It is the dream of many to have their own little shop, a place where they can either sell the products that they are interested in, or selling products that they themselves have made. In the past, unless you were able to secure a bank loan or a gift from a rich relative in order to rent retail space, you needed to find a table at a Flea Market or an affordable space on a side street in order to hang up your sign and offer your wares.
With the advent of the World Wide Web, all manner of possibility opened up to everyone. The environment may have changed, but also, much has remained the same. The Main Street addresses have given way to the easy-to-remember and short domain names. The Flea Market tables are now Ebay or Etsy stores. The difference is in the potential – there is now the opportunity to reach far more people with your product offerings than ever before.
Therefore, it is crucial that you take these 5 things into consideration – whether you already have an e-commerce web site, or are looking to start one.
5. Keep Your Image Consistent
Your image, often referred to as your “brand”, needs to remain consistent across all of your interactions with potential and current customers. It starts with your logo, which should be professional in its appearance, and simple to reproduce in both black and white and color. Your logo is then used on your business cards, in your e-mail signature, in your advertising, and of course, on your web site.
In the same way that your logo should remain consistent, your e-commerce web site should as well. A color scheme should be chosen and used throughout the site. The color scheme and design of the web site should be compatible with the products that you are selling. The store should have an easy-to-understand structure that remains consistent and is easy to navigate. Don’t project one image on the home page of your store only to redirect the customer to another “shopping cart” web site that does not look anything like your home page, this serves only to confuse your potential customer.
4. Provide Offline Communication Options
While e-commerce stores offer many options for contacting the store owner, such as e-mail addresses, contact forms, and support tickets, you should never underestimate the value of being able to speak one-on-one with your customers. Providing a toll-free number for Customer Service on your web site shows your commitment to customer satisfaction, while providing a local number as well has its own benefits, which we will discuss in a later blog post. The ability to speak directly over the phone to a “live person” helps build trust and rapport which will only help your e-commerce store.
3. Use The Technology To The Benefit Of Your Customer
When creating a new e-commerce store, it is easy to get lost in the vast possibilities that the technology offers. You can be dazzled by many of the slick, fancy options that are available, but you should always ask yourself when considering what to include in your store – “How will this benefit my customer?”.
E-Commerce stores offer a wonderful tool – automation – which should be used to its fullest extent. At the very least, your store should e-mail a copy of the order to the customer, which contains a tracking number for their order and a link to the shipping company web site where their order can be tracked. However, this same automation can be used to send your customer a follow-up message to ask about their satisfaction in the product and the store, and provide them with a link and a phone number to contact someone if they are not satisfied. This feature will work on its own, with no time necessary on your part, and creates a lasting impression with your customer by showing that you care for them after the sale.
2. The Web Site Is Your Store Front, Make Sure It Looks Great
Many start-up e-commerce businesses worry about their costs, and rightly so. In the attempt to lower their costs, they make the mistake of using “free” shopping cart solutions, or web stores based on templates with a very low price tag. The old saying about being “penny wise and dollar foolish” certainly applies here.
Do not forget that in addition to having a great product, you need to have a great atmosphere in which to sell it. A shoddy web site is like the man on the street selling watches out of his overcoat – it doesn’t really matter if the watches are real or not, the transaction is suspect due to the presentation. Your e-commerce store will be asking visitors to give you their hard-earned money and personal information, and you need to project a professional image in order to win their business, or run the risk of being viewed as unworthy of their money.
1. Have a Simple and Secure Checkout Process
The focal point of any e-commerce store is the checkout process. This is where the critical exchange occurs – your customer’s money for your product. The checkout procedure needs to be as simple and straightforward as possible, or you run the risk of losing the customer. It is very, very easy for a customer to leave your web site so you need to make it equally easy for them to complete the checkout process.
While a one-page checkout solution is best, if your web site has a multiple-page checkout process, it is important to communicate to the customer how many steps there are and what step they are on currently. This will make the checkout process less daunting to the customer if they are aware of how long it is going to take. Do not ask the customer for more information than is absolutely necessary to complete the checkout process, which is typically payment information, billing address and shipping address.
Hopefully these 5 Crucial Things have helped you to understand some of the considerations when starting an e-commerce store, and will help you to be a success in your new online venture.