E-Commerce is booming. According to market data company Statista, this year “over 2.14 billion people worldwide are expected to buy goods and services online, up from 1.66 billion global digital buyers in 2016.” Claiming your share of this pie requires careful planning, technical skill, and marketing acumen. This article originally appeared on lightningstrikestudios.com. If you’re reading it anywhere else, it’s stolen. Please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org
What Will You Sell?
Maybe you create amazing arts and crafts projects, each one unique. In the past, you just gave them away as gifts to family and friends. But word got around; someone offered to pay you for one of your creations, and you realized you could sell your pieces and make a few extra dollars, at least enough to cover your expenses.
Maybe you’ve got an arrangement with a supplier who offers you a special rate on their products if you buy in bulk. You’ve got a garage full of these products, and if you can mark up that price and resell them, you can earn some extra cash.
Maybe you’ve already got a successful brick-and-mortar store and you want to take your business online to reach a larger market.
Maybe you don’t have a physical product at all, but a digital one. Perhaps you’ve written an e-book on your field of expertise and you’d like to sell downloadable copies.
Whatever the case, you have something you want to sell and that other people want to buy.
Security – Building Customer Confidence
Savvy customers won’t buy from your site unless they’re confident it’s secure. Would you be comfortable turning over your credit card information to a stranger? How do you build trust to the point that visitors will give you their money?
Essential to establishing trust is having your website protected with an SSL/TLS certificate. This provides the S in https and enables your site to display the lock icon in the address bar. Such a certificate encrypts any data the customer sends – such as their personal or payment information – making it harder for hackers to intercept it and steal it.
Some search engines, like Google, will rank your site lower in search results if it doesn’t have an SSL certificate. And many e-commerce platforms and payment processing systems simply won’t work on a site without SSL.
Of course, just having an SSL certificate won’t help if your website looks shady.
Is your site attractive and well-designed? Is it easy to navigate? Is it responsive, adjusting properly to both large screen desktop computers and small screen mobile devices?
Is your content well-written? Is it free of spelling and grammar mistakes? Are your product descriptions accurate and not exaggerated?
Do visitors have a way to contact you directly and to speak to a live person? Do you allow visitors to leave comments or product reviews on your site? If you allow comments, don’t censor negative reviews. Instead, respond to them, respectfully and honestly, in public so other customers can see how you operate.
Do you offer a money-back guarantee or other assurances? Be quick about honoring those guarantees when called upon.
Unless your e-commerce store represents a mega-corporation, let people know who they’re dealing with. Have an “About Us” page that includes your bio and a photo.
Another way to help your customers feel safer about sending you their money is by using a secure payment processor.
Payment Processing – Getting Paid
By definition, having an e-Commerce store means people will be sending you money electronically.
Most major credit card companies offer e-commerce integration, but you need a separate merchant account with each company, and you need to pay a transaction fee for each sale. Third-party payment processors make this easier, offering gateways that consolidate a number of credit card companies, although they add an additional fee.
One of the most common third-party payment processors is PayPal. It’s fast, easy, and secure. Through PayPal, customers can pay with their PayPal balance, their bank account balance, or a credit card, without revealing any of that information to you. Unfortunately, PayPal can be fickle; they’ve been known to freeze accounts and cut off customers, sometimes without warning, leaving merchants without recourse.
Other options include Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, and Google Pay, as well as Square, Stripe, and a whole range of other services that connect your customer’s credit card to your bank account.
If you want to avoid credit cards completely, consider offering your customers the option of paying with a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, Ethereum, or Dogecoin.
Shipping – From Your Store To Your Customer’s Door
Unless your product is purely digital, like an e-book, you’re going to need a way to get it to your customers. Will you ship to your local community only, or across the country? What about to other countries? Will you ship via your national postal service or will you use a commercial courier company? Will you offer both standard and express shipping?
If you have a high-enough volume you may be able to negotiate better rates with a courier. You may also consider using a shipping broker who will find the best rates for you.
Promotion – Help Your Customers Find You Online
An online e-commerce store has one significant advantage over a brick-and-mortar store: There’s much lower overhead. But an e-commerce store also has a significant disadvantage: It’s harder for people to find.
Rent a storefront in your local mall or plaza, and people will see it as they pass by. Some of those people will come in, just out of curiosity. With an e-commerce store, there’s no such thing as drive-by traffic. No one will find your store unless you promote it.
How do you promote your e-commerce store? The same way you promote any website: Content and social media.
You may think that your product descriptions are the only content you need. If so, you’re missing an important opportunity to attract more customers.
We’ve already mentioned your About Us page, but you can also include pages like Frequently Asked Questions, Buying Guides, and Tips and Tricks.
Not to be overlooked is a blog. Whatever your product or service, with a little thought you can probably come up with dozens of ideas for blog posts on related subjects. Rather than just being thinly-veiled ads, these posts should provide real value in the form of information your customers can use.
Depending on the nature of your product, you may also want to post videos, podcasts, and even live streaming events.
Share Your Content On Social Media
Do you have a healthy following on social media – Instagram, Facebook, Twitter? Leverage that following by sharing your content … judiciously. You’ll lose followers if your stream is just a steady flow of advertising for your site. You need to provide additional value, including liking, commenting on, and sharing other people’s content.
Some platforms, like Instagram and Facebook, allow you to integrate your e-commerce store into your account, so you can sell your products right from your feed.
It’s E-Commerce Time
All of the foregoing may seem overwhelming and we haven’t even discussed the platform on which your e-commerce store will run. There’s a wide array of options, each with advantages and disadvantages. Some are more suited to a particular industry. Some have a lower upfront cost but you have to pay more for additional features. Some are easier to use but come with higher monthly fees. All of them require some degree of technical skill to set up and maintain.
If back-end web design isn’t your forte, look for assistance from a firm that will help you with both your e-commerce site itself, as well as the content and social media marketing you need to promote it.
Whether you offer a single product or a whole array of merchandise, a digital e-book or gourmet meals, there’s no better time to start selling online with your own e-commerce store.
Have a product you want to sell? LightningStrike Studios can help. We work with companies looking to establish and monetize their online presence.
Our team of experienced, dedicated professionals will work with you to …
- Design a modern, attractive, and responsive website that looks great on large screen desktops and small screen mobile devices.
- Write the text for your site including the Home, About Us, and Contact pages.
- Install and configure a secure and robust e-commerce system that will allow your visitors to view and order your products safely and easily.
- Provide training to show you how to add and edit products, fulfill orders, and accept payments.
- Assist you in developing and implementing a content and social media marketing plan to attract and retain customers.
Ready to get started? contact us now to take your business online.