A business owner who’s considering a venture into the e-commerce world should not take that step lightly. If properly pursued, however, it can be one of the smartest financial decisions you ever make.
More and more shoppers are moving from retail shopping in the physical world to online shopping, so the Internet marketplace is exploding. While you may envision sites like Amazon.com, Walmart.com, or eBay when anyone mentions online shopping, small and mid-size businesses can have considerable success with selling their goods and services online as well.
Reasons to pursue e-commerce
While every industry, sector, and firm is different, there are a few general reasons most companies consider adding an e-commerce website. These include:
- Meeting customers where they are. The 21st-century consumer demands convenience. What better way to meet this expectation than by offering multiple sales channels? An e-commerce site gives customers the ability to shop privately, discreetly, and comfortably from home (or anywhere else they choose).
- Anytime shopping. When the doors to your store or office close, the ability to make a sale does as well. But when you have an e-commerce site, customers can purchase goods and services outside of traditional office hours. This gives them 24/7 access and allows your business to compete more effectively with larger outfits.
- Cost advantages. Once an e-commerce site is set up — assuming it’s managed properly — it can be a highly cost-effective sales solution. The investment is much lower than physical real estate and there’s less demand for human capital.
6 considerations for developing an e-commerce site
There’s much to think about when you’re looking at the implementation and development of an e-commerce sales platform. While you can hire an experienced web designer to assist you, you’ll want to examine the following items from the start:
- Responsive web design. Regardless of the type of website you plan on running, responsive web design is worthwhile. When you throw e-commerce into the mix, it becomes a necessity. Within three years, predictions suggest more than 25% of all e-commerce sales will be conducted via a mobile device. That means your e-commerce site should be able to adapt to any web outlet.
- Functional search features. Many consumers use e-commerce sites as a sort of search engine to locate more information about a specific product or service. By including intuitive search features in your site, you’ll be better able to satisfy the curiosity of your consumers and increase the likelihood that they will turn to your site in the future.
- Guest checkout options. Think back to a time when you were shopping for something online and were in a major hurry. How frustrating was it when you were ready to purchase a product and it asked you to register for an account? This can be so irritating for many people that they won’t make the purchase at all. While there are benefits to encouraging consumers to register for an account, you’ll increase conversion rates if you include a guest checkout option. Customers are looking for a seamless shopping experience.
- Good product descriptions. One of the discouraging aspects of shopping online is that you aren’t able to hold, touch, feel, and test the product prior to making a purchase. One way to circumvent this limitation is if the seller provides illuminating product descriptions. These may include images, sales copy, videos, customer reviews, and more.
- Reliable credit-card processing. From a business point of view, one of the most important functions of a successful e-commerce site entails effectively capturing your customer’s online credit card payments during checkout. Finding a reputable service with low transaction fees and flexible payment options can be extremely productive.
- Safety and security. Above all else, your customers want to feel safe and secure when they shop online. By fostering trust and building a site that supports SSL to encrypt information, you can ensure your customers’ information is protected.
Avoid these e-commerce mistakes
Just as there are certain rules to follow, there are also some mistakes to avoid. While pursuing an e-commerce channel can open your business to new markets, it can also quickly derail your brand if you aren’t careful.
Watch out for these gaffes:
- Lack of customer support. If you’re going to invest in e-commerce, you must be willing to invest in customer service and the support that must accompany it. Online shoppers typically have more questions than in-store shoppers, and your site should provide multiple forms of contact.
- Slow shipping times. The convenience of online shopping is quickly dissipated if shipping times are lengthy. It’s worth spending a few extra dollars to get your products to your customers in a matter of days rather than weeks.
- Misinformation and confusion. When customers place an order, they should know exactly what they’re getting. Make sure your site allows customers to ask questions, make requests, and follow up with orders.
The value of an e-commerce site
An e-commerce site can be a valuable addition to your business or brand. Follow these tips and tricks, and avoid frequently made mistakes to get the most out of your investment.