By: KC Morgan
E-commerce is no longer just a trend. It’s part of the online world which is definitely here to stay. These days, people use e-commerce for everything from holiday gifts to re-decorating an entire home. It’s popular, it’s profitable and it’s predominant on the Internet. But is it something you can do, too? Could you run an e-commerce site of your own?
There are quite a few astoundingly good examples of successful e-commerce. The success of Amazon.com, eBay and other buying sites makes a great argument for giving online selling a try. But for every impressive success story, there are many less widely-known failures. There’s no way to guarantee success with online selling, but there are a few tools you can use to greatly increase your chances. Before you get started, find out what you need to make it happen. What does it take to run an e-commerce site?
It wouldn’t be e-commerce without something to sell. Whether you create, re-sell or trade, you’ll want eye-catching displays for every single one of your products. Include everything you offer. The great thing about online shopping is that all the products you might contrive to sell – no matter the amount – fit into virtual pages. You don’t have to build handsome showrooms and display cases, because straightforward HTML will do the trick. You can fit everything on a single site.
Displaying your products can be a monumental undertaking, however. For starters, you want to make sure all the product pages of your site are consistent. They should look exactly the same but for the product and product descriptions offered. Keep photographs the same size when possible, using the same background and fonts throughout. A consistent display will give your pages a professional, put-together look. Make sure the name of your site (and any corresponding logos or graphics) is visible on every page, because you always want your traffic to know where they are.
Every product should have its own full-color picture and description. You can be as flowery or concise in this descriptive text as you like, but be sure to make the key features easy to spot. Customers will want pertinent information such as price, size, color availability, etc. Make sure these important details are easy to pick out.
Navigation should be one of your biggest concerns when putting together an e-commerce site. You want your pages to draw customers in and keep them browsing. Nothing turns the traffic away quite like poor site navigation. It’s much too easy to simply give up on one site and move on quickly to another, so put a good deal of effort into easy navigation. Remember, you site should be easy enough for a small child to use (or even a technically-challenged adult).
It’s a good idea to include a toolbar with links to all the available product categories. You will also want to include a search bar feature on your pages, a tool which allows visitors to quickly search for exactly what they want. Make their experience quick and simple, and your traffic will keep coming back for more.
When talking e-commerce, some things are obvious. You know you’ll need to display products and offer simple, well-laid-out pages that can be navigated with ease. You know you’ll need to have a shopping cart and checkout procedure so your customers can quickly purchase what they need. But the world of e-commerce is broad, and there’s a vast number of buying features you might offer. There are some you should definitely consider if you want to give your commerce efforts a great chance of success.
Gift Registry and Gift Options
Buying online for oneself is common, but it’s also an incredibly easy way to produce gifts for all those friends and family members out there. Offer options like wrapping and personalized messages so customers can easily shop for others. You may also think about including a gift registry which allows people to pick and choose products they’d like others to buy for them. One registry alone can create a great number of sales, and having the option could take your e-commerce site to the next level of success.
Be sure to give your customers different payment options. Common online payment methods include PayPal, credit cards and secure online check. Give them a wide variety, because every customers will want to feel as though they’re receiving a customized experience. No matter what you offer, make sure you give customers an easy payment process. They’ll want to fill in as little information as possible, because the Internet is all about speed and getting things accomplished quickly.
You may want your site to remember repeat customers, keeping their billing information and past purchases “on file,” so to speak. By requiring your buyers to register a user account, you can keep track of any regulars you may be getting. Often, these customer registries require that users provide their e-mail address and create a password. This is a great tool to include if you’d like to send out promotional offers like coupons, or special announcements on upcoming sales. Customer recall also makes online shopping easier for your consumers. This way, they can use your site many times while only entering their information once.
Sales tax varies by state. Since you are dealing in money, you want to make sure everything is on the up and up. Put software in place which will automatically calculate the appropriate sales tax, and charge your customers accordingly.
You can’t have your customers ordering a bunch of items that aren’t in stock. Make sure your site knows exactly how many of each of your products are available. You can still display products which aren’t in stock, but a helpful disclaimer will pop up to let customers know this. Having the inventory tools right on your site helps you easily keep track of what you’re selling, as well. The last thing you want with e-commerce is a bunch of customer orders you simply can’t fill.
Even in today’s tech-friendly world, many people are wary of using e-commerce for their transactions. You want to offer completely secure purchasing to your customers. You’ll also want to display that your site is secure, so visitors know they’re in good hands. Have security features and measures in place to give your traffic the safe experience they crave.
Make sure you offer more than one shipping option for your customers. It’s common to offer standard shipping, express delivery, overnight mail, etc. Clearly display the cost of all shipping methods for every single purchase. Customers want to pick and choose what’s best for them, so you want them to have plenty of options.