Ecommerce Consultant Bournemouth, Dorset
Selling online can open up your products to a whole new audience and vastly increase sales. The main thing to consider when looking to create an online store is the bigger picture. You not only need to consider what platform you want to sell your products through, you need to think about the technical infrastructure and the customer service side of the process.
There are a plethora of ways to sell online and researching in to which one is best for your needs can be a minefield. An ecommerce store can be very simply broken down in to the following top level areas –
- Platform (off the shelf or custom)
- Payment provider (e.g. Paypal, Sage, WorldPay etc)
- Back office (sales / returns / customer services)
- Marketing (paid and organic traffic)
Your platform is the core of the your online store and links the marketing, payment provider and back office together. This is probably one of the biggest, hardest and most important decisions you need to make. This is really where you decide whether to go more down the ‘off the shelf’ store or custom route. You need to weigh up development costs against things like subscription fees and transaction fees. Typically ‘off the shelf’ solutions can be expensive when you want to scale the store up to handle more customers and you are a little bit at the mercy of the product because you are a little bit locked in. There are plenty of open source options available which are free to use but will require a developer to setup and get running for you, they will also require you to pay server fees to host it. This can give you more flexibility but it will make you more reliant on having a trustworthy developer to hand. Without knowing the scope of the project it is impossible to know the right solution. One bit of free advice I would offer is to never go through an agency or company that are trying to get you on to a paid platform. This means you are paying developers with none of the benefits of saving in subscription costs. You will often find that they are reseller of that product and it often leads to you being stuck on that platform with that company or agency supporting it. This can be very expensive with additional overheads like support packages, platform and extension upgrades. Ultimately in the long run it often hinders the growth of your store.
There are a lot of choices when it comes to payment providers, some are more familiar than others. Choosing a payment provider comes down to the trust factor, ease of use and the fees per transaction. If customers don’t recognise the payment provider that you use, that can harm sales. The same is true for the checkout process used by the provider, if customers need to sign up or complete too many forms it may put them off. Getting customers from the basket to completing the order in the least amount of steps will help keep conversions up. Transaction fees are something you need to account for when working out the finances of the store, different providers will have different rates and payment structures.
Having flexibility and scalability tied in to the digital side of your online store is essential if you are looking to make it a long term success. Setting up the store is just the start, from there you will be using server and customer data to find ways to improve sales conversions. This can be a combination of smaller factors like improving site speed, rethinking customer journeys with new layouts or working on SEO. One of the biggest things that you may wish to change later down the line is the payment provider you use, because they may change their payment rates or be harming your sales through lack of trust. Some platforms will not offer this flexibility and you may find yourself eventually having to migrate your store to a new platform. The will result in more development costs, retraining of back office staff and potential down time of your store.
The back office is a very important part of an online store, people need a trust factor to buy from online stores and having polite staff ready to talk to customers is a must. This can be through email, social media, online chat or over the phone. You live and die by the reputation of your store and customers will let you know very publicly if they are not happy. This can really harm not only your online store but reflects badly on your business as a whole. The back end staff need to be trained so they can understand all the parts of the stores admin, they need to control stock, dispatch stock on time and handle returns.
How much marketing you need to put in your store is all dependant on how big your existing user base is. If you already have users then you can go long way in promoting the store through social media but if you are starting from scratch you will likely need to go down the pay per click route. Pay per click can be incredibly effective and profitable so long as the keywords are well researched and the budgets are managed well. The ideal way to gain customers is through organic search and that relies on your store being built in a way that is well optimised for search.
There is not ‘one size fits all’ approach to ecommerce as everybody’s needs are different. What suits a short term pop up style shop will not suit a store looking to build in the long term. This is a very simple overview of ecommerce and each area can go in to huge depth. If you have a project you wish to discuss feel free to get in contact using the contact form below.