- You Only Look As Good as Your Products
Have you ever gotten excited about a product listing, then clicked through to see a dingy picture that looks like someone took it with their old flip phone? It’s the quickest way to turn a buyer off, but it’s something that eCommerce sites do every day. The way your products appear on your site can dramatically affect sales. In an online environment, the images are the only way your customers have of judging how appealing the products – and, by extension, you – are. Professional photography is a relatively inexpensive step that will pay for itself very quickly, and a good web design company should be able to either provide you with professional photography in-house, or be able to recommend an excellent local option.
- Handle Your Shipping and Handling Everyone knows the feeling: You see a great deal online, and so you get excited, go to the site, create a profile, add to your cart, check out… and then see a mammoth shipping cost that makes the deal not look so great. Anyone who has had this experience, knows what comes next: you leave the site and never come back. And still, many e-retailers do not consider how they will address shipping until too late in the process. Does your system allow for different rates to different areas of the country? Can it integrate a UPS or FedEx API to make the label process easier? Are you using a fulfillment facility that has their own processes to incorporate? Do you even want to use variable shipping, or will a flat rate make more sense for your customers? Is there a handling charge, or is that simply incorporated into your rates? All of these questions should affect your eCommerce strategy, and should be asked of all of the eCommerce clients you are considering. Because the last thing you want to be is the site that sends those dejected customer fleeing.
- Sell like an E-Retailer, but Merchandise Like a Superstore Quick, what’s the most common impulse buy at WalMart? Answer: Bananas. No one goes in needing to buy them, but everyone walks out with them. In a brick-and-mortar superstore, placement is everything. Major companies pay top dollar for to keep their products in front of your face, whether at eye level or on endcaps or right next to the register. But many eCommerce sites just abandon this philosophy, and lose out on potential sales. Good eCommerce sites allow you to think strategically. Where on your site will you promote what? Is there seasonality to your promotions? Most importantly, do you have a system that lets you exercise the right level of control over your in-site merchandising efforts? Because, if not, then it might be time to ask yourself how many virtual bananas you’re not selling.
- Manage Your Inventory Before it Manages You Nothing alienates a customer more than being told the order she just placed won’t be shipped until weeks later. Wait, maybe there is: Not being told until after the order was supposed to arrive. Chasing sales you can’t fill is a fantastic way to do damage to your brand and ensure that your customers never turn into repeat customers. A good eCommerce site should let you manage inventory levels within it, so that neither you nor your clients are ever caught by surprise. You should be able to set stockout levels, reorder reminders, and any other tool that will help you ensure you’re always filling orders to keep customers smiling.
- Start Smart, But Get Smarter More and more, the difference between success and failure in eCommerce is not how much you spend, but how wisely you spend it. All the promotional efforts in the world won’t help if you aren’t able to see what is and isn’t working and adjust accordingly. Every dollar you spend on a keyword or campaign that doesn’t drive sales is a dollar you don’t have to actually grow your business. Your eCommerce system should enable the creation of discount codes, landing pages, and analytics, so that you know how and why your customers found you. By tracking which efforts pay off in sales, and which ones do not, you can make sure your marketing dollars go farther.
- Prepare for PR Success There are a million clichés about success being harder to deal with than failure. From your site’s standpoint, that’s definitely the case! As an entrepreneur, public relations is a big part of your marketing strategy, and when your hard work pays off, you need a site and platform that can handle the traffic. A flood of customers to a crashed website will not help your sales or your brand. Your eCommerce solution should function in a scalable hosting environment, and your web team needs to be working with you, aware of and ready for all of your television, radio and media appearances. Otherwise, your success in generating buzz will just result in your site’s failure to stay online.
- Be Able to Take People’s Money The entire sales process is consummated at the moment the customer sends you his money. But for some reason that is exactly the point in the process many eCommerce entrepreneurs know the least about. There are many merchant services providers out there, and choosing the correct one often comes down to thinking about your business’ needs before you establish your web store. Third-party payment gateways may appear simple, but if the costs of integrating them and their fees cut into your margins, how much is that simplicity worth? If your business model involves customer loyalty and repeat business, the extra expense of storing credit cards in your site may be a necessary and valuable one. If, on the other hand, your product is one like baby monitors, which is usually purchased once, then it may not make sense to take on the liability of storing cards. No matter what, your web development team should be able to help you make the right decisions for your business.
- The Early SEO Bird Gets the Crowds Imagine a gorgeous office, complete with a showroom and everything your customers could ever want. Now imagine that same office in the middle of the woods, with no road to it and no sign on the nearest highway. Something wrong with that picture? Yet that is exactly what many people do when they build a beautiful Website without putting any effort into making sure people can find it. If you’re not listed in the appropriate directories and targeting the right keywords to make sure your SEO is helping you stay visible, you’re missing out on potential business. And the sooner you start, the less it costs to be in the right place at the right time. SEO is an ongoing marketing process, but the right team can help you decide where to prioritize your efforts and effect noticeable sales gains while staying on budget.