A Small Business Budgeting Guide
If you want to increase your sales but are unsure of the most effective way to achieve this, then an e-commerce website is a powerful method you can use to sell more of your products, and one you should definitely explore.
There are certain logistical and planning elements that you will need to consider first, before going ahead with an e-commerce website. In this article I hope to outline these for you, to help you further understand if an e-commerce website is the right next step for you.
1) Initial planning
You should ensure you clearly establish the market you will be selling into, for example is it trade or general public? Additionally you should be thinking about where you are planning to deliver your products, and where will you distribute them from, when sending them to customers. It is important you plan where and how your products will be sent to your customers. This will ensure that their products are delivered on time, meaning you are providing good customer service.
Researching how your competitors operate their e-commerce websites and the methods they use is important. This will help you determine what you will need to achieve with your website, to make people buy from you. Additionally you should perform market research to find out key factors, such as how many people are already searching for the products you are wanting to sell. You can also use Google’s keyword planner tool to establish the most popular keywords being searched for at any point. For more information on how to choose the right promotional keywords read 'How to choose the right keywords for SEO'.
When determining which products you want to sell, do test selling on websites such as Ebay and Amazon. This will help you determine which products are likely to sell successfully on your website.
Importantly you should spend time considering your business objectives, to then incorporate these into your website design and functions. Do you want your e-commerce website to be a stand-alone business in it's own right or just an additional element to your current business?
Before asking anyone for a price for your new e-commerce website you must be sure what you want to achieve with your website. Ultimately, the return you are looking for must outweigh the cost. If you are just focused on the cost you may end up with something that does not deliver on your expectations.
2) What options do I have for my budget?
There are several methods available to make your ecommerce website plans a reality.
For a low budget you can create an ecommerce website yourself, by using a template design which you populate yourself. If you do not have some level of technical expertise in your business this method could become very time consuming and daunting. However if you do have some technical expertise in house and the time to dedicate to it, this will be your cheapest option.
Mid-range ecommerce websitesrequire a slightly higher investment. However with these websites you will have a website agency helping create the design you want and personalising it to your business. Furthermore with the expertise of a website agency, you will be guided into creating a website with the most effective ecommerce website marketing techniques, to help boost your website sales once the site goes live.
An existing Content Management System is usually used, meaning once the site is built you are easily able to update your information and products at any time. Custom designs also allow you to really showcase your business and what makes you different from your competitors.
Find out more about JDR e-commerce website services here.
The most expensive e-commerce websites are tailored for each individual customer. All of the e-commerce management processes will be integrated such as order management, stock level management, and integration with accounts software.
If you have specific procedural requirements, these can also be taken into account. Advanced search functions around the site to help people find what they are looking for quickly, advanced graphics and navigation, password protected membership areas, tailored pricing for trade customers, product videos, product reviews - are just a few additional features which can be incorporated in these website builds. If you are not limited by budget the sky really is the limit when it comes to e-commerce sites.
3) E-commerce marketing
You can improve the performance of your website through implementing a range of marketing initiatives and techniques. It is important to promote your website as broadly as possible, if your presence is narrow you are less likely to maximise your ecommerce success. So what are the main ways you can maximise your e-commerce website success?Online advertising
Advertising your products online is important to maximise regular online sales for your business.
Pay Per Click advertising in a particular is an effective technique you can use to encourage people to go on and purchase from your website. You can specify your monthly budget, so you begin with a low budget and then increase this when it is suitable for your business. Pay Per Click advertising is scalable so you can diversify your campaigns as soon as you are gaining a return on your investment. Pay Per Click campaigns can also be easily measured so you gain a understanding into your website success every month. Read more about PPC Advertising here.
Google shopping feeds are also now directly linked to paid for advertising. This type of advertising is not free anymore, meaning only companies who pay for this advertising will have this option. This type of advertising displays products near the top of Internet Search Engine Results, under he ‘shopping’ category. This will increase the visibility of your products and encourage more people to buy them.Blogs
How can blogs benefit your business? They will show your customers you are aware of the latest trends in your industry and provide useful information to help them decide what to buy. You will be seen as an expert, and people love to buy fromthe experts. You will also be showcasing your products and capabilities to them, explaining why they should choose your business. By using this form of marketing you will also be encouraging more traffic to your website. The more traffic you have to your website, the more opportunities you have to sell your products.Frequently asked questions (FAQ's) and videos
These are also effective methods to demonstrate your product capabilities to prospective customers.
Product reviews are a powerful method of encouraging further customers to buy your products. This method in particular encourages buyers, as it gives them a realistic opinion of what the company’s products are like from a customer perspective. You can create a product review strategy yourself, or you can hire an agency to ensure you have powerful and engaging content for your reviews.Social media
Social media is used to channel and announce latest new products and product offers. Regular announcements encourage new and repeat customers to visit your site.Search engine optimisation (SEO)
This is a key method of making your e-commerce website visible within search engine results. You can have as many pages optimised as you require and this will encourage people to view your website and purchase your items.
More information on SEO here.
Conversion Rate Optimisation
Once you are being found in the search engines and driving traffic to your e-commerce website, you will want to encourage more potential customers to take action on your website. The following techniques can be used; keyword research, attention grabbing headlines and copy. Read more about conversion rate optimisation here.
It is important to remember that the end goal of your e-commerce website is to gain as many sales as possible. However this goal can only be achieved if you are getting enough people visiting your website.
With increasing mobile Internet searches all the time, you may want to consider having a mobile-optimised e-commerce website. This will further maximise your chances of gaining additional sales for your online business, increase your customer base and profits. You should also ensure your mobile e-commerce website is easy to navigate through a range of mobile devices.
More information on Mobile Commerce download this free guide.
4) Additional costs
There are several additional costs you should consider to improve the effectiveness of your website. For example, all the marketing initiatives mentioned above, will be additional services available to you once your ecommerce site is built.
You will also need to set up a merchant account and choose a preferred payment gateway method. Different merchant accounts charge different percentages per transaction, so it is worth shopping around for the best deal.
You will need to look at possible courier companies who will distribute your products to your customers. You should research to establish which are the most cost effective and reliable companies in terms of delivery charges.
Web hosting is a key fundamental cost you will need to consider as part of your ecommerce website. This is an ongoing maintenance charge, normally paid monthly to your Website Agency. This charge will include any key technical updates to your website.
Do you want a personalised logo and branding image to be incorporated within your ecommerce website? This would be an additional charge; however a powerful brand image is important. Not only this, photography will also be a key element of your website. You can organise a professional photographer to take photos or you can take the photos yourself using a backdrop.
Additionally you should truly consider your product pricing strategy. You may for example want to consider discounts or offers for existing customers to encourage their repeat custom.
5) Technical considerations
There are several key technical details you will need to consider for your ecommerce website. You should consider whether you will want to edit your website yourself after the design stage. A content management system will allow you to make the changes to your website at a lower cost than employing an agency to do this.
More information on content management systems and the benefits can be found here.
If you are trying to attract customers from several countries you may want to consider having your website in multiple languages. This will give people extra reasons to buy your products, as the website is marketed directly towards them.
All your business operational systems can also be integrated with your ecommerce website. These Systems include; a stock management system, accounting system automation, production and management automation. Additionally you could have a Customer Relationship Management System and your Shipping and Receiving services automated.
You can also have your products linked up directly to your Ebay accounts and other websites, to maximise your product sales.
6) Your time
In order to make your ecommerce website successful you may need to invest time into key elements of your website. This could include writing content for your product details, and customer service strategies. You will also need to consider who will coordinate the packing and distribution of your orders.
You may also need to take charge of your regular marketing strategies and email marketing to target new customers and retarget existing customers. This will further allow you to increase your online sales.
So as you can see form the above there are many options for you to choose from, ranging from FREE to multiple thousands of pounds. Every business is different and you will have ambitions and goals that you want to achieve. The best place to start is to speak to someone and find out what option is going to be best suited to your needs.
Article by Laura Morris-Richardson