During the course of business, it is not uncommon to have to make adjustments to keep up with current customer needs and trends in the market. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, small business owners are finding it more difficult to keep their brick-and-mortar businesses open. Fortunately, an ecommerce website can help small businesses generate sales they need to stay in business and potentially reach customers that were previously unattainable.
It only takes five steps to create an ecommerce website that is functional and pleasing to the eye:
While it may seem daunting to create an ecommerce website on your own, a small time investment can help you reach a wider audience.
This first step is the likely the longest part of the entire ecommerce website design process. Your inventory must be added into a spreadsheet that has specific columns that align with variables in your new ecommerce website. Without this information, your site visitors will not be able to view information or check out.
The information you load into your spreadsheet must be 100% accurate. Otherwise, you may run into problems such as:
Your ecommerce store will require you to pay close attention to your inventory. If you are still operating your brick-and-mortar store, you may consider creating two separate inventories to ensure the information you enter into the spreadsheet is always accurate. Fortunately, you can go in at any point and change the physical number you have for each product should.
If you will now sell your products to a larger market that cannot stop by and participate in contactless curbside pickup, you will need to start shipping your products. There are three popular shipping strategies you can use to drive customers to complete their purchase.
The first strategy is to offer free shipping. Individuals love seeing the word “free” attached to their order. You can offer free shipping across the board or with a minimum purchase. This can encourage them to add ore to their cart and increase your average cart total.
The second strategy is to simply charge what you pay. By being open and transparent about shipping costs for each cart order, customers are more likely to want to complete the purchase. Your customers often do not want to pay a markup on shipping. Real time calculators can be installed on my ecommerce websites to aid in this shipping strategy.
The third strategy is to offer flat rate shipping. This strategy does not consider weight or number of items. Rather, customers can have as few or as many items of any weight in their cart and each customer will pay the same shipping price. This can help you streamline answering questions about shipping and possibly earn additional profit each revenue if actual shipping costs are less than the flat rate amount.
Once you understand your inventory and shipping cost strategy for your ecommerce store, you need to decide on definitive policies regarding returns and exchanges. The policies you set forth now can help protect your profits in the future. Without policies in place, you may have to give away items to help protect your brand from negative reviews.
Consider the following example: You own an art gallery and are beginning to sell the one-of-a-kind pieces online. You have forgotten to include that you do not accept exchanges or returns on any sales. Your customer reaches out to you 45 days later and says the art they purchased did not meet their expectations and they would like to exchange it. You let them know you do not accept exchanges or returns on any orders. The customer gets back to you and demands you refund them now or they will leave bad reviews everywhere they can. You don’t want to start your new ecommerce website with bad reviews, so you reluctantly overnight a prepaid box and label to the customer for the item to be returned. You let the customer know they will be refunded once you receive the art back. The customer promises to send the artwork back immediately. You follow up with the customer each week for a month, but you can’t get any response. The artwork still hasn’t been returned to you, so you have not processed the refund. You get notifications a week later that you have received 1-star reviews on every possible review site.
In this example, these headaches and frustrations could have been avoided by adding the return and exchange policy to the ecommerce store. While you can reply to negative reviews and explain your side of the story, there is no guarantee that potential customers will read your response. They may see the 1-star rating and move on. Since you cannot remove negative reviews, you will need to come up with a creative strategy to garner more 4- and 5-star reviews that negate the one poor review.
Consider another example: Your art gallery has recovered from the poor 1star review and now has an average rating of 4.5 stars. You have included on each product that returns and exchanges are not possible on any purchase. You’ve also included this information on a specific policies page and on the checkout page. You haven’t had any issues in over six months. However, a customer has recently reached out to you because the artwork they purchased did not seem to please the intended recipient. Since the customer purchased it as a gift, they were wondering if there was anything you could do to help them. The customer adds they were aware of the no return or exchange policy, but they would really like to make their purchase worth it. You decide to help the customer by offering a free $50 gift card with their next purchase or giving them a 10% total off their next purchase (whichever is greater). The customer is grateful for your offer, but they are not interested in purchasing anything else from you. A few days later you receive a notification you have received a 4-star review The review highlights you were stern on your very clear policy, but you were willing to give either a $50 gift card or 10% off on the next purchase.
This example highlights how a clear return and exchange policy can protect your ecommerce website’s integrity. You will find this issue arises more often than you would like, but it is possible to set yourself up for success by being clear on your policies from the beginning. If you do decide to offer something in order to retain the customer, you will be setting a precedence. Make sure it is an offer you can afford to give to every customer each time the situation arises.
Now that all of the preparations have been completed, it is finally time to decide on your ecommerce website design. You can make your ecommerce store as simple or complex as you would like. The most important aspect to consider with your new online store is how it functions.
Customers do not want to fight your website in order to make a purchase. It should be easy for customers to come in, add products to their cart, and checkout. If the customer needs to complete too many actions or close out more than one pop-up, you could lose them. The fewer clicks a customer needs to make, the better.
If you will complete the DIY ecommerce website approach, you can use popular sites like Shopify, Square, or Woocommerce to easily get started. Simply select a site template and get started! You can make some changes to the design and colors to more closely match your brand. These sites can be aesthetically pleasing, and they are highly functional. They will do exactly what your store needs to do: allow customers to make purchases.
Those who want to have a site that truly encompasses their brand while delivering an amazing experience to their customers will want to go with a fully customized ecommerce website. With this option, it can take a few weeks up to a few months to get all of the moving parts set up. It can be beneficial to use a DIY platform in the meantime to generate sales if you cannot wait for the fully customized ecommerce store to be completed.
Once your ecommerce website is live, you need to drive traffic to it in order to make sales. With the number of marketing and advertising tools available, you can reach your audience across the web and let them know about your new ecommerce store.
Some of the ways you can drive traffic include:
Simply having an ecommerce website is not enough to generate sales. Unless your customers know you have a new, socially safe way to purchase their favorite products, they will not be able to make a purchase. The more you advertise your online store, the more likely you are to see impactful ROI.
Your business can survive in the COVID-19 era by adjusting to the needs of your customers. Some individuals may never feel comfortable pursuing your store in person again while others cannot wait to get back into society. In order to serve the needs of all of your customers, provide them the opportunities to shop in ways they are most comfortable.
Along with satisfying the needs of your current customers, your ecommerce website can allow you to garner new sales unlike ever before. Your store will now be open 24/7, so you can capture leads and generate sales even at 2 o’clock in the morning that are halfway across the country!