01 May How To Build a Successful Small Business e-Commerce Website
Thinking about starting an e-Commerce business or taking your brick and mortar shop online? Then you’re in the right place.
Your marketing might rock but the last hurdle is getting customers to stay on your website to make that all-important purchase. If a site is poorly designed you could be in danger of losing a sale which is why successful e-Commerce businesses put a lot of work into their websites. Want your e-Commerce business to boom? Here is everything you need to know about building an eCommerce website that sells. Grab a coffee and buckle in.
Hire Designer or DIY?
The first thing you need to decide when building your website is whether you will want a professional designer or agency to build you a website or try to do it yourself.
Each option has its pros and cons and you need to evaluate carefully what option might be more suitable for you. If you’re willing to learn and have pletny of time, but no budget, then DIY might be something you should consider.
There are many easy to use website builders to help you if you want to try to build the website on your own.
If you decide to hire an agency or a web designer, you will still have to do research to make sure they’ll design something you’ll be happy with. Below are some things you should consider when you’re making your decision.
You might decide to hire a web designer because:
- You don’t have the knowledge needed to build a website
- Design is not what you specialize in
- You would rather focus on running your business instead of learning how to code.
You might decide to build the website yourself for the following reasons:
- You have a low budget
- You require a simple design
- You’re tech-savvy and know how to code
- You have plenty of time to learn and experiment.
No matter what you decide it’s a good idea to look at all possible options in-depth, so you won’t make a decision that you will regret later. Even a small mistake can be costly and you should never rush or skip this part of the process.
Choose right e-Commerce platform
Where do you begin? The first thing to know is that you’ll need to research platforms regardless of who you choose to build your website. A designer might have a preferred platform of choice or may be able to recommend a platform if you are stuck. There are a lot of options available and narrowing down those options isn’t always easy. Shopify, Squarespace, Wix or do you use a WooCommerce plugin with a WordPress site.
Here are the questions you should ask when looking for the right shopping platform for your website:
- Is it easy to set up, if you choose to build the site yourself?
- Can you easily integrate other apps?
- Is it mobile friendly?
- Is it SEO friendly?
- Does it offer multiple purchasing options?
- How does their customer support rate?
- Platform price?
- What do other businesses think about that platform?
Find a good hosting provider
With eCommerce, your website is your business. If your website goes down that is precious business seconds, minutes, or even hours where you could be losing sales. Unfortunately, downtime is often inevitable but with the right website hosting provider, you can be back up and making sales in no time. A good hosting provider should also offer you extensive backup and high-quality security. Finding the right host for your eCommerce site might be difficult if you don’t know where to start, so we recommend checking out someone like MangoMatter, who are able to break down the benefits of each hosting provider, making your journey of creating a successful website host much easier.
Perform Research, planning and competitive analysis
Creating a website takes time. Once you’ve decided who’s building your website, what platform you’ll use, and who will host it, the next step requires thorough research and competitive analysis. Research the websites of your competitors, make a list of the things you like and don’t like about each site and what you can do to make it better on your won site.. How do you want it to look? What features are important to include e.g. would you like customers to be able to make an account?
Once you’ve got the design in place the next stage is planning and creating your website content. This includes writing website copy, creating product images, graphics, and video. Take your time and don’t rush this process, if you get it right in pre-production, you won’t have to redesign your website 5 months down the road.
Invest in good visuals
Good visuals are the difference between whether a product sells or not. Dimly lit or grainy product images are a fast track to turn a customer off from making a purchase. While the latest mobile phones have high quality cameras, nothing beats the quality of a good DSLR and the editing skills of a photographer. The same goes for images that appear anywhere else on your website and video. Investing in those visuals from the beginning can enhance the quality of your products and attract more customers.
Make purchasing easy
How many clicks does a customer have to make before they can complete their purchase? This is the one question you need to ask when you set up your website. The more clicks a customer has to make, the fewer sales you will receive. So how many clicks should a customer make before getting to the checkout? It’s estimated that the sweet spot is 4-6 clicks.
You can make this process easier by doing the following:
- Add quick shop links to products on the homepage so customers aren’t searching your site for products they like from the homepage
- Add sort and filter functions to your product pages so customers can find products quicker
- One-click buying buttons, this works best for customers who need 1-2 items
- Site search function, this gives the customer control over their buying experience by allowing them to search for specific things via keywords
Set Clear Policies
Delivery, refunds, returns. These policies should be clearly visible on your website. A customer will want to know what kind of delivery you offer. What is your refund policy, do you offer refunds or do you operate on an exchange only basis? How does a customer return an item and is it free? Not only do you need to know these things but you need to communicate them with your customers in a clear and set manner that is easy to find on your website. A company that doesn’t have their policies readily available to read looks like they have something to hide and doesn’t instill confidence within your customers. A great place to put your policies is in your website header and/or footer as well as within your checkout page and order confirmation so you can give your customers every opportunity to access this information.
Make it easy to contact customer support
Say a customer has an issue with a product or they wish to purchase an item but have a question about the product before making any monetary commitment, how do they contact you? A real turn off for customers is a lack of contact information or options.
Not only should you be available by phone and email, most online businesses now offer a live chat option and most platforms allow it if not by an already built-in feature but by an integrating app. Live chat is an easy way for customers to get in touch with you rather than waiting in line on the phone or an email response. Of course, this does require you to be present or at least able to access the live chat too which is why some businesses prefer to outsource customer support or use artificial intelligence a.k.a chatbots to do the work for them. These solutions can be costly but good customer service does not come cheap and customers are more likely to rate your business favorably if you offer top quality customer support.
Keep your inventory up to day
If you sell both online and offline it’s a good idea to keep on top of your inventory by updating what you have stocked online to avoid what is known as shrinkage. Shrinkage is when you lose stock whether that be due to broken or missing items. In this case, if you sold something offline but don’t update your inventory online, a customer might order an item that says is in stock online but actually isn’t. This can cause problems on your end and frustration for the customer. One way to combat this is to keep your stock separate from the get-go, keeping a set amount of stock for online selling and another amount for offline selling.
Try different type of content
Images are great, high-quality images and interesting infographics are even better but don’t limit yourself to these. There are other types of website content that when used correctly can make a great impact.
Video is now a popular way of showcasing your products on your website but some businesses are going a step further with shoppable videos that allow customers to buy the products models wear in the video straight from the source.
Quizzes are another popular use of content to encourage customers to buy certain products. For example, say you need to buy a nighttime facial oil. You go onto a skincare website and they offer you a quiz that will tell you exactly which facial is right for you by skin type and how you sleep. Chances are you’re more likely to buy a product that is recommended to you by tailored choices. At the end of the quiz the customer can have the option to buy the product or find something else. You could even go a step further and put the results behind an email sign up form in which they need to sign up to your mailing list to receive the quiz results but they will also receive 10% off their order as an incentive to sign up and buy the product.
Virtual reality is all the rage for businesses that sell. Virtual reality can give your customers the opportunity to try before they buy. Whether they are taking a picture of themselves to see what a top would look like on or going large scale with planning their new kitchen online. You can hire companies that can create 360 degree views of your products. By using this and other emerging technologies you can differentiate yourself from your competition and thus get better results and increase sales.
Build Email List
Email marketing is one of the greatest assets for eCommerce businesses, allowing you to contact an audience of people who are readily interested in your business and what you have to offer. These contacts might not always be current or past customers but every person who is on your email marketing list should be treated as a prospective customer which is why your website should always include an email capture (opt-in) form.
Why? Say someone new visits your website, they like what you sell but they’re not ready to make a purchase but they might like to know more about your business and keep in touch with any products or offers you have in the future. This makes them as a contact, highly valuable. But sometimes a form alone isn’t enough.
Most businesses offer something in return for signing up to their mailing lists, whether that be 10% off the customer’s next purchase, free delivery or a free gift. These methods are effective and easy to implement. Some eCommerce platforms offer email marketing tools as part of their service, in some cases you may need or even prefer to use an external tool such as Mailchimp. In which case you can integrate an external email marketing tool usually by a widget or via HTML code. Once that is in place you can capture contact information for customers and start building better business to consumer links.
Showcase your specials
Whenever you have a sale, offer a new promotion or free delivery your customers will want to know about it. Sharing this information should be at the forefront of your messaging when a customer lands on your website.
You can do this via homepage sliders, banners and pop-ups or by including it in the newsletter you send out. This way customers know exactly when you’re running a sale, a promo or offering free delivery before shopping. By doing so, customers are more likely to stay on the website and make a purchase.
However, these elements should be used sparingly, you don’t want to bombard customers with popups as this will have the opposite effect. Banners are a great way to convey information because they aren’t as invasive and will remain in place on the site where some customers might click off a popup without reading it. There is no right way to promote and each business is different. Experiment with different methods and try different messages to see which ones get the best results.
Make sure Your Website Is Mobile Friendly
Most of the world are accessing the web via their phones. When a site visitor lands on a website that isn’t mobile-friendly with lots of zooming in and scrolling, they’re more likely to have a bad user experience and leave. In which case a customer is less like to make an order if they can’t find what they’re looking quickly and easily. So if your eCommerce doesn’t have a mobile version of your website, your business will likely suffer. These days the mobile-friendly website is a must if you want to do business online and stay competitive.
We know that there is a lot of information in this guide to digest and it’s for that reason that building a great eCommerce site shouldn’t be rushed. Research, plan, and take your time, when you’ve got your website up, running and making sales, you’ll be glad that you did.