When starting up an e-commerce project to sell products or services online, it is useful to know what aspects should be paid more attention to while other things that are less important for gaining sales and customer loyalty should be put aside for a later time. In this article we offer you the basic guidelines a beginner should keep to with account to the specifics of the products or services being sold and other individual conditions.
Most online store owners, when starting their first e-commerce business, set it as their main goal to create an extraordinary storefront design and are ready to spend a significant part of their budget to have it developed for them. If your primary goal is to make your customer excited about your unique storefront design, then go ahead and order it from a professional web designer. If, however, you strive to receive your first orders as soon as possible, assign lower priority to the design setup until you can earn enough to pay a designer who would customize your storefront according to your needs.
Remember, it is not the web design that sells your products! Begin with a simple layout that should be first of all clear and convenient for your customers. Do not take it as an appeal to completely forget about the web design. On the contrary, it should be well thought through and simple in use and perception, and most important, not interfere with a customer finding their way around in your store.
Openness to the customer
Many e-commerce beginners avoid publishing their contact information in their online stores (intentionally or just for get about it). It is a big mistake!
A customer should be confident that he or she would be able to contact an operator or administrator whenever that becomes necessary. Aside to the email address, it is advisable to make other contact information available to the customer: phone number (a cellphone would do), your postal address, ICQ/MSN/Skype ID etc.
Publishing extended contact details would hardly result in a large amount of customer requests, but it will raise their trust to your store and the confidence that they are dealing with real people who can be contacted at any time.
An easy way to place an order
An opportunity to add items to the shopping cart should be offered to the customer at all possible locations where it might become necessary. If there is no "Add to cart" button next to a product name, anyone would think that that product is not for sale (probably out of stock), and this would mean a lost order to you.
The checkout process should be easy and possibly straightforward. A customer's attention should not be distracted by anything like ad banners or discount offers etc. Once noticed, they will be clicked on and the order will be forgotten. The more banners are clicked on, the more "lost orders" you get.
Quick response to customer input
Imagine that you have ordered something in an online store and have not heard anything from the store owner during a day. What would you do? Most probably, go to another store and order the same item there. Never allow this to happen! Do everything that is in your power to contact the customer as soon as possible once an order has been placed. You may, for example, set up the SMS notification feature that will inform you about all newly placed orders.
Quick response to newly placed orders is especially important for online sellers who use paid online marketplaces such as PriceGrabber. Those online stores must respond virtually immediately! If a customer does not hear from you within several minutes, he would order the same item in the next store (if you are not selling something really unique that cannot be found anywhere else, of course). In this case you lose an order and pay to the portal for a click on your link.
Low prices are not the main reason why a customer would order something in your store. It is their confidence that he would receive exactly what he has ordered undamaged and in time that matters.
Always extend the number of informational resources from which your potential customers can learn about your online store; e.g., publish your products in large online marketplaces and use popular online advertising services such as Google AdWords. If it is appropriate in your case, you also may publish offline ads in printed media. You need to constantly disseminate information about your online store among potential and existing customers, at least at the very beginning, when not too many Internet users are aware of your store.
Try to step into your customers' shoes once in a while and ask yourself the question "Would I order anything in this store?" (provided that you see it for the first time!). If you can honestly answer "Yes" then you are on the right track.