The year-on-year growth in e-commerce compared with traditional retailers who use bricks and mortar stores has been widely reported in recent times. According to several media outlets, the National Retail Federation predicted that growth rates in e-commerce in 2017 would get as high as 12 per cent. That is an astonishing statistic but it reflects just how popular shopping on the internet has become. Few of us exclusively use bricks and mortar stores these days and those of us who do seem like a dying breed because younger people, in particular, tend to spend their disposable income online.
Given the growth in e-commerce sites all over the world, some entrepreneurs have moved into online selling with the expectation that the numbers mean they are bound to make a success of it. That is not the case, however. Online businesses which make use of the opportunity e-commerce platforms afford them need to be invested in adequately. What should you be doing to make sure that your e-commerce site becomes successful and will turn into a viable business for years to come?
Focus On User Experience
Just like a brick-and-mortar retailer, you must offer the customer an experience when they come to your site. Few retailers just dump their stock in the middle of their shop. They use, display equipment, clever lighting and favourable mood music to create an experience that makes heading in a pleasure. The same effort should be made by e-commerce businesses. Look at how a modern online casino replicates the experience of a genuine one by providing things like virtual reality games, a choice of gambling opportunities and 24-hour multi-language technical support, for example. In addition to a well-designed checkout process, e-commerce sites need to provide high-quality content that clients will value. This can come in the form of informative landing pages which provide details about products or in the form of blogs which develop knowledge about how the products on sale might be used. Above all, navigation around an e-commerce site must be intuitive and feel effortless. This includes the use of icons, images and text in winning combinations to make browsers feel like they are ‘at home’ when they are shopping.
Pricing and Shipping
Few factors are as important to the ongoing success of an e-commerce store than the value for money it offers. Compared to a shop, an e-commerce platform can run with much lower costs. With less money being spent on rent, customer service staff, local taxes and even things like heating, an e-commerce store should pass on its savings to customers. Pitching your prices at the same level of as a real store will mean that consumers simply go elsewhere. Bear in mind that the combined cost of products, as well as shipping fees, should be lower than a consumer could obtain by heading out to a real shop. Consumers are fickle, after all. If you want to have customers return to your store to make further purchases, then your prices have to be competitive all the time, not just at key parts of the business calendar, such as Black Friday, for example.
No online store should play fast-and-loose with cybersecurity. Although many e-tailers use standard e-commerce platforms run by third-parties which handle all of the transactions that take place, that does not mean that internal customer record keeping should be lax. Even straightforward personal details like the name and addresses of customers must be stored securely and only used for reasonable business purposes. Customers should be given a range of payment options so that they feel in control of their own privacy and security, especially when it comes to making payment. The use of secure payments apps from banking establishments as well as payment services like PayPal need to be offered.
Many web stores look fantastic if you see them on a computer screen, especially those which have lots of images of products to compare side-by-side. However, not all browsers work the same, so you should certainly make sure your e-commerce store is easy to navigate when it is viewed in multiple browsers using a range of devices. In particular, attention should be paid to users who prefer to shop on their phone rather than a computer. Some websites don’t work well on a smaller screen so web developers should be deployed to adapt yours if it looks confusing or muddled when viewed on the smaller screen of a smartphone.
Setting up a web store and waiting for your customers to start browsing it will not work on its own. Like all things in business, you need to attract customers. Of course, marketing an e-commerce store is rather different from building a recognisable retail brand. Thankfully, entrepreneurs can take advantage of a variety of digital marketing techniques in order to attract attention. Building search engine optimised content into your site will certainly help, especially when people enter certain key search terms into their preferred search engine. In addition, digital marketing executives often do well by providing so-called shareable content which can go viral via social media which helps to raise awareness of your store. Finally, digital marketing can take the form of banner adverts on other sites with related content, a technique that many e-commerce store owners tend to overlook.