The mere thought of putting together an ECommerce website is daunting, and so, this blog entry is to help quell that anxiety by giving you a quick and easy to digest read with information to get you started.
ECommerce is here to stay – it has been around for some time, here is an easy to digest infographic on the history of ECommerce to get you started.
Who is the best at ECommerce? The mighty Amazon, and what is their edge? They post a $3 Billion per year loss on their transport, for a start. They have thousands of products, and have made it easy to shop ~ they own a one click checkout patent. Here is a easy to digest infographic on Amazon to help you get a handle on who the big competition is, but you are going to be niche.
If that has not scared you off, then consider this the pat (and push) on the back to get you momentum moving forward!
First up, we need to determine what is most important, and the priorities, here is your checklist:
- Ease of use
- Social Sign In
- Bounce Rates
- Google Rankings
- Clear Communication
- Unique value offering
- Professionally written copy.
- Follow / Network Pages
- Internet Campaign
- Gamification / Loyalty Points
- Terms Of Service
- Returns Policy
- Customer Care
- Customer Relationship Management
- Shipping options
Secure an ECommerce professional to analyse your unique value offering in order to identify the best shoe that fits your setup, do a background check on them in whatever form you can that is permissible, I recommend checking out (pun intended) their Linkedin profile to see if they have recommendations etc.
The other part of trust, is Security. Survey after survey show that trust is the key element customers want when shopping. There will need to be a little lock and a https in front of your website address (url) to make sure that the information is secured while travelling (encrypted). You will have a digital certificate shown on your site to win over the trust of the customers to proceed with their precious personal information.
Ease of use
Ideally you want your website to respond to all device types (responsive design) so that it can adapt to the multitude of devices that will visit your website. The size of buttons and the likes will respond to the devices like tablets and smartphones which are quickly surpassing (or surpassed by the time you read this) computers as the dominant internet searching devices.
Social Sign In
While you will need more details from the customer to be able to perform the sale, the customer may need to provide basic details to at least sign up for a newsletter if they are not ready to purchase yet, or whatever the case may be.
The customer will appreciate time saving wherever possible. Allowing a customer to sign in with an existing account they have with a reputable company (Google, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Microsoft) and it filling the details into your system automatically, is an expected norm now.
Whether it is excitement, impatience or the customer’s poor internet connection, a slow loading website creates a high bounce rate. This results in customers leaving your website prematurely, or just after one page visit. If you are advertising, you will know that customer acquisition cost is the most expensive, so next to Trust, Speed is the next most important factor. Make sure the company consulting and assembling your ECommerce solution, provides you with access to realtime 3rd party reports on your sites performance and uptime.
In fact, speed is so important, that Google have an entire campaign and set of tools to speed up the internet – even the ranking of your website with Google is strongly influenced by the speed of your website. If you have to throw money at something, speed is a good start to help fight off abandonment.
Every person in business is always selling, no matter what position or title you hold. The skill of getting to the point is beyond measure.
Unique Value Offering
Communicate what your value is to the customer in as few, clear words as possible. If you cannot do this, you are going to lose the attention of your customer. Don’t underestimate this point.
Professionally Written Copy.
While we may rate our writing skills (especially when it comes to our own products and services), it is best to put pride in pocket and send it to a professional to polish it further. Copy Writers have the process down to a fine art, saying more with less, and getting the customer to act!
Customers are increasingly aware of sales claims, and are looking to social feedback on products or services they are interested in. In having your ECommerce solution integrated with Social features, you have the start of a social ‘engine’ to get you up to speed.
Undoubtedly you have seen ‘like’ buttons, or ‘tweet’ buttons, or +1 and so forth. This is a simple yet very effective way of allowing a customer to quickly share a product page for example – when they are constructing a wish list, or commending a product.
Follow / Network Pages
The major social networks (Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter and Linkedin) allow you to create a company page or account. People can follow your page to get information there if they so choose. You populate it with content in conjunction with your website, and if your ECommerce solution provider really knows their oats, they will make it do that auto-publish from your website to your social pages and or accounts. This would include blog entries, press releases, new products added to your cart etc.
A Brand Advocate is a customer who considers themself a part of your community and a major fan, they need a platform to spread their message, your message. They are the heart of your word of mouth marketing, they deserve a community type facilitation on your website, a presence in the form of a Social Engine that will allow them to partake in and create discussions and more. They will do this on your site as well as your social network pages.
This is not a Field Of Dreams movie unfortunately, and if you have it built, they will not just come. You need to get your hands dirty to entice them to visit and keep them forever.
A coupon for a percentage discount on signing up for a newsletter is a great way to start, you can even fire off a newsletter with a coupon to a certain group of customers for a specic product if you so choose.
The most cost effective way of marketing, if the prospect has not purchased (yet), is to sign up for your newsletter – normally in aid of awaiting specials and promotions, don’t forget, most internet searching can quickly help a potential customer determine if your price is competitive.
Marketing has often been referred to as a black hole of spend that is hard to trace in effectiveness, internet advertising on the other hand has a multitude of trackable metrics and conversion rates that will assist in identifying with great detail where spend has gone, and with what effectiveness. Depending on your the nature of your products and services, you may use a combination of Google, Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.
Gamification / Loyalty Points (Advanced)
Activities of customers, can be tracked on your website as well as your social network pages and accounts. The activities of customers in turn, can be turned into points and rewards that can be converted into coupons, raffle tickets you name it, great way to keep customers engaged and calling them to action!
An ECommerce solution needs to pass an audit from a bank or payment processor (or both), the documents below are mostly what is required (outside of the security mentioned above). The E-Commerce solution provider will normally have a template that can be adapted to your unique setup:
Terms Of Service
Allowing customers to contact you via your website, social network pages and accounts needs to be setup, this is now the norm. Typical communications will include pre-sales questions to trouble tickets.
The person managing these communication channels is expected to respond quickly, if you don’t have a dedicated person and don’t have the inclination or savvy to do it yourself, then ask the ECommerce solution provider if they can assist or recommend someone that is geared or this.
Customer Relationship Management
A centralised customer database to make sure sales leads and opportunities from email, website and social network pages do not slip through cracks. A centraliserd record base of communications, projects, sales etc. for the customer. You may even have a ‘Customer Portal’ for customers to track all their communications, projects, quotes and invoices etc.
If you are an existing physical store extending online, or a pure online store – your products will be delivered physically or downloaded respectively.
In the case of physical goods, customers will be given options. It is not a bad idea to consult an existing courier company to see if they have a rates table that can be integrated with your ECommerce cart.
The golden rule here is to give customers options. From Paypal, Credit Cards to online Electronic Funds Transfers.
When a customer has added their choices to the cart, they select shipping and payment options, and agree to terms and conditions, they get handed over a payment processing company in a secure ecrypted bubble if you will, and when the payment is done, they hand it back securely to your site to proceed. You may need to sign up with payment processor and hand that information to your ECommerce solution provider to configure. Average costs for a Payment Processor are about 3-4% of the sale value.
ECommerce shopping carts come with options for international clients to select their currency, and the payment processor will determine the exchange rate at the date and time of the purchase.
After this is complete, some purchase tests to christen your new ECommerce solution are in order, and then get cracking!