The 5 things you need to know before building an ecommerce website…

When eCommerce emerged onto the retail landscape many businesses were worried about their sales and many thought that opening an online store would essentially cannibalise their bricks and mortar store. However, as eCommerce has grown over the past few years and is set to continue this trend over the next few years, retail ecommerce sales predicted to reach a total $14.52 billion, representing 5.6% of retail sales in Australia in 2018, many retailers are now looking to launch online.

Different eCommerce businesses will face different challenges and as such it can be hard to know where to start. Having said that there are some recurring themes to what other successful eCommerce retailers do which can work as a good framework for decision making before building your eCommerce website. Here’s a list of 5 things to consider and explore before building your website.

The right technology…

Making sure you have the right solutions in place is possibly one of the most, if not THE most, important decisions you’ll make in relation to your online store. Choosing a system that integrates into your bricks and mortar store software is essential in making the management of your store simpler. It will also enhance your customer’s experience with your online store, ensuring that if they purchase an item online, they don’t find out the next day that you don’t have it!

The right technology will enhance your business not detract from it. "The real growth killer is when an online store owner is not running the right ecommerce software for their business," says Susan Delly of Zippy Cart in an article with Entrepreneur. "Your ecommerce software should be scalable, secure, user-friendly and have a solid set of conversion and marketing tools." Things to consider when searching for the right software include security, scalability, marketing tools, data capture and usability for both you and the consumer.

Ultimately the right tool will depend on what your needs are, so make sure you identify challenges and define your niche so that you find a tool to suit.

Simple checkout process

Whilst technology is the essence to the ‘behind the scenes’ of your eCommerce business – the checkout process is the essence to your ‘front of house’. The checkout process is crucial for success online and if poorly implemented nothing else will really matter.

When designing your checkout process it’s always a good idea to look at what some of the best online retailers do and what their contact points are. A good place to start is with Smart Company’s Top 20 Online Retailers. Going through a checkout with other retailers helps you define what you like and don’t and what you find easy, difficult or frustrating.

After doing this you’ll have a clearer idea of what makes this process simpler as a customer and while there are many factors that contribute to a great checkout experience some of the top things to keep your eyes on are:

  • Speed – How long does it take to load? Do you start thinking about refreshing/abandoning?
  • Guest Checkout – not everyone will want to create an account and this can be a reason for people to abandon their cart before completing
  • Reduce the number of steps & incorporate progress indicators.
  • Have clear policies & fees. Over 56% of consumers will drop off at ‘hidden fees’. Reduce objections with clear policies and fees as early as possible – ideally before they hit the checkout. Make sure your default shipping option is the cheapest.
  • Provide payment options. Customers like choice – make sure you enable customers to pay by incorporating a variety of payment options.

Multi-channel strategy

Providing exceptional customer service is critical to the success of your business – this applies to every channel. In an increasingly digital world where consumers interact with brands across multiple channels, exceptional customer service is as important as ever however it can take a little more consideration.

A multichannel strategy provides customers with a seamless shopping experience whether the customer is shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone or in a bricks and mortar store.

Consistency is the key to a multi-channel approach. Businesses should focus on uniting and aligning all their individual channels underneath a strong brand proposition and personality. This personality is then the flavour to all communications and conversations with the customer whether in person or virtual conversations.

Offsite Search (SEO)

A site without users is like a store without customers – a little useless. Considering that over 80% of Internet users use search (B2B Social Media Guide) and 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results (Hubspot), having a SEO strategy is essential to drive traffic to your website.

SEO is the process of affecting visibility to a website or web page by affecting un-paid, organic search results (Wikipedia). Consumers trust organic search results more than paid advertising and in an increasingly competitive marketplace it is vital for all eCommerce retailers, especially new retailers entering the arena, to have a strong SEO strategy in place.

The specific algorithms that determine search engine rankings are comprehensive and largely unknown. There are many factors that contribute to an effective SEO ranking and eCommerce retailers should establish a relationship with a trusted SEO specialist who can guide them through the challenges and help them build a plan to suit their needs. This strategy and relationship should be established early in the planning of a new website.

The social impact…

Today’s shoppers are extremely aware of their reach of their voice. Whether positive or negative - one tweet, status update, or blog post can reach many people in a short amount of time.

Consumers use this conversation for reviews and feedback as part of the purchase process. By engaging in, reviewing and collecting social media information, you can use this information to frame your conversations with them.

According to a survey from Touch Agency, people are 75% more likely to buy from a brand they follow on Twitter. Shopify, reported in 2014 that eCommerce orders from social networking sites increased by 202%. Some of the main social media accounts to consider include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Like anything within your business strategy you should consider what platforms are the best match for your business as opposed to being on all of them half-heartedly.

When planning your eCommerce business some social integration techniques to consider include:

Social Login: Allows customers to login to your eCommerce site using their social media account. This can make registering faster and simpler for your customers and give you the added benefit of more information about your customers.

Reviews & Ratings: An increasingly important part of the purchase process now is ratings and reviews. Giving your customers a way of doing this through your site can enhance their trust in your site as well as potentially increase the average order value.

Social media is now a key channel in the lives of our consumers, therefore to engage with them it’s important to connect via channels they frequently use in a way they understand. Therefore investing in social media should be a key part of your online strategy.

eCommerce is an increasingly competitive landscape and retailers considering launching into it should make sure they appropriately consider the opportunities and threats prior to launching their site. One online strategy is no longer just an online strategy, just like a bricks and mortar strategy can no longer live in isolation of other channels. Brands need to deliver consistency across all channels and the individual strategies need to intertwine in order to deliver to customer’s expectations. For more information on how to optimise customer engagement in a multichannel world download our eBook here.