Setting up an e-commerce platform to supplement your bricks and mortar store is essentially guaranteed to increase your sales. By simply removing the barriers of in-person transactions and shopping, you expose your product range to a (far) wider market than would otherwise step foot in your store. The convenience factor alone is massive – it allows people sitting in their pyjamas at 7 O’clock in the morning to buy from you.
Okay, I don’t need to sell you on the benefits of e-commerce. After setting up a number of online stores for clients in the past, I’ve seen the potential is huge, however it’s not all beer and skittles. There are a few things to keep in mind to ensure you make it as easy as possible for customers to find your site, browse your product range and ultimately buy from you.
This is an enormous topic, so here are a few of the really critical things to consider when setting up an e-commerce platform:
High quality product photos are key
Awesome product photos sell products with e-commerce – who knew!?
The number one thing you can do to add value and increase the likelihood of someone buying your product is using excellent, appealing images.
If you take nothing else away from this post, remember that excellent photos of your products are critical. By high quality, I don’t mean the file size or megapixels. I mean really nicely positioned, lit, modelled and photographed images which show your product in the best possible light.
The amount of effort you put into taking product photos will be obvious. It will send an instant message to your customers about the quality and value of the item they’re considering buying.
Think about the poorly lit, grainy photos taken with a crappy phone camera you often see on Ebay or Gumtree. They look cheap and unprofessional because they are.
Also, if your product is something people use or wear, use photos of them being used or worn. Seeing a piece of clothing draped across a table is pretty uninspiring.
People need to imagine themselves using your product and being happy about it before they will buy. Great photos will help a lot.
Have a pretty landing page
Humans are visual creatures. Every physical store has a nice showroom because an aesthetically pleasing environment helps encourage customers to buy. Online stores must match this – especially given people will decide whether they’re likely to buy from your site within the first 3 seconds of landing on it.
Ideally, the first thing visitors should see after landing on your site is a gorgeous ‘hero’ image (a nice photo of someone using and enjoying your product), captioned by a clear header which creates an emotional response to your product offering along with a call to action (what they should do next, eg: a button which says ‘start shopping’).
Put effort into product descriptions
Research has shown that short product descriptions are less likely to sell than longer, interesting ones. This is because showing more benefits and features next to a product indicates it is more useful and therefore more valuable.
Although visitors mightn’t read and digest every word of the description, they will at least absorb the implied message that your product is worthwhile because there is a lot of text written about it. Using a combination of sentences and paragraphs is also a good idea.
By writing your own product descriptions (rather than copying and pasting from somewhere else) you will also have added Search Engine Optimisation benefits.
Replicate your brand experience through e-commerce
Many of your customers are likely to visit your online store after visiting your off-line one. By capturing and recreating the brand experience of your offline store, you will transfer the value of physical your products to potential online customers.
Your brand is more than a logo and a colour scheme, it’s the promise you make your customers. By staying consistent with your messaging and values throughout every interaction you have with customers, you will build trust and brand loyalty.
This is important because people are far more likely to buy online when they trust and respect the source they’re buying from.
Offer 30+ day returns
Some people perceive buying online as an uncertain and risky activity. Not being able to physically see and feel something before buying it can be scary.
What if they hand over their hard-earned money and the product isn’t right? What if it doesn’t fit? What if they just don’t like it?
One of the best ways to minimise this uncertainty is by offering money-back guarantees to customers within at least the first 30 days of purchase. This shows that a) you back your product and are confident that people will like and b) buying is less risky because you can always just send it back.
In practice, returns happen far less often than you would expect. Quite often even if people are unhappy with a product, the time and effort required to return it isn’t worth getting the money back anyway. For online stores, if it helps 20% more people buy your product, it’s more than worth handling a few extra returns.
Provide free delivery
Delivery is the real difference which sets e-commerce stores apart from bricks and mortar. However, if buying online is much more expensive than going to the shops due to huge shipping fees, the proposition starts to sound less exciting.
Think about the purchase process here. If someone sees an item online at a similar price to a bricks and mortar store, adds it to their cart, proceeds to checkout, only to find there’s a $30 delivery fee, they’re rather likely to exit the checkout process then and there. Sometimes money wins out over convenience.
I always recommend e-commerce stores include delivery in their prices. The end price usually ends up the same, but it reduces friction in the checkout. When people are entering their credit card details, they don’t want to be suddenly paying more they expected upfront for shipping.
The bonus is you get to include a ‘free delivery’ message across your website, encouraging ‘add to cart’ action every where!
If a visitor has gone to the effort of finding your site, looking through the products and adding something to the shopping cart, you can be fairly sure they’re at least reasonably interested in buying your product.
They might abandon this process for any number of reasons. The dog started barking, their coffee was ready, X-Files was starting. Retargeting is perfect for reminding otherwise interested customers to come back and complete their order.
By adding re-targeting codes to pages in the checkout process, you can display ads to previous visitors reminding them to return and complete their order. Some E-commerce platform will even send customers a reminder email, if they managed to get that far into the checkout process.
Start with Amazon (or Ebay)
Amazon and Ebay are great e-commerce product test beds.
Hopefully you’re excited to get cracking with your shiny new e-commerce store, but hold your horses a sec. Before rushing out and dropping some serious coin on a custom platform, think about selling your product on Ebay first.
Ebay is a ready marketplace for just about any item you can think of. Chances are, if someone is looking to buy something, they will search Ebay first. That’s why it’s a great place to test demand for your product offering first, potentially reaching hundreds of millions of customers instantly.
Once you have confirmed people are ready and willing to buy your product, then by all means jump into your very own e-commerce platform and start selling like crazy. If you have any questions or need a hand with choosing the best e-commerce platform, please feel free to get in touch with us.