The internet has become a popular place to purchase all sorts of products and services – it’s easy to do research and fast to make a purchase without ever having to leave your home. And the online shopping experience has become more and more popular with businesses too. But running a successful ecommerce website isn’t as simple as adding a purchase button to your homepage. You need a strategy and the tools to create a great ecommerce experience for your customers. And that’s just what we’ll discuss below.
What is an Ecommerce Website?
An ecommerce website is simply a webpage where people can purchase goods or services. It’s a short definition, but it covers a very wide range of businesses. It can refer to huge international corporations like Amazon and Alibaba, but it can also be the pet store down the street that offers cute dog collars in an online shop.
Ecommerce is important for businesses in most industries for one simple reason – consumers are increasingly used to making a huge variety of purchases online. This trend is growing rapidly. And many retailers in industries that have been slow to adopt online sales have fallen behind. Just a few years ago, mattress sales were an in-store only experience. But now consumers have several choices of online companies they can buy a new mattress from, in the comfort of their own homes and on their own schedule.
Building a Successful Ecommerce Site
An ecommerce website is more than just your current website with a few product pages or a “buy now!” button. The most effective ecommerce sites provide an easy, seamless, friendly journey from the first click to the final purchase. A successful site will look different for every company and industry, but they all have several elements in common.
An ecommerce site is much more than just a place to display your products or describe your services. It’s more than just a place to tell your customers how wonderful and innovative your goods or company are. To get potential customers to actually make a purchase, you need to tell them how it will improve their lives, fill a desire, or solve a pain point for them.
A Thoughtful User Experience
The bar for ecommerce sites is set very high these days. Why? Because customers are comparing the experience they have on your website not just to your industry competitors, but to their previous purchase experiences generally. That means your small business is being compared to the Amazon website, the Uber app, and other sleek, user-friendly purchase portals.
That might sound intimidating, and it’s certainly a reason to step up the user experience on your website. But with the proliferation of ecommerce website builders these days, even the smallest business can have a website that’s easy to use and delights customers.
A Simple Purchase Process
The goal of an ecommerce site is to first convince your visitors they need what you’re selling, and then to make the purchase process as easy and friction-free as possible. If you force consumers to go through a confusing check-out process, you’ll end up with frustrated users and plenty of abandoned carts full of products. Be careful when researching payment gateways to use on your site, as you want one that is free of glitches and frequent down-time. Those will all hurt your conversion rates.
Setting Up Your Ecommerce Website
Now that you know the basics that make up a great ecommerce site, how can you begin building one of your own? There’s no one formula for a successful ecommerce site. But the basics are the same for almost everyone. If your business plans to set up a new ecommerce site, here’s what you need to do.
Set Up Your Site
WordPress sites offer the most customization and flexibility of the widely-available website builders. After you pick the website host that works for you, most will let you install WordPress with just one click. Set up your homepage with content that speaks to the needs of your visitors and tells them exactly what they need to do to make a purchase, and why it will benefit them. You can use a WordPress theme that lets you drag and drop items to create the perfect website pages – no coding experience required.
You should optimize the SEO of your homepage, of course. But don’t ignore the overall ecommerce SEO either. Be sure each product has its own product page, and include detailed descriptions of each one. This will help search engine users find your products easily. Include high-quality photos, especially if you’re selling products. You want your site to look polished and professional. This helps cement you as a trustworthy source in the eyes of your customers, which is critical because they can’t try your products before they make a purchase like they can in a store.
Set Up Your Payment System
The popularity of ecommerce sites is beneficial – it means there are many user-friendly options to add payment gateways to your website. Shopify is the best-known platform for this – they make creating a beautiful site that engages customers and expedites the purchase process easy. WooCommerce is another popular option. Be sure to check out any transaction fees before you commit to a payment system so you don’t lose too much profit on each sale.
Always test the system before you go live – what happens when you add products to your online shopping cart on your site? Is it smooth and easy, or confusing to find payment info or to complete the purchase? Are there any pain points that will lead to customers abandoning their shopping carts or your site?
A Customer Service Plan
When a customer is making a purchase in a store, it’s easy for them to ask questions and find information on the product before they buy, or to ask for help after a purchase. With ecommerce, it’s more difficult since they’re not interacting with a person. You need to have a system in place to answer questions from potential customers and deal with complaints from current ones.
Live chat systems are becoming more commonplace and can be helpful if your prospects tend to ask a lot of questions before making a purchase. This is common if you sell services or a more complicated product. You can also have a customer service phone number, or an email address. Just be sure to check it quickly and respond promptly.
Many companies now include social media as part of their customer service efforts. Customers will sometimes leave feedback and negative comments on a company’s Twitter feed or Google Reviews, and you want to be sure to respond to those professionally and promptly too.
Your ecommerce website should have some way of letting your prospects know you’re a trusted business that customers like them love. This is very important on the internet, where shady companies and low-quality products abound. You can build this credibility by having testimonials from satisfied customers on your homepage. You can also include product reviews on each product page so customers know how people like them rated your products.
Providing clear information on your return policies and a guarantee of satisfaction or quality can go a long way to building credibility as well. Customers are more likely to make a purchase if they know you stand behind your products. And it reduces their risk of sinking money into a faulty purchase.
A Complete Digital Marketing Plan
Your ecommerce site will only be as successful as your digital marketing plan. After all, your target audience can’t become customers if they can’t find your website. Your ecommerce digital marketing strategy should have multiple ways to get users to your site and the excellent copywriting to convert them to a sale.
Your marketing tools should include a way to get visitors to your site, a way to nurture them until they make a purchase, and a way to retain them as loyal customers. This will help your new site succeed and grow your sales.
Paid ads are a fast way to get visitors to your site, either from search engine traffic or social media ads. But those costs add over time, so it’s not the best strategy for the long-term. You should also optimize all your content for SEO, whether you have a blog or just your product pages. SEO doesn’t work overnight, but it brings in an ever-increasing amount of visitors to your site without any financial investment.
Nurture to a Sale
It’s just a fact – most people who visit your site for the first time won’t make a purchase. It’s not because they aren’t interested or good prospects. They get busy, or distracted, or decide to do more research before giving you their credit card information. That’s why you need to have a nurture marketing plan – email automation is perfect for this task.
You can set up emails to go out to any visitor who has filled and then abandoned a shopping cart, or to a new visitor who has signed up for email updates from your brand. And set up an email series to periodically remind them of those great products they browsed, until they’re ready to make a purchase.
Retain Your Customers
One loyal customer who returns again and again to your business brings you added revenue without adding marketing costs. Email automation comes in handy here too – send thank you emails and referral offers to your loyal clients. You can ask your best customers to leave you reviews on Google, Yelp, or other sites that work for your business. That helps you attract even more new customers without high marketing costs.
Excellence in Ecommerce
Ecommerce websites have a lot of moving parts, but just one simple purpose – to get site visitors to make a purchase or become a customer. With thoughtful use of technology and a focus on a great customer experience, you’re well on your way to reaping the benefits of internet sales. Ecommerce is only getting more popular – don’t miss out!
Get Expert Ecommerce Help
Building a flawless and effective ecommerce site isn’t easy – but it’s essential to the health of your business. If you need expert guidance and a site that works for you, contact us. At ContentFirst.Marketing, we build ecommerce sites that drive sales and bring in customers for hundreds of businesses just like yours. Schedule your free business review today to find out more.