9 Best Practices for eCommerce: Setting Yourself Up for Success
Becoming successful is easier said than done. And when you are competing against millions of other sellers and entrepreneurs, that task of success gets even harder. There’s no question that eCommerce is at the peak of digital business and digital selling. And there are no signs of this trend evaporating any time soon.
What was once known as “selling a product”, is now simply known as eCommerce. And anyone can do it, whether you’re a blogger or an experienced drop-shipping merchant – getting involved with eCommerce is easier than ever.
Platforms like Shopify have completely streamlined the process of opening an online store, setting up your products, and managing the payment processes. As such, anyone from anywhere can become an eCommerce seller in an hour at most. But, that’s the easy part.
You see, opening an eCommerce store is as easy as using Shopify or any preferred WordPress theme. Even payment gateways have gotten so simple to use that all you have to do is specify your business details and you’re good to go. So, what’s the hard part?
Sales, customer acquisition, marketing, lead generation, and store growth. Anything that involves actually selling and shipping your product can be considered the hard part. And with fierce competition in almost any niche on the market, it pays to respect the fact.
Setting Yourself Up for Success
If we were living in the early 2000s, I think you could get away without knowing anything and still find some nominal success. But, in the age of information, going into a new project unprepared is almost always a waste of your time. And since time is money, you ought to educate yourself on the steps to take before diving deeper into any given business venture.
As it happens, eCommerce is so popular that there is no shortage of resources to help guide you through the process. In fact, studying principles and best practices is quintessential to your digital success.
By having direction, you’ll find it much easier to market your product, as well as find different means to acquire new clients. All without needing to guess or predict when the next sale is going to happen.
Even though you’re selling online, it doesn’t change the fact that you’re dealing with real people as customers.
This article is going to showcase some of the most popular best practices when starting a new eCommerce store. Everything from which platforms to choose, to customer experience, and marketing optimization. By the end of it, you should have a much clearer understanding of how to start your very first online store.
So, let’s not beat around the bush. Let’s get on with the best practices for eCommerce merchants. And, hopefully, you can learn a thing or two.
#1: How to choose an eCommerce platform
If you do a simple Google search for ‘the most popular eCommerce platforms’ – you’re going to end up with hundreds of different results. And it’s true, there’s no shortage of eCommerce platforms on the market today. Anything from simple and effective, to large and organization-oriented.
But, when it comes to success, generally, you’re going to want something sturdy and something that many others use on a daily basis. So, here are my top two recommendations for a solid eCommerce platform.
If you’re wondering whether you can start an eCommerce store with WordPress, the answer is yes. You absolutely can. And the best way to do it would be through WooCommerce. A long-standing eCommerce plugin that integrates a full-on digital store experience in your WordPress site.
Best of all, just like WordPress – it’s completely free to use WooCommerce. You even get access to free themes and plugins for eCommerce purposes alone. We have written on this in the past, specifically, our roundups on the best WooCommerce themes, and useful plugins for WooCommerce users.
Here’s why WooCommerce might work for you:
- It’s based on WordPress, and you retain your original WordPress dashboard.
- The majority of modern WordPress themes have direct integration with WooCommerce. Meaning, you get a custom store design.
- WooCommerce has some of the most effortless payment management implementations out of any eCommerce platform.
- Super flexible inventory and product management. You can even spread the word about your products outside of the store itself. Great for independent sellers.
- Whenever you’re ready, you can take things a step further and indulge in premium plugins that are going to supercharge your marketing and sales efforts.
And now for my second recommendation.
Shopify has been around for years, with a solid track record of good performance, and extremely reliable features. On top of that, opening a store is as easy as creating a new account. Much of the configuration tasks are completely automated. So, all you really need is an idea for a product and the means to market your product to new customers.
As an eCommerce platform, Shopify takes care of things like hosting, design, feature management, and customization tools. Chances are you have visited eCommerce stores in the past, without realizing they’re built using Shopify. That’s how good their platform is.
And lastly, Shopify excels at providing interesting and informative eCommerce information. Their official blog is frequently updated with the latest statistics, guides, and how-to tutorials to help you make the most of your digital venture. There’s nothing quite like working with a brand that is also trying to help you succeed alongside itself.
#2: How to design your eCommerce website
Next up on your task list is design. Specifically, website design. With so many varying styles and design variations out there, you might get lost in your own creative process when trying to come up with an original design idea. As such, my suggestion would be to keep it simple and minimal.
Unless you have an extremely established brand with all the appropriate assets, you’re better off to start simple. Even the fanciest design in the world cannot hide a bad product. So, give more importance to your product rather than the web design surrounding it.
Every single detail of your website from product images to contact forms could potentially contribute to a user’s decision to make a purchase. That’s why you should keep the user in mind with every single decision you make when it comes to your eCommerce web design. User experience is paramount to turning visitors into customers and turning customers into repeat customers. – Lyfe
#3: Optimizing performance for customer retention
It’s not just search engines that want you to have better website performance. It’s also your customers. Look at any recent eCommerce study and you’ll find they all say the exact same thing. A poor website performance, and load times specifically, leads to poor sales.
In fact, many customers report that delays as little as 2 to 4 seconds can make them switch to a completely different online store. As for your business, this means both short-term and long-term losses.
Google itself has done numerous studies on this topic. And has concluded that performance is the most important metric above all. If you’re a WordPress (WooCommerce) user, here are some of our previous articles that discuss the specifics of performance optimization.
- 3 Major Tweaks to Improve WordPress Performance
- How to Speed Up a WordPress Website: A Guide to Improved Performance
- WordPress Speed Optimization: How to Achieve Best Performance
#4: Engraving strong social signals
Social media isn’t just a means to generate brand exposure. Much like real life, social media acts as a middleman for word of mouth promotion. Having a strong social following indicates to new customers that your brand/product is trustworthy. And hence, worth taking seriously.
In terms of highlighting your social media presence on your website, the best way to go about it is also the simplest way. In the example above, Quad Lock is using simple social media buttons with an added follower counter.
You don’t necessarily need millions of followers on each platform either. What matters is that you’re open about your social presence, and therefore, open to customer feedback and public opinion.
#5: Taking care of the customer experience
Customer experience is a diverse term used for anything related to customer satisfaction. For example, adding a chatbot to your site means that you care about giving your customers instant answers to common questions. Likewise, having a helpdesk platform on your site shows that you care for what customers have to say about their product experience.
Here are some of the best ways in which you can serve your customer’s needs through customer-experience oriented tools and tricks.
- Live Chat. When you go to a retailer store, you generally expect to have access to a clerk who can help answer questions or give advice. Live Chat functions very much in the same way, only for digital needs. By having a customer support person available 24/7 – you can ensure that customers always get the answers they need about any of your products.
- FAQ Section. Nothing helps to understand the purchase process more than a properly organized FAQ section. This is the part of your site where you outline all the different information both about your product, and the different checkout experiences you provide.
- Discussion Forums. Another approach you can take is to launch a discussion forum. This would mean that customers can not only interact with you directly as a seller, but also other customers who might share similar interests and hobbies. This approach is particularly useful for very niche products.
Anything that helps to bridge the gap of communication between you and your customers is always a good idea. There are countless platforms and tools created specifically for this purpose. So pick whatever suits your type of product and take it from there.
#6: Search is everything
How do sites like Amazon succeed when they have literally millions of products up for sale at any given moment? The answer is simple, the search feature. The search was and is always going to be the stronghold of any eCommerce store on the Web.
By creating a pleasant search experience, you’re helping your customers to find what they need, whenever they need it. If you have a standalone product, sure, you might get away with a subpar search feature. Whereas if you have 10, 50, or 100 products – this is where search becomes pivotal.
Take ThemeForest as an example. The most popular web design marketplace on the planet. Their search feature and filters are an exceptional example of what it takes to organize tens of thousands of products. You can gradually create a search filter that narrows down the user’s search experience to pitch-perfect results.
This is one of the goals you’ll want to achieve with your own eCommerce store. And if you’re struggling to come up with creative search features, just take a look at any of the most successful retailers online today. Most eCommerce stores have some similarities in their features. And it is so because those are the features that most customers are familiar with.
#7: Simplifying the checkout process
If customers are reaching your checkout page, then that is a success to celebrate in its own right. But, as it happens, the checkout page is also the one that customers often leave the most. Without having finalized their purchase. This happens for a multitude of different reasons.
Yet, one of the most common reasons for this is because your checkout process is too complicated. In this day and age, customers love a quick shopping experience. So, making signing up as a mandatory task is oftentimes a bottleneck to your sales.
The above example is taken from the ASOS fashion store. Two things to note here:
- New customers can either create an account with their Google email or by using social media networks like Twitter and Facebook.
- Customers also have the choice to skip the sign-up process and checkout as a guest.
The problem arises when either of these options is missing. So, in short, make sure that you set up your checkout process to enable checking out without the need for customers to create an account. Some purchases are meant to be one-time only. And, if a customer feels like signing up, they absolutely will. What matters more is the principle of choice.
#8: Promotion through writing
Do you have a marketing plan set in stone for promoting your eCommerce store? If you don’t, consider writing. Or as it is more commonly known; content marketing. Getting the word out there about your product takes a lot of hard work and dedication. As it does in any other field.
The upside of managing an online store is that you can tailor your writing together with your products effortlessly. Blogging opens the door to writing articles and research that surrounds the niche that your product is in.
As an example, if you’re selling wellness products like teas, oils, and supplementary food – you can use your blog to write in-depth about what you have learned, and what your process is. Likewise, you can use your blog to write tips, tricks, and other interesting articles.
Everyone from big brands to the smallest independent seller is doing this in some shape or form. So, why not plan your strategy ahead of time?
#9: Practice makes perfect
All the insightful tips and tricks outlined in this article are going to go to waste unless you put them into practice. As with any business-related activity, practice makes perfect.
By adopting new methods and learning new techniques, you can too, grow your eCommerce business at a steady and successful pace. What matters more than anything is that you don’t go at it blind, so to speak.
Thankfully, there are millions of other people doing eCommerce business online, and doing so successfully. This is beneficial to you because it lets you find all kinds of resources that help to explain certain topics in-depth.
Once you get a hang of it, selling online is not so different from selling in a retail store. There’s a huge emphasis on making sure customers are happy both in the digital and the physical worlds. And as for marketing, I think that the digital world offers opportunities that you might otherwise not have access to. As such, having an online store for your product(s) is not merely a choice, rather, a necessity.
My final advice is that you try your best to come up with a reliable plan for the foreseeable future. Whether it’s structuring a website design, or learning how to use social media for marketing purposes. Pick one goal, work through it and move on to the next thing. Keep your budget as tight as possible, because outside of paid advertising – you aren’t required to invest large sums of money to eventually attain some form of success.