Everyone around seems to be jumping the e-commerce bandwagon in recent years. There has been a major shift from wholesalers and retailers purchasing goods from around to resell via their brick-and-mortar stores, to buyers and consumers directly making purchases online.
Whether it’s through sites like Amazon and eBay, Craigslist or Alibaba, or individual companies and brands offering online shopping options, purchasing goods online has never been easier. In fact, the numbers indicate that e-commerce practices are here to stay and only go up, with a whopping 76% of adults in the U.S. already being online shoppers.
Businesses, big and small, well-established and newly emerging are beginning to see the value in e-commerce practices, as well as all the benefits it offers in comparison to traditional, physical retail and wholesale experiences.
People are also becoming smarter about their safety, becoming vigilant about the purchases they indulge in, the sellers they trust, the payment methods they opt for. Banks and other channels for payment are also important stakeholders, offering discounts, security features and techniques like never before.
Large and small e-commerce platforms offer buyer and seller securities and privacy that allow consumers and sellers the ease and comfort of dealing online. It’s a unique experience—one that’s unstoppable now.
Is It Necessary to Participate in E-Commerce as a Business?
The short answer is: yes. In fact, it’s a loss for businesses not to make their mark in the world of e-commerce, since it offers them a competitive edge.
Online shopping has helped level the playing field significantly, seeing as how small business enterprises and start-ups can now use the right technology and platforms to compete with big-league competitors, including major leading corporations.
There’s a lot of flexibility through online buying and selling and the need for services has led to several industries booming and branching out.
For instance, where large corporations can afford to have in-house shipping and delivery services, customer service, graphic design and content teams that help create SEO content e-commerce—and other services that require immense resources—small businesses previously didn’t seem to stand a chance.
This couldn’t be further from the truth today; B2B exchanges and the flexibility of contractors and freelancers, as well as outsourcing and off-shoring, have come in.
If someone is running a small business selling custom t-shirts, for instance, they can easily connect with suppliers who manufacture the shirts.
They can connect with printers who’ll print for them, designers who’ll work on the content of the product as well as the website or portal and a delivery service that’ll dispatch orders and an order management system (OMS) that’ll organize their entire business for them.
There will be no real need for a physical store where rent, utility, repair, maintenance and décor are just a fraction of the costs. Businesses will end up saving thousands in the form of these running and maintenance costs, taxes, salaries and storage. It’s a game-changer.
Geography becomes another issue when it comes to traditional modes of buying and selling; online shopping generally solves this issue, with delivery taking place across states and borders. It’s aptly called borderless business, since physical space and distance become irrelevant.
Clients and customers can sit in any corner of the world and browse through services and products that can be shipped to them—unless of course, it’s services or perishable items such as food. Who knows though; perhaps, in the future that would also be a possibility?
How Is It Possible to Run a Successful E-Commerce Site?
E-commerce and understanding it is a science in and of itself. Gone are the days when clumsily designed web pages and pure product advertising and listings would be enough to generate sales. Consumers are now searching for more.
It’s not just consumers; algorithms are getting smarter too. Meaningless content that’s centered purely around advertising, without much effort into the quality, layout, design, navigation experience and other such factors, is never going to rank high on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
Missing the chance to appear higher up on the SERPs means a business won’t stand much of a chance to be noticed by visitors and people searching for the product or service, especially if there are other competitors in the region.
It’s extremely important to take the world of SEO and content generation seriously and adopt the following practices for your e-commerce site to be successful:
1) Tell Your Brand Story
What’s going to make you stand out against competitors? What will compel buyers to do business with you? What makes a product or service that’s not part of a niche appealing to potential clients?
It’s the brand story. Through elements of design, i.e., logo design, color schemes, web page layouts, product design, attention to detail and other endless techniques, the brand story can be made available for consumers. After all, it is the future of the marketing world.
Telling a story through your brand is important for a variety of reasons, including the need to stand out among competitors. It’s not just about “seeming” unique; it’s deeper than that, because a story is what sells. It’s how clients will remember you and your business and feel the need to invest in your products and services.
It also creates a sense of community, which translates to a loyal client base. A brand story evokes emotion and focuses on the experience of buying, instead of just the act. It’s part of consumer psychology.
2) Avoiding an Overwhelming, Cluttered Design
Design is something that small brands don’t pay enough attention to, which is like digging a grave for themselves. Sometimes, it’s not about what’s more than meets the eye, because if the eye feels put off by something, then the eye will not seek further.
Overwhelming and cluttered design is a mistake a lot of business sites tend to make, not realizing that less is more. Minimalist designs and layouts tend to translate into greater sales, simply because it allows room to breathe, browse and take in the products.
Using design principles and psychology to understand the way visual cues work, the impact color choices have, the way the mind needs to be seduced and compelled into buying a product are all part and parcel of this.
If a client feels like your e-commerce site design is too loud and doesn’t quite align with your business or aesthetic, it will lead them away. So, focus and invest in design, ask feedback and think from the point of view of the consumer. It’s important for conversion rates.
3) Making Sure You Have Clear Navigation
This ties into the point above but focuses more on the actual experience of using your site. More than just the visual and aesthetic quality, if navigating through your e-commerce site is difficult, clients are likely to turn away.
Let your CTA and everything relevant to the client be accessible. If they’re unable to understand where they’re supposed to go on your website, how will they ever get where they need to? If the clutter that’s mentioned above hinders the access to the main product and/or service, visitors won’t be inclined to give you their business.
Focus on clean, easy navigation that doesn’t confuse or overwhelm visitors, offers seamless transitions from one page to the next, especially when trying to purchase. To be redirected over and over or to have to make an excessive effort is not something people will do.
4) Offering Clear and Specific Menu Options
Simplicity is the key to better conversion rates, remember that. Having 500 items in the broad category of ‘shirts’ pop up is never a solid strategy; neither is having a slew of clothing items pop up under a tab that says ‘apparel.’
Specific and clear menus that smartly and efficiently categorize items is the key. Move from wider categories into more specifics, so navigation is easier—refer to point above—and be able to see all the items categorically.
5) Optimizing for Mobile Phones and Other Devices
A large chunk of online shopping is done via phones, making it quite the gross negligence not to have a site optimized for mobile devices. If a site isn’t optimized for smartphones and mobile devices, navigation becomes difficult and clunky and there’s more chance for error.
Products and information will not load fully; neither will graphics or content. Overall, it makes for increasingly difficult user experience, and in a user-centric world, that’s damaging to your business.
6) Working on SEO and Content
Upping the SEO game is an important technique of drawing in consumers. Using techniques such as content generation, blogs, graphics and giving consumers something new, worth their while and showing them your expertise through this, is the purpose of SEO.
It’s a technical approach, intending to make your rank higher on SERPs, but comes through a combination of creativity and commitment. If you lack the skills and expertise, there are plenty of businesses that offer e-commerce SEO services to small businesses.
7) Offer Various Payment Options
Finally, offer different payment options for clients. Don’t restrict it to credit cards or bank transfers; you can offer PayPal, cash on delivery, and other safe-to-use methods for payment, so no customer feels inconvenienced at the last moment.