It’s safe to say that the days of retail shopping are dwindling. Moving away from department stores, shoppers are now browsing and buying online in record numbers. Shoppers now make 51% of their purchases online, which is 3% more than in 2015. Starting a new online business or getting your already established business online is definitely what you need to be doing.
What is eCommerce — and why do I need it?
For those of you who are new to eCommerce or run businesses face to face, eCommerce is simply the process of buying and selling products online.
So consumers are turning to their laptops and mobile phones to purchase goods — and it’s understandable why this is happening. Rather than getting in their car or hopping on a bus, people can sit in the comfort of their home, browse in many different shops at once, and with a few simple clicks, their products will be delivered right to their door.
Small businesses need to get online to compete with big stores, who are already selling online and offline. Opening an online store will take a lot of work, but can be a worthwhile investment to increase sales of a product you’re already selling, or to enable you to work flexibly from your own home. Your target market can be expanded not just nationally, but globally, and you can earn money even while you’re sleeping!
How Do I Go about Starting My eCommerce Business?
Let’s focus on getting your eCommerce site online. Any business venture, whether online or offline, requires picking products and suppliers, as well as looking at financial forecasts and costs. You should do all of this before thinking about getting your website up and running. If you already sell your products offline, this is great. If not, you’ll need a product and a business plan beforehand.
Once you have your product and know how you’re going to get them, you now need to focus on your online presence and eCommerce website. So, where do you start?
Research the competition
Before you launch into selling your product, have a look online at who you will be competing against. What makes your product different or better than others? Think about your target market and how to stand out against competitors.
eCommerce optimisation for your website
After your competitor research, you need to make sure your eCommerce website is well optimised for search (SEO) to improve your visibility on search engines, such as Google and Bing.
This will be the most popular way for customers to find you, so it’s crucial to think about keywords. Targeting specific keywords that you want to rank for on Google will give your eCommerce website focus. Have different pages to target different keywords and make sure you have a blog that’s updated regularly and of value to readers.
One of the most common SEO mistakes that eCommerce sites make is failing to include enough descriptive text about their products. The text is how Google understands the Internet. Ensuring that your product descriptions are detailed and useful will not only increase the likelihood of customers to buy your products but can also increase the amount of traffic Google sends to your website in the first place.
Choose a web development agency for site design
Unless you are very knowledgeable about web development, think seriously about hiring a web development team to put together your eCommerce website.
An eCommerce website works differently to a normal blog or brochure website, as it needs to be set up to enable customers to purchase your products. This means the style and look of the site is important, but also the practical functionality of the website. If your website looks sleek and the products are in demand, but the buying process is difficult, unclear, or doesn’t work, this will deter customers and give your brand a bad reputation.
We’ve seen a situation where an eCommerce store has doubled its conversion rate (the percentage of visitors that buy), just by improving the layout and website loading speed. Customers don’t have the time or patience to hunt for checkout pages, buy buttons or to fill in lengthy forms, so the simpler you can make the buying process, the more sales you’ll generate.
How Do I Develop My eCommerce Business?
You’ve got your eCommerce store up and running. Excellent! For new businesses, you may find that sales are slow, and this can even be the case for more established businesses. How can you develop your eCommerce website and generate more sales and customers?
Make sure your website is mobile-friendly
Over three billion people use a mobile phone, and the amount of time people spend on their device of choice is increasing. Ensuring your eCommerce website is adaptable to mobile is imperative for people browsing and buying your products. A mobile responsive layout, mobile-friendly checkout forms and offering Paypal as a payment option are all important to maximise sales from smartphones.
Keep your customers coming back
Once people have bought products from your eCommerce website, encourage them to subscribe to a newsletter to give them the latest offers on your products. You can also see what they bought and offer similar products which they might also like to buy. Part of the reason for Amazon’s success is their product recommendations sent by email. If you’re not sending your customers follow up emails, you’re leaving money on the table.
Pay per click adverts on Google, Facebook, YouTube and even Amazon can be a fast way to drive qualified buyers to your site. However, make sure you keep an eye on your ad spend, as they can get expensive. Your back end sales process is crucial here as you might break even on your first sale using PPC, but the profit comes from the repeat business you’ll generate from that customer.
Use PR outreach
Getting your brand name out into the world wide web is important. The good news is that there are lots of ways in which you can do this, even as a small business.
- Work with bloggers: Sending influential bloggers free products to review is not only good promotion, but you’ll also gain a link back to your website when they write up about it. Choose a blogger which has a target audience similar to yours, as this will maximise the chance that their traffic will come to your site after reading the review.
- Create videos: Creating videos for your website can be very beneficial, as visitors spend 88% more time on a website that includes a video. It helps to engage your audience and offers the opportunity for them to watch your product in action. Don’t forget that YouTube is the web’s second largest search engine, so get your videos showing up here to drive more free traffic to your store.
- #JournoRequest: This little-known secret can get you in some of the World’s highest-profile newspapers and magazine sites. Journalists wanting comments, interviews, or products to feature in their articles will use the Twitter hashtags #journorequest or #prrequest. By replying and offering to help or providing a comment for their story, they can feature you in their articles, bringing valuable exposure and rank-boosting links.
- Create infographics: Infographics can easily be shared on multiple social media platforms, and offer information in a different way to engage your audience. Try putting an infographic together around a problem your audience has which your product solves, or something currently trending online. Make sure to include mentions of your store in the Infographic so that anyone seeing it on social media knows where to find you!
Done right, an eCommerce business can be a fantastic asset, generating sales around the clock for you without the costs associated with running a retail store. As the Internet continues to penetrate our lives and we become more comfortable with shopping online, an increasing percentage of all sales will be channelled through eCommerce stores. The question is, will you be positioned to collect your share?