What Your E-commerce Store Needs to Succeed
Setting up an online store is easier than ever these days. All you need is to assemble your products, register a domain, and choose an e-commerce platform.
But in order to remain successful, your out-of-the-box store needs more than just the basics up front. In this article, we’ll show you some of the things you need behind the scenes in order to maximize your chances for success.
Front-End Store Elements
By “front-end,” we mean the stuff on your website that customers can see. This part is critical to get right. You’ll need to earn your customers’ trust and comfort when buying stuff from your store. And unless you’re Amazon, offering name-recognition credibility as soon as people land on your site, this takes time and attention.
Let’s take a look at some of the front-end tools and techniques that can help build this trust and maximize sales.
- Contact info – The more ways a customer can reach you, the better. Ideally, you want to prominently display your address, phone number, and support email in the footer of every page. Many sites show some or all of their contact info at the top of each page to minimize searching and scrolling. Even if you don’t answer the phone, it’s good to at least set up a number with voicemail service. Listing a phone number on your site reassures your customers that they can talk to a real person to get help with their order.
- Live chat – Go a step further than email and phone support with a live chat widget. Live chat allows customers to ask questions and get a reply instantly. If they can’t get the information they need about a product on your site, they’re going to buy it from a competitor. With live chat, they can quickly get answers to their questions and you’re more likely to keep the sale. Live chat services are affordable. For example, Olark costs $17 per month and easily integrates with most e-commerce platforms. They sit quietly on your computer until someone asks a question, at which point they alert you. Think of it as instant messaging.The challenge to live chat, of course, is that someone has to be available to answer customer questions. It’s a good idea, then, to make live chat available only during hours you’re actually able to engage your customers. You can set the live chat to be active during regular daytime business hours, 24/7, or another timeframe.
- Email opt-in – Getting a customer to give you their email address offers you the opportunity to market to them over time, rather than only on their first visit. For this, you can use an integrated email list service like Mailchimp or Privy. You may consider providing an incentive to sign up, such as a coupon toward a first purchase or contest entry.
- Abandoned cart emails – Over half of all people who put something in their online shopping cart don’t complete the process. They may decide to comparison shop, get distracted, or are surprised by high shipping charges. Whatever the reason, some customers may need a “nudge” to get them to complete a purchase–that’s where abandoned cart emails come in. Some e-commerce platforms provide automatic email reminders to people who’ve left a site with stuff in their cart. Your email marketing service might have an abandoned cart workflow as well.
- Quality pictures and descriptions – A picture is worth a thousand words, but you might not want to hear the kinds of words a bad picture evokes. People will trust your store and your products more if you have good product images. This means pictures and graphics that are high in resolution as well as professionally-designed or photographed. Clear and accurate descriptions are important as well. Give customers all of the details they need to make an informed buying decision. This can also boost your search engine optimization.
Back-End Store Elements
Once your store takes off (congratulations, by the way), it will become harder and harder to maintain some of your daily operations. It’s important to get systems in place to manage orders ahead of time. The processes and parts of your site that customers don’t see are called the “back-end.”
- Accounting integration – You already most likely use a software or service to manage your business’s finances (e.g. Quickbooks). Most platforms offer an integration with accounting services to download data you need to seamlessly manage your books.
- Sales tax management – Right now, in the U.S. you need to collect sales tax for purchases made in your state (if applicable). However, this may change soon and you might need to collect taxes from customers in other states at their sales tax rate. Either way, make sure your e-commerce platform or a third-party service can accurately calculate, collect, and remit sales tax or other local taxes.
- Inventory and shipping – E-commerce services handle inventory and shipping management at a basic level, but this isn’t something you want to waste time worrying about. For example, there are third-party Shopify apps that allow you to bulk edit, get alerts on low inventory, and to notify customers when a product is back in stock. There are lots of shipping managers out there, such as ShipStation. Shipping managers make the process of printing shipping labels and notifying customers of tracking information much easier. These services often have discounts with major shipping companies, too.
Many shop owners spend time focusing on what their customers need. But if you don’t optimize your back end, you’ll end up wasting time on repetitive tasks rather than serving your customers.
Putting It All Together
Running an e-commerce store can be a thrilling experience. By optimizing your site’s front end for sales and the back end for management, you can focus more on bringing people in the front door.
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