Get Your eCommerce Site Up and Running
Are you selling yourself – and your business – short when it comes to eCommerce?
If you still aren’t selling your products and services directly online, the answer is likely yes (although there are some rare exceptions where eCommerce capabilities aren’t necessarily needed i.e. businesses that cannot sell online due to the nature of their products or services). If you already have an eCommerce presence but aren’t maximizing it through effective hosting, marketing, social media activity or search engine optimization (SEO), then you’re also selling yourself short.
This post, the first of a two-part series, looks at how to set up your eCommerce site. The second will give you tips and tools to drive traffic to your eCommerce site through marketing, advertising and social media.
Your site has to be fast and reliable if you want customers to buy and then make repeat visits. When choosing a host, look at how much bandwidth is included. Many hosting services are included as part of an eCommerce website package, but if you choose a separate hosting service, make sure it’s compatible with any outside applications you plan to use, especially for payment processing.
A payments system
A key ingredient for any eCommerce effort is shopping cart software, which allows online customers to shop for items, pick payment options, calculate taxes and arrange shipping details. To ensure your business can accept credit card payments, you’ll likely also need a merchant account with your bank. Another requirement will be a payment gateway service, which verifies customer credit card information, accepts or declines each card and runs online orders through your merchant bank account.
Security is of utmost importance since purchases involving actual financial transactions will take place on your site. Make sure your service providers and software are secure socket layer (SSL) certified (that’s a security protocol for online credit card transactions) and also compliant with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS).
A great user experience
Don’t forget that your eCommerce site is a store that happens to be on the Internet. It should:
– Be aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate, just like a brick-and-mortar retail boutique.
– Showcase high-quality photos of your goods and services. If there are many colours, styles and models to choose from, then show that on your site.
– Feature suggestions about accessories or similar items they might also like to buy to up-sell to customers.
– Make it easy for shoppers to seal the deal by putting buy buttons on each page beside the merchandise.
– Use video to demonstrate how products work, how to install them, etc. As an added bonus, video helps your site rank higher in search results.
– Offer shoppers the convenience of various shipping options (you can charge more for quicker shipping timelines) and include your warranty and return policies.
– Include a place to post feedback about your merchandise and your site since many buyers look at product reviews before making a purchase. The feedback may not always be positive but you can use it to improve your site – and your business.
Analytics tools can track the amount of people visiting your eCommerce site, what they’re buying, when and where. Many hosting providers now include analytics as part of their eCommerce packages. You can also tap into analytics tools available on major search engines and social networks to see how shoppers are finding your site and sharing your content. The data can help you see what’s working in your eCommerce strategy – and what still needs work.
The bottom line
If your eCommerce site is slow, unreliable or hard to find, customers will simply buy from a competitor’s site. Products that combine many critical eCommerce tools together, such as Bell’s eCommerce Bundle, offer the value and convenience of one-stop shopping, so to speak. Don’t miss the next eCommerce post on ways to drive traffic to your site.
What tips or tools do you think are essential for launching an effective eCommerce site? Share your thoughts in our comments section below.