10 Tips for ecommerce

Posted on April 25, 2012 12:13 by blything

If you’re driving (or planning on driving) an ecommerce business (I regularly work with many Liverpool Ecommerce businesses), you’ll know what I mean when I say there’s little in marketing as fascinating. I think it’s because unlike most of the rest of the discipline of marketing the link to revenue is so transparent with ecommerce. You get to see the actual cash roll in (or not) based on each new idea you test.

It’s a big subject too, but here’s a few obvious tips to get you started:

You’re Amazon.com or you’re niche

And no offence but you’re probably not Amazon. That means that unless your company is worth 90 billion and you literally wrote the book on ecommerce, it might be wiser to start off in a niche you know you can rule. It might seem like a good idea to stock a huge range, but unless you have better margin than everyone else (see Tip #2) on EVERYTHING, you’ll find it hard work and your time, effort and budget will be diluted. Better to pick something you have the edge on and get it performing well. You can expand inventory later.

Price well or don’t sell

This is the internet and your prices are going to be shown, quite literally, next to those of your competitors. In “Lowest Price First” order. If they’re selling the same product at a better price with comparable delivery and they don’t look “dodgy” who do you think wins the business? That leads to some important critical strategic thinking – if you (generally) don’t have the margin, maybe you need to rethink the niche – See Tip #1. If you DO have the margin, that’s a product worth pushing!

Structure & Function – categories count

Sometimes it’s difficult to organise your products rationally. Often, I speak to ecommerce merchants and they’re bogged down in legacy categories simply because “that’s how we’ve always organised the product catalogue”, “This is the category we store it under in the warehouse” or “that’s how our supplier organises their catalogue”.

For the front of an ecommerce store though, the only person you should be prioritising is the customer. They don’t care about your warehouse, or suppliers catalogue, they just expect to find the thing they’re looking for in the category that makes most sense to them.

Look at your categories. If there’s more than about 8 (top level), if they don’t make sense to a customer, rethink them.

The (Product) Shipping Forecast

Fulfilment. Easy to say but difficult to get right. Many successful ecommerce websites make sure that they are VERY good at shipping, and offer attractive rates. Make sure that the cost you offer is reasonable, consider offering cheaper or free shipping over a certain spend threshold and build your relationship with the carrier or fulfilment partner because if they let you down, it’ll be your reputation that suffers. A good relationship with the carrier will go further than a purely “cheapest quote wins” option.

Social Proof is in the Pudding

Customers talk to each other. For a while, ecommerce websites had control of this because the customers were separated in space and didn’t know each other. Twitter, Trustpilot, and so on now mean that control has eroded. Google shopping results allow customers to rate - “trust” is now a currency, managed by third parties. The direction of travel is clear – this will increase, reputations and conversations are increasingly out in public written record. This cuts both ways but ecommerce stores which work to amplify positive reviews and recommendations thrive on this “Social Proof” of good service.

Take Stock of your Stock

If you’ve not got it in stock and you accepted the order, there’s a disappointed customer in the pipeline. Drop Shipping is fine, but make sure you set expectations reasonably, up front and if you know there are supply problems, it might be worth pulling back from promoting those items.

Content Counts

Managing a large catalogue can be a pain. The more inventory you have, the more you need to manage. From a customer perspective, there’s nothing that will have you clicking away and onto the next ecommerce site than a product page with insufficient information and content.

Ideally, every single product page will have at least:

  • A great, descriptive title, more than five words
  • A good clear primary photo and preferably some alternative photos
  • Price – clear, obvious and competitive
  • Tax & Shipping – broken down
  • Purchase button – should be the most obvious thing on the page, after the main photo
  • Several paragraphs of descriptive copy
  • Features and benefits if appropriate

That could take a while to develop for any sizable catalogue! Prioritise your most important products and keep going at it, little and often. Remember – the more good quality content, the better you’ll do in natural search.

Measure Success

Any credible ecommerce store knows where each customer came from, down to the keyword, email, referring site and so on (if you don’t, ask us about it). You should also have a pretty good if not exact number for what it cost to get each visitor to your site.

What would happen if you lined up the “acceptable cost to acquire” customers with the products that you can sell them at a profit? What would happen if you used that information to widen the gap between acquisition cost and price?

That’s why it’s worth measuring.

Physical Address

It’s an old and obvious observation but if you don’t list your physical address and phone number, I’m not going to trust you and that means I’m not going to buy from you.

Make sure it’s obvious.

Test Test Test

There’s very little about an ecommerce website (or business operation, for that matter) that can’t be tested. The ecommerce websites which are relentless in their testing are the ones which come out on top and that’s because they’re removing the guesswork with every test.

Start as you mean to go on and make a list of what you’re going to test, here’s a few examples:

  • Price
  • Checkout Form Layout
  • Checkout Form Length
  • Purchase Button Size, Colour, Position

There’s another article about Six Great Tips for Split Testing here.

Ecommerce is a big subject and constantly changing. We regularly run training events, have a look here at our Ecommerce Web Design Services to see what we offer and if you’d like to have a chat with an expert, get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.

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