Ecommerce Business – Starting an online business
The internet is a powerful tool that has revolutionised how businesses approach selling their products to customers. Gone are the days of requiring a brick and mortar store with high overhead costs and drawing consumers out of their homes and into your store to make a sale. With the advent of eCommerce, an online presence can be more than enough for customers to sit on their couch, phone in hand, and in just a few taps on their screen, have their products sent directly to them. This comparatively low cost of entry, combined with making the shopping experience more convenient to consumers means that online shopping will only continue to grow in the forthcoming years.
However, with the ever saturating nature of the online market, you must take the correct steps in creating a profitable online store. The beauty of online shopping is its convenience, and customers will quickly bounce from your website if they come across even the smallest amount of resistance when making their way to checkout.
Behind the scenes… sorting out the back end
Often the first mistake people make when starting an online business is jumping straight to the website, the sales portal. But first of all, it is important to get all your ducks in a row to figure out how best to integrate it seamlessly into one streamlined package. Once the site is in place, it can be difficult to retroactively figure out how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.
First, consider accounting software. Managing online transactions, especially in a high volume/turnover business can get overwhelming very quickly if you’re trying to reconcile accounts between digital sales through your storefront, bank statements, and the physical fulfillment of orders. Popular accounting software such as MYOB or Xero integrates into the back end of many eCommerce systems. This allows you to easily track the ins and outs without manual logging or tracking. Many of these accounting platforms also include inventory tracking, but this may also be left to the back end of your website.
Choosing your accounting software will allow you to determine what is the best payment processor. This is the system that will be receiving money and should integrate into your chosen accounting software so that money received can easily be reconciled against sales. Some services, such as Paypal, act like an online bank account that can then be withdrawn into your main business bank account at a later stage. While apps such as Stripe and other credit card processing applications can pay directly into your bank account.
Building a Beautiful Website that Converts
Your website may be the first impression customers have of you, so you better make it count. An eCommerce business website requires all the usual features a standard website needs – memorable design, usability, content, and navigation with some added caveats. Depending on how many products your website may have, eCommerce websites have the potential to have exponentially more pages than a standard website. But don’t let size attribute to complexity; the customer journey should always be smooth and user friendly.
Ultimately, you want your customers to get from entering your website, through to confirming their order, in as few clicks as possible. Failing to do so produces resistance that the modern-day online shopper has very little patience for.
Building a website is easier to do if you’re a business that sells a relatively small amount of products, but can be trickier for businesses that offer a wide range of products. Without overwhelming the user with too many options, customers still need to find exactly what they want with as little effort as possible. This is reliant on well-thought-out product categorisation and tagging. This acts as a means of organising stock into easily searchable sets, filtering through your entire inventory, and presenting potential customers with products that match their requirements. There should be no “blind spots” – products that customers miss because they aren’t tagged/are tagged incorrectly. Tagged products also require descriptions that make them optimised for search engines, so while that is outside the scope of this guide it is still an important note to keep in mind. No matter how big your range is, every product should be able to be found in a matter of 1 or 2 clicks.
The same philosophy for finding products needs to be applied to the point of sale functionality of the website. Once the item has been found, it should be able to be purchased in as few steps as possible. Adding to cart, entering payment details, shipping information, and impulsive up-sales need to be streamlined for the perfect customer experience.
Many platforms allow you to build beautiful websites from templates to create eCommerce stores. Services such as WordPress, Squarespace, and Shopify have given people access to great eCommerce tools that would have cost tens of thousands of dollars just a decade ago. However, consumers are also savvier to websites that follow similar templates, so while these may be a great starting point, it pays to differentiate yourself from the competition. This may be just having an expert in design to use the template to its full potential, creating a website that stands apart from its competitors that use the same template or build a unique storefront that aligns itself with your business in every single aspect.
Driving Traffic with Advertising and Marketing…a side note
While marketing and advertising is a whole other kettle of fish, there is still some overlap in regards to your brand new eCommerce store. All your communications, whether they are banner ads, social ads, or EDMs, need to reflect the store that you are sending your customers to. You don’t want to put people through any kind of dissonance when they click an advertisement and end up at a website that “feels” different. This is in regards to the design features and tone of the content. Keep it consistent!
Fulfilling Orders and Getting Paid
So the customer has completed their order. Woohoo! But your work is not finished yet. If you had followed the first step of this guide, you should have in place a backend system that makes order fulfillment a piece of cake. Just as you want your customer to have an easy customer journey, your fulfillment journey should be the same. Upon an order being received, you will receive an email confirming the order along with shipping details for the customer. Your stock levels will be adjusted either in the backend of your accounting software or online store (or both), and money will be transferred through your given payment processor. Your sales portal will display that an order has been made, and from here you can choose to print off a sales receipt (and shipping label) before packaging up the customer’s order and sending it out with the courier. Once this has been done, you can change the order’s status to fulfilled and your customer will be notified via email that their product is on its way.
This simple set of steps will all be captured in your accounting software so it is easy to reconcile the received money with the correct order generated. It is highly recommended that you familiarise yourself with your obligations as an online seller in regards to returns and refunds. It is considered good practise to not withdraw money from your accounts until a sale is no longer in its refund period.
Let Lime Digital’s eCommerce Solutions take your Online Business to New Heights
Building an online store can be deceiving. While the customer journey may seem like a simple task, the work behind the scenes and out of view from the customer is where the magic happens. Many moving parts need to work in sync to build a viable eCommerce store, some of which lead to higher conversion rates, while others are quality-of-life implementations to make your business a dream to run. It takes a lot of foresight and planning to execute a profitable, scalable eCommerce website. Lime Digital is an experienced team that covers the entire spectrum of eCommerce, from strategy, to design, to development, and finally marketing. If you’re looking to either start or transition to an eCommerce business, get in contact with the team at Lime Digital today to discuss your strategy towards online sale success.