Be Ready for Shifts in Consumer Behavior by Embracing eCommerce
Omnichannel—defined as an integrated, multi-channel approach to marketing and selling with a consistent customer experience—has been the latest buzzword in retail sales for quite some time now. But as buzzwords transform and trends shift, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, retailers must be able to be in front of their customers, on their preferred device and platform, with relatable and relevant messaging at all times.
While many questions should be asked when starting or improving eCommerce for your business, the most influential is understanding where your organization is within the eCommerce journey. For instance:
- Do you have a website?
- Who manages it?
- Does your website include eCommerce?
- Does your existing eCommerce website include all your products?
- Is your site mobile responsive to accommodate eCommerce sales from a mobile device?
These questions can help dictate how to develop your plan of action. The good news is that companies can create an eCommerce website in much less time than they think. In fact, some of the best implementations are initiated when company management delegates the responsibility of creating an eCommerce website to a project team. This focused approach allows dedicated team members to implement the project quickly.
Selecting an eCommerce Platform
An eCommerce platform is a software application that allows businesses to manage their sales and operations online. Whether you already have a website in place or you are starting from scratch with a low budget, there are several platforms, including Magento, Shopify and WooCommerce, that allow you to get started quickly.
Consider these important factors when selecting an eCommerce platform:
Understand Your Business Goals in Detail Before Selecting an eCommerce Platform
The best eCommerce platform is one that successfully delivers your company’s short-term and long-term objectives. For example, how do you anticipate your business to grow? Will the solution meet your future requirements?
Maybe the bulk of your business has been done through a brick-and-mortar location, with little or even no online sales. But, unexpectedly, a global crisis has reduced the ability to generate the same in-store traffic and an online model will become a new primary business focus.
If you have a website, can it easily take on this increase in browser traffic? If you do not have a website, how quickly could a team effectively implement this channel, and how will you inform your customers of this availability?
Look for a Platform that Integrates with Your Existing Systems and Marketing Channels
One of the benefits of an effective eCommerce platform is that it allows for integration with your other existing platforms, including your:
- In-store point of sale system
- ERP/accounting system
- Social media presence
- Analytics tools
- CRM sales and marketing platform
Ultimately, these types of integrations will help reduce manual processes as much as possible while increasing your customer base and sales volume.
What eCommerce Platform is Best for Your Industry and Products?
As with most technology solutions, the marketplace is overflowing with choices and features. While there are many options to choose from, it’s important to first check with your current support channels and technology partners within the retail community. Feedback and recommendations from others with experience and industry knowledge will help you understand the pros and cons of various platforms.
What eCommerce Platform Does Your Competition Use?
Don’t be afraid to check out what your competition is using and doing. This can help you identify which platforms are better suited for your industry or specific product types. Review different sites and determine what looks and works the best.
Carefully Consider Your eCommerce Budget
All projects need a budget to measure expenses and track return. Even in trying times, a budget is one of the primary drivers to a solution fit. Ensure you can afford an eCommerce solution even when sales are not as good.
Also, it’s ok to start small with defined targets and a defined budget. You can easily make plans for phase two once you have key building blocks in place.
What’s the Best Hosting Environment for Your eCommerce Platform?
There are two ways eCommerce sites can be hosted: self-hosted and cloud-hosted.
Self-hosted platforms require business owners to find hosting and handle installations and software updates. The benefits of this option include more control over your platform and greater visibility of your own data.
Cloud-hosted e-commerce platforms offer hosting offsite and often include automatic installations of patches, updates, and upgrades.
Will Features of the eCommerce Platform Benefit My Online Presence?
All eCommerce platforms offer a variety of operational benefits, business tools, and features. Whether it is inventory, shipping, payments, or insight into your other sales channels, it’s important to evaluate these tools and features when selecting an eCommerce platform.
What Payment And Shipping Options Does the eCommerce Platform Offer?
If it isn’t easy for your online customers to pay for a product or service, your sales will be impacted. And when it comes to payment processing, be sure that the eCommerce platform you prefer also offers top-notch security. In addition, an effective shipping strategy is important to growing your business online.
Keep in mind, too, that many eCommerce platforms are not as flexible with integrations into third party payment processors or shipping systems. That’s why it is important to research these key elements when deciding on an eCommerce platform for your business.
Look For An eCommerce Platform That Offers Robust Technical Support
It is common to need help when implementing an eCommerce platform. An online help center typically offers troubleshooting, frequently asked questions, as well as 24/7 support via email, live chat, and phone. Understanding what type of support the platform offers can be critical when assistance is needed.
Watch our Pivoting to eCommerce video to learn more about starting or improving your eCommerce efforts:
Designing Your eCommerce Website
eCommerce design involves more than just how the website looks—it also includes functionality, user experience, and more. The best eCommerce website design includes:
- Brand consistency. Your eCommerce site should be designed with your brand standards in mind. This includes your logo and brand colors, but also the tone of your copy and overall user experience of the site.
- Great user experience. While shopping online, consumers miss out on the in-store experience–how does the product look, feel, sound, smell, or taste? Accurate and abundant product descriptions, quality photos, or even videos can help define products and set accurate expectations for customers. Believe it or not, powerful calls-to action can also help you stand out from the competition and influence buying decisions. For example, instead of “Buy Now,” consider using a more creative approach like “Exclusive Purchase—Join the Movement.”
Making your products and services easy to find is important. Consider categorizing them and providing a robust search capability.
- Quick check-out process. The checkout process is the series of steps a customer follows to purchase the items in their shopping cart on an eCommerce website. A typical checkout process includes:
- Shopping cart
- Billing info
- Shipping info
- Shipping method
- Preview order
- Confirmation Customers shopping online are looking for an easy-to-understand, simple, and convenient experience. That’s why it’s important to optimize this process to reduce checkout abandonment and improve sales.
One of the most important features of the check-out process is fast and affordable shipping. Flat rate shipping is appealing to customers and free shipping typically increases sales. Perhaps consider offering free shipping if customers have a certain amount of merchandise in their cart.
- Mobile responsiveness. Responsive design is a type of website design that ensures webpages are displayed properly across a wide variety of devices, including smartphones, tables, laptops, and desktops. With more people using their phones to access the internet, a mobile-responsive eCommerce website is important because it allows your customers to find and buy the products and services they need with just a few taps on their smartphone screen. In addition to increasing sales, responsive design also improves search engine rankings.
eCommerce Fulfillment Strategy
Order fulfillment is important to any business, especially eCommerce businesses. There are many stages of the order fulfillment process, including:
- Receiving and storing inventory
- Processing orders
- Packing and shipping
Using a strong eCommerce fulfillment strategy is key to minimizing your costs while increasing customer satisfaction and sales. Every business is unique, so it is important to choose the fulfillment strategy that works best for you, especially when customers have many purchasing options:
- Buy online with shipping
- Buy online and pick up in store
- Buy online and choose delivery from store
Often, mixed fulfillment is best for retailers because it provides better customer service and requires less inventory to be tied up in one location. That’s also why live inventory counts are imperative.
Find a Platform that Can Address Your eCommerce Fulfillment Strategy
What eCommerce platform accommodates all these options? Choosing the right eCommerce platform can help you stand out from your competition and ultimately drive more sales online. To learn more, subscribe to our monthly newsletter or talk to one of our sales consultants today.