How to Create an E-commerce Store that Sells
To do business online you need a way for people to purchase your goods or services. But instead of just focusing on the nuts and bolts of building a site, you need to think about the information you convey to your potential customers — and how you convey it.
Once you have a basic website, there are easy steps to take to make it function as an e-commerce store. But this part needn’t take too much time or energy. That’s where the content creation comes in. But what about marketing?
It can quickly become a blur of tasks ahead of you, but this guide will help you compartmentalize the tasks, and write content that sets you apart from your competitors.
Help Yourself by Dividing the Tasks into 3 Areas:
- Add a store, out-of-the-box. Using bolt-on software, you can easily host products and process transactions on your current website.
- Build ethos and personality that instills trust, even to customers who don’t know you. Craft a story that engages them from start to finish.
- Let people know about your site by understanding how it fits into the wider Internet (among your competitors and allies).
Let’s look at how these three components work together to give you a successful e-commerce website
1. Add a Store, Out-of-the-Box
Luckily, once you have a basic site on a platform like WordPress, you can bolt on an E-commerce store like WooCommerce with relative ease.
The nuts-and-bolts are pre-fabricated for you, making the implementation quick and easy. Of course, creating your product listings can be a little time-consuming, but don’t forget – they’re firmly in the ‘content’ camp, which is why it’s useful to separate these three areas up.
Choose something like WooCommerce or Shopify, and the out-of-the-box nature of their software can easily be tagged on to your site. Suddenly, you can process transactions securely, in no more than a few clicks.
For more information on adding payment options to your site, take a look at our blog which details the myriad ways you can solve transactions on your website.
2. Build Ethos and Personality
This is what really matters, and where you can start to shine. The part that requires so much more of your attention and time. It’s the part that’s unique to your brand, and therefore critical to its success. It’s how you present yourself online.
Think of your content as the ‘story’ that visitors to your site — whoever they are — can engage with, and be won over by. If you’re starting from scratch, the process of creating your story will involve imagination, discovery, and probably a lot of tweaking to get right.
But if you are building this site to compliment an existing following (for example, a social media group), you may already have a tone of voice — try to distill what it is that’s made it work so far.
One of our Expert Summit seminars by Ruth Douglas focussed extensively on this. While I recommend you watch the whole thing, here are some of my personal highlights, combined with some thoughts and ideas of my own.
How to Approach Your Business Story
The goal is to turn what you know about your business into a story that will inspire your customers to buy from you.
Every line should be considered an opportunity to answer ‘invisible’ questions a potential customer will have. These may well be subconscious on their part, as they are not usually actively looking to answer them, but by offering up certain ‘answers’ intuitively, you’re reassuring them (or their subconscious) that they want to buy from you. There’s a subtlety to answering questions without making it obvious that’s what you’re doing.
Examples of ‘Invisible’ Questions and How to Answer Them
Do you have what I need?
“Find something to love in our extensive range”
In this example:
Starting with a verb makes the sentence active — try to do this wherever you can. By quietly making the presumption they are going to take action, they will start to believe it. ‘Something to love’ appeals to emotion — this is also the element you’d substitute with something in your own tone of voice. As it stands, the statement presumes a strong connection and is inclusive to all, sort of wrapping its metaphorical arms around your customer. Meanwhile ‘extensive range’ serves to back up the idea that everyone can find something to love.
Are you trustworthy?
“Pay securely” “Same day dispatch” “Over 100 positive reviews”.
In these examples:
Using facts, and less flowery tone-of-voice language is best to cover this question. Facts are strongest when they’re short, punchy, and concise. When it comes to facts, the fewer words we use, the more likely we are telling the truth. When people use lots of words to back something up — ‘Pay securely’ might become ‘You can be absolutely sure your payments are secure’ — statements immediately become a lot less persuasive.
Do you have products for the person I’m shopping for?
‘Show Mom what she means to you with our lovingly-crafted Mother’s Day range.’
In this example:
This example uses seasonal specificity. This is great to think about because it taps into a market without alienating other consumers who may not be looking for Mother’s Day gifts. All sites do it, and we’re used to seeing it. So, repositioning your website for seasonal events, and adjusting your ranges for these markets goes far beyond the wording itself in terms of strategy, and is worth bearing in mind.
Linguistically, in this example, we’re once again using emotive, evocative language — ‘lovingly’. Also, the idea that something is ‘crafted’, rather than simply made, evokes a very specific image. Suddenly, it’s a rustic workshop rather than a big industrial setup.
The use of the more colloquial ‘Mum’ in the context of ‘Mother’s Day’ allows most people to relate better. Who calls their mum ‘Mother’? Probably nobody. We are also appealing to their sensibilities. The invisible caveat attached to this statement is, ‘if you don’t buy, you don’t care for your Mum’ — of course, nobody is taking that seriously, but it’s there all the same.
So, as you can see, how you choose words and communicate using your website is very key to the kind of reaction it will get from the readers. The subtlest choices can have huge effects. Now we will look at how to utilize these tools in the context of page structure.
Want to know more about the power of words? Learn more about how to define your tone of voice with our blog about personal brands, or what you can learn about writing from a popular novelist.
Build a Strong Landing Page
Don’t be deterred by the barrage of information that follows! Your homepage is the hardest one to get right, as it’s essentially a mish-mash (overview) of everything else on your site to convey as much as possible to your potential customers so they don’t have to click anywhere else to know they want to buy from you.
Before you start, you may want to draw up your ideal customer journey — the route, in an ideal world, that a customer would take based on the breadcrumbs you set out for them. This will help you when you review your customer behavior in Google Analytics.
There are many sections you could include, ranging from testimonials to how-to guides, but all homepages will benefit from the following elements.
Heading and slogan/tagline:
The heading should state your site’s name in a no-frills way. If you have yet to name your site, it’s best for you to get it to link to the kind of business it is: ‘Lumos Luxury Candles’. This will help Google, and other search engines understand your site, and tell anyone seeing it in a search result what it is, very clearly. Take a look here if you’re struggling to name your site.
The slogan/tagline should be your business in a line: ‘Quality, scented candles made to order’, but could equally combine an action for extra pizazz: ‘Find your new favorite wooly jumper’.
Identify your three top-selling points. Think around the ideas of ‘Service’ ‘Quality’ ‘Speed of delivery’. These are things that don’t require much (or any) explanation, are factual, and seek to answer as many of the customers’ questions as possible. Try to put particular emphasis on ‘Are you trustworthy?’ and ‘Do you have what I need?’.
This is where you can unleash your full tone-of-voice, brand-centric piece. It can be fun, lavish, emotive, but try to keep it short, punchy, and relevant too. You can always expand on your business story on your ‘About’ page if you have too much to say.
This intro should probably include a short (reduced) brand history, what inspires you to do well, why you’re unique — but craft every phrase to make it compelling to the customer. For example, detailing how you create the products might be a good use of space, but listing your personal attributes is probably misguided here. The main thing it needs is to create positivity and energy around what your business actually does.
Try to feature at least some of your ‘best sellers’ on your home page, not least because people should immediately see what you are selling. They can engage with the pictures even if they don’t read your carefully constructed words.
One thing to bear in mind is, if you are selling products and don’t place a product feed section on your homepage, you are guaranteeing anyone who lands there needs to click at least once more to see product listings, and customers drop off with every click they have to make.
Include social buttons that allow people to share products and pages on their social media. Also, link out to your own social media profiles to link your digital footprint comprehensively.
These are the pages with all the information about specific products. Use your product page to set the scene of the idyllic way to indulge in your product. Bear in mind that if your products are homemade, even more descriptors are required because you don’t have the luxury of customers being familiar with your product.
When describing products, focus on features and benefits. Features are what a product does, versus a benefit which is what it gives to your customer. But use the space to allow customers to really imagine what life with your product is like — how it will enrich their existence.
You are using this space both to build a story unique to your product in words, and also put the idea of how this product will enrich your customers’ lives into their head without them having to ask.
A picture paints a thousand words, sure, but there are certain things you can do to give your listings a boost. For product images especially, use them as an extension of your story-like description.
What should your images be of?
Good quality images of your products are priceless in terms of selling them. Allowing your customers to really imagine themselves with the item by painting a story-led idealized version of how your product might be used is a great strategy.
Think about showing your products in situ, or even the consumer using the product if you can. The closer you can get to Disneyland levels of theming in your images, the better!
At least one image showing scale (showing the product in relation to other things) will help people understand the size, especially useful if it’s a home-made product without a specific reference of size elsewhere.
Images should always be your own, even non-product images, unless you know specifically they are copyright free. But quality, unique images, especially those of products, can also help with site SEO, especially if you fill in as much descriptive data as your CMS allows, and give them a good name.
Other Site Essentials
Alongside the storefront, there are other elements that will give customers the confidence they need. This blog goes into detail about many features you may wish to add. To keep it basic at first, you’ll probably want to, at least, include the following:
As mentioned, this can be an extension of the introduction you use for your landing page. It will include more detail about your company, location, staff members, and more. Whatever you want to say!
While you may have a loyal following, an FAQ is a good chance to anticipate what people who aren’t aware of you might want to know. Details like this can also help you rank better in SEO terms, as your site may get indexed by search engines for answers to common questions in your industry.
Think about questions in the following areas:
- Are all products hand-made on-site?
- Are all products listed always available?
- How much is shipping?
- Are orders dispatched daily?
- Are products vegan friendly?
- Where do you source your ingredients from?
Address any common misconceptions relating to your industry.
Contact page — including business address
These are important for validity. If you sign up for any services like Google Merchant (see part 3), they will check there’s an active email address (a contact box doesn’t count) in order for you to qualify for their service.
3. Let People Know about Your Site
Marketing your e-commerce store is a long, challenging process, and there are few one-size-fits-all things to do.
So before you go down any rabbit holes with marketing, try to put your site in context with the wider Internet — observe how you compare to your competitors and what tools you can utilize for free to make people aware of your site before you start paying for advertising.
- Link your site to all your social profiles, and vice versa
Linking up your digital footprint is a great idea to benefit from existing followers. Get your domain out there so people start to index you. You could even create bespoke offers and codes just for this demographic. If you don’t have social media profiles, be sure to create some — you might be surprised at how many of your friends will be interested before others find your site. It can really help to get the ball rolling.
- Subscribe to Google analytics
With a simple piece of code, you can track the movements of everyone who visits your site with Google Analytics. Their individual journeys, how they found you, where they are, and so much more — and it’s free. While this is more of a long-term goal, it’s useful to set up when you start so you have data from day one.
- Get yourself on Google Merchant
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Google Shopping is where many, many people go to find products. By signing up for Google Merchant you can give your products the best chance of featuring in Google Shopping search results.
If you’re using WooCommerce with WordPress, you can aid this process with a quick plugin that encourages you to add all the specifics that help your items perform best on Google Merchant. Basic Google Merchant accounts are free, but there are also paid options if you want to boost your listings later.
Explore and Discover
These three suggestions are really the tip of a very deep iceberg. Linking up with bloggers and influencers, Google and Facebook marketing, and even affiliate schemes are all things to think about in the weeks and months ahead of you as you help your eCommerce store flourish.
Once your site has gotten some traffic, it’s a good idea to check Google Analytics and see the actual behavior flow, and how it compares to your ideal. This will help you tweak and adjust the site based on how people are responding to it. The thing about an eCommerce site is, it’s never finished. It is constantly evolved and fine-tuned to enhance its sales potential.
You’ll learn the things that are unique to your business and situation, and develop your own ‘handbook’ of top tips. Feel free to share them as a comment at the end of this blog so others can benefit too.