We all know that ecommerce is an industry experiencing huge growth, but in the past 12 months (thanks to Covid-19 and Lockdown) businesses selling their products online have seen unprecedented growth and, as it looks like Coronavirus will be with us for some time to come, it seems a trend which is likely to continue.
In the past 12 months many of our clients have increased their online offerings. Some have transitioned into offering online workshops, training or events and we have incorporated the sale of these into their websites. Others have expanded into selling their products online as well as in the traditional face-to-face manner, so we’d thought we put a helpful little list together of things to consider if you are thinking about moving into ecommerce to sell your products.
It is essential that you give some clear thought to the logistics of how your products are going to reach your customers. One of the first things your website developer is going to ask you will be about delivery. Are you going to take all your packages to the local Post Office, or will you use a carrier such as DPD or Yodel? How much will you charge for delivery? Will you have different bands for speed of delivery? Have you factored in your own packaging and time to your delivery cost? Do your products vary in size and weight and will that affect the delivery cost? Will you offer to ship outside the UK and how much will this cost? Finally, are you going to offer free delivery over a certain order amount or perhaps customers can Click and Collect from you – this brings in a whole new range of questions regarding collection locations, days and times. If you decide to change your delivery specifications once your site has been built, it is likely that your developer will charge you for these changes.
With more and more bogus websites popping up customers are very wary of buying online, so although you might think that ecommerce is a quick and easy way to sell without person-to-person interactions, you may find that customers often still want some kind of human contact before they buy. You will probably need a telephone number that is at least manned during ‘office hours’. You could consider Live Chat, so that you can quickly answer customer questions and provide reassurance. Sadly, a Delivery and Returns FAQ page and an email address are unlikely to reassure prospective customers that you are a real and reliable company.
How are you going to handle returns? What is your returns policy and have you checked whether it is legal? Do customers have to pay to return items? Will you refund just their purchase price or the original delivery cost too. In the ecommerce world customers are much more likely to return goods just because they decide they don’t like/want them, rather than because they are faulty, and they expect to be able to do this. You need to be very clear about your policy and ensure that you have a system in place to process returns efficiently.
In real life customers can come into your shop and see your product, they can pick it up, touch it, maybe even smell or taste it. Ecommerce sales are quite different. All customers have to ‘see’ are the images you have provided. We’ve all bought products online only to find they are half the size we thought they would be! In order to get that sale, you need to provide great quality imagery, ideally from a variety of viewpoints. Give customers the option to zoom in without losing resolution (so you’ll need high resolution images). If you can, then video is a great addition to product pages.
Like with imagery, try to give your customer as much detail as possible. There may be some details which you are legaly obliged to provide such as ingredients or allergens, but the more information you give your customer the less likely they are to be disappointed. Consider having customer reviews on products as these can give details that never occurred to you and also give future customers confidence in their purchases.
Unfortunately, just creating an ecommerce website will not result in sales. Building an ecommerce website will involve an investment, but you also need to set aside a budget for marketing. You may have an existing audience you can make aware of your new online shop, but in order to make your investment worthwhile you are going to need to reach a new audience, perhaps through SEO, PPC, email marketing or social media, so ensure that you have researched, created a strategy and set aside a budget for this.
Ensure you familiarise yourself with some of the technical aspects of having an ecommerce website, because it is more complicated than a ‘normal’ website. You will need a payment gateway and you need to understand the costs associated with this. You will need a secure certificate for your website, which will need to be renewed every year. You will need Terms of Sale and a Privacy Notice. You will need hosting which will cope with increased website content and hopefully increased visitor numbers too. You will need to understand the ecommerce platform you choose, what it can and cannot do and of course how to use it to add/edit product information, general website information and also how to administer orders and customer data.
These are just a few of the myriad of questions, challenges and technicalities of creating an ecommerce business. It can be a great way to add a revenue stream to your business, especially when face-to-face interactions are so difficult, but it is not a guarantee of income and it is a steep learning curve.
If you are thinking of starting an ecommerce business or adding ecommerce to your existing offering, get in touch for a FREE chat and ask us all those questions that are plaguing you!