December 15, 2020
Start Selling Online: Benefits of an eCommerce website
There’s no doubt about it; 2020 has been a tough year.
With many businesses struggling to breakeven and redundancies becoming commonplace, we would all be forgiven for thinking that nothing good has come from the year when Covid-19 hit the UK.
However, as my mother always says, ‘one door closes and another opens’.
The challenges brought upon us can often bear fruit. Forcing businesses and entrepreneurs to adapt to new market conditions tends to lead to new opportunities and then if things work out well – as we all hope they will – great reward.
One of the biggest changes that businesses have had to embrace in 2020 is to start selling online. If you design and make your own goods or are just a reseller, investing in an eCommerce website is something you should be doing if you have yet to do so already.
Make the Switch to an Online Business
With stock sitting idle in stores and warehouses across the country, it’s time to take the plunge and make the switch to an online business.
This does not mean that you abandon your bricks & mortar store altogether. You are simply expanding your business to take advantage of the rise in online shopping.
Online sales have been rising steadily for several years now. Covid has just accelerated that trend forward a few years, with many consumers vowing never to go back to the high street for certain types of product, such as food and beverages.
To take advantage of this trend and avoid becoming another lockdown casualty, it’s time to look at your e-commerce platform options.
From the smallest boutique store to the largest of retailers, there are gains to be made from setting up an eCommerce website or upgrading the one you already have.
The likes of Shopify are great for those on a tight budget who wish to sell a simple product range within menial variation.
Bigger businesses with a larger range of products may find they are outgrowing the limitations of an off-the-shelf solution such as Shopify or Wix and could benefit from migrating to a platform such as WooCommerce or Magento. Both of which are more suited to enterprise-level organisations.
Benefits of an eCommerce website
Aside from the desire to increase your revenue, let’s look at some of the practical benefits of running an eCommerce website.
When you start selling online, it is likely that your website will just be a replication of your physical store, but in future, your website will offer you a space to sell products that you can no longer hold instore.
You may be a clothing retailer with stock that is going out of style or just needs to be removed from sale due to the change in season. Either way, if you have a place where you can keep the goods, your website will offer you the opportunity to sell those items beyond their usual shelf life.
Another boon to running an eCommerce website for your business is the ability to sell items that are too big to stock instore due to limited space.
You may wish to diversify your usual product lines and start to sell items that would otherwise be too big & expensive (per square foot) to keep on a shelf in a physical store, but you will have the chance to offer these items for sale via your online presence.
Online stores also offer a great testing ground for products that may or may not do well instore. If sales are low you can easily reduce costs and sell the items to clear the stock, or simply remove them from the store with a few clicks. If sales are strong, you can look to migrate the new product lines to the physical locations and gain more sales.
The benefits of running an eCommerce store are wide-ranging, but it is the speed at which you can adapt that is key.
Key Features of an eCommerce website
Once you have decided that you are going to launch your own eCommerce website, there are a few things to look for in your choice of template.
There is nothing worse than choosing a website template only to find out that it does not offer all the functionality that you need. So if you are going to go with an off-the-shelf solution, try to make sure that it offers the following:
- Product variations – Having the ability to list one item but offer it in a range of formats (colour, sizes, finishes) makes it so much easier for you to list the items and for the customer to purchase multiple variants.
- Share products with friends and family – This is where social can really work for you without actually having to do much work yourself. Make sure that it is easy to share your products from your site to grow awareness of your brand.
- Profile your physical location – Despite this article is all about selling online, if you already have a physical store, you should profile that location on the website. Sounds obvious, but making it easy for local customers to drop-in and perhaps pick-up online purchases will help build brand loyalty.
- Mailing list – Email is still the number one method for reaching out to your customers. Social media is obviously very important, but building a database of customers / potential customers and being able to send them product announcements is a cheap and effective way of generating more sales.
- Easy checkout – This is where so many purchases fail to complete, so if you can employ a checkout process that is as frictionless as possible, you will convert more sales.
- Wish list – Not a ‘must-have’ item, but it is handy for people to be able to create lists of items that they may want to purchase in the future. That way a customer can just return to your website, log in and purchase directly from their Wish List rather than have to search for an item again from scratch.
It can be very hard to work out what functionality a template offers in its out-of-the-box state. It is often the case that off-the-shelf systems require the addition of plugins to deliver the functionality that you require.
In this instance, you may require the assistance of a web design agency such as LWDA.
We can walk you through the pros and cons of using an off-the-shelf platform and give you a guide to how much and e-commerce website costs. That way you can make an informed choice for your brand.
The Importance of Design in an eCommerce website
The key benefit of working with a web design agency to build your eCommerce website is that the resulting design will be unique to your brand.
One of the pitfalls of using an off-the-shelf system is that the pre-built templates are likely being using by hundreds if not thousands of other websites around the world, many of which may be in a similar sector as your company.
Although colours, fonts and logos can be changed, it is often felt that template websites have a particular look & feel to them, which lacks a truly unique identity that customers can identify with.
Beyond the branded look of your site, these are some of our top areas of focus when designing an eCommerce website:
- Easy navigation and search – You need to make sure that your customers can find your products as easily and quickly as possible.
People are seemingly more time-poor than ever, so if they can find an item and checkout within a few clicks, you’ll reap the financial benefits.
- Uncluttered layout – eCommerce or not, it is often the case that many site owners wish to include a vast array of information and options on the page at any time. Our key advice is to resist this urge.
We prefer the ‘Less is More’ approach, focussing the user’s eye on the product and guiding them through the path to conversion. Remove all unnecessary distractions from the page to achieve this.
- Clear CTAs to purchase – Make those ‘Buy Now’ buttons obvious. Not too small or muted in tone. They need to attract the eye of the viewer and be consistent throughout the site, making it easy to add items to the cart and then progress to checkout.
- Important information ‘above the fold’ – along with the CTAs mentioned above, all of the key info needs to appear on the screen when the page first loads. Don’t make the user work hard to find what they need, especially the ‘Buy Now’ button, which you can repeat further down the page if required.
Follow these rules and you will be well on the way to delivering a good user experience for your customers that translates into sales for your brand.
If you are considering taking the plunge and creating an eCommerce website for your brand, now is the time.
The race is on for retail brands to get online or to revamp their current website to maximise their reach and regain sales that have been lost on the high street.
2021 will be a make-or-break year for many, so delay taking this step at your peril.
Engage the services of a web design agency to help you find the right solution for your brand. A platform that offers the correct functionality for your customers and integrates into the right systems for your staff.
Create an online presence that is unique to your brand by avoiding off-the-shelf templates where possible, and make sure that you resist the temptation to throw too much content at your website. Keep things simple, elegant and easy to navigate.
Our aim is to help you become one of 2021’s survivors and not one of its casualties.