In the age of “shelter at home” and “social distancing”, eCommerce adoption is no longer just an option but a necessity. Most offline businesses have now been forced to make a move to online selling platforms. Even the biggest stores that have been in business for many years are adopting online channels.
There have been changes in consumer behavior as well. As per a survey by CNBC, about 85% of consumers now prefer online shopping over brick-and-mortar shops.
But while rushing to join the eCommerce bandwagon, you may miss out on some important steps that might hurt your business in the long-run. Although, in essence, having an eCommerce store is similar to having an offline store, there are many things that differentiate the two.
To make sure your online business soars like your offline business, you must keep a few things in mind.
With an online business, you need to be proactive rather than reactive. Having a well-thought-out and specified roadmap can be the difference-maker. You need to identify your goals and then based on these goals, you need to form an actionable plan or a strong roadmap. Perhaps, the critical difference is just how central technology becomes in an online model as compared to the offline models.
In this article, we will discuss the technical elements needed to shift from a purely offline model to an eCommerce platform.
First, Why eCommerce?
Sure, some still need this question answered. So, here goes.
The biggest benefit of adopting eCommerce is that you get the opportunity to connect with a wider audience. Since the majority of people own smartphones these days, eCommerce can give you the power to be in people’s pockets. They don’t have to go around searching for your store. Instead, your potential customers can simply access your products at their fingertips.
Another significant benefit of adopting eCommerce is the lower setup cost as compared to a brick-and-mortar store with its associated real-estate investments. Moreover, eCommerce gives you the opportunity to create innovative, and impactful, promotions. Also, as your online customer testimonials are available for billions of people to read, it helps your credibility.
Hopefully, that will settle the “Why?” question. Now on to the “How?”
An eCommerce Roadmap
By focusing on the key elements mentioned below, you can create a great eCommerce adoption roadmap –
The first thing you need to do when making a switch to an online store is to have a website or platform to showcase your products. There are tools aplenty and multiple sales channels that you can use to easily set up your online store. Platforms like Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, etc. are quite popular in this segment.
But beyond the eCommerce engine, you must focus on the experience you provide your visitors. This brings the spotlight on the themes or website templates and elements that you use. Remember, how your website looks and how it allows the visitors to browse, search, and interact will be a crucial part of your store’s online presence.
Without getting too caught up in the frills of setting up an online store, you must focus on creating those essential website pages that clearly showcase your products and services.
First, focus on the basics and create an online store that makes it easy for people to explore and find what they are looking for. Providing visitors the right information at the right stage will help them progress in the buying journey.
Some of the essential pages include the homepage, product pages, return/exchange, contact, and shipping. Your homepage should be able to help visitors easily dive into the entire store and discover what they need as well as any offers or promotions. The product pages on your online store must be detailed, compelling, and including high-quality product images. The shipping page must be capable of answering some of the common FAQs regarding shipping.
Communication is key. Your online visitors should be able to easily get in touch with you or resolve their queries using the Contact page. The return/exchange page should help customers get details about your return/exchange policies. This is also a good time to explore adding options like AI-enabled chatbots and smart features that assist your customers while helping you stand out.
After setting up an online store/website, the next step is to inform your customers about it by creating an online presence. You need to reach out to your target audience with the right messaging on the channels that they prefer.
For doing it, first, analyze the market and figure out who your audience is and where do they hang out in the online space. Depending on your target audience, you can make use of various social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, or Quora. These social media platforms allow you to interact with your potential buyers and sell your products to them. After developing a good following on social media sites, you can directly sell products from your social media handles as well.
Another effective strategy is to leverage the power of email. By using gated content that delivers value to your users, you can collect emails of people which you can then use to send personalized messages or campaigns. You can also use paid advertisements like Google ads, Facebook ads, or YouTube ads to promote your online marketplace.
On the technology front, this is also a good time to consider the value of marketing automation, email marketing, and CRM solutions that integrate with your web presence. This will allow you to keep track of and build relationships with your target customers over time.
This is a critical step. Since you’ll be dealing with a lot of financial transactions, you must choose a secure payment solution. Rising consumer awareness and an increase in the number of cybercrimes means that you must be extra careful while setting up a payment method. Customers want convenient payment processes as well as security.
Order fulfillment first requires inventory management. For an online store, you must be aware of your inventory at all times. Integrating your systems with solutions like ERP and supply chain systems will allow the site to be in sync with the orders being placed. This tight integration also provides the customers with transparent visibility into the delivery status at all times.
Irrespective of how big or small your online store is, customer service can be crucial. Your customer service solutions should be capable of handling all customer queries and should also be aware of all company policies. You can also look at utilizing smart chatbots on your eCommerce website for greater impact.
Of course, this is just scratching the surface. You need to think about hosting the site, data management, and including smart data-driven analytics into the operational processes. The technology choices are extremely vast and they can have a profound impact at every stage of this process. It’s only normal to be overwhelmed by the scale of the task. That’s where, if you’d like any help with your eCommerce setup then ThinkSys could help.