It is a big step to dip your toes into the ocean that is e-commerce. So many new skills to learn, logistics to manage, information to gather, marketing and much more. You are not alone – there are over 27 million of them on the internet. That means there are plenty of examples of e-commerce to learn from, but it is important to know that most e-commerce sites fail. It is a massive investment to get one off the ground and there are no guarantees of success. We will cover some of the things you need to know in this article.
It takes months to build an e-commerce site unless you are just looking for something simple for only a few products. No e-commerce site is an overnight success. You need to be in this for the long haul and prepared to work hard with limited sales success. A lot will be asked of you and it is important that even if you outsource the majority of the development that you also are prepared to put the time in to support the development team. Nobody knows your products and services like you do, so your involvement is essential for the successful launch of the new site.
Have a Budget
The amount you spend on an e-comm site is directly related to the potential for success. Yes, you can build an e-tail store for a few hundred dollars if you do everything yourself, but you need to be working in your business and not in the web development department. A basic e-commerce website can start at a few thousand dollars and range upwards from there – it is not unusual to see business spend upwards of $50,000 on a website to sell products and services.
The REAL cost of running an e-commerce store starts after you launch. Established bricks and mortar stores know that success is related to the number of people who walk past their store. That is why businesses spend more on rent to position themselves in areas of high foot fall. Opening an online store is no different – you need to think about how to get people to visit your store and keep them coming back. This requires a significant investment in time and money since online customers are more fickle than retail customers.
You Can’t Compete on Price Alone
Let’s discuss the elephant in the room. You can’t compete on price! Say that a few times because it is an important talking point. It is true. Huge store like Amazon and E-bay and large commercial businesses can afford to sell at ow margins to control the marketplace, so you need to stop and think about what exactly your own USP will be.
You have to face this as a stark reality – just because you spend a pile of money building the -ecommerce store of your dreams, doesn’t mean that people will come or come back. You need to think about what you can offer that will keep people coming back to your store – is it customer services, personalised service, free postage or a combination of things. This is a conversation we like to have with people before starting a new e-commerce site.
Choose the Right Platform
The platform you choose to build your e-commerce site in does matter. If you Google e-commerce platforms, you will find a lot of options but in our experience most sites for into one of two primary platforms. Shopify is an ideal turnkey solution that makes it easy to sell a small range of products. It allows an inexperienced end user the opportunity to setup and manage their own store with minimal support. They have clean designs and what we would consider to be the minimum required functionality for a store.
Shopify can be deceptively cheap to begin with and it remains so, unless you decide that you need additional functionality and that’s where their system of add-ons can increase your monthly spend. If you have a limited range of products, can choose a standard layout and are happy with the standard shop features – Shopify is for you.
WooCommerce is our go to platform when clients have a larger number of products and they want specialised solutions that you don’t associate with a standard e-commerce store. We are broadly experienced in coding solutions that extend the Woo platform.
Know Your Customer
Consider who your primary customer is. Are they pet owners, business owners, senior citizens, young adults etc? Your e-commerce store should be mindful of the demographic and ensure that the site is designed with them in mind. As an example, if you were selling products to senior citizens, you would be considerate and ensure that the font size was large enough to read and that navigation was streamlined and consistent. Where are your customers located? It would be nice to sell your products overseas and interstate, but how realistic is this? You will be more successful aiming at a local market initially and then expanding as your site evolves. Keep your feet on the ground! We would love to think that our little e-store is servicing the world, but is that realistic? You have finite resources so spending your money in a way that maximises benefit to your existing customer base will give you the most bang for buck.
Know Your Competitors
Before you start your own store, take a look around at your competitors. Who are they, where are they, what do they do well, what could be improved etc. These are all valid questions to help make your own e-store stand out from theirs. Despite the saturation of e-commerce stores online, many of them are plain awful and are unlikely to last beyond 1 to 2 years in our experience.
The reality is that many people develop their stores without any planning and this consigns them to fail eventually. By starting with your competitors and evaluating their strengths and weaknesses, you are investing some time in your own business and hopefully increasing your chances for success.
Provide Payment Options
The more payment options you provide on your e-commerce site, the more likely someone will buy something. Consumers today like payment options so including credit cards, PayPal, Afterpay, Humm and more will give you a greater chance of attracting someone to spending. It is even possible to add a “pay on invoice” option so you can allow your regular customers to pay later.