E-commerce 101 – Understanding the Basics

If you are considering giving your existing or new business an online presence then there are a few things about e-commerce that you must consider. Instead of operating from a 'bricks and mortar' shop you may find it cost effective to sell your products with a website and the help of some good business software. After the buzz about e-commerce you will find that rules for other businesses also apply online.

What Do I Need First?

If you are starting out fresh selling or promoting your current business online then you need to concentrate on getting it right the first time. Unlike traditional mediums, the internet allows for instant orders, more customers, and if you get something wrong, more negative (and instant) customer feedback. If you check off the following list you will be on your way to operating a successful website.

  • Site Design – Your customers need to be able to browse your site and understand it. Good sales copy, pictures as well as fast loading.
  • Site Security – If you are selling from your website are your transactions secure? Do you need an SSL certificate?
  • E-Commerce Software – You need to be able to integrate a shopping cart as well as discount options onto your site. It would be even better if you can integrate these with your current inventory system.
  • Promotion – Without website traffic there are no sales. Just like a real life store you need to be able to attract visitors.

Selling Online

Selling online requires visitors to your site (which we will discuss next), well written copy and incentives to buy just like a regular store. With the right software and website you can have regular promotions and specials – especially for members of your email newsletter. You can also use the money you might be saving in rent to pass on better prices and attract more customers. With e-commerce you can customize your online presence as much as you want.

Marketing Online

Marketing online requires the same mentality as selling off-line it is only the tools that change. Instead of using flyers you may have an email newsletter, instead of advertising in a newspaper you may advertise on a free classifieds site. You also have the opportunity to be in direct contact with your customers via social media. This is a fantastic opportunity to respond to customer queries and concerns almost immediately. The goal of marketing online is to gain more website visitors and to convert those visitors into paying customers.

The Service is in the Delivery

The key to good e-commerce is delivery of goods in a timely manner. If you can deliver reliable products fast then you will receive good feedback. This feedback is easier to share with new customers via your website and social media accounts. While you may gain regular customers through increases in traffic and exposure you will retain more customers online simply by providing good service.

While e-commerce is a cost effective way to sell products and services the basics of promoting your business and providing good service remain the same. It is not enough to simply be online as you must be actively online engaging and responding to potential customers. Provide a good service online and good customer feedback will follow just like they will follow you on Twitter!

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