Meet Joe. Joe wants to start an eCommerce business. His aim is to sell products through an online store. Joe has a friend called Sam. Sam has a brick and mortar store but wants to have an online store as well for his business. Joe and Sam learned about the usefulness of having an online store and the growth of USA’s ecommerce market and decided to create online stores.
Their research showed that the eCommerce market of US alone is all set to touch a staggering figure of $327 billion by the end of 2016. According to Forrester Inc., product selling websites will be a big hit in 2016 since online consumers will increase their spending by 62% this year.
They also learned that according to Goldman Sachs, the US e-commerce market will reach $1,275 billion by 2018.
Joe and Sam were impressed by these statistics. They also came across the success story of Amazon.com and eBay.
Let us fill you in on Amazon, if you don’t know its story already. Amazon started as an online bookstore but later on it diversified its product portfolio. Today, it sells almost everything. Ever wondered what made it a successful business? It’s superb online store website! With the help of a great online store, Amazon became the first eCommerce venture and a successful retailer which now has surpassed even Wal-Mart.
All this data and the success stories were enough to motivate Joe and Sam to turn their eCommerce ideas into reality.
“But wait, Sam! How are we going to set up our eCommerce store?” asked Joe.
“That’s a genuine question. Let’s make a list of questions we have regarding the eCommerce store. We will then find their answers” replied Sam.
“Wonderful,” said Joe “let’s get to it!”
Sam and Joe then made the following list.
- How to develop an online store?
- How to choose a payment system for the store?
- How to deliver top-notch customer service through the web portal?
- How to promote the store once established?
- Why a return policy for the store is required?
- How to understand the performance of an eCommerce store?
Joe and Sam then commenced their research and decided to meet after a week to discuss their findings.
A week passed by pretty quickly and came the day Sam was supposed to meet Joe. Both had conducted extensive research on the questions.
Let’s have a look at their findings.
1. How to develop an online store?
There are two ways to develop an online store. You can either hire a full-time developer or get the services of eCommerce vendors.
Hire a Web Developer
For people like Sam who have brick and mortar businesses and want to augment them with an online store, it is better to hire a web developer. They can either hire a full-time developer or get the services of an offshore one.
While hiring a developer, it is important to understand the difference between a developer and designer.
- A designer is a person who helps in creating the look and feel of your website. He is your guide regarding the layout of your online store and in creation of mockups. The designer also has to understand objectives of the client’s business and add relevant CTAs.
- A developer uses the mockups created by the designer to come up with a functional website. He is the one responsible for providing a practical output to the client.
A plus is to hire that person who is able to design and develop an online store.
Before you hire a developer, you must make sure the person you are hiring has the following abilities.
- The developer has the desired experience of developing an online store.Have a look at his portfolio and understand his work. Make sure it aligns with the kind of work you want.
- The developer can design and develop the website.
In the case of an offshore developer, web development service providers usually provide design and development services at the same price. Hence, make sure this is clarified before hiring a service provider or developer.
- The developer should provide maintenance services.
It is important to understand that website creation is not a one-time Online stores need continuous maintenance. Maintenance services for a certain time period are usually in the basic package offered by the developer. Long time services are provided at a cost; hence, it’s an ongoing expense.
- The developer should provide editable files.
You should receive mockup files in the form of PSD (Photoshop) or (Illustrator) format. Additionally, the developer must provide editable files just in case you need to make changes to them at a later stage.
Additionally, you can ask your developer to build your website on one of the following eCommerce platforms.
It which is a free toolkit for WordPress. It is good at handling taxes, shipping and reports. For small to medium sized businesses, it is the perfect eCommerce solution. WooCommerce is super easy to use this platform but it is applicable to WordPress websites only.
It is eCommerce software aimed at delivering excellent eCommerce services. Currently, Magento is being used by leading global brands. It provides two different services namely Community and Enterprise. Community is free of cost and is for medium sized businesses. Enterprise service is costly but better in quality. Per annum price of Enterprise starts from $50,000. Companies like Samsung and Nike are using Enterprise version.
Get the Services of eCommerce Vendors
However, there are several people like Joe who want to start a business from scratch by creating an online store. They usually resort to eCommerce vendors like Shopify, BigCommerce, Goodsie, and Volusion. These companies give the liberty to customize and design the website to align it with the client’s business idea.
The director of e-commerce and online marketing at Eggs to Apples, Julian Barkat, stated about e-commerce vendors:
“They can take the hassle and headache of hard coding, hosting and doing maintenance on a server of your own out of the online store equation,”
The services of online e-commerce vendors can be availed at a nominal cost.
Let’s discuss the example of Shopify.
Shopify gives its clients the option to provide their product portfolio on the website, add the feature of shopping carts, online payments and order tracking and handling. Instead of providing a generic product selling website, Shopify makes sure every business stands out in its own way. What’s more, you can have all these features on your website at a reasonable price!
These eCommerce vendors act as your secure host for your online store by providing a link to the store on your website. This works when your website is not your primary or the only means of selling your product. Otherwise, your company website is your online store site.
Continuing with the example of Shopify, you can make use of the available templates provided by Shopify to select the design for your website. Of course, you can make amendments in the templates or ask them to mix and match a few of them to create a better version suited for your business needs. The purpose of providing templates is to help you decide the kind of website you want.
2. How to choose a payment system for the store?
Online stores need to have a payment system to allow visitors to purchase the items being sold on the website. There are various options which are known for the provision of safe and secure online transactions. The following online payment systems can be used and integrated with an online store.
- PayPal: the most popular one amongst these payment systems is PayPal which is used by famous eCommerce companies like eBay. It is easy to use, provides secure payment system and its service is available in most of the countries across the globe.
- Authorize.net: This system is considered cheaper than PayPal. It costs $0.3+2.9% per credit card transaction. Its setup cost is $45 and monthly expense is of $25.
- Worldpay: With the help of this system, an eCommerce store can pay on the go (2.75% + 0.20 pounds).
In addition to these systems, you can give the option of cash on delivery or payment through bank deposit to your customers.
3. How to deliver top-notch customer service through the web portal?
There are various ways to deliver efficient customer service through the web portal. Mentioned below are the most commonly used methods.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM):
The perfect solution to this problem is the use of a reliable customer relationship management tool (CRM). Like other services, e-commerce vendors also sell CRM services which result in the provision of top-notch customer service. From the prompt response to customer’s concerns to helping them throughout the purchase and delivery process, these tools are a good way to solve your customer service concerns.
Get a toll free number:
Another way to improve or integrate customer service is to get a toll free number for your company. Toll-free number enables provision of dedicated customer service. Your website visitors can call at your number and get information about your product or services.
One more way is to integrate the option of live chat on your online store’s website. With the help of online chat, you can address the needs of your visitors promptly. Though it requires the availability of chat option for 24 hours a day, it is an efficient way of providing customer service to visitors.
4. How to promote the store once established?
Creating a website for your online store does not guarantee the sale of your products. You need to promote your website and bring traffic to it. There are various ways of doing that and most of them are free of cost.
Social Media Pages:
The most common one is to use social media pages such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. The best strategy to use social media pages is to devise proper campaigns to attract customers to your social media pages. You can share your products on your social media pages and flaunt them as much as you like.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO):
The second way is to promote your website through blogs. This is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO) which helps in ranking your website at the top when the relevant keywords are typed. For example, an online store selling cosmetics can publish blogs related to latest fashion trends and write about their products within the blogs. While reading about the latest fashion trends, visitors will feel the urge to purchase the products of your online store.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM):
The third way is to use paid marketing or Search Engine Marketing (SEM). The common platforms used for SEM are Google Adwords and Bing Ads. Usually, businesses resort to this practice when they have started earning profits since it is costly. On the basis of ad quality, its relevance to the targeted audience and the amount a business agrees to pay on it, the rank of the ad is defined in the search.
5. Why a return policy for the store is required?
A return policy is a statement which shows a business’s willingness to accept the items purchased by customers back and refund the amount of money paid by them.
If you have an online store, you should expect returns. People usually do not find the products purchased online up to their expectations. Hence, online stores need to be always ready for handling returns. While using an e-commerce vendor, make sure your vendor provides you with tools or services that enable you to refund the customer or replace the purchased item with another one easily.
It is necessary to have a return and refund policy in place before you launch your online store. It should cover the following areas.
- What is the time period during which returns are acceptable?
- What is the refund method you will use?
- Who will pay the shipping cost of the returning product?
- Is refund applicable to all or specific products?
6. How to understand the performance of an eCommerce store?
The answer to this question is to use Google Analytics. With the help of this tool, you can easily track the performance of your website. It not only helps you in understanding the purchase trends of your customers but also enables you to get an idea about the location from where most of your traffic is coming. Hence, it can help you in segmenting your visitors and tracking their activity on your website effectively.
Another way is to use your e-commerce vendor’s services to get to know your performance. Shopify provides these services as shown below.
These questions must be addressed before creating an online product store. It not only helps in mitigating your concerns regarding the process but also leads to the creation of a great e-commerce website.
Sam and Joe are all set to build their online store. Are you?