In this E-commerce Start-up Guide we have given you all that you need to get your business online. Below are the e-commerce essentials which are vital for starting your online business with confidence. When you follow the tips we have provided in this article you will attract and retain customers, increase sales and maximize profits.
Website: Your website is your online shop or storefront where visitors will find your products or services. You need to create an outstanding website with great content which includes quality photographs, images, text or video in appealing colors and fonts. Online shoppers take interest in products which are clearly photographed not blurred images. Take photos from different angles and make it possible for shoppers to zoom and view the products at a closer range. The product descriptions should be relevant and informative.
Shopping Cart: The shopping cart should be easy to navigate and user-friendly so shoppers can ‘add to cart’ the items they wish to purchase, with ease. This reduces abandonment of the shopping cart directing customers to the checkout section. The ‘add to cart’ should be placed next to the products so shoppers can accumulate items as they navigate the site. Buy easy-to-use shopping cart software which has all the features you require. This should include calculations, storefront design, security, tax calculations, inventory control, shipping and handling, payment processing system that accepts credit card/debit card and electronic check payments and other features you may deem necessary.
You can buy a pre-designed shopping cart program with readily available templates which you can customize or create your own custom applications. Provide a search box where customers can type the products they are searching or categorize the products with links so shoppers can navigate the site and easily return to the Homepage or checkout section.
Security: E-commerce websites handle sensitive transactions which include monetary transactions and exchange of confidential data requiring Secure Sockets Layer SSL certificates and other safety measures. You need to decide whether you will handle online payments and storage of sensitive information or you will outsource this to a third-party payment processing provider like PayPal.
Merchant Account: To be able to handle Card Present and Card Not Present transactions you will need to open a merchant account. Merchant acquiring banks and other financial institutions open merchant accounts to enable merchants to accept credit/debit card payments, electronic checks, mail orders etc. from customers. The account should be able to accept and process the type of payments presented by customers in your niche.
Payment Gateway Account: A payment gateway like Authorize.net processes the payment transactions between the customer, merchant bank processor, credit card interchange, credit card issuer and merchant bank to ensure that the funds are deposited in the merchant account. If the customer does not have enough funds the information is relayed back to the customer and/or merchant shopping cart within 2-3 seconds.
Keywords and Phrases: Online shoppers search for keywords and phrases that they are interested in, to help them find products and services on the internet. Research the keywords and phrases which your targeted audience is searching in your niche and use them. You can use Google AdWords keyword tool to help you find which keywords are being searched by shoppers. Use these keywords and phrases to attract visitors. This will generate website traffic and help online shoppers find your products or services easily.
Search Engine Optimization: SEO is an effective marketing technique which you should utilize. Search engines like Google and Yahoo rank websites and place the optimized ones on top of ranking results. If your website is placed on top of these search engine results, this will generate a large flow of visitors to the site. You can optimize your website by changing the content and outlay of your site to include keywords and phrases which your targeted audience is searching. This is a free service which you can utilize but you can pay SEO experts if you are not able to optimize the site yourself. When you optimize the website you should submit it to the search engines so they can rank it in their results.
Social Media:To strengthen your Web presence use social networking sites to set-up profiles and showcase your products or services. Social media has become a powerful platform which online shoppers are using to communicate with friends and the online community. Set up profiles on popular social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Google and MySpace. Include your URLs and you will be surprised at the response you might get.
Google Analytics: Sign-up for Google Web Analytics to track the traffic visiting your site and use this information to make better marketing decisions. Find out who visits the site and from which source. Which web pages do they view for long and which ones do they view briefly and why? This will help you know where you should put more emphasis and where you should not, what to do and what to stop doing. Check what you can improve on and use the site statistics for data conversions so you will be able to project future sales.
Pay Per Click Advertising: You can post advertisements on popular websites like Google, Yahoo and Bing which you pay when online shoppers click the ads. This is an effective marketing strategy and you should set a budget for it.
Web Directories: You should submit your website to free and paid web directories so you can get links from a cross-section of customers. Web directories like Yahoo and Business.com charge a fee while DMOZ is free.
Blogging: Contact bloggers who post blogs related to your niche and let them know about your website. You can also blog on topics which your targeted audience takes interest in, to keep them more informed. People read blogs on topics of their interest to find out what others think about.
Customer Service:Customer service plays an important role in e-commerce. Set up a customer service that is second to none. Provide a phone number, e-mail and chat which customers can use within reasonable hours. Many online businesses lose customers because of poor customer service and support. Customers like to be treated well and this makes them repeat business with you as well as spread word around through word of mouth, social media and other networks. Customer retention is vital for business success.
We hope you are now confident about starting an e-commerce business after reading this Guide.