Ecommerce has the power to drive revenue growth and open up international markets. That’s what respondents told WorldPay, the online payment processor, when they surveyed SME owners and managers in late 2011.
Eighty-four per cent of respondents said ecommerce had slightly or significantly improved income, while a quarter now see overseas transactions contributing 30-40% of ecommerce income.
Those figures show just how important ecommerce websites can be to a business, especially a small one. Providing an easy-to-use, comprehensive online shop does not require much investment but it can see sales surge.
So for those looking to harness the power of the world-wide web, here’re some pointers on setting up an online shop.
Don’t be afraid
It is small businesses that have the most to gain, as the efficiency and relatively low expense of online activities level the playing field against bigger competitors. But often small businesses feel they lack the expertise and resource to get ecommerce spot on. With a growing number of ecommerce solutions and providers out there, they don’t need to.
Webhosts themselves can provide plug-and-play ecommerce solutions. Once you have a website you are well on your way, as most will be able to support an ecommerce add-on.
Third party help
You can invest in software and build your own shop yourself or you can invest in a hosted service that does it for you.
If you haven’t done it before, and don’t know what the project entails, going down the third-party route is probably for the best. So long as you stay in touch with those developing your site, picking up knowledge as you go, you will be better placed the next time you choose to set up an ecommerce site or page.
Make sure your online shop is an extension of your brand. A unified brand campaign, taking in everything from business cards to websites gives you the best connection with your market. Don’t let your carefully crafted brand slip at the point of conversion; consider getting in a designer to help with this, or speak to your ecommerce provider.
Customers can’t hold the item you want them to buy, so give them a gallery of clear images, including close-ups, that fills them with confidence when buying.
Postage and payment
So your site looks fantastic, and your online marketing is driving people to it in record numbers. It’s useless unless you have an adequate means of taking payment. You can employ a free payment gateway like PayPal – eBay’s own payment method – or look into adding a means of paying by credit or debit card.
Obviously the second option opens up your shop to a greater audience, and you should discuss this option with whoever is developing your site.
You also need to consider your shipping. How much will it cost you to send each item? Can you make a reduction from your normal delivery prices to reflect the lower overheads? Make sure you charge enough to cover your costs – you don’t want to turn a potential business success into an operative headache!