The high street may be declining in sales but ecommerce is booming as more and more companies set up online and find consumers love the convenience of shopping from the sofa.
If you are thinking of getting a slice of the action then this blog may help. Over the months I will be giving some top tips for getting up and running with ecommerce.
Will ecommerce work for you?
The answer depends on what goods you are selling. The web works for things that customers do not need to touch, taste or smell before buying, and which carry a fixed price, It also works well for specialist/niche products that are hard to find on the average high street, e.g. if you focus on just titanium jewellery as mumpreneur, Helen Beer did on one of her sites, Quality-Titanium.co.uk .
Do your homework
As with anything, preparation is key; talk to existing etailers (and especially other mumpreneurs), go to small business exhibitions and read about ecommerce – there are plenty of sites giving advice to entrepreneurs, including this one.
Which ecommerce system to pick
There are many ecommerce platforms out there, but deciding which one is tricky. There are two main options: desktop applications (like my company’s) and cloud-based solutions.
Generate a checklist of things you would like your ecommerce store to be able to do e.g. take payments, accept telephone as well as online orders, allow customer reviews/feedback and have built-in order processing and email marketing. This will make choosing a platform a lot easier.
There are various payment methods to choose from, and it’s sometimes overwhelming to think about which to go with.
PayPal is the most popular payment method. Online stores who start accepting PayPal payments, see their sales increase by around 10%, so it’s well worth the minimal effort to have it as a payment option.
However, I recommend that you always have a backup as some customers won’t have a PayPal account. There are a variety of payment methods to choose from, including:
- Sage Pay
- World Pay
- Realex Payments
- Google Checkout
- Card Save
Some ecommerce platforms also provide their own payment methods, e.g. my company has SellerDeck Payments as an option.
Choosing what to sell
One of the main reasons for customers to order online is convenience. If you have an existing business, you are already committed to a certain area of the market and you probably have a good idea as to whether your products/services will sell well online or not.
If you are starting from scratch, then you want to pick something you’ll enjoy selling. It means that coming up with ideas on how to sell to your target audience will be easier and you will know what your customers are after.
Don’t forget to take a look at your competition. See how you can differentiate yourself and what they are charging.
Attracting and converting visitors are top priorities
It is all very well opening an online shop, but you need to think about how customers are going to find you and how you will convert them to buyers.
Search engines are the number one source of new visitors, so you need to understand how they work. Unfortunately, search engine marketing (SEM) is technical and can take some time to master. However, it isn’t too tricky to cover the basics and any reputable ecommerce system should give you the main ones, making things simpler.
Pay-per-click (PPC) marketing is worth learning about as while there is enormous potential for spending large amounts of money, it can also attract a lot of visitors quickly. PPC is run via Google Adwords; you can find out more with the Google Step by Step guide.
Online ‘talking shops’: As well as participating on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc, seek out specialist forums and blogs in your sector and monitor these for opportunities to post questions or useful comments. Insert a web link at the end occasionally, and that will help boost awareness and search engine rankings.
To convert your visitors into buyers the best advice I can give is to think about what you would expect from shopping online. For instance, having a streamlined checkout that minimises the amount of time your customers spend placing an order and not asking people to register before they can buy. Or having a postcode finder (e.g. Postcode Anywhere) will enable your customers to fill in their address quickly, minimising the chance of user error.
This is by no means a full checklist of what to consider when starting an online business, but there will be further pointers in future posts. If you can’t wait, then get a copy of Chris Barling’s latest book, The Insider’s Guide to Ecommerce from www.sellerdeck.co.uk/insider.
Have a go, you’ll find it’s child’s play!