A Successful eCommerce Website - Part 1
So you want to succeed at eCommerce? Welcome to a very large group. First off, let's be clear that there are a lot of ways to do business on the internet - and a lot of ways to both make and lose money. No way can I cover all of them in a few fairly short articles.
This article is going to assume that you have some of the fundamentals, that you understand the language and that you are serious. I'm not going to tell you how to set up a web site or get a decent hosting account. We're a bit beyond those basics. The basics here have to do with factors which will influence the success (or failure) and the degree of success an eCommerce web site experiences.
First and foremost, you need to provide value for your customers. Absurd as it seems to have to repeat that, a lot of so-called eCommerce sites provide no or very little value for their visitors. Pretending to offer value is not the same thing as providing value. Promoting miserably written, hackneyed, cloned ebooks filled with questionably useful and/or outdated content doesn't make for a high value site. Sure you can make some money. Once. And you'll likely have a high refund rate. Essentially you'd be taking advantage of the inexperience of your customers and abusing their willingness to trust you. Not a good path to a long-term business with steady repeat customers.
Value on the net is not very different from any kind of off-line retail sales -- a quality product line that will attract potential customers and a competitive price that will lead to purchases. An honest, quality product that will meet the expectations you've created in your buyers. Hyped junk won't do it.
Next, you've got to have a smooth, user-friendly, easy to follow process all the way to your thank you page. The simpler, cleaner and clearer you can make the process, the better. Where it makes sense you can augment this user-responsive site profile by adding live-response chat.
If you do use call-in or live chat, it's imperative that your operators be well-trained, understand your products and your system and BE customer friendly. This can be a difficult job if you outsource. The less expensive out-source alternatives can be a bad investment. You'll need to check very carefully and be certain the operators do actually speak and understand the primary languages(s) of your targeted customer group. You'll need to provide extensive background information and highly flexible, well-written scripts. You should also collect customer evaluations of these services - separately, and carefully monitor your results to be sure you are getting a decent return on the investment.
You need to have an attractive website. Some can do well with an ugly site, but, in that case, you need to really understand what you're doing and why it might work. The ugly site tactic is not for the inexperienced and very few individuals truly have the grasp of marketing and customer psychology that can lead to a successful "ugly" site.
To provide a pleasant experience, you need to be careful in what you use - colors, text-size, graphics, animation and white space can add value to your site or turn it into a user nightmare. Test your site with people who will tell you the truth. Just because you love it doesn't mean anyone else will. In general, aiming for a professional appearing site is your best option.
Wherever you can, provide incentives for customers to buy and to return. The return factor is a critical piece of a long-term strategy for success. Anyone who buys is your best possible future customer. Keep them, track them, make them special offers. Use coupons, discounts, special deals, customer-only offers and back end sales. Your customer base is your gold mine. They have at least some faith in you, enough to have purchased. Do your utmost to never damage that faith and treat them with the care they deserve.
The next article in the series will discuss factors such as personalization, security and assisting your staff in dealing consistently with customers customer support.
About the Author
Contracting the computer bug in the early 80's (yes, pre-www) and never cured, Richard, a PhD Clinical Paychologist, now writes on eCommerce, RSS and Niche marketing at http://www.Building-eCommerce-Websites.com
You may freely reprint but the link must be live and spiderable