A high-performing online store requires strategic direction to get the best out of selling online. This post details 5 steps to building a successful online store.
Owning an ecommerce store is not just a matter of regurgitating your physical store as a website, it requires an understanding of:
- The positives and negatives of online retailing (etailing)
- Online technologies for the applications you require (virtual credit, using voucher codes, building a database)
If you have profiled your idea customer, then no doubt you will have a clear picture of who they are. From an online perspective, your profile will help you align your customer with how you can find and appeal to them.
Example: I’m a fashion retailer who sells trendy clothing at affordable prices. In a similar vein to Zara, I would introduce new styles and have them in the store within 7 days. My clothes would most appeal to fashion-conscious women between the ages of 15 and 25 with a small amount of disposable income. As new fashions come in so quickly, my aim will be on loyal custom and building relationships. My customers may buy every week or month, so communicating to them consistently is a priority.
Step 2 – Design your store for your customer
In 99% of cases, visitors will land on your homepage. The homepage is the hub of your website as all pages will feed from it. It’s the strongest page in searches for your website and so, you will need to use it wisely to appeal to your ideal customer.
From my example profile above, I know that my customers are women. Let’s say for argument’s sake that I only sell women’s apparel. If we look at some key examples like Zara, River Island and Next, we notice first that the actual design of the websites are fairly bland. The emphasis is on branding through products, a clean – easy to navigation set of menus and supporting content to reinforce brand image. So, for your homepage I would keep it simple and use your image to entice visitors to click. There’s no harm in adding sliders (banners that change), but do make sure that these are compatible with mobile devices as online purchases could account for a good proportion of sales.
Use menu headers that feed into your products and how your customers shops – a ‘new’ category
Some golden rules when selling online: - Never skimp on good quality photography. - Never skimp on relevant information – a short description, materials, price and P&P - Encourage sharing. The third golden rule is highly important for our example business. Why? Because we are constantly updating our collection – so communicating items in a short time-frame to encourage immediate sales, is a strong strategic move.
Step 3 – Use marketing techniques for online stores
Online stores can market much the same as physical stores, however you will need to understand the platform (WordPress WP eCommerce, OpenCart, Shopify).
If you have a slider at the top of your homepage, then you can use this spot for rotating offers and as a place to market new product lines, promote pages or share news and events. Category pages can be set up with their own dedicated sliders for specific topics too.
Note: If your site uses adaptive or responsive code for mobile devices, ensure your slider fits the screen.
Many platforms will allow you to set up virtual credit that can be used as discounts for online purchases. You can also treat loyal customers or competition winners to x% off, by creating store coupons with codes that can be messages, emailed and posted out.
Email sign up areas are designed to help you build a database of customers that you can send emails to. If you use an enterprise-level email platform, ensure that the website has an API to integrate with the email platform. Mailchimp has an integration section with tools to add a signup box (you can pick from naked, standard or custom) to your website.
Social media icons should be added to your website to encourage liking/following activity. Ensure you are active on your social media accounts, as potential customers (and even loyal ones) can easily be turned off…..or on with social media content.
Adding an analytical tracking tool is always recommended so that you can monitor website performance and glean insights about your customers. Google Analytics is an obvious front-runner, as it is free to create and manage an account, plus has advanced tools for customising your settings around your needs.
For an ecommerce site, be sure to pay close attention to how you customise your URLs. For analysis, you should be able to group categories and – at a glance -see which products or product groups are performing best.
Goals will give you access to goal steps and this is a powerful thing! Not only can you track sales and conversions, but you can note the lead up to conversions and the drop off points. This is especially useful when analysing conversion paths like the checkout.
Step 5 – Gain insights and feedback
You can gain insights by viewing your analytical insights, but you can also set up tools to ask your visitors directly to respond. These would be a customer feedback section or a pop up form. You can also email a form or survey or add reviews to your product listings. Lastly, you can use social media channels to discuss the site useability and gain feedback on specific products. All tactics should be assessed with a view to improving the customer experience.
Image credit: http://www.dpscorporate.com/ecommerce/