Only 17% of the small business market have tried creating their own online ecommerce store. Source
eCommerce website – Is it time you tried it?
It’s a decision every business owner or manager faces. Most of the time, the answer is yes.
eCommerce is a useful capability in our increasingly cashless society. Soon people will be paying in completely digital currencies like Bitcoin or Etherium.
Finding the right ecommerce website development company to build your custom ecommerce store has a lot of nuances.
There are out-of-the-box tools available, yet they’ve had to adopt inherent compromises to be able to fit into the box in the first place.
If you can handle the compromises, great. Then try a Shopify or woocommerce store. Otherwise, your e-store must cater to the fact that your products and services are likely to be unique in the market.
Your shipping or booking rules are also probably unique. And simply, the way you want to do business will reflect your unique selling proposition or competitive advantage.
These things typically don’t fit in boxes. So, how do you capture that when you take things online? Read on to find out.
What is eCommerce?
Before we go any further, we should carefully define the term ‘ecommerce’.
For the purposes of this article, ecommerce is the practice of conducting trade over an electronic network. It’s a broader but more useful definition than you might hear elsewhere.
The trade mentioned in the definition can be monetary or take the form of data. The electronic network is commonly thought of as ‘the internet’, but it isn’t necessarily always the case.
The trade can be between any sort of provider and purchaser: business-to-consumer and business-to-business for sure, but ecommerce also empowers consumer-to-consumer (peer-to-peer) and consumer-to-business trade.
Even paying taxes electronically can be considered ecommerce – citizen-to-government (C2G) perhaps. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though.
In ecommerce, B2C and B2B currently predominate and probably always will.
Who needs an eCommerce Store?
The people who need a turnkey e-shop are generally those who offer products or services that don’t require face to face contact to sell.
While the personal touch is a powerful tool in most businesses, there are a surprising amount of instances where it is not actually required. There are many times when you never need to meet your solicitor, accountant or financial planner, for example.
There is also no minimum or maximum size of an ecommerce enterprise.
Look at Kogan, it’s a huge business with zero shop fronts (the one time it did have one seems to have been a marketing stunt). Likewise, there are micro-retailers with such small turnovers that their business models could not sustain any physical presence. Some of them can barely sustain an hour of the owner’s attention a week.
A general guide is the larger the transactions, the less they suit ecommerce. At present, the spending threshold beyond which consumers are unwilling to conduct business online seems to be around $5,000. But this is increasing each year.
People are not just spending more time online shopping, but they’re spending more money each time they do shop online. Source
Proximity-based and large purchases that involve negotiations, meetings and the approval of financial institutions probably won’t have as much need for an ecommerce service.
For example, if you sell real estate it is unlikely enough of your customers will use your online store to buy a house sight unseen with their credit card – but they may pay your other fees that way.
Similarly, if you are a tailor who handmakes suits, it is unlikely that your USP – your advice, experience and craftsmanship – can be leveraged online. However, there’s no reason you can’t sell cufflinks, sock and ties to your loyal patrons via ecommerce.
Types of eCommerce Stores
As mentioned above, there are different kinds of business that can use an ecommerce store. It’s rare that a C2C or C2B seller is going invest in their own ecommerce solution, so they can be put aside for the moment.
For B2B and B2C, there are three categories:
- Retailers – these are businesses selling physical goods that are shipped out to the buyer.
- Service providers – these are businesses that offer professional services and consulting via the internet.
- Combined businesses – these are businesses that derive profits from both their goods and services.
For a retailer, think B2C books, furniture and appliances. On the B2B side think office supplies or bulk orders of raw materials.
And for service providers, think financial B2C services, such as short-term lenders. For B2B think technology development and digital marketing.
For combined business, these are businesses like personal stylists who provide the advice and sell fashion accessories. For B2B, any consultant services who also sell online courses or resources or fixed fee consulting.
What eCommerce Stores Enable
An ecommerce outlet gives you many advantages – chiefly visibility, scalability and reach.
It goes without saying that ecommerce stores are ‘unmanned’. There is no one sitting at a digital counter transacting the sales. It means your sales staff are freed up to chase leads or do fulfilment.
Moving to an online model also allows many retailers and service providers to remove the overheads of maintaining physical showrooms and offices. Often, an entire business can be packed up into laptops that allow staff to work remotely. Especially if there is no physical fulfilment needed (although these days, this can be outsourced as well)
Being online makes the store accessible 24 hours a day all over the world, so it is able to reach a far broader customer base. And when the customers do come along you’re able to collect data about them.
Market research and feasibility
While ecommerce stores are a popular and revolutionary way to do business, that doesn’t mean you can’t go wrong. Plan carefully because an ecommerce store could herald a huge evolution in your business. Conduct an in-depth business plan to gauge your:
- Payback time
- Projected ROI.
Once you’ve done that, it’s time to think about how you’ll get your ecommerce store up and running. Generally, there are four ways to approach it. The following table outlines the pros and cons the different approaches:
|Turnkey solution||Will do exactly what it says it will||Won’t be able to do anything else|
|Bespoke||Built to do exactly what you need (often by an agency)||Higher cost and delivery might take longer|
|Agency||Certainty on result, guarantees on quality, advanced planning||Higher upfront costs|
|Freelancer||Cost, quality can be okay||Cost, quality and time have little guarantee and can really head south quickly. Especially if it was not scoped correctly. Typically, time to market is longer. Still requires project management|
|DIY||Cost can be extremely low, gives you maximum control||Quality and schedule is dictated by your skill level and how much time you have available|
Whichever option you choose, you’ll have to be dedicated to your ecommerce store as an ongoing project, just like a physical showroom.
Design and branding of eCommerce Store
If you are a small business person building your first ecommerce store, be prepared to face a lot of questions you might not have had to deal with before. For example:
- What is your brand persona? This will affect things like your store’s look and feel as well as it colour scheme, language and tone
- How does your sales process function best? Perhaps your business model relies on a loss leader to gain interest and then you build in profitability through upsell and cross-sell. How do you set up a system that is customer active where your model still works?
- Who is and is not your market? The more you know about your highest value segment, the more you can build a store that gives them exactly what they want. If you think your market is ‘everyone’ remember that Coca-Cola only managed to pull that off when they figured out how to sell water.
Test, optimise and test again
Your ecommerce store is not going to be perfect from the start. As a general rule, the more product lines you sell and the more options you offer, the more ways an ecommerce system won’t do exactly what you or the customer wants.
A good ecommerce platform will make it simple to test your store before it goes live. Further, once your e-store does go live, you must be able to tweak it to capture as much business as possible.
For example, say you are in an FMCG sector and your e-store customers want detailed product information. If you only make that information available as a downloadable PDF, it’s an almost guaranteed sales-killer.
eCommerce Market and launch
Once your business e-store is up and working properly, you have to let people know.
Include the marketing budget for your ecommerce store’s launch into the overall budget for the setup. Think of it like the signage advertising a new physical location.
We have seen many businesses that have launched an online store, but then not actually told anyone. Once again, there are many ways to handle the launch and marketing of your e-store.
Hunted Hive is not a marketing agency, so our main advice here is: don’t do it yourself. Effective digital marketing is ever-evolving and can be difficult to manage alone.
Surround yourself with a marketing A team to bring in leads, do your research.
If your ecommerce store is SEO optimised, customers won’t appear overnight. It takes up to 3 months for search engines like Google to rank you for targeted long tail keywords in your niche.
Successfully selling online
If you follow all these steps you’re already far ahead of competitors who aren’t online yet.
If you’re playing catch-up with competitors who have been selling online for years, you have an advantage of seeing what they’re already doing and seeing where they aren’t doing it right. Learn from their mistakes.
From this article, you now have a taste of what to expect from the ecommerce website development including:
- what to ask of the people who’ll help you along the way
- how successful you can be and how much of a change it can make to your business overall
This is just the start. But if you that you are in need for a custom ecommerce solution and not a DIY solution, be sure to read 10 Critical Questions to Ask a Web Application Development Company
If you want to get started on ecommerce website development today, talk to Hunted Hive. Our comprehensive ecommerce development skills and planning tools will get you on the best track to success.