Six things to learn for your e-commerce experience

Here, Victoria Ward gives some tips on managing the first steps into e-commerce.

It’s a problem that many small businesses face. You’ve got a great product that you know would sell well online but you don’t have any experience with e-commerce. Launching an e-commerce site can be a difficult task particularly if you’re not very web savvy. However, with all the platforms and CMS systems available on the market, web stores are becoming more accessible for the average person.

A few years ago we went through the process of setting up an e-commerce platform for Airblast Eurospray Direct to sell their surface preparation and finishing equipment online and we picked up a lot of useful tips along the way which we’d like to share in the hopes that it will help other small businesses who are taking their first steps into the world of e-commerce.

Ready-made platforms

First off, you don’t need to shell out huge amounts of money for web designers and developers. There are a number of readymade e-commerce sites available which are much more cost effective than bespoke platforms. Sites, like Bigcommerce, Shopify, or WooCommerce for example, offer lots of functionality and are constantly being updated and built on through open source codes, plug-ins and add-ons. These sites generally have a range of professionally designed templates to choose from for both desktop and mobile devices.

Readymade platforms like these have become much more robust and flexible in recent years and are a godsend for those who lack the expertise or the funding to create a bespoke online platform. They can not only save you money when you’re starting out but can also get your business up and running faster.

Mobile optimisation

Tablets and mobile phones now play a vital role in e-commerce. One thing we learnt from our experience is the importance of ensuring your site is optimised for mobile platforms. Mobile users typically have different objectives than desktop users and this means they want information in quick and simple steps. According to the Huffington Post, research has shown that 57 per cent of mobile users will abandon your website if it takes more than three seconds to load and 30 per cent will abandon a purchase transaction. Therefore, you must aim to create a user experience that is streamlined and intuitive, plan your site layout and keep your pages to a minimum to ensure a mobile friendly user experience.

SEO

As the world of online retail continues to expand, more businesses than ever now have an online presence so it’s important to consider how you will stand out from your competitors.  Making sure your site is properly optimised for search is not just about ranking high on google across the board but making sure your site is the one users find at the most critical point in the buying process i.e. when they know what they want and are ready to make a purchase. This means being specific with your product titles and descriptions and enticing users to click on your link rather than anyone else’s. It is always good to plan a comprehensive SEO strategy before building your site so that you can tailor your content to your users and the search terms they will be using. It’s also important to keep content up to date and relevant to the user.

Understanding shipping costs

Planning and communicating your delivery strategy can be more complex than you think. Not only do you need to make sure that you are not making a loss when delivering items to customers but you’ll also need to consider how you’ll manage different sized items and different postage destinations through your site. Researching and comparing different couriers to find the best deal for the items you’ll be shipping could save you money and help to entice customers who might be charged more for delivery elsewhere. Some ready-made platforms have postage charges built in for the most commonly used delivery companies which can save you a lot of time and helps to avoid mistakes when it comes to calculating your shipping for each item. Whatever delivery method you use, the most important thing to remember is that you must make delivery charges clear to customers before they make a purchase.

Layout

The way you present your products online reflects the values of your business. If you upload low quality images and one sentence descriptions, it gives the wrong impression. Professional imagery and clear product descriptions are essential and the clarity, weighting and flow of product information are integral to how a customer expects to experience a product page. Your website is your showroom online and should show off your products and entice the user to buy them.

You also need to make sure users can find the product they’re looking for. If customers can’t find a product, they can’t buy it so rather than displaying all your products on one page, why not create different sub categories and list each product under these accordingly. Including a search bar is also a must for most e-commerce sites.

Method of payment

Before the launch it is vital to consider payment methods for customers. There are many different service providers who you can outsource to when managing online payments. It’s important to find a provider who is not only trusted but can be easily integrated into your platform.

You may also consider accepting online payments through PayPal or Propay, which provide an all in one solution and securely send and receive online payments. However, you should bear in mind that these services may charge a processing fee per transaction.

There are a huge number of factors to consider when going online and the above is intended to give you a brief overview. The key thing to remember is to pre-plan and research as much as you can, so that you don’t feel too overwhelmed by each process.

Victoria Ward is marketing assistant for workplaceproperty.com.

Further reading on e-commerce

Alan Dobie

Anya Feeney

Alan was assistant editor at Vitesse Media Plc (previous owner of smallbusiness.co.uk) before moving on to a content producer role at Reed Business Information. He has over 17 years of experience in the...

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