1. Tailored Solution
Our first tip to building a successful online store is to ensure that your newly acquired E-Commerce website is tailored for your actual products or services. There are many off-the-shelf e-commerce solutions being advertised that appear to be cheap and quick to set up – they generally are. What you need to consider is that these E-Commerce solutions are template websites built to serve many different applications and you will end up having to market your products and services with what they have available in regard to features (if any). In most cases, this is far from being ideal and the compromises you are likely to have to make could well loose the business to your competitors who have invested in bespoke sites built for the sole purpose of selling your product.
2. Clear Navigation and Accurate Product Search
Most E-Commerce websites require the visitor to drill down several levels to reach things like product details and attributes. For this reason, visibly clear navigation and extended product search facilities are often required – ensure that your E-Commerce solution makes it easy for a customer to find his/her way around … otherwise you may find them going elsewhere. It is essential that your customer does not get lost and that you provide a clear way backwards as well as forwards.
3. Layout and Product Presentation
A well thought-out E-Commerce website will have addressed the two very important issues of layout and presentation. In a lot of cases, a store owner may need to show a lot of product-related information is a limited amount of space – ensure your E-Commerce solution gives you layout and image presentation options. Examples of items to have in your marketing arsenal include ‘tabbed’ product page elements, ‘expandable’ divisions and eye-catching image Galleries or Slideshows.
4. Data Feeds
Your own website should be only one of many outlets for your products. Data feeds are common practice and ensures that one way or another – the public gets to see your wares. Some common marketplaces include Amazon, Twenga, ShopMania and Yahoo. Ensure your E-Commerce website has the facilities to export your products easily – you do not want to have to copy and paste them every week, especially if your range runs into the hundreds.
5. Customer Confidence
At some point, you are going to ask your customer to put his/her hand into their pocket – and this important step is where a lot of E-Commerce websites fall over. Ensuring that your shopping cart ticks all the right boxes when it comes to security goes a long way to gaining and maintaining your customers trust. To this end, it is important that your E-Commerce solution provides the means to demonstrate the steps that you have taken to safeguard the customers’ personal details. Items to consider here include SSL and PCI compliance certificates, the use of common/trusted payment gateways and privacy policies.
6. Incentives to Buy
Another valuable tip is to give your customer an incentive to buy. Although not always necessary, more and more E-Commerce websites are providing money-off coupons, loyalty schemes and up/cross sells in order to win the business. It is recommended that your E-Commerce solution has something up its sleeve to compete in this regard.
7. Checkout Process
The checkout process is a thing that is often over-looked by store owners, but can be the point at which your customer says ‘bye bye’ – so it does need to be configurable as a minimum. Ensure that whatever E-Commerce website you opt for allows you to configure or even by-pass the signing-up process … ask for too much information, or include too many steps and your customer will abandon the order. A lot of template E-Commerce websites use fixed forms or only allow for minor changes, be careful!
8. Feedback and Product Endorsement
Quality feedback is essential for so many reasons, as is, the ability for your customers to endorse your product by way of recommendations and testimonials. Not all E-Commerce solutions have the built-in ability to solicit for this vital information – ensure that yours does and reap the rewards!
9. Order Fulfilment
Unless your products or services are virtual, you will need to include shipping and carriage – this can result in resentment if you overcharge or provide a poor, restricted delivery service. This can lead to bad press or even order abandonment if you get it wrong. Any E-Commerce solution that you choose should have integrated order fulfilment that you can configure and, it needs to be as robust as is possible providing the customer with options. Provide your customers with several affordable delivery options and safeguard the order. Your E-Commerce website needs to allow you to offer variety or run the risk of loosing the order.
10. After Sales Strategy
Our final tip in respect to choosing the right E-Commerce website is to choose one that allows you to easily access the customer information gleaned from the sale. This is important information that can be used for after sales campaigns – like new product advertising, future sales promotions and seasonal offers. Your E-Commerce solution should facilitate the export of customer information for use in external applications and provide integrated mailing functionality to compliment your after sales strategy.