27 Apr 2012

How to build a good ecommerce site

There are two main parts to selling online:
1.      Getting people to your site
2.      Selling to them once they get there. 

Both need a combination of technical and marketing skills. So either you need to acquire the skills, or buy someone in to help. 

There are already millions of people on the web — in the UK , the figure is around 20% of the population. These people will shop online if it is easier or cheaper. The question is whether you can put a proposition in front of them which is attractive. If you can, they will buy.
Not surprisingly, therefore, the one thing successful ecommerce sites have in common is that they are well marketed. How you market your commerce site must be foremost in your mind and this means knowing who your customers are and understanding their needs.
The key to business success is to think of the customer. Your online shop will be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so the convenience factor will lead to more sales. People will also buy because of the couch potato syndrome. There are no parking problems or rainy days buying online.

First steps
The first question to ask is whether your products and services can be sold from a web site. Probably the best way to assess their suitability for ecommerce is to consider their suitability for mail order — the same motivations and limitations apply. For instance, people use mail order because it is convenient — the same applies in ecommerce. For some companies the weight and price of their products make delivery charges too expensive to consider — the same applies to ecommerce. However, creating and publicising an e-commerce site is much less expensive than publishing and distributing a mail order catalogue.
Setting up a sales web site is like ordering a new line from BT. Sitting by the phone doesn’t make sales - your prospects need your number first. So web site promotion is the crucial ingredient. If nobody visits, nothing will sell.
There are lots of ways of promoting your web site. The most basic is to make sure that your site address appears on every piece of paper that your business produces. If your web site offers an improved service to existing customers, you must tell them, maybe even through a snail-mail shot.
Ironically, there is some evidence that traditional marketing (advertising, promotion etc.) is more effective at generating online sales than internet-based methods. It’s crucial to integrate the promotion of your web site with the rest of your business.
The most attractive and convenient option for publicising your site is on the web itself. By definition, everyone who sees your publicity is on the Net is a prospect. There are various ways of doing this and not one alone should be relied on. For best results use a combination of methods. Favourites include:
  • Registration with search engines which is like adding your own details to the web business indices, such as Google, MSN and Yahoo! This is relatively straightforward to achieve, but the downside is that you are listed alongside every other Net retailer on the planet.
  • Arranging with non-competing sites to have mutual links — they add a link to your site and you add a link to theirs.
  • Contributing to Newsgroup discussions where you can include link back to your site in your signature.

  • Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising such as Google Adwords 

  • Email campaigns – however be careful not to spam and ensure everyone one you are sending to has subscribed and has the option to unsubscribe or opt out of your mail-shots.

  • Social Media Marketing – get online at Facebook and twitter and communicate directly with your customers and potential customers 93% of social media users believe a company should have a presence in social media, according to Cone, while an overwhelming

  • Employ Search Engine Optimisation professionals to optimise your site content and keywords and provide advice on other areas in which you can improve.

  • Uploading your products to Google Shopping Results

The Value of Content & Marketing
We know you are selling products and this is your main content but don’t rely on this alone. Create other content that engages your users.
Content is still key to any website regardless of the nature of it so don’t only create other content to engage optimise what product content there is already as well. Create “user-centric” product descriptions for example that are designed to speak directly to your customer base. Do keep in mind however that you need to do some market research to gain an indepth knowledge of the exact audience you are targeting. At the same time optimise your descriptions to include keywords which describe your products for search engines.
Here’s an example of a user-centric written product description we found online.

The product description assumes that the reader knows a specific set of jargon: How many non-yoga participants would know what downward-dog means? Or “pipes”, as the “Key Features” section refers to arms? This content drives right to the needs and preferences of a very specific user. She wants warmth (four of the “Key Features” note the thermal quality of the product), convenience (pre-shrunk fabric, easy layering), and motivation for an active lifestyle (she recognizes the yoga jargon and enjoys giving her “pipes some air time”).
A rich understanding of the user has made this product page effective and delightfully specific to both the user and the brand.
While a user-centric consideration of product pages is not the only way to go, it does provide a focused approach that has appeared to be effective for some pretty successful e-commerce players. Consistency in product pages is key, especially when building a brand’s presence; a reliable guide can ease the writing process. The user-centric method does require some primary research, but this lays a sturdy foundation by which to gauge every bit of content on the page according to how it benefits the user.
Your goal should not be to sell products, but to sell benefits.
We cannot talk about user experience without touching on content and social media (SoMe). In order to be profitable, eCommerce retailers need to engage customers with their content and use social media outlets within and outside their own websites.
93% of social media users believe a company should have a presence in social media, according to Cone, while an overwhelming 85% believe a company should not only have a presence in but also interact with its consumers via social media.
  • 60% of all online adults use social media.
  • 85% believe a company should not only have a presence in but also interact with its consumers via social media.
  • 56% of users feel a stronger connection with, and feel better served by, companies when they can interact with them in a social media environment.
When a website such as Facebook, which just turned 5 years old in February, has an active user base of over 175 million people, it is easy to see the unlimited potential to increase your wallet share simply by giving your customers what they want. Some options are:
  • Give your customer the ability to add your website or product detail pages to websites such as Delicious, StumpleUpon, Digg, Twitter and Facebook.
  • Give them the ability to customize their experience on your website. These experiences can range from customizing the home page as they see fit to uploading their image to go beside their product reviews.
  • Create an RSS feed for your website. If your website has a blog or some other content area that changes regularly, give your customers the option to add it to their favorite RSS reader.
They say, “Content is king,” but if you cannot account for your king’s whereabouts, he needs to be beheaded. Your website’s content is only as relevant as its success. So, test as much as you can. Some tests you can perform to get hard data include:
  • Website and email A/B testing
    Split your promotion views between your customers. 50% see version A, and 50% see version B. You can perform these tests for just about any purpose, but make sure your goals are clear before beginning. Figure out what you are trying to solve, and then move forward with the testing. From changing your website’s navigation to simply testing the style of your promotion’s copy, doing an A/B test will give you the relevant data you need to decide whether to update or remain the same.

  • Polls
    Polls are quick and simple but, depending on your pool of users, can give you mountains of data. To get more people to take your poll, consider giving some kind of incentive to participate. Some polls are fun to take, but if you’re asking, “Which brand of television is better?” and not, “Who’s hotter, Jessica Simpson or Britney Spears?” then you may want to think more carefully about how much the feedback is worth.

A good ecommerce site
From our experience most people would define a good site as one that makes plenty of sales or at least adds weight to their existing retail store.
So how can we achieve this? The answer is so obvious that it’s painful, and so little practised that it’s agonising. It’s simply that a sales site should sell from the moment that you arrive. You’ve got to answer the question that everyone has in their mind when they get to your site. What’s in it for me?
So sell on benefits. Why should people buy from you? Are your prices the lowest? Is your service the best? Do you have the largest range available? They won’t buy just because the design looks cool, although they might be put off if it’s so bad that you seem incompetent.
Here are some of more tips for a successful ecommerce site.
  • Keep the clicks to a minimum – this is primarily down to your product groups and navigation so bear this in mind when building
  • Start selling as soon as possible when people reach your site.
  • Address people’s concerns. Some people are worried about credit card security, so reassure them. Some won’t ever buy by credit card over the net, so give them an alternative. Provide a physical address and telephone number as this builds confidence and trust.
  • Keep on asking the question, what would I want if I were the buyer?

Everything comes with a cost tag, and the web is no different, despite what you might have heard. The main cost related issue is don’t scrimp on marketing.
You should be able to have a sales web site developed for you at around £5,000 plus annual costs of less than £1000. The cost of marketing is on top of this, and depends on the target market, type of product and just how far that you want to go. However, it’s a useful rule of thumb that you need to spend more money on marketing than on the technology. If you expect bespoke ecommerce features in your web-shop expect to pay several thousand pounds worth of development costs on top, or develop them at a later date when your shop has started in bringing money to pay for them.

 Instant fortune?
The internet does not provide a shortcut to an instant fortune. However, like many new technical developments, it does present some serious business opportunities.
It won’t be long before having an online sales capability is as ordinary as a fax machine, and it will be unthinkable to be without one. The only question is whether to leap today or play catch-up tomorrow.
This article has been written by Easitill to try and educate our potential and existing customers.
If you wish to discuss any of this any further with us, please contact us on 01604 881881.