Internet has changed many things in our lives. One of the biggest shifts in the consumer’s behavior also happened because of the Internet. Every year more and more shoppers go online. E-commerce websites pop up like mushrooms after the summer rains. People go sell and buy online multiple products what makes E-commerce sites a really handy solution for both sides of a deal.
The trend is huge and no entrepreneur can ignore it. Thus, any business owner that runs a website and aims to sell things online should know perfectly how to create a successful E-commerce website, what should be included in its structure and what tools can help in pursuing this goal.
Benefits of an E-commerce Website
Many website owners wonder if they can afford an online store. The truth is that today pretty anyone can afford running an E-commerce website. It costs less than running an offline outlet and there are many reasons to it:
- You don’t have to rent an office to store all your goods and sell them to public;
- You don’t have to hire a large staff of workers for running your store;
- You don’t have to worry about burglars and robbers;
- You can run your store from any place where the Internet is.
Anyone can start an online store because there are far fewer risks that in creating a working offline one. Of course, there are pitfalls that any startuper should foresee and try to avoid. Let’s check out the main characteristics a good E-commerce site should bear as well as means and tools that should help any business owner to create one.
Where to Start
First, you should carefully consider what you are to sell and how. Will it be your own product or reselling of other’s goods. Many online stores collaborate with other businesses reselling their products like shoes (Zappos), clothes (Target, 6PM), various stuff (Amazon).
Another essential factor for E-commerce store is whether you will be selling physical or digital goods, or both. Thus, if you are to run a bookstore, you can sell printed and digital versions of the same book or magazine.
If you are to sell only digital products, it saves you some resources because you don’t have to set up physical delivery – clients can download files instantly from your website or a third-party source without having to ways for days. And, of course, it saves you and your client money – there’s no need to pay shipping fees.
Choose a Platform
After you come up with the basic questions about products, there is one that will define the entire look and functionality of your E-commerce store. You should decide a platform for running your online store. You can choose hiring a web designer or a studio for creating a website from scratch. It will cost you good money but you can make this website look and perform the way you like.
Another solution that will be more to like to small business owners and startups is using more handy and easy-to-use solutions like CMSs. CMS (content management system) is great in providing its users with nice customizable templates, comfy admin panel and the great number of tools and plugins for creating a fully-functional E-commerce website. There are dozens of CMSs for various needs, but the most popular and functional are the following ones:
- WordPress. The most popular CMS that is familiar for a huge community of website owners. It has multiple free and paid themes you can use for the layout of your website. Choose a org for creating an E-commerce site (WordPress.com has some limitations that will not allow you to get a fully-functional inline store). It requires you to install special plugins for adding a shopping card to the website;
- Shopify. Another popular platform for creating and running an online shop. Unlike WordPress, it is a SaaS service what makes Shopify a great and easy-to-setup online solution for E-commerce websites. All themes on Shopify are made with an E-commerce functionality in mind, so you don’t have to install additional plugins;
- MotoCMS 3 Ecommerce. This relatively new website builder offers cool website designs solutions and has recently created a sleek E-commerce plugin that allows you to create an online store of any template that MotoCMS offers. One of the greatest things about this plugin is its full responsiveness what makes your website extremely flexible and handy to use on any device;
- WooCommerce. Actually, it is a WordPress plugin that you should install to your WP website to run a store. Thus, you get the entire functionality of WordPress with the ability of selling products;
- Magento. It is a famous platform for online stores. But it has many drawbacks that you should consider before using it for your business. It is hard to customize, but if you manage to tweak it to your needs it will become a great platform for running your online business.
Don’t forget to choose a reliable hosting provider to keep your E-commerce website safe. And get a catchy and competitive domain name to be easily found among many other brands.
Choose a Design
Your online store design should meet not just your requirements. It should come up well to users’ expectations. Thus it should be both – user-centered and commercially oriented. In many cases these two points coincide. Without great usability your website will lose its visitors and, as a result, you will lose your customers.
- Your E-commerce store should be consistent and balanced from top to bottom. It’s great when a website’s structure guides a user from the beginning to the end and, what’s more important, serves the owner’s goal: make a user to perform a purchase;
- Call-to-actions. The E-commerce website should have clear and engaging call-to-actions. If your CTA buttons are too obtrusive, it may scare a customer away. If they’re too subtle – visitors may fail to notice it. Here’s how HubSpot team explains the use of calls-to-action for eCommerce websites;
- Product choice. It may surprise you, but the surveys show that people are more likely to buy from narrower choice of products. When you offer your visitors too many different product options it may lead to sales drop;
- Offer users’ testimonials and reviews on your product pages. It’s a great opportunity to create trust and increase sales;
- Buying process. Try to make this process as easy as it’s possible. Remove unnecessary and frustrating fields from the checkpoint, don’t add too many steps before the actual purchase.
And one more very important thing: your online store should definitely be responsive! Online shoppers more and more use their smartphones and tablets to perform purchases. It’s claimed that tablet owners spend 50% more that PCusers. So you should make sure your website looks and can be easily used on any device.
Your checkout process should be really easy to perform and requiring no more than 2-3 steps. Choosing the right payment provider is essential. It’s a service that will run your money (and money of your customers), so you should find the most reliable and handy to use one. The popularity of service is also important. Choosing one of the most famous and trusted services you make it easier for your customers to purchase from you.
Factors to consider when selecting the payment solution for your website:
- Most platforms often include the most popular payment services in their E-commerce plugins or options. In other cases you should check out if the service is compatible with your website;
- Considers if the service is available in your country or the countries you are focused on;
- What payment options those services offer, what fees they include etc.;
- As I already said, choose popular and reliable services with good customers’ feedback.
The most popular payment services you can choose from are the following:
- PayPal. Compatible with the most of E-commerce platforms. Available in a huge amount of countries. Besides that, many people already have their own PayPal accounts and find paying through this service very comfortable;
- 2Checkout. Another handy service that provides easy-to-deliver payments for its users. You can accept credit card payments and even PayPal payments through 2Checkout;
- Stripe. Popular service for most English-speaking countries (US, Canada, UK). Has many handy features including multi-currency support, discount management and high security protection;
- Google Wallet. A cool service from a famous IT giant that promises ease of use and great security.
Properly organized shipping is one of the most important points in E-commerce store. You should perfectly define the process of delivery of your products to your customers. It’s one of the most important factors in building brand engagement and receiving positive feedback. Users pay great attention to online shop services and shipping is on of those solutions that can affect their decision to buy from you. Thus, the statistics claim that many online shoppers will choose a free shipping option over a 10% discount.
One of the coolest solutions for online stores is dedicated shipping fulfillment services that can assume the burden of storing, packing and shipping your goods to customers. It saves you a lot of time you can spend on creating your marketing strategy or simply on improving your services.
If you run your E-commerce store on Amazon, you can use its Fulfillment by Amazon service. It includes picking up your goods, packing and delivering them to clients as well as handling further customer services like returning. If you run an E-commerce store on Shopify, you can use FBA as well, since it’s integrated with the platform’s admin panel.
Of course, there are far more points to consider when building an E-commerce website. Like all other websites, it should be well indexed to be found by search engines. You should build a well-thought out marketing strategy to bring in more customers and increase sales.
- Every website should build a good SEO strategy to appear higher in SERPs. It includes not just keywords but also link building and paid solutions like Google AdWords campaigns;
- You need to daily check out your online store’s performance. Google Analytics is the easiest way of getting a full info on traffic, visitors, actions etc.;
- Good marketing strategy helps you making your online business successful and your brand – renowned. If you have some extra money, you can use marketing automation solutions, like InfusionSoft or Customer.io, that offer many features for running your business – from campaigns organizing and sales managing to emails and social engagement;
- Social Media. Since social media channels today play huge part in building trust to a brand and even in sales improvement, your online store should be perfectly integrated with social media channels. Such tools like Buffer or HootSuite can help you with establishing a cool SMM strategy.
Creating a cool-looking and performing E-commerce website may seem a hard task. But if you have a well-structured plan in mind and aware of possible pitfalls, you can create a great online store with no significant efforts. Hope, this guide will help you in that.