Archives for online retailers

Tips to Create Effective eCommerce

Opening an eCommerce site is not the extensive hoop-jumping experience it used to be. Online payment sites like Paypal, Google Checkout and advances in the online commerce environment have standardized web shopping. Now anyone with a dollar and a dream can set up an eCommerce business and be competitive. If you’re looking for your slice of the pie, here are a few items every web vendor should know about the business.

Clean web design

Make sure your site has a good look to it. Not only is good web design a good idea for any site, but it usually makes the user experience better. If anyone is having a hard time navigating your store, you can’t expect him or her to want to stay there. A clean, accessible easy-to-navigate site is more likely to increase conversion and reflect highly on your brand. If you need to contract a web design company to achieve this, spare no expense. A slapdash effort will yield poor results. There are many places for people to shop on the web; your store doesn’t have to be the one they choose.

Business Partnerships

Building relationships with other businesses is paramount to developing your online store. More often than not, you will need to hire in another company to handle at least one aspect of your business, whether it’s partnering with an order fulfillment company, or interfacing with a server manager to ensure usability of the website. Look at it like being part of a team; you all help each other out. They can’t do it alone either.

Planning your Catalog

The best eStores look like they were effortlessly put together, however, that is usually an indicator that countless hours were put into the design and execution. Before you launch your store, plan your catalog, separating items out into categories and subcategories. This entails knowing what you’ll be selling in the first place. The success of your store depends heavily on the quality of your product catalog. Creative and logical linking from one item to others is also important (i.e. “Other suggestions” or “People who looked at this also bought…”)

Ensure that the title tags of each item to match up with terms that people search for. If you sell black boots and the title tag reads “Black Boots,”it is more likely your item will show up in a search for (you guessed it) “black boots” than if you titled the tag, “combat footwear”, though you may receive a whole different demographic of web searchers who are into combat footwear.

Opt for Off the Shelf Rather than Custom Development

It’s easy to get really excited about opening your first eStore and it’s only natural to want to do it right. Oftentimes, in order to stand out, vendors will want to contract custom development of the store, adding commodity functions (shopping cart management tools, product merchandising, etc.), but unless you are a huge retailer (Amazon, eBay, etc.) these tools will cost you lots of money and add very little to the user experience. There are a number of ecommerce applications you can purchase on the web. Many are open source, which allows you to have a element of control over the final product rather than submitting completely to a template.

Mom and Pop are Back?

Thanks to the eCommerce and social media, mom-and-pop businesses can compete effectively alongside multinational corporations on equal footing. Smaller, more agile companies may even have the advantage in some cases. In fact, users may not be able to tell if a site they visit is run by a guy in a hut or a board of directors in an office tower. Customers who use websites to conduct their business, however, often find that small businesses offer them the personal service and attention to detail they thought was no longer available.

With point-and-click website-building software and other advances on the side of the little guy, ecommerce sites built by small organizations look professional and include many of the same design elements as those that were once available only to companies with massive information technology budgets.  The Internet serves as a leveler, putting small businesses on par with big companies. In some industries, upstarts achieve great success.

Consider these two examples

In the case of bookselling, being a decades-old corporation may not have any advantages at all. The Borders chain of retail stores closed its doors after no buyer could be found to take over the failing company. Meanwhile, Amazon has grown into a bookselling powerhouse by using a web-only model and embracing changes in the industry like the move to ebooks. It should be noted that Borders accidentally positioned its online store against its retail outlets in a “perfect storm” of bad planning.  In addition to the advent of the ebook, Half-Price Books has dominated the publishing spectrum by droning out the best-sellers at 40% of what Borders was charging.

Amazon’s forward-looking model allowed the company to persevere through the economic downturn of recent years while the less flexible business model at Borders is part of the reason the chain failed.  This is obvious of course, given that Amazon has NO retail stores and relies primarily on eCommerce and social media.  As Borders closes its final doors, Amazon sits strong with a $195.93 stock price and continuous growth on its horizon.

The success of Amazon and failure of Borders also proves that customers do not necessarily want to shop in person when transactions can be completed easily on the web.  From this author’s experience, most the time spent in Borders was to browse the new titles and then order them from Amazon given the retail price was about 50% more.  It would have seemed that Borders might have picked up on this and established a cover charge.

On the opposite side of the product spectrum, smaller companies like Blue Sun Properties are proving that customers reward well-built, easy-to-navigate websites with their business.  A user can go through this site and shop for Panama City Beach condos from their own home, whether that is in Ohio or Washington State.  Family attractions surrounding that area such as Shipwreck Water Park and Barnacle Bay only add value to the experience; given the site itself is geared toward families.  This convenience is in direct competition with the resort cities of Destin and Cancun, who offer the “all-inclusive” rates and packages.  With eCommerce, this organization can match itself against such giants while emphasizing its message.

Whether buying a book or booking a vacation condo, customers are proving they prefer to work with companies that offer simple online shopping experiences, whether the companies behind those experiences are large or small.  As a result, the days of the Mom-and-Pop shop may be on the rise.