E-Commerce Is Much More Than Just Having A Basic Website
If you want to grow your brand, get a constant stream of leads, and automate your marketing and sales processes as much as possible, you need to invest in a winning e-commerce plan, and hire a team that knows what they are doing to put that plan into action.
You need much more than a simple “website” for your business. You need an e-commerce platform that functions as the brains and backbone of your operations. Think of it as a virtual storefront or a digital brick and mortar business. Most web developers will simply build you a website and be on their merry way – while maybe throwing in monthly maintenance. After you receive your 3-5 page website, you think you are now officially in business, and that the leads and sales will come flying in. Then 6 months later you are yet to get a single contact or lead from the website you paid for, and you tell yourself that websites aren’t good for growing your business. And you would be right in a sense.
By itself, a website will do little or nothing to help grow your brand and get you sales. You need search engine optimization to help people searching for your products and services to find you on Google and Bing.
You need social media marketing and advertisements to increase your brand’s presence so more people are aware of you and to get your products and services directly in front of people who have shown an interest.
You need a mailing list so that anyone that sends you a message will get added to your email list and start receiving a sequence of emails to help sell your products.
You need an e-commerce platform, not just a website!
Elements Your E-Commerce Platform Needs To Boost Sales & Grow Your Business
A Well Built Website
Naturally, the main component of your e-commerce platform should be your website. These days you need your website to be fully responsive for mobile devices, super-fast, easy to use and navigate, secure, and visually appealing. It is hard to strike a balance between all of these requirements, but an experienced developer will be able to do this with ease.
You will also need a winning landing page to capture leads.
Well Written Copy That Sells And Informs
There is a popular saying, ‘content is king’. This saying is still relevant today, as you need well-written content on your website, social media, and printed material to relay your brand’s message to your clients as concisely as possible.
Search Engine Optimization To Bring In Constant Leads
SEO as it is often called is a must-have piece of the e-commerce puzzle. SEO includes much more than just writing a few blog posts stuffed with keywords. It includes making a plan of action to decide what keywords you are looking to rank for, doing keyword research, developing a backlinking strategy to get high-quality white-hat backlinks to your website, mapping out a content plan, and finally writing content that reads naturally, yet is infused with keywords. Be prepared to invest a minimum of 6 months into your SEO campaign before you start to reap real results.
An E-Commerce Engine To Manage Your Business
Every e-commerce business needs an engine to help manage, simplify, and automate the core functions of your business. For example, if you own a tour business, you need a tour booking platform where clients can book tours, apply coupons, get group discounts, and more, all on your website. If you have a store, you want a shopping platform where your clients can add items either singularly or in bulk, set up time-sensitive sales, automate shipping, and send out order confirmation emails. Every business niche has an engine that can help automate routine tasks and make your life as a Business Owner or Manager easier.
Most engines come with built-in analytics, so you can track sales, bookings, orders, revenue, and more, and download reports on how well your business performed in a specific timeframe. Many also come with a client dashboard area where your clients can log in and update their orders/bookings, contact your sales or support team directly, update their accounts, and access data.
Collect Payments Online
The commerce part of e-commerce would not be possible unless you can collect payments for your services, so this is an important step that you should put some thought into. If you operate your business in a developed country, then you will have many options to choose from when it comes to collecting payment from your clients online, such as PayPal, Stripe, 2Checkouts, Apple Pay, and hundreds more. Many of these services have built-in compatibility with websites, so when you make a sale the process will be automated.
If you live in a developing country such as Jamaica (like I do) however, it is a bit more difficult to find a solution that works outside of the box. Even so, many financial institutions have started to release solutions to help businesses and entrepreneurs collect payments online in a safe and hassle-free manner. You can also look into accepting other methods of payments such as bank transfers, money transfer services such as Western Union or Xoom, or cryptocurrency. These payment options can be tweaked and added to your e-commerce platform to make the payment process as seamless as possible.
Implement Social Media Marketing & Advertising
I have spoken to many business owners who think that making three weekly posts on their social media pages each week with little or no interaction from their audience somehow means they are winning at the social media game. My response to them is that the only game they are playing in that instance is ‘the hamster and the wheel’, and the hamster remains undefeated.
To be successful on social media you need to plan a mixture of content that will educate, entertain or inform your clients, and in different formats such as videos, graphics, questions, quotes, quizzes, and more. After you have your content plan laid out, you then need to spend some money to either boost your posts to a whole new audience, increase your followers or get clicks to your website that you can try and convert to sales. All major social media platforms have some advertising capabilities, and they all have varying approaches on how best you can optimize your campaign to get results. This is a technical and time-consuming process that you can either take months to learn, or you can hire a social media management expert.
I just mentioned advertising on social media, but did you know there are also other viable advertising methods/channels? These include:
- Pay Per Click advertising (Google & Bing) – You essentially bid for the top spot on Google or Bing, so that people searching for your products and services will find you first. For example, if you are selling used cars, you could run an ad for “used cars from Japan”, and if your bid is the highest your webpage would show up first when that term is searched for.
- Press releases – This is a great way to inform the public and the media about your business, or a new product/service. There are paid and free options, with some paid options placing your release onto some major publications such as Forbes, Fox. NBC, etc.
- Online directories – There are many online directories for every niche. Some of these you probably know of already, like Yelp, Yellow Pages, Trip Advisor and Go Abroad. Some directories offer free listings and annual or monthly paid plans that allow you to publish more information such as your website links and contact info.
- Purchasing ad space – Popular websites with a lot of traffic sometimes offer ad space that you can purchase for a set duration to promote your business to their visitors. For example, there may be a popular blog about baking that gets 5,000 monthly readers. They may offer ad space on their website that you can rent for a monthly fee that leads to either a landing page or directly to your website.
Keep Your Brand Consistent
Keep your brand consistent across all channels. What does this mean? Your website shouldn’t be green, black, and white, but your business cards and flyers are pink, red, and brown. Your logo should be the same color and design everywhere it is used, with exceptions where you need to use either black or white. The same is true for content. If your mission statement is listed on your website, then you should ensure it is the same on Facebook. Do not confuse your clients, as they will likely investigate you or your business before you close the sale.
Essentially pick a color scheme, logo, and company message and stick with them.
A Competent, Courteous & Organized Support Team
No business can operate efficiently without a support team, even if it is just a one-person team. You need support to be ready and waiting for your clients, with access to a knowledgebase so that any questions your clients have can be answered with confidence and speed. Live chat is highly recommended, with either a live chat system or third-party messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp. A frequently asked questions (FAQ) page is also recommended, as it will provide a resource many clients can locate on their own to get answers to their questions, or that your support team can direct them to.
More technical businesses should look into creating a knowledgebase with detailed instructions, use cases, and video tutorials, or artificial intelligence (or bot) installed on their website that can answer client’s questions and interact with them even when the sales team is away.
Of course, email and phone are the go-to methods of support, so if you are using one or both, you need to have your support team well trained in customer service, and equip them with the answers to all questions that clients usually ask. Create a protocol for transferring clients to technical departments (if you have one) so that your agents are not taken off guard when requested.
You are also advised to define a profile for your usual clients, particularly the most difficult ones, and establish a procedure on how your support team should handle such clients. Many businesses fail to set up support, then lose dozens of potential sales when their questions are not answered quickly enough. If you don’t have the time or knowledge, I recommend you hire a customer support team.
Analytics & Tracking
Last but not least, you need analytics and tracking so you know exactly how your clients are finding your website, what pages and sections of your website do they interact with the longest, how long do they stay on your website, what steps do they take to purchase your products/services, and much more. You need this information so that you can identify areas where improvements can be made to give users a better experience.
Tracking is also necessary for you to see how well your advertising campaigns are performing, and where you need to tweak to get the best return on your investment.
Let’s Recap What You Have Learned
As a refresher of what I discussed above, you need the following in your e-commerce marketing plan if you will be successful online:
- A well-built website that is fast, mobile-optimized, and secure
- Well written copy that brings your message across to your audience
- Search Engine Optimization to bring in leads from Google and Bing
- An engine that powers your business, such as a booking platform, online store, learner management system, etc.
- The ability to easily and safely collect payments online
- Social media marketing and advertising to grow your audience and advertise your products and services
- Online advertisements such as directory listings, press releases, purchasing ad space from popular websites, and pay per click ads
- Consistency in your branding across all channels
- A great support team to assist your clients
- Analytics and tracking to gauge the effectiveness of your marketing efforts and to identify and fine-tune any weak points
Need The Help Of An E-Commerce Expert?
I am currently taking on clients looking for advice and an expert to develop and manage their e-commerce platform. If you would like my assistance, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “E-commerce help”.