I have another guest post for you this week and it’s all about how to build a successful ecommerce website, quickly. Pascal Culverhouse, who managed to build what became the UK’s #1 website for online sales of electronic cigarettes in just 12 weeks, explains the basics of ecommerce in 2015.
The internet is a blessing for first-time entrepreneurs, as it’s possible to get an ecommerce site up and selling your product in a matter of weeks, all without breaking the bank. Yet at the same time, the competition has never been fiercer, and some commentators have estimated that up to 90% of new online businesses fail in their first year. A firm grasp of ecommerce is a key factor that separates the successes from the failures.
How to start building your own ecommerce website
If you have ambitions of making any kind of impact on your market, you will simply have to bite the bullet and hire a professional web developer. This can cost a significant amount of money, so those of you on a shoestring budget should ask around friends and family to see if you can find someone who may be willing to lend you their expertise on the cheap. If you have a lot of web experience, you may be able to build your own website for a fraction of the cost, but you might quickly wish you’d hired someone else if you run into significant coding issues! Using a “plug-and-play” website builder like Shopify is fine for smaller projects, but if you have big ambitions then you probably won’t want to use a system that may eventually end up feeling restrictive.
Make an excellent first impression
Engage your visitors from the moment they land on your page with a clear and compelling layout and some extraordinarily good photographs of your product. You should either be a professional photographer, hire a professional photographer, or otherwise have access to professional photographs of your product. Photographs need to be high-quality, and a zoom feature is highly desirable for maximum effect.
Have a unique selling point
Remember that there are at least 100,000 other ecommerce websites already. To survive in such a fiercely competitive environment, it is essential that you have a strong unique selling point (USP). In my own business, we were successful not only because we were offering a relatively new product, e-cigs, but also because we were the first place that sold every major brand of e-cig in one place, and shipped them quickly. You should be able to say in one sentence what makes you unique from the competition – and research the market thoroughly to be sure that this is the case.
There’s no time like the present
What’s unique today may be ubiquitous tomorrow, so time is of the essence if you think you have a new idea. Your business plan will never be perfect, the timing is never ideal, but the day that you first open for business will always be the most important day in your company’s history. For ecommerce, this often means working very closely with your web developer and not letting deadlines slip. If you can afford to do so, bringing your own project manager onboard is the best way of getting things done on time.
Remove barriers to payment
Your website exists for one reason only: to convert visitors of your website into paying customers. To maximise your conversions, you must make it so easy to buy your product that a ten year old could do it. That means that your website must be quick and clear, that there need to be multiple payment options that are easy to use, and that shipping fees need to be easy to understand. A customer should be able to go from the landing to page to making a payment in under ten clicks.
Develop a successful shipping strategy
Customers love free shipping even more than they love fast shipping, so think carefully about whether your budget can stretch to accommodate this perk. If you offer free shipping, this feature should be written loud and proud where ever you can tastefully do so, and the same applies to next day delivery. Shipping is where so many ecommerce sites fall down because it is so hard to compete with the major players for cost and speed of delivery. If you can’t afford to offer free shipping on every purchase, think about rewarding customers who spend a certain amount with free shipping instead. This has the added advantage of encouraging shoppers to make that one extra purchase in order to qualify for free shipping.
Your customers want to buy your products with their mobile, so enabling them to do so is a no-brainer. Around a third of online sales are made on mobile devices, and that number looks set to increase in 2015. Couple that with Google’s ‘mobilegeddon’ update which penalises websites that are not mobile-friendly, and you’ll quickly realise why websites that aren’t mobile-friendly are becoming a rarity.
Understand internet marketing
Your website will live or die by its position on Google, with the three highest ranked websites getting roughly 90% of all of the clicks. SEO, or search engine optimisation, is the art of doing everything possible to convince Google to move your website higher up the rankings. There are hundreds of ways to move your website up the rankings, and easily thousands of ways to cause your website to plummet. Being aware of the key “dos” and “don’ts” of SEO is the absolute minimum – ideally you’d hire a reputable SEO company to start you out in the right direction.
We’ve just scratched the surface of how ecommerce works in 2015, but hopefully reading over these pointers will inspire you to get started on your own online business armed with at least the basic knowledge that you’ll need to succeed.