Creating an eCommerce website can be a big step up from brick-and-mortar stores and exposes your businesses to new markets and customers. A site alone is often not enough as there is much more to attracting customers, increasing sales and promoting a newly-developed site. An eCommerce site not only makes it easier for customers to reach your business and conveniently place orders, it can also prove to be a very effective medium to promote your businesses and explore new opportunities. However, an eCommerce site is not much useful if people are not able to easily find it, making it very important to come up with a solid strategy and action plan. This post revolves around important factors that help promote eCommerce websites and also covers some dos and don’ts of the trade.
Part I: Things to Consider while Creating an eCommerce Website
- 1 Part I: Things to Consider while Creating an eCommerce Website
- 2 Part II: Promoting eCommerce sites and Boosting Conversions
It’s not uncommon to see small businesses getting excited about their online presence while ignoring some important aspects. A large number of new-comers think of eCommerce sites as a medium for making quick money that only involves taking orders and fulfilling them. However, there is much more to it as an online business also requires a significant amount of thought, attention to detail and proper execution. Although an in-house approach gives you better visibility and control over the businesses, in certain cases it’s better to outsource functions, especially when your businesses is already up and running.
An Online Businesses is Just like any Other Business
When it comes to an online eCommerce site, it should not be perceived any different than a physical store. The most obvious thing that changes is the medium of doing business customer reach. There is a lot of work involved while setting up an online store and you need to do homework just as you would before setting up a physical store. An eCommerce website also needs a business plan and a marketing strategy to promote. Although it isn’t necessary to write lengthy businesses plans for online stores, you still need to take into account the important factors which include:
- The 4 Ps (the product/service, at what price, place and promotional channels)
- Understanding the target customers, their preferences, choices available to them and so on
- What problem does your product/service solve, is it any better than the competition?
- Competitor analysis, you cannot just ignore the competition and its strengths, capitalize on their weaknesses
- What is your differentiation strategy, are you offering something unique or the best price
- Does your eCommerce website emphasize your differentiation strategy?
Choose the eCommerce platform wisely
An eCommerce platform provides the base on which everything is going to execute. Each platform has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Some are easy to use, but don’t offer much in terms of flexibility and functionality, while others are loaded with features and tools but require a steep learning curve. Selecting an eCommerce platform depends on so many factors such as your individual requirements and level of expertise. But some basic things to consider while selecting a platform include ensuring that it is regularly updated and backed by active developers, offers professional support and functionality you need for your online store. The most common platforms include hosted solutions such as Wix or custom installation such as WooCommerce and Magento.
Take a look at our indepth guides below to help you choose a platform, or read our guide to WordPress eCommerce solutions here.
- Which is the Best Website Builder? Wix vs Weebly vs Squarespace vs Virb
- WordPress vs. Wix: Which is Better? Complete Guide with Pros & Cons
- WordPress vs. Squarespace: Which is Better? Complete Guide with Pros & Cons
- WordPress vs. Weebly: Which is Better? Complete Guide with Pros & Cons
eCommerce Sites are not ‘build it and they’ll come’ stores
A new physical store may attract walk-in customers, but things are different in the cyberspace. Sites that are not backed by a solid marketing strategy often get faded in the background noise. Creating an online store is just the beginning of a long process that involves having a marketing plan in place right from the beginning. Although there is a lot you can do to market your online store, focusing on the basics is recommended in the beginning. Small businesses usually have limited marketing resources so they need to be very careful while choosing the marketing channels.
Cyber Space allows new-comers to advertise without spending a fortune, while some can even make the ends meet for free, but with a lot of hard work. Using an analytics or tracking system like Google Analytics is a must and understanding the difference between SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and PPC helps you allocate the marketing budget more efficiently. The social media can also play a very important role in promoting your online store, while affiliate business through other reputable sites can also make a huge difference. There are a lot of online marketing opportunities and in case you start feeling overwhelmed, it’s better to outsource some of the services such as SEO and PPC.
Put yourself in the shoes of site visitors, present products professionally
Many new online businesses fail to put themselves in the shoes of visitors and accurately predict how they see your products on the website. Showcasing your products in an unprofessional way is something that can seriously hurt the online business and may cause the visitors to turn away and look for alternatives. An eCommerce site is like your salesperson and the storefront, making it critical to ensure that the visitors get all the information they need to make a purchase decision.
Quality photos and product description can greatly help in this regard and one should at least cover the essential information related to the product such as available sizes, colors and other important specs. An engaging product description that clearly communicates how the product benefits the customers greatly increases the chances of a sale.
Part II: Promoting eCommerce sites and Boosting Conversions
After creating an eCommerce site with (preferably) stunning product pages/images and engaging descriptions, it’s time to let others know about it. Although this post focuses on new and yet-to-be-developed eCommerce sites, most of the tips also apply to existing sites and aim to provide general guidelines. Online promotion of your business can make a huge impact on its success, but there isn’t a single formula that applies to all sites. Depending on the nature of your business, its current state and available resources, there are many marketing strategies to choose from. That’s why this post mostly covers the basics and essentials, making it easier for starters to grasp the fundamentals. Here are the most important elements to consider while promoting your online business.
Business Plan and Marketing Strategy
As mentioned earlier, it’s important to create a business and marketing plan before starting an online business just as you would before kick-starting a ‘physical’ business. It isn’t necessary to write formal business documents for your new adventure, but it can serve as a great source of reference and benchmark tool. A clear plan helps you keep track of things and ensure that everything is going in-line with the objectives. There is no shortage of online business and marketing plan templates that can help create a detailed and focused marketing strategy, which includes the 4 Ps (Product, Price, Place and Promotion), strength and weakness analysis and differentiation strategy.
Search Engine Optimization is an essential element of an eCommerce website as well as ‘normal’ websites. Having a website optimized for search engines makes it easier for them to recognize the content and improves the likelihood of higher rankings. If you are using WordPress, our WordPress SEO guide discusses the topic in detail and also applies to other web building platforms. In addition to an SEO strategy, fast website loading and mobile-friendly design is also very important for eCommerce sites, allowing customers to browse through the content quickly on their mobile devices.
Automated Email Campaigns
Email marketing is an ideal promotional tool for small and medium businesses due to its cost-effectiveness, while it’s also one of the best (if not the best) methods to reach masses. Customers are much more likely to open an email compared to reading about you on their Facebook page. However, email marketing campaigns and spamming are two totally different things as the former are only intended for people who have already subscribed to your mailing list.
Email campaigns not only help educate readers about new offers and products, but they also help build strong relationships with customers. The importance of email campaigns and the best email marketing solutions have already been covered in detail and aim to make it easier for you choose the right tool for your site.
Get Connected on the Social Media
Social Media can be a great source for attracting new customers and maintaining strong relationships with existing customers. Although paid advertisement on Facebook and other platforms can help boost conversions, you can still maintain a strong online presence on without spending a lot. The social media is not considered a medium to sell things. Instead, it’s a platform where people share their opinions and ideas. Offer readers something informative, interesting and useful that is relevant to your industry and refers them back to your eCommerce site for more.
Figuring out the social media platforms that work best for your site requires time and effort. That’s why it’s recommended to diversify and focus more on the platforms that deliver better results. Spread your content on different platforms such as Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter etc. and use analytics tools to understand the platforms that are delivering better results.
Sales Promotions and Incentives
Customers are more likely to react if you provide them with incentives and attractive sales promotions. Sales promotions and incentives can take various forms such as bundle sales, mystery discounts etc. and you can start by analyzing purchasing habits using customer analytics tools. Social media can also prove to be a great source for determining promotions that are more likely to attract new and retain existing customers. Customers generally react to Flash Sales better than regular promotions as limited time offers create a sense of urgency and are more likely to result in sales.
Cross-selling is another method you can use to align promotions and offer products that complement each other. This also allows customers to conveniently purchase multiple items from one place, saving them time and boosting sales. For example, if you are selling smartphones, you can offer promotion of related items such as cases, Bluetooth accessories and so on. Presenting relevant products on the check-out page is a more effective approach than standalone product pages. You can add images of promotional and related products in the sidebar menu, which also does not affect the overall user experience.
Blogging and Product Reviews
In addition to being a platform for selling your products, your eCommerce site can also be a source of information for your customers. Once you have relevant and informative content on your site, you can suggest readers about the related products you are selling. Maintaining blogs (including guest blogs) is a viable option for most businesses and helps attract new customers. Product reviews are also a great way to educate customers as most online buyers rely on such reviews to make their buying decision.
Asking well-known bloggers to (honestly) review your product is another great way to increase online visibility. You can send them a sample unit and ask to try it out before reviewing. Product reviews greatly influence potential customers and good reviews can be a great source for attracting new customers. Many businesses try to avoid giving away free samples, but that should not be the case if you are confident about your product. A positive feedback by bloggers and other users helps spread the word and improves online exposure.
Paid advertising can be very effective if done properly, but it costs money and you need to be very careful while selecting the advertising channels. If you are bidding for keywords on search engines, it’s highly recommended to go for long-tail keywords that are related to your niche. Investing in general keywords may cost you a lot of money and fail to deliver good results (unless you are selling something truly unique).
There is no simple-to-follow rule for paid advertising, banner ads or PPC and you can try different options to find out which one works the best. Analytics tools and A/B testing make it easier to understand which platforms deliver the best ROI and result in better conversions. Although paid advertisement can result in great returns, it can also be a waste of money if not done properly.
In addition to the aforementioned basic elements of promoting an eCommerce site, there are many other things you can consider to enhance online presence including:
- User-generated content (asking people for their opinion, blog posts, pictures, videos)
- Improving the check-out process (what words, pictures, buttons, interface etc. are more convincing)
- Contextual marketing (connecting with the target audience at a more personal level)
- Loyalty programs (help make customers feel important and appreciated)
- Creating long-form and original content
- Testing through social ads (test posts on the social media help determine what customers are interested in)
- Use geo-location tools to reach customers near you (suitable for online businesses that also have physical presence)
- Make how-to videos, guides and comparisons
- Generate discussion through controversial topics, fires up people
- Don’t push too hard, upsell smartly
- Allow ratings and customer discussion (use a Review Plugin)
- Include a sitemap
- Fully optimizing the website for mobile users
- Let customers see the faces of site contributors, authors and bloggers (use real names and pictures)
- Allow the FAQs to show the company culture, add some light humor
- Up-to-date industry news
- Offer better-than-competition delivery options
- Constantly improve site structure and navigation
- Regularly generate reports, anticipate future trends
- Keyword stuffing looks unnatural, be creative
- Reduce the number of steps involved in completing an order, make the process simpler
- On-page optimization (without stuffing content with keywords)