Starting an Online Shop?
A few things to consider with an e-Commerce website.
You finally found a worthy product and decided you’re going to start an online shop. All you need to do is pay a once off fee for the website, upload a few products and smile as the orders start streaming in. Eureka!..... No, not so much. A bonsai fist-pump is more like it.
We’re sorry to burst your bubble, but you might thank us later. The realities of starting an online shop is huge. No wait, it’s massive. And while many website developers won't share this reality check with potential customers, we’d like to believe that Karma is a beautiful thing that rewards us in one way or another down the line.
If we could sell a photo of each facial expression for $1 when we present the realities of an online shop to our clients each time, we’d be about $50,000 strong. Getting the online shop online is really the small part of the business and in the long run, costs the least amount in our opinion.
The First Steps
Deciding on what to sell is really the easy part. To get your online shop started, you would need the services of a website developer who can create the front-end of the site visually (how the site will look to the visitor), and also provide you with an admin panel which you could access via login details. The admin panel will grant you access to your website so that you can upload and maintain your product information and content as and when needed.
With the admin panel, you could create product categories, upload, change or delete products as you see fit without further need of your website developer. To get an online shop going will require images of all of your products along with descriptions, colours or sizes available, product codes, pricing and other details. This is the initial footwork that needs to be catalogued by the client and requires a fair amount of time to be setup.
Your website developer would therefore build and code the framework within which you’ll operate. For instance, if you want a hole dug in your garden, we would provide you with the spade, but you’d still need to dig the hole yourself. However, there are many website development companies who would load your content for you at an hourly rate once the website has been completed, but you’d still need to supply them with your product details.
An online shop may contain many database functionalities or features for the visitor to make use of. Some functionalities can not be separated from an online shop (such as a product database and an online ordering system) while others may be ‘nice to have’ and can even be developed as an extension of your website at a later stage (price filters and recommended products) to increase the shopper experience in a positive way.
It’s important to understand that each functionality required for your website could be considered a separate ‘module’ and that having an online shop created by your developer, doesn’t necessarily mean that it should include everything you expect it to contain. As an example, the ability to search all products by keyword or to filter products by price or colour, or the ability to mark a product as a sale item, would all constitute different modules or functionalities. For each of these items, we have to program your website to tell it what to do and how it should behave. Databases don’t magically know what to do, so it is important to discuss in detail with your developer everything you require. Be sure to ask about all the functionalities included into your quotation and ask for a breakdown on individual modules or functionalities so as to ensure that expectations are met without any miscommunication.
For those with a limited budget, it is possible to build a website in phases where you’d typically start with the bare necessities (just like vocal talent on reality shows) and then slowly escalate to celebrity status as more attention is being paid by adding the finishing touches. In our opinion, we recommend adding as many bells and whistles as possible right from the start because once your online shopper visited your site, first impressions last. A shop that makes the shopping experience difficult or uninteresting is less likely to be used again, if at all.
We’ve recently written an article about the importance of good quality images and visual content, but we’ll recap this specifically aimed at those wanting to sell products online.
Images should be of a high quality with the ability to zoom into the product in order to view the article close up. By doing this, you also offer some ‘transparency’ in your online sale approach because it’s as close to a personal inspection as you can get online. If you’re only ever going to stock one range for the rest of your website’s existence, then doing a once-off shoot would suffice, but chances are you’ll have a continually evolving product line, retaining some classics and adding new and exciting product ranges.
Besides paying for the initial development, additional fees should be budgeted to ensure that you have all your products photographed properly. Larger companies generally have an in-house photographer who produces product images as and when they come in, but smaller companies may need to contract such work to a freelance photographer. And as we all know, this can get pricey. Yet, unless you have a very special agreement with a good photographer, setting up your own studio in-house will certainly pay for itself in the long run.
An in-house studio can be surprisingly cheap to setup, but you’ll need to work on the right recipe in terms of lighting, mood and props to ensure you get maximum visual impact, while representing the product as it is, all while complimenting your brand with a certain distinctive unique approach.
Got a line of interesting products? Consider yourself to posses a flair for digital creativity? Consider including product videos, because 85% of visitors are more likely to purchase a product after having seen a video. It has been estimated that almost 79% of internet traffic will be video content by 2018, and this statistic on its own, validates the importance of why you need to up your game.
Eventually, the day has dawned when your website is ready to launch. You’ve catalogued and uploaded all your products and you’ve gone live! A Postman Pat on the back for all parties involved.
But on day 7, you’re checking into your account and see no purchases made (expect perhaps for Granny’s mercy purchase – because that’s what Grans do, they think everything we do is wonderful) and your website analytics is reflecting a small blimp of traffic when you told all your friends you’ve launched. You’ve got one of the best looking sites, you’ve done all the hard work. What could possibly have gone wrong?
Depression. Razorblades. Tequila…
But let us spark some logic: When you move to a new home, don’t you share your new address with friends and family? Going live with a website is by no means the end of the road. It simply means you’ve got a new address, you’ve moved in all the furniture, but now you have to suggest a ‘braai date’ and invite the rest of the world to come try out your new pad, while enjoying chops and beer. Nobody normal gate-crash parties anymore (unless you’re scary weird), and we generally visit someone once the invite has been sent. Why would websites work any different?
So how do you do that for your website? The answer is simple: Advertising. And that roughly translated equals money. A fat, aggressive wallet with plenty of cash. Plus beer.
The days of handing our flyers are long gone. And what use is it to advertise where it’s not wanted? Naturally, if you’re going really big with advertising on television, then naturally, you’ll advertise to a large audience, many of whom wouldn’t be interested in your product, but above-the-line advertising has a whole different set of rules of which we’re not going to discuss in this article. We’re really focussing on the ‘start-off’ client and how to get your website rolling.
Social Media: If we still have to tell you the importance of using media to promote and interact with people, then you shouldn’t consider an online shop…ever. If you’re product based, it’s hugely important to connect with as many people as you can online. Upload product photos, link to your website, interact and use these as platforms to inform. Accent is placed on informing and here’s why.
Approximately 90% of businesses now use social media, but a high percentage of that can’t estimate whether social media is actually adding to their sales statistics. Many companies are using social media purely for brand presence and customer services. However, social media is not effective with driving direct sales and only accounts for a mere 1% of all e-commerce sales, compared to 17% for CPC (Cost Per Click) social adverts. Therefore, if you’re looking at targeting a specific audience, social adverts must be considered as part of your media campaign since two-thirds of social media users expect products and brands to be made available to them via social platforms, so take advantage and use this!
Make your Own Content Original: Many companies compile content making use of other websites, but another brand will not create a strong connection between your customer and your brand. By creating your own content like articles, images, videos and so forth, it will establish your website as a knowledge platform. Being a skilful author is not everyone’s talent, but importance should also be drawn to ensuring that your own unique content contains phrases or tongue-in-cheek captions that are ‘bagged’ exclusively by your brand. By being too generic, or for lack of a better word, boring, your original content might not draw the attention you desire. A fantastic way to market original content is to make it contextual by writing content that is relevant to your current situation and location. For instance, in South Africa, the sharp drop of the Rand and constant power outages can be used cleverly in various campaigns.
Google AdWords Campaigns: Many companies have spent buckets of gold sovereigns with SEO companies, believing it to be the ‘start and end all’ solution. Approximately 50% of companies we have dealt with have seen no real increase in their sales. Note, we’re not saying that SEO companies are worthless – if done effectively, they definitely ad value, but it takes at least 3 months to start seeing results. Google AdWords works faster than SEO. By placing AdWords campaigns, you can measure keywords and audience targets and decide which demographics are worth pursuing. More than that, AdWords campaigns are relatively cheap to kick off with and accounts for roughly 65% of clicks.
Loyalty Programs: We love spending our money somewhere when we get rewarded for it! It makes us feel appreciated for supporting your website. Think of including a decent loyalty program for your returning customers and convince them to spend a little more by receiving a reward in doing so.
Email Campaigns: Email campaigns are also hugely affective, but you’ll need a database of emails to send your campaigns to. There are companies that sell databases with specific target audiences that will design and assist you with your campaign. Alternatively, you could build up your own database of emails via a website where visitors can subscribe to receiving your emails – but this takes a long time to compile and your content better be worthy of your readers’ time. Helping you to increase your subscriptions, think of something awesome to give-away with a competition and get people to share your company on social media to increase their entries.
Once the luring of traffic has successfully been achieved, the final phase requires you to keep content fresh, upload new and exciting products and maintaining your site with good quality images, rich content and different advertising campaigns. You see, an online shop is almost a living, breathing entity that requires constant care and nurturing.
The points mentioned above are not all there is to it. The internet is saturated with numerous tips and tricks to add to the mix of which many can become quite technical. If you’re thinking about creating an e-commerce website, we have 3 words for you: research, research, research! Educating yourself on what is expected in an increasingly ‘hungry’ market for change and new things, will prove challenging. We’re not saying you can’t make a success of it, but follow the rules, be prepared to spend money on your website during and after your launch.
Still feeling strong like ‘Mother Russia’? Good! That’s what we like to hear. Connect with us for your quotation to start the first step and let’s make it happen.
Director – Aftershock Visual Communication Pty Ltd