Do I need an eCommerce Website? Why Sell Online?
It’s the age old question, isn’t it? Why sell online if your physical store sales are soaring. Well… the age-old answer is all you’ll get here, we’re afraid…why ever not!?
A lot of companies can become content and comfortable with the success of their physical store. Don’t get us wrong – it’s a fantastic achievement if you’re seeing month on month and year on year increases on your in-store sales..! But, why become comfortable? Why stop there?
Use your readily-available business data to your advantage. In having a successful offline/high street store, you already know which of your products or services are best sellers. You’re at a solid advantage. Why not capitalise upon this and sell these online too? If you’re just starting to dip your toe into the refreshing, welcoming water of the ‘online pool’, your best sellers are the ideal place to start.
Don’t settle for just in-store sales. Here are a handful of benefits of eCommerce to satiate your interests:
There are literally millions of people searching the internet every day for products and services and the frequency of transactions made online are increasing year on year. The online world can seem daunting, yes, (but that’s what the HushBots are here to help with! This is what we do!) especially if eCommerce is a new concept to you… But why would you want to miss out on these additional sales? Don’t just settle for ‘doing well’. Exceed all of your initial expectations.
Okay – yes. There are costs involved with setting up an online store, and if eCommerce is involved, you don’t just want to be spending a couple of hundred on something that is so complex. In fact, we’d strongly advise against it as you’re only setting yourself up for failure. You wouldn’t believe the number of companies coming to us with their website in ‘SOS status’ looking for advice or a quick-fix. Well, the truth of the matter is (unfortunately) if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys – it’s much more budget friendly to invest in a future-proof, well structured and fully-eComm-capable website once, than spend a few hundred on a bog-standard template, have to fork out an arm and a leg for it to be fixed when it inevitably breaks, and then have to invest in a well-built site after all that anyway!
Being so complex, eCommerce websites need to be built from the ground up and no two companies are the same, so there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.
eCommerce websites can be an investment, that’s true. However, the cost of having a completely bespoke eCommerce website built from the ground up is significantly less expensive than starting off a physical business venture.
If you’re looking to start up a business and break into new markets, setting up an online business is remarkably less of an impact on the budget than it would be to set up an offline business, as the whole sales processing system for the business is automated online.
Take your business on-the-go with you! On the train, on your lunch, in a different country! The possibilities are endless, as long as you have internet access. Log on, process a transaction, log the order, and log off. Simple!
There are no time restrictions.
It’s near unheard of to have a 24/7 high street store; transactions can only be made in opening hours which are usually between 9am and 5.30pm. As of June 2017, the UK’s employment rate was 75.1% of the entire population. If we assume that the majority of these employees have a standard 9 to 5 job…they’re going to find it difficult to spare time to do a little retail therapy, except on their lunch break if they can spare a minute. Do you want to miss out on a potential 75% of sales? We think not!
However, making yourself available at any time, from any device, in any situation means that the working population isn’t excluded and can make a purchase at absolutely any time that is convenient.
eCommerce sites provide you with instant data on transactions, interest, on-site searches and revenue.
You can use this data to analyse which of your products are your best sellers, which helps you determine scalability – once you’ve got yourself established you’ll be able to have the right amount of inventory of each item available, meaning you cut company losses and also keep your customers by happy by being able to ship out straight away without waiting for an item to come back in stock.
You can also use this data to try and encourage the purchase of products of your choice. For example, it’s a well-known fact that items above the fold tend to sell out quicker than those below the fold or on subsequent pages. If you have a stock of 100 on a product you’re looking to shift, have a play around with your page structure and A/B test where your users are most likely to convert.
The on-site search is an interesting feature. People may come to your website looking for a specific product, but the vast majority of customers may use a different search term to the actual product title. You can use this data to re-name your products to that which your website users search, meaning that you’re increasing the likelihood of conversion as you’re providing them with exactly what they’re looking for.
Selling online means you are able to increase your margins, increasing your profit. Cash flow is also improved as the majority of the better-known payment gateways (Paypal, Sagepay, WorldPay, etc) demand instant payment, meaning you’re receiving the entire transaction straight away (unless you’re using a deferred payment gateway such as the likes of Klarna and their ‘buy now, pay later’ feature, of course, to avoid abandoned carts – but we’ll go into this another time!).
Don’t go into eCommerce all-guns-blazing, go in with a methodical strategy.
You wouldn’t open up a physical store without doing your research and forming a strategy, so don’t do it online either. Commonly, as a website isn’t a ‘tangible item’ they’re deemed as less important and less focus is allocated to the online aspect of a business, but this can set you up for disaster.
Different software can suit different businesses in different ways.
If you’re just starting out and want something small scale, WooCommerce is always a reliable and straightforward option.
On the other hand, if your website is complex and you need something that is multi-faceted it’s common for us to build completely custom e-commerce platforms in Laravel.
If you’re not sure, you can call us on 01325 631729 and we can advise what’s best for you based on your requirements, but it is so important to do your research!
As we touched upon earlier, a lot of eCommerce transactions are made on the go. In order to make your website inclusive to all and entirely user-friendly, you need to be thinking multi-device. You might have some customers who prefer to impulse-buy from their laptop late evening, but you also may have people doing a little bit of guilt-free online shopping on their commute to work using a tablet or mobile device. Your design needs to be responsive and optimised for each device.
In Mid 2018, we’re expecting Google to roll out their ‘Mobile-First Index’ update. In summary, currently Google crawls your website focusing primarily on a desktop, but they’ve realised that in doing so the algorithm may be returning results for mobile users that aren’t as appropriate as they could be. We’ve been designing in a ‘mobile-first’ manner for a while now, to improve the responsiveness of the website on each device, giving your website a better chance of success.
Don’t know which device your users are using the most? Create yourself a Google Analytics account if you haven’t already – you might be shocked by the result!
For your eCommerce website to glean success, you need to build the trust of your customers.
Your website needs to be expertly designed, provide accurate and honest product information, high-quality images, and have all the correct security procedures in place, such as SSL. As of January 2017, Google began penalising websites that captured personal data that didn’t have SSL in place.
Including testimonials and product reviews on your eCommerce website is also beneficial as this demonstrates to new users how reliable and trustworthy as a company you are, and what kind of quality product you offer. It gives new users a sense of security and trust in the business knowing that other people have previously purchased, and have been happy enough to provide you with glowing feedback.
This is also a good way to show your customers your impeccable customer service. If someone isn’t entirely happy with their product, for example, if it was broken in transit, you can provide them with a quick reply that resolves the issue. Ideally, you want to provide a reply within a couple of hours, but you must leave it no longer than 24 hours from the moment the feedback was provided. (Did you know that Amazon will often suspend your selling privileges if you respond later than 24 hours? Customer service is really that big of a deal!)
Marketing is really key to the success of your business and there’s no doubt about that. The use of a multi-channel marketing strategy ensures you’re protected from all angles when Google inevitably rolls out yet another algorithm update, moving the goalposts around where best practices are concerned. It’s frustrating, but it’s just the nature of the beast, unfortunately.
Through the combination of SEO, PPC, Social Media and Email Marketing, you ensure that you always have a line of communication open with your customers. For example, if Google rolls out a new update and your website feels the effect, during the interim recovery period you can fall back on your PPC, Social Media and Email Marketing strategies and really amp them up while you climb your way back up the SERPs.
In terms of repeat business, it’s always easier to win the second purchase once you’ve brought in the first because as long as the user’s experience was a positive one, they’ll trust the company and want to buy again. You can make this easier for yourself by targeting specific users with certain offers or ‘you haven’t shopped with us for a while’ emails to remind your users to return.
Abandoned cart emails are also so effective at saving lost orders. How many times have you had a cheeky shopping spree, adding X amount of items, going to your basket, deciding against it when you see the total cost and clicking the cross. You’re able to send automated emails at certain intervals to your users, to re-spark the desire to purchase. A sneaky, but effective method is to send these emails at intervals of 2 hours, 9 hours and finally 24 hours. It’s not uncommon to offer a small discount such as 5% off on the last abandoned cart email sent, as a last attempt to get the customer to process the order (and you’d be surprised by how often it works!).
You need to constantly be improving, because so is the web, and its users are getting savvier each year. A website needs a refresh generally every 3-4 years so if your sales have dried up on a 5+-year-old site, it’s probably because you’re out of date, out of fashion and not meeting the currently accepted practices online.
Thinking about jumping in at the deep end and selling online? Get in touch with the HushBots today on 01325 361729 and get things going.