E-commerce has well and truly torn up the retail rule book. Sellers are no longer bound by opening and closing hours, geographical coordinates, or eye-watering overheads. Customers can choose from an almost infinite array of products.
53% of the world’s population is connected to the internet. This creates a huge window of opportunity for sellers, which explains why the digital advertising industry continues to enjoy exponential growth.
Year on year, e-commerce is gobbling up a bigger piece of the retail pie. In 2019, 14.1% of global retail sales took place online; by 2023, it’s expected that UK customers’ online purchases will account for 27.9% of all retail spending in Britain.
Want to join the revolution and flaunt your wares online? Let’s walk through some beginner basics…
E-commerce isn’t for the faint of heart
Yes, e-commerce facilitates more educated buying decisions, speedier transactions, and highly efficient delivery. Sellers enjoy superior reach and visibility across vaster audiences – start-ups and big fish alike now swim in the same virtual waters.
But – and it’s a sizeable but – making it in the dog-eat-dog world of e-commerce is no walk in the park. Your product must be differentiated by its price or unique appeal – or both. If it’s not, the odds of success will be stacked firmly against you.
Throw excellent visual design and top-notch customer service into the mix, and you might have a fighting chance.
The 3 e-commerce categories
Business to Business (B2B): when a company sells services or goods to another company online.
Business to Consumer (B2C): when a company sells to a customer online.
Consumer to Consumer (C2C): when a customer sells directly to another customer via online marketplaces – someone flogging an unwanted Christmas present on eBay would be a prime example of C2C.
A starter’s checklist
So, you’ve decided to dip your toe into the world of e-commerce and make a splash.
Don’t go live until you’ve…
- Worked out if your product’s good enough
- Sized up the competition
- Assessed your audience
- Committed to a business model and sales strategy
- Hammered out your brand identity
- Chosen your payment gateway, shipping and order fulfilment systems
- Once you’ve ticked these steps off, it’s time to create your digital store: a professional e-commerce website.
Once you’ve ticked these steps off, it’s time to create your digital store: a professional e-commerce website.
Building a brilliant website
To compete, today’s website must look and feel exceptional.
A polished e-commerce site is built with search in mind. It should have a custom domain name and URL, so you’ll need to shell out a little and secure both. Each page will have tags, a Google-friendly URL, and will feature copywriting that describes your product in clear, engaging terms, communicating useful information the customer will already be seeking.
Visuals play a pivotal role in marketing and selling products online, so including attractive, professional product shots is also a must.
Any site worth its salt is optimised for mobile use: roughly half of internet traffic comes from mobile devices. Users visiting a stodgy, glitchy mobile site are a whopping 62% less likely to spend their money with that brand again. There’s also the small matter of Google not liking non-responsive sites.
If you plan on taking your brand macro, consider commissioning a team of whip-smart specialists to build your site from scratch. Alternatively, you could personalise a free or premium site theme, giving it the guise of a custom job. Again, if you want to create a smart site with excellent usability, you may choose to commission expert help for this.
Create the dream customer experience
Customers have come to expect fast, more acutely personalised experiences. Let’s get the basics right:
Make it snappy
People hate to wait. 47% of website visitors arrive expecting a loading time of fewer than 2 seconds. Exceed 3 seconds? They’ll leave, unlikely to return. Want a tip? Reduce the size of your site’s images – this will speed things up.
Don’t make them think
The buying journey needs to be unambiguous. A maze of clicks with no clear beginning or end will render your online customer confused, lost or – worse – drive them away entirely. Include an FAQ page packed with pithy responses to popular long-tail keyword searches, giving buyers quick access to useful information.
No hidden surprises
The number one reason customers abandon their carts is an unexpected extra cost – £55.50 shipping fee + tax, anyone? Transparent pricing makes for a more positive customer experience, cultivating the holy grail of retail: return buyers. Make sure you’re easy to contact for assistance – customers are likelier to trust brands that do so.
It’s smart to show your empathetic side. Offer customers a selection of ways to pay, from credit cards to PayPal, investing in e-commerce software that supports multiple options. If you’re aiming for a global market, shop around for a tool that will transform your site into a super-smart polyglot.
Beware the buying cycle
To win customers (and make sales), you have to play the long game. We’re indecisive creatures, often visiting sites multiple times before committing to a purchase.
Social media has around 3.5 billion users – almost half of the world’s population. By placing paid ads on platforms such as Facebook, which boasts over 2.23 billion active monthly users, you’ll be able to tap into a ready-made audience and start sowing seeds of brand awareness.
A stellar content marketing strategy is an essential building block for customer acquisition. By publishing SEO-friendly, high calibre copy and optimising your web pages for Google search, you can drive organic traffic to your site.
69% of shopping carts are ditched, so, where possible, harvest first-party information. If consent is granted and the messaging is relevant, personalised emails can act as persuasive CTAs: follow-up emails regarding abandoned products score an average open rate of 45%. There are many tools, some of which will fully integrate with your e-commerce site, that can automate this.
A futureproof e-commerce site will be ever-evolving, incorporating new technologies to maintain an intuitive customer experience.
Unless you have a background in web development, if and when your site throws a technical tantrum, you may struggle to remedy it. While it’s important to take the time to properly get to grips with your platform’s service, it’s a wise idea to secure specialist support you can depend on at short notice.
Most platforms, unless on subscription, will require regular updates to ensure they’re performing optimally and are fully secure. Again a specialist will be able to take care of this for you.
Here at Resolution, our talented team of developers and designers have many years’ experience in building sophisticated ecommerce sites. Recent examples include a multi-functional site for Hug Pet Food, the advanced selling platform we created for Epigenetics, a brand with global reach, and a beautiful website and shop for Roebuck Estates.