Who Is This Guide For?
This guide is designed specifically for new entrants into the ecommerce and digital marketing world. It explains the basics of moving onto selling online, without too much technical jargon or buzzwords. If you are a business owner or a marketeer and you are either setting up a new online venture or planning to expand an existing business onto the Internet, this document is for you.
This guide is compiled based on our many years of experience in setting up and running online shops for our customers in the UK and Malta. We hope that this experience provides practical, real-world advice that can be beneficial to any other similar business during the planning and running of an online sales channel.
Planning For E-Commerce
Surprisingly (or not), many ecommerce projects start off on the wrong footing, with little or no planning, and sometimes for all the wrong reasons. Here are a few common pitfalls:
Lack of financial planning and budgeting is a common problem that can result in the failure of an ecommerce project. Digital channels must become a recognized part of your businesses financial plans. This is typically easier for new startups, whilst established companies struggle to change their ways, choosing to sweep ecommerce with generic marketing activities and budgets.
Imitating (or copying?) your competition may be a wrong reason to embark on an ecommerce project. Your business is not your competition’s and identifying these differences is critical before you go down the line in defining your strategy.
Management mentality is today quickly changing as ecommerce is today accepted as an effective sales channel. However with new mentality comes a shift in culture that must include virtually all the staff.
E-commerce rarely works well if left as a side line to the main focus of everybody in the organisation. On the contrary, it can produce great results when fully meshed into the day-to-day culture of company, such as streamlining, increased efficiency and lower costs.
Here are some great reasons for looking at online selling:
The Internet is the perfect medium to win new markets and customers, outside of your current sphere. An online shop may be a great way to enter into new geographic areas, age groups or market segments. Whilst traditional brick and mortar tends to be tied to a physical location (your shop or office), the virtual market is free from such limitations.
Just like fishing, an online shop allows you to drop your sinker in a completely new pond.
As customers move with trends and technologies, your businesses cannot stand still. It is therefore a good idea to adapt your sales channel (channel diversification) to go where your customers are (or will be). Current trends are showing that high street retail is on the decline in most countries, whilst online sales seem to grow every year.
Where should your business open its next sales outlet then?
It’s A Trust Thing
You must be aware that Internet shoppers and online customers in general behave differently from traditional walk-in customers. This may sounds strange at first, since you would think that people are people, however consumer behaviour varies depending on the “environment”. For example, the fact that customers are calmly sitting in their living room whilst making a purchase means they are often more open to new ideas and suggestions that in a busy shop. On the other hand, the fact that they do not instantly walk out with the product in hand makes your delivery policy a key factor.
Most of all, online shops need to win the trust of customers. This is not an easy task and one which is only achieved over time. Good customer service, clear delivery and returns policies and great products all contribute to this. However many, seemingly minor details of the how the shop works are also vital to the building and growing of a trust relationship. For example, a shopping cart system should ensure that placing an order is easy and friendly. Shopping cart frustration possibly accounts for more sales abandonment than price or other more obvious factors.
The role of high quality photography cannot be under estimated on a shopping site. Expecting customers to commit their money in the virtual world takes some reassurance, and one powerful way to achieve this is by offering good photographic evidence of the product (ideally multiple pictures, from different angles) together with well written description copy. Short movie clips also work very well to reinforce the product.
An online shop which is not backed up by a consistent marketing strategy is unlikely to succeed. Once the shopping system is rolled out, a plan must be in place to bring a constant stream of would-be buyers to the site. The more, the better!
An online marketing strategy may be as simple or as sophisticated as you want, however it should contain two basic components:
A first basic step of your online marketing should be the choice of a digital platform such as search engines, social media or others. You will then make use of free or paid marketing services (such as Goolge Ads and Facebook Ads) to attract prospective customers. Of course, much can be said about the choice or mix of platform as well as the budgets allocated to match your expectations and objectives.
The second important step is to sit back and wait. Use this time to gather and measure every aspect of your ongoing campaign in terms of views, clicks, registrations, conversions etc. Most advertising platforms provide excellent analytics tools as part of their packages, but use your own website analytics (such as Google Analytics) to cross reference the data and to link campaign activity with results onsite. Keep in mind that you are unlikely to get it right the first time, so you should use analytics to constantly refine, change and try new things.
Email is a hugely important part of any digital marketing strategy for an online shop. This is mostly because everybody uses email and customers today expect to hear from you to remind them of your brand and products on a regular basis. The frequency and content of such emails will contribute to your ongoing marketing activity, helping bring loyal customers to your site again and again, as well as extending the reach of your brand (just as long as you don’t end up in the junk folder!)
The Small Print
A variety of laws and regulations exist that govern and regulate online sales in different countries. Some deal with inter country trading, others with cross border, within the EU and outside. Most of these are common to online as well as offline, such as tax regimes and the need to issue fiscal invoice / receipt documents.
Now that your business is trading on the Internet, your customers may reside well outside your usual geographic areas. You will therefore need to ensure that you comply and adopt the necessary regulations. This can be quite a headache, however a little legal groundwork can ensure your online business can grow and succeed in the new marketplace.
Webcraft has been helping businesses develop and run online shops and transactional ecommerce sites for many years, both in the UK and Malta. We work closely with companies of all sizes to identify and develop their online strategy. We then provide all the technology tools and advice needed to build and run the selected systems whilst ensuring the objectives of the business are met.