials. If you are a website selling tents, you should probably review, test, and then blog about the tents you carry. Talk about the places you go and offer tips to your readers. All of this content will go a long ways in establishing trust, building your brand, and increasing your search ranking with Google. This is also a good place to supplement your video efforts as well.
Customer Reviews/Product Reviews
According to HubSpot.com, 49% of all online purchasers will read reviews before they make a purchase. I see this rate increasing in the coming years placing more emphasis on providing usable reviews to your customers. And if people are wanting a review before making a purchase, keep them on your site instead of allowing them to go to review sites and away from your site. It can also give you valuable information on your own product selection as well. If a product is consistently getting bad reviews, it may be time to dump it in favor of something else. Or you can further engage your audience by asking for their input on certain products.
This is another often overlooked piece of any ecommerce operation. This is different than just offering reviews. Here you can further engage with your customers by offering How-to-Use videos, product tutorials, and even product demonstrations. People love this and will also aid in keeping them on your site longer which will lead to more sales conversions. It will also give you an air of being the expert in your industry. Home Depot does a great job of this. And again, this will not hurt your SEO either.
Social Media Sharing
This is not a new concept, but one that has taken on more relevance with Facebook releasing a new version of their search algorithm. He who gets shared the most wins in business social media. You need to not only have social media accounts set up for your business, but you also need to have social sharing capability with every page and every product on your website. Social sharing will encourage new visits to your site, and people follow what their friends are doing and sharing. You should also do this with all your blog articles as well. You can find a Social Sharing widget on all blogging platforms. For more information about adding sharing to your products and pages please check out this link at Facebook: https://developers.facebook.com/docs/plugins/share-button/
Obviously this is not an exhaustive list of must-haves for your ecommerce operation. Writing good product descriptions, good image quality on your product pages, easily navigable pages, easy to ready and navigate product categories, having searchable products, having the ability to create meta data for each page and each product in your site, being able to submit product feeds to the search engines, choosing the right color scheme, proper keyword research, product selection, marketing and pay-per-click campaigns, accepting multiple payment options (ie. Credit Cards, Paypal, Google Wallet, etc.), and on and on and on. There is a lot that goes into running a successful ecommerce business, and there is also a lot to consider on a daily basis. And while there are many ecommerce website template options currently available, don’t forget the old mantra of “you get what you pay for”. Do your due diligence and learn everything possible and don’t stop learning because things are constantly evolving.
If you don’t have the time for all this planning and learning, or if you’re not sure which website templates offer all these features, please contact our team for a free consult. Not all sites are created equal and they shouldn’t be. We have experience in creating ecommerce sites of all sizes and budgets. We can build a site that will hit the ground running and will be bringing in sales in no time flat. For more information on building an ecommerce website, CLICK HERE
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (303) 630-9402
InspireSmart creates custom websites, custom software, and custom apps for businesses in Denver, CO, Dallas, Texas, and anywhere else in the USA
We can also help you in your iPad and iPhone Point of Sale efforts and credit card processing with iConnectPOS