When you search for “ecommerce tips” or “ecommerce made easy,” the results center around creating a fabulous website. Even the venerable Tom’s Guide offers an amazing website as the top need for an ecommerce business. However important the website, every business needs a few things besides a website with a perfect user experience (UX), not all of them tangible. This article delves into the tangibles and intangibles of running an online business.
Act With Honesty and Transparency
Regardless of whether you establish an online business or a retail store, your business needs to operate honestly and transparently. Businesses of all sizes need to adhere to this tenet, from major corporations like Enron to a plastic fabricator in Akron. Honesty in your business practices, including advertising, forms the cornerstone of ecommerce made easy.
Offer a valuable, well-made product and advertise it honestly. Manufacture your product using best practices that respect the environment. Show your customers that you appreciate them and respect them.
Develop business practices that provide efficient fulfillment of orders and quick payment to your own vendors. Honesty in business touches every facet of operations. That means you also need to act with honesty and transparency with your employees, independent contractors, affiliates, and vendors.
Research the Market
Ecommerce consists of companies that sell their own products, drop-ship products, and sell services. One of the hitches in the works of ecommerce made easy comes from the misunderstanding that ecommerce refers only to retail sellers. Every company with a website forms a component of the larger ecommerce community.
When you research your market, you may not have entered that market yet. Perhaps you want to start a drop-shipping company but don’t know what products to target. Market research tells you what people need and buy. Study the online retail market and remember that although you reside in one area, with ecommerce, the Internet offers your target audience, unless you sell a local service, such as plumbing repairs or electrical wiring.
If you lack a product but want to operate an online business, drop-shipping and affiliate sales offer two options. Both form the epitome of ecommerce made easy because neither requires you to make a product, purchase a factory, rent an office, etc. Any individual can operate either type of business from home and without any formal education in the area of the business, unlike operating a creative agency or electrician service. Find your market by locating legal products or services to sell that appeal to you, and that market research shows people online purchase.
Create an Attractive Logo
Once you nail down your business type and your products or services to offer, you’ll need a logo. Whether you found a company specializing in freight shipping or knitting baby blankets, the business needs a logo that sets it apart from other companies. This logo should appear on the company’s website, business cards, letterhead, product packaging, and any marketing materials or items developed to advertise, such as t-shirts or pens.
Unless you have immense talent as a graphic artist, skip trying to design this yourself. Instead, hire a logo designer to create an original design for your company that represents its products or services and mission. If you reside in a rural area with no such business, go online to web platforms such as Upwork and Freelancer to find a talented logo artist. Explain your business, its name, and mission, then choose from one of the designs the graphic artist creates for you.
Know Your Product
It might sound odd to say, “Know your product,” if you manufacture custom boat tarps, but it applies to all types of ecommerce. If you operate a drop-shipping operation or serve as an affiliate, learn all that you can about the products you sell or the company and the products that you represent. A founder who began hand sewing their product and selling it on Etsy might know their product inside and out, but for ecommerce success, every employee also needs to know the products that well. Pride in the high quality of the workmanship and in the company itself comprises another tenet of ecommerce made easy.
For drop shippers, choose products wisely after comprehensive research. During this research, hone your choice to the few products that offer the best quality and provide an opportunity to fulfill the needs of a significantly sized community of potential buyers. A successful business needs a large target audience of ready buyers.
Plan Out Logistics
Those who choose drop shipping or affiliate work don’t have the logistics issues that a company delivering groceries would vis a vis fresh food logistics issues. For any size company that makes its own products, from printing custom stickers to manufacturing automotive parts, develop the logistics processes and procedures before opening up shop. Knowing how you will deliver your products or services, and testing those procedures before opening your company for orders forms another tenet of ecommerce made easy.
Both businesses that sell digital products and physical products need logistics. Delivering digital products may require a method besides email for delivery, such as a website for downloads of digital products. You will also need a backup method for downloads, in case the main website crashes.
Companies that sell physical products have more complex logistics needs. They require storage for product, picking, packaging, pick up or delivery to the shipping company or freight mover, package tracking, and delivery confirmations. Some ecommerce businesses create vendor accounts with each of the major shippers in the U.S., Federal Express (FedEx), UPS, DHL, and the USPS. This process allows their customers to choose the service that best provides delivery in their area but may add complexity to the business operations if they decide to take packages to the shippers instead of having them picked up.
Logistics includes obtaining raw materials and transporting them from the acquisition point to their manufacturing operation. It also includes delivering the final product to warehouses and then shipping it from a warehouse to the consumer who orders it. Planning all of this requires extensive research and many startups hire a logistics consultant who specializes in this area.
Understand the Basics of Web Design
At this point, an ecommerce operation reaches the step that nearly every resource writes about – the ecommerce website. Once you’ve established your company, you need to advertise it, market it, and accept orders for it. Your company’s website does this, so it needs to work on every device, each screen size, and offer technologies that make it easy for every person to understand the information communicated. To achieve these goals, use responsive design and assistive technologies.
Why is responsive design important? Part of ecommerce made easy consists of reaching consumers with your product that solves a problem for them. A responsive website automatically adjusts its content to fit any size screen, so the website can tell if the consumer uses a mobile phone, a small tablet, a laptop, or a desktop computer with an oversized screen.
Besides making the content fit each screen automatically, assistive technologies ensure each person can access the information. Each photo or video should contain a meta description that a screen reader can access to describe graphics to the sight-impaired or blind. Each video should also include closed captioning so that hearing-impaired and deaf website visitors can enjoy all of the content, too. A third assistive technology, point-and-click translations, belongs on any website with an international target audience.
Some local ecommerce websites need translations, too. In large cities, such as New York City, Los Angeles, and Miami, the diverse population speaks more than English. Whether a company sells auto parts or OSHA-compliant warning signage, it should offer its website in the most commonly spoken languages of the immediate area, typically English, Spanish, and either Chinese, Vietnamese, or Korean, depending on the metropolitan area.
By now, you’re probably thinking that you don’t know how to do all of that. Wix and Shopify do not lead you through those steps either. Neither does Square Space nor WordPress. Those web platforms offer templates to make design easier, but implementing assistive technologies and truly responsive design requires a professional website designer or website developer.
Create a Compelling Website
When your company creates its website, consider using fully managed web hosting. This important step in ecommerce made easy helps your web developer set up the site and essentially put it on autopilot. Managed web hosting refers to platforms like Wix, Go Daddy, and Ionos that offer a range of web services, such as WordPress hosting, SSL certificates, and search engine optimization (SEO) tools.
Using a managed web hosting service makes it easier to purchase important website-related items, such as domain names and e-mail hosting. The platforms do not provide staff to manage your website, regardless of what the name implies. Because one platform offers all of the extensions, tools, and services needed, you know that the component parts all work together seamlessly. This makes scaling operations easier as your business grows.
After you’ve ironed out business processes, and logistics like parcel shipping, and built your website, you need to implement SEO throughout it. While your website developer should have included SEO in all photos, videos, site text, headers, and meta descriptions, you also need to add SEO as you add to the website. That means each blog or article posted to the website should include SEO keywords relevant to the topic of the blog or article. Include both short, single-word keywords and long-tail keyword phrases for the best results.
Part of ecommerce made easy comes from slowly increasing the visibility of your website by adding new, relevant SEO keywords to it in fresh content. Consumers visit websites looking for new information, so a business can keep consumers visiting its website and ecommerce catalog by adding new content regularly. These new blogs containing relevant keywords also provide a mechanism for search engines to locate and rank your business’ website. Search engines like Google and Bing use algorithms to rank websites and show the most relevant sites for a keyword at the top of the list of search results when a consumer searches for any keyword.
Follow the Algorithm
This leads to another reason to contract with or hire a website developer or SEO expert. The search engines consistently update their algorithms, so website owners cannot game the system and gain top ranking without providing high-quality content that proves relevant to the products or services sold on their website. This fact means that if your company sells farm equipment, your web pages should cover the farm equipment the business offers for sale, and the blogs should provide added-value content that discusses use cases for the equipment and explains how it solves problems for agricultural producers. While this step might not sound like ecommerce made easy, if you know the products you sell well and how consumers use them, your website can easily offer relevant blogs, articles, and whitepapers.
Utilize Social Media
Setting up and regularly using social media accounts for the business form the final tip in ecommerce made easy. Whether you manufacture commercial cooking equipment or drop-ship guitars, interacting with your customers and potential customers on the social media platforms they most frequently use can help you build a stronger business. These customers can turn into social media influencers that help you attract even more customers.
When you post to social media, don’t make it all about you. The best business accounts focus on their clients and customers, using their social media to help their customers, not simply tout their own wares. Do post links to your business’ blogs with posts that explain how the blog helps your account followers. Read the posts of your followers and comment on relevant posts.
Two-way communication on your business’s posts, and the posts of your followers, builds a strong social media presence. Social media interactions and the influencers that you naturally develop from these accounts can help the business succeed. Social media offers an important and cost-free way to market your ecommerce business.
Ecommerce consists of much more than just a website. You need more than an Etsy account or a Shopify page to run an online business. Putting in the research and building your online company using the same business processes as a physical business would comprise the most important aspect of ecommerce made easy.