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Thinking about setting up a web e-commerce shop?

17 May, 2011

The internet has introduced a lot of innovations in technology. It is currently the medium for communication, research and now, for selling products and services.

Taking your bricks and mortar business to the next step of selling online can seem quite overwhelming, so here is a list of resources and things to think about.

Who is my audience?

It’s important you understand your audience, as this can help you make decisions on design and functionality of your website.

Who is my competition?

This also helps come up with design and functionality ideas, to be ahead of the game you need to be at least offering the same level of service as your competitors. This will also guide you on where to set your prices. Unfortunately the internet makes it so easy for the user (customer) to shop around, using price comparison websites (e.g. kelkoo, pricerunner, google product search.)

How am I going to take payments?

If you already have a credit card facility in your business then the wisest choice would be to contact them and ask what online payment services they offer. But other key providers include SagePay, RBS Worldpay, Google Checkout and many more. If in doubt, simply use PayPal ! Its easy to integrate, however it’s not necessarily the cheapest solution. Don’t forget to gain the users trust you must use a secure payment gateway as this is where you could lose the majority of sales, users only give their credit card details to sites and processes they trust.

Do I Have a Customer Service Team in place?

It’s all well and good jumping onto the internet wagon, selling online, however internet users are amongst the savviest and expect World Class service. From quick delivery, good prices, availability, speed and quality of answers to questions, all the way to delivery, terms and conditions and refund policies.

Do I have any content?

The only way your website is going to be found in the search engines, and therefore make sales and convert is having some content on your website. It must be quality content and must engage with the user.

What Shopping cart should I use?

There are many shopping carts on the market, from free of charge (open source) solutions to high end expensive solutions. Depending on the type of product, quantity of products and functionality the website requires depends on what shopping cart to use. My top 3 at the moment are Magento, J-Shop and OSCommerce.

Should I offer affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is basically where you as the shop owner reward affiliates for bringing you customers. You generally have a monthly fee, but apart from that you only pay affiliates rewards when they actually bring you a paying customer. So you generally don’t have anything to lose and you only gain more traffic and sales leads.

Should I offer Promotions?

As I said earlier web users are savvy, they want to see deals, they want to see bargains, but fundamentally they are after trust, price, quality and choice.

How am I going to deliver goods?

Obviously this only applies for physical goods, not services. But you need to consider how you are going to ship goods to customers? This will help you come up with your online prices and delivery speeds. Don’t forget internet users are after high availability and fast delivery. There is no point showcasing a product that will take 6 weeks to get into stock and a further 2 weeks to deliver. It will also help you decide where you will deliver to, are you going to deliver outside of the UK? If so a great service I found was Fast Lane International.

Do I need to manage my content?

Content management systems are extremely important when it comes to e-commerce websites; this is generally determined by the shopping cart you choose to use. But the last thing you want to be doing, is calling you web designer to ask them to change a word / price. It’s important that you are able to do this easily yourself.

How am I going to get people to my site?

You must remember that just because you have set up a web shop, that doesn’t mean that customers are going to flood in. You need to have a marketing strategy, which must include social marketing, social networking, search engine optimization and customer engagement with e-shots, competitions and blogging as examples.

Online sellers have to reach out to their buyers.

How am I going to show my products?

Pictures / Images are so important, and by this I mean high quality images. There is no room for error on this one, poor images mean poor sales.

“product descriptions must be accurate and precise”

In conclusion, you should make the user feel like they are visiting your bricks and mortar business, use images that would help the buyer appreciate the product that is being sold. Give lots of ways for the buyer to put trust in you, product descriptions must be accurate and precise. You should give the buyers the experience that online transactions are as real as having the product bought personally. Selling online is a great opportunity, but it will only pay if a professional approach to technology is taken, and a proper plan is put into place. Don’t become complacent, its hard work but extremely fruitful.

For further advice on Web Shops, E-commerce and Shopping Carts contact The Importance of Blogging

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