Are there sites or software that handle all of this?
As mentioned above, web hosting platforms offer online store packages. In other words, there’s now software for ecommerce. So, depending on your hosting provider—think Weebly, Shopify, Bigcommerce, and Squarespace—you may be able to use them for a more turnkey and novice approach to ecommerce. Alternatively, if you have a developer or are code savvy yourself, you may prefer to install open source shopping cart software—like Magento or OpenCart—into your website’s hosting service. “Open source shopping carts are basically standalone programs that require you to install them into your own host...So you’ll have to set up, configure and manage your own hosting service to power your online store,” states this Website Builder Expert article. For advice on this advanced avenue, read this article, and for a pros-and-cons comparison of self-hosted vs. hosted, check out this LinkedIn post.
What Kind of Site is Best for Online Selling?
If you already have a website, then you should already have a solid idea of your brand and audience. The ecommerce portion of your website should reflect your brand’s identity and suit the shopping needs of your audience. When in doubt, go for clean and simple with minimal copy and nice photos. As this infographic from Wyzowl shows, people remember 80% of what they see, but only 20% of what they read. So, focus big-time on high-quality product photos and solid web design.
How can I create great images? Here are a few pointers:
- 1. Use white background to make your products pop and make it clear as to what your customers are purchasing.
- 2. Enable image zooming.
- 3. Provide multiple images of a product, including alternate angles, images of individual items if the product has multiples, and interior views if your product is packaged.
- 4. Enlist a photographer or graphic designer if imaging isn’t your strong suit.
How Do I Optimize My Ecommerce Site?
You’ve already taken the first optimization step: you made your website an ecommerce site. Now, it’s time make it a great ecommerce site. Here’s how:
The easier it is to search, browse, and buy, the better your business will be. To that end, make sure your overall site navigation includes a “Shop” button. Once in the shop section of your site, ensure you have a smart search bar, and consider the following:
Audit Your Brand
Earlier in this article, I mentioned that because you already have a website, you most likely know your brand and your audience. If that’s not the case or you think your brand needs refreshed, check out this post.
Also, double-check your “about” page. No need to go overboard, but you should have enough images and text to tell the story of your business: what you do and why you do it. Put that effort into the page, and you’ll be rewarded: shoppers who hit the about page “convert 30% more than those who don’t visit it and spend on average 22.5% more,” stated this Ecommerce Platforms guide.
Personalize the Shopping Experience
Amazon changed the online shopping game—many times—but their product recommendations based on user behavior might top them all. And now that brilliance is available to any online store, thanks to innovation in ecommerce software and plugins. A 2012 study by Accenture found that “the majority of consumers in both the U.S. and UK are willing to have trusted retailers use some of their personal data in order to present personalized and targeted products, services, recommendations and offers.” And a 2014 AgilOne survey found that more than 79% of US consumers “expect personalized experiences with the brands they interact with.” So, consider adding product recommendations, similar products, and complementary products based on browsing or purchase history.
Personalization isn’t only about offering customers the right products at the right time. It’s also about making your store accessible. To that end, make sure your website is responsive, which means the site adjusts to all devices and screen sizes, including mobile. A 2015 Houston Marketing Matters blog post stated that “e-shopping via a mobile device now accounts for 40% of all purchases; yet 97% of mobile shopping carts are abandoned...this is largely because mobile sites are not designed with mobile shopping in mind, and therefore, nearly 50% of users will go to a competitor’s site if it has a better user experience.” No one can afford to lose that much traffic, let alone small businesses, so make sure your online store is mobile-friendly.
Add Live Chat Software
Sometimes people have questions; they’re on the fence about certain products; or they genuinely can’t make up their mind. In brick-and-mortar stores, you have trusty sales associates to sweep in and, well, sell. Live chat software gives you that power. Typically, people view live chat as a way to offer customer support and troubleshooting, but that’s only scratching the surface of live chat’s power.
Live chat—as in a chat box on your website—gives you and your staff the opportunity to convert shoppers into customers. According to This Forrester Report, 44% of those surveyed chose “Having my questions answered by a live person while I am in the process of my online shopping” as one of the most important features on a website. And according to Software Advice, 49% of consumers prefer to ask questions via live chat. Lastly, Microsoft research found that live chat has blown past email and is nearly equal with the telephone when its comes to customers preferred service channel.
Now that you see the value of live chat, it’s time to implement it. Even better, some solutions—like Pure Chat—offer free live chat software that easily plugs into most online shopping platforms, like Weebly, Shopify, Wordpress, SpaceCraft, and Squarespace. For more on how live chat can drive conversions, check out this guide.
Nail Down your Shipping Strategy
Free shipping—another brilliant Amazon move. Today, though, it’s nearly everyone’s move. As this Inc. article explains, “research has shown that, whenever possible, free shipping is a necessity for retail sites.” The article continues, stating that according to recent data from Accent, 88% of consumers “would be more likely to shop at a site online if they were promised free shipping.” Thus, if you can offer free shipping, do so and display it proudly on your homepage. It’s a big draw. If you can’t offer across-the-board free shipping, consider offering it when customers reach certain price points. For additional shipping strategies, check out this guide.
Enhance your Shopping Cart
Abandoned carts are the bane of ecommerce’s existence. People browse on sites, add products to their cart, and then bounce. There are a lot of reasons for this, and if you offer free shipping, then you eradicate one of the most significant. Beyond shipping, though, people abandon carts when the process gets complicated or the store demands too much. Keep it simple by:
- 1. Letting customers checkout as guests whenever possible.
- 2. Accepting as many forms of payment as possible.
- 3. Reducing clicks as much as possible.
- 4. Only asking for the information necessary to process and ship the order.