The advantages and software requirements of an e-commerce business
We are almost at a stage where an e-commerce website is being utilised by 100% of established organisations as a digital arm to complement a physical store, but e-commerce is seeing the biggest increase from smaller businesses just getting off the ground. This is mostly due to the long list of advantages to e-commerce which suit the sole trader looking to set up their own business.
- Better profit margins can be achieved through online sales due to the savings linked to e-commerce. These can be a reduction in set-up and operational costs (heat and power, rent, building maintenance), no or limited staffing costs, no order processing costs and there are also many ways that shipping costs can be reduced or made cost-effective.
- Increased sales opportunities through being open 24/7 and visible to a global audience. Good SEO means there are no geographical restrictions and you can operate from and sell to, anywhere in the world. On this basis, you are competing toe-to-toe with much bigger companies in your sector.
- Quick/instant payment methods increase your cash flow.
- You are more visible online and it is easier for customers to find you than in a physical shop.
- Your e-commerce software will provide data that, along with tools such as Google Analytics, will allow you to monitor buying trends and tailor your product lines accordingly. This enables you to scale your business growth based on reliable, real-time data.
- Your on-line store can act as your product catalogue, again reducing costs in producing one, but also enabling you to present your business professionally.
Of course, it is not as straightforward as simply obtaining some stock and switching on your laptop. There are many considerations to bear in mind in order for your e-commerce business to succeed:
- An on-line store will only succeed if you have a well-defined product range that doesn’t require too much of a personal service. While you can provide ‘help’ features via your software, if the customer has to ask too many questions they will be put off. The customer needs to be able to trust you and your business and your site needs to reflect that.
- You need to have a clear pricing structure that is visible and uncomplicated.
- Are you able to deliver your products/services in a timely fashion and offer accurate delivery times?
- You need to consider running a pilot scheme on-line before being fully operational, just to ensure you are not overwhelmed or badly set-up. You could run this through an Ebay store.
There are numerous software packages available that have all become more advanced in recent years, such as BigCommerce, Shopify, GoDaddy, Weebly and Magento. You need to research these intensely as they will define the success of your site, but the main things you need to look at are:
- Is the software mobile-friendly?
- Can you incorporate special offers and marketing initiatives? (ie. calls to action and time-sensitive offers for Father’s Day etc)
- Does the software offer options for up-selling (offering alternatives to the product a customer has just selected) and cross-selling (offering additional items to complement the product a customer has just selected, ie. ‘would go well with this….’ Etc)?
- Does the software allow for a good range of reliable payment options, such as PayPal, Google Checkout, Sage and WordPay?
- Does the software guard against fraudulent transactions? ie. can you gather a customer’s contact details prior to ordering? Better still, is there a registration requirement before placing an order, so that new customers can be verified before you ship goods.
- Is there an FAQ, Help or Live Chat feature so that people can contact you? Customers still like the personal touch even when shopping online, and being able to speak to you and ask questions will help build up trust for your business.
We are specialists here at Thriving Digital in helping setup and progress e-commerce businesses, especially from an SEO/PPC point of view. If you would like some free advice on a new venture or an existing setup we would be happy to help. Contact us on 0800 774 7094 or fill out the contact form on our website.