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An efficient and effective eCommerce site helps SME owners set their business apart from others. A successful strategy can increase website traffic, expand your customer base, generate sales, and push your website from a brochure to a successful online retail store.

The September 2010 Sensis e-Business Report stated that, over the previous 12 months, 90 percent of Australian internet users were looking for information on products and services online, and 69 percent purchased goods/services online. Despite the increasing number of SMEs selling goods online in the past decade, only 58 percent of small businesses received orders on the web in 2010, lagging behind medium and large companies.

Here are our top tips for getting your small business ready for the world of eCommerce:

What do you know?

Create a database

… And get to know it well. Visitors to eCommerce sites usually aren’t looking to purchase right away. Put easy to find calls to action on your website that offer value to the visitor such as eNewsletter subscriptions or online competitions. Collecting detailed information through personalised content opt-in allows you to create targeted and relevant communications.

Communicate and stay up to date

Keep in touch with your online community by entering a dialogue; users will be far more engaged with a two-way conversation. Ask potential customers what products they want or what features they’d like added to your website. Providing customers with a platform to share direct feedback allows you to ensure your eCommerce site caters to their needs.

Visitor behaviour

Understanding buyer behaviour and how visitors engage with your site can improve your online offering dramatically. Monitor how users navigate your site from day one.

Size up the competition

Review what your local competitors and the global eCommerce sites are doing and see what you can learn from their examples.

What are you selling?

  • Group your products by category as well as in bundles (don’t be afraid to upsell!). Special offers, latest arrivals, and best sellers are helpful categories that gently push users in a certain direction without bombarding them.
  • Utilise your best sellers and most popular products; these essentially work as recommendations. Offer your own expert recommendations. People are often looking for guidance and suggestions.
  • Bare it all with accurate and detailed pictures and descriptions. Comprehensive information on products will help convert browsers to buyers.
  • Use user-friendly names, not your internal codes. Avoid using industry jargon that’s commonplace around the office: remember you are speaking directly with consumers.
  • Add items as often as you can to maintain a dynamic page that keeps customers coming back to browse new items.
  • Provide specials and discounts for groups of users. Allow for segmented pricing and volume discounting and capitalise on the perception that online shopping is economical.

Engage with customers

Create a newsletter to stay in touch and highlight special offers and promotions. Include a ‘send to a friend’ function to improve your ‘share value’.

Consider social media. If used effectively it can help boost sales and provide valuable market research. Generate conversations, keep followers and friends updated, and most importantly, provide real value whether informative or dollar-driven. Consider an eCommerce shopfront on Facebook using applications like Payvement.

Always invite feedback using polls, surveys and feedback or ‘Contact Us’ links for customers to complain, praise or make suggestions. Also allow for product reviews to bolster credibility—engagement metrics are the next big thing to hit analytics and search—and use others to sell your product via testimonials, affiliate marketing, and referral programs that offer percentage discounts.

Integrate with offline marketing by including your website on business cards and advertising material.

Customer experience

Privacy is always going to be a heated topic on the internet. It’s great to be able to personalise the shopping experience, so make sure you’re adding value when customers register on your website. You should also provide the option for people to get in and get out without entering personal information if they prefer not to, so include a guest checkout option.

Be upfront about out-of-stock products, delivery options, shipping costs, return policies, privacy policies, and accepted payment methods. Make the checkout system user-friendly and efficient to prevent abandoned shopping carts and mid-purchase dropouts.

Deliver on your promise by getting deliveries out on time and responding to customer queries promptly. Ensure the user experience, from browsing through to delivery, is a smooth one.

Security is essential. This point cannot be emphasised enough! Most customers know to look for the secure ‘https://’ or padlock image in the browser window. Offer customers peace of mind by letting them know they are entering a secure environment to enter their payment details with a protected shopping cart.

Analytics and SEO

Invest in tools to track your progress using analytics tools, which allow you to track the number of purchases, conversion rates, purchase decision time, effectiveness of advertising campaigns, and so much more. These insights will demonstrate your site’s strengths and weaknesses, which is invaluable. As we all know, you can’t manage what you don’t measure.

Pay attention to SEO. Search engines love relevant and dynamic pages, so the more frequently you update your site with useful keyword-rich content the higher it will rank in search engine results.

Don’t forget to review all this regularly. What worked six months ago may not work today, so listen to your analytics and tweak your website accordingly.

Last but not least, engage an expert to raise the bar. Consider using a professional to help develop an eCommerce strategy that will get you off on the right foot based on your business needs.

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Sam Saltis

Sam Saltis

Sam Saltis is the founder and CEO of bwired, which drives digital business transformations for its clients.

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