What is eCommerce and How to Run a Successful Online Store

What is eCommerce?

eCommerce is an old term, dating back to the 80’s. Nearly 30 years on and people are confused as to what the term actually means. eCommerce essentially means the process of buying and selling products and services online. eCommerce is more commonly referred to as “online stores” or “online shopping” etc. I’m sure you’ve heard a million variations on the word. Ebay, Etsy, Amazon, your favourite online store for your favourite clothing brand – these are all examples of eCommerce.

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How does eCommerce work?

There are hundreds of different ways for products and services to be delivered online but in its most basic form, eCommerce works like this:

  1. A customer chooses a product or service on the website
  2. The customer pays for the product or service electronically with a credit card or through a third party service like PayPal or through a payment gateway
  3. The website/business owner receives the order and payment. The order is fulfilled, delivered by post, service booked in, etc.

If you intend to take payments online it is imperative that you do it through a secure connection or SSL Certificate. This ensures yours and your customers’ data isn’t compromised!

Why is eCommerce so popular?

Over the last few years eCommerce has become the preferred method of shopping for a large portion of consumers. Time-poor customers, those who work shift, or those who simply work long hours, can now shop from the comfort of their own home rather than trying to work out when they can get to a physical store. The hours of travel to your physical store are replaced by a few minutes of clicking – and their shopping can be done at literally any time of the day or night.

Online shopping also allows customers to make product and service comparisons. Someone looking for a car repair shop may come to you, even though you are further away than other mechanics, because your prices, services and reviews are better than those closer to home. And the customer gets the benefit of a much better product or service.

Lower prices are also a good lure for online customers. Because an online store requires less overhead than a physical one, these savings are passed on to customers.

Online stores also benefit the seller. Firstly, building on our last point of low overheads, online stores require little to no staff meaning you have a reduced labour cost. Electronic payments are easily trackable, meaning less lost paperwork and data entry errors. And with the cost of a physical storefront gone, you can focus on the cost of simply storing your products.

Time frames for the seller are also shorter. Delivery is faster, payment is faster and even contacting your customers is quicker with email marketing campaigns and databases.

Finally, you can reach more customers online. Not only can you stock large ranges of items than a physical store, but you can also take advantage of digital marketing (through social media) to reach more customers than before. You even have the option of selling internationally!

If you’re thinking of starting a shop or business online then you’re joining the eCommerce club. Welcome aboard!

…but now what?

BSO Digital offers a range of eCommerce solutions and websites. Check out what we have on offer!

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First you want a good web platform for your eCommerce venture. Choosing a good website builder is important. It will shape the way your site works, functions and looks to your potential customers. The more corners you cut, the worse your end result is going to be! Check out our other blog post, here, about choosing a good website builder.

At BSO Digital we love using WordPress. Not only is it a great platform for our developers and designers to create awesome websites for you, our graphic design and content writing team love it, too! Straight forward and simple to use, WordPress comes with plenty of add-ons and plugins to help start your eCommerce venture. One of the best available is WooCommerce.

WooCommerce is the most popular eCommerce plugin in the world with over 16 million downloads. WooCommerce is highly extendable, meaning your web developer will have no trouble using WordPress and WooCommerce to bring your online storefront to life and give it its own unique theme. It has Paypal integration, sales and review reports, multiple shipping options, easy inventory management and even a couponing system, making it easy for you to bring your product to your customers.

eCommerce Design, Designers and Custom Themes

So you may be asking yourself, with all the free templates and themes available from WordPress and WooCommerce, why do you need to hire a web development agency to create your online store?

Sure, there are hundreds of themes out there to try but the problem with free themes is that you risk your store looking like a cookie-cutter copy of another. You can change the images and, sometimes, the colour scheme. But at the end of the day, users – and potential customers – are going to notice the similarities between you and a competitor using the same premade theme.

Premade themes and templates also offer very little in the way of customising if you’re not familiar with coding. It can be difficult to get a premade theme that will match exactly what you want and need for your store. Maybe you find the perfect layout, but the theme lacks a vital product carousel for the main page, highlighting your latest products.

A web development agency, like BSO Digital, can help you with every aspect of setting up your new eCommerce venture. From working closely with you to design the look of the site, to coding your unique theme, to helping you with content and product data entry, web development companies can take a huge amount of stress out of the entire process. They can ensure your design is clean, uncluttered, functional and – as we move more and more toward the use of mobile devices and smartphones – most importantly, responsive!

And, at the end, your store will look a hundred times better than a competitor using a simple theme or template.

eCommerce Marketing

So you’ve gotten your head around the term “eCommerce” and you’re wanting to open your online store. But how do you market online? Online marketing is more difficult than most people realise. While your service or product might be awesome, if you just slap up a website and nothing else…you’re going to be in for a bad time.

There are hundreds of different ways you can market your eCommerce venture. Today we’re going to go over our Top 5 Tips for eCommerce Marketing:

Web design

Good web design plays an enormous role in the marketing and success of your eCommerce venture. The moment someone clicks on your website you want to look reputable, simple to navigate and with a clear call to action.

  • Firstly, you want to clearly show what you sell. While it might seem obvious, many eCommerce sites don’t clearly show what products they have on offer! If you don’t want potential customers hitting the back button, be sure your web design shows what you have to offer.
  • Secondly, invest in good quality, clear images of your products. You want to make your wares as appealing to your potential customers as possible. Larger images with a clear product description have better chance of selling than smaller images and little to no product description.
  • Thirdly, your web design must make your brand seem trustworthy. Design is of huge importance here. Working closely with a web designer and developer is a must to ensure your site is clean, sleek, and easily navigable. People do judge books – or in this case websites – by their covers so investing in good design and development is a must!

Need help creating a fantastic, friendly and trustworthy online store? Our expert team of web designers and developers are here to help!

Responsive design

One of the biggest mistakes new online stores make is not working with a developer to ensure that their website is responsive. Responsive design means that your site is just as easily accessible on mobile devices as it is on a desktop or laptop. More and more people are using smartphones and tablets to browse and shop than traditional PCs. As such, it is extremely important that your site is accessible on these platforms.

Social media

Don’t be afraid to employ social media! The social media realm might seem like a daunting place – and we’ve all heard our fair share of social media horror stories – but it can be one of the best, free advertising platforms that you can get. Engaging your audience and making yourself “shareable” is a brilliant way to spread your brand name.

Why bother with social media? The statistics alone prove it is worth the time and effort. Instagram alone giving online stores and brands 25% more customer engagement. Don’t be afraid to utilise these different social platforms. Run contests and competitions, display pictures of happy customers with your products.

Facebook still commands the lion’s share of marketing success thanks to its simple posting format, easy sharing, the ability to “boost” posts and clear invitations to visit your store.

Still unsure about social media? Not sure how or what to blog? BSO Digital offers great online marketing and content writing services that are tailored to you!

Email marketing

Aside from social media, email marketing is another great source of free advertising for your new store. It drives traffic to your store, works with your content marketing and can outperform social media in generating sales.

Want some stats? 70% of people will use email coupons or discounts. 60% say that receiving information on special offers is their top reason for subscribing to email lists. Email gives you the space to say more than you can on social media and to target specific sets of subscribers.

There are several fantastic options out there for email marketing integration.

Customer content

Finally, don’t be afraid to include customer content on your site. This includes allowing reviews. Product reviews are great testimonials for you and potential customers. You can see how well your product is received and gives others confidence to buy. Reviews are also fantastic for SEO, increasing the chance of your site ranking for longer keyword searches.

Interacting with customers – and potential customers – on social media platforms is also a fantastic way of driving traffic. Encouraging and sharing images of customers using your product gives potential customers a sense of trust that your product works. Remember, sites like Instagram can increase your sales by up to 25%.

eCommerce might seem like a daunting new frontier but it can be a great boost for a traditional store front, or the big break for a new brand. Ready to start your own store? Why not get a quote from BSO Digital, today, and begin your eCommerce adventure!

So get out there today and bring something awesome to the world!