When it comes to eCommerce retail projections, it seems there is no limit. Though there will always be a place for brick-and-mortar retail, Forrester analysts estimate total US online sales to reach an impressive $414 billion by 2018. Buying eCommerce software to build a web store for your niche market will help you earn your part of that estimate.
When you’re getting started in the world of eCommerce, it’s hard to know where to start. Even with a goal in mind, potential online business owners stall out simply because of contradicting advice and overwhelming options! You may know you need to start with a good shopping cart but how do you know what to expect from a software if you don’t yet understand the nuances of online business? Buying eCommerce software can be confusing and seem like a daunting task. To play it straight, you have to put in the time and research needed before you start an eCommerce store. Why? Because every individual business will have different software needs and software is where it starts, on the tech level, anyway. Once you find the right solution and get it set-up properly, you will be glad for the time spent researching. The right software will take over many tasks and save you a lot of time. Getting to that point, however, takes an understanding of current market expectations and your niche market.
Here is a list of essential areas to consider before buying eCommerce software.
The Features and Functionality
Gearing up with essential web store builder tools is one of the first things you’ll do as a new online store owner. Because of this, feature availability should be one of the main things you look into before buying eCommerce software. Here is a brief list of essential eCom tools.
· Attractive, responsive theme options. Your storefront is the first thing a potential client sees when the click your link. Make sure the look and feel of your online store pulls people in, instead of making them continue on to a competitor’s page. Also, your potential buyers will be browsing from any number of devices so only shop for templates that are ‘responsive design’. This will ensure that your store looks perfect, whether they’re using a tablet, phone, or pc. You don’t need an elaborate or high-end theme, sometimes simple is better, but it should always look welcoming and trustworthy to your focus audience and provide intuitive, layered category navigation for easy product searches.
· High-quality, interactive product images. Quality photos sell your products. As an online business owner, it’s your role to try and recreate a real shopping experience. Having multiple images and features like zoom help people get a feel for their item of interest, without actually having to touch it. It’s recommended that you have a professional eCommerce product photographer take photos of your product line since they are trained to know how to sell through photography.
· Social media integrations and selling. Social is still huge and marketers are always working on ways to perfect the soft sell technique that’s required to social sell. To effectively sell socially, you must first know your audience and what sites they’re most likely to frequent. Over the years it’s been realized that if proper channels are used, the soft sell strategy can increase your profits while ensuring fans remember and think positively about your brand. After the proper social media profiles have been created, you then create and post fresh, relevant content that’s educational and interesting, with a bit of promotion weaved in. Make sure the promotional messages are well-written and have proper call-to-action buttons. And never forget to interact with your audience! Post jokes, contests, and questions while always replying to comments in a polite manner, whether the comment was positive or negative. Keep in mind that social media is a soft sell and make sure your final shopping cart software choice comes loaded with social media integrations.
· Abandoned shopping marketing. Getting traffic to your store is considered one of the hardest parts of selling online so it’s especially frustrating when you had the buyer in your arena… but they didn’t complete the purchase. Seeing products that have been abandoned in your websites shopping cart can be disheartening but fortunately, there is a specific marketing used to recover those potential sales and increase your revenue. Make sure your eCommerce solution comes with or at least offers a shopping cart abandonment marketing feature.
· Trustworthy PCI-compliance and SSL certificates. There are many solutions on the market today but any complete, reputable shopping cart solution will come with PCI-compliance and SSL certificates. Make sure the shopping cart solutions you’re deciding between all have these basic security necessities met. Buying eCommerce software may not be a straightforward task but making sure you get one that protects your clients and you should be!
- The Set-up and Design Building a successful eCommerce store takes time. A lot of time. A lot of time and tweaking. Every software company you research will have some claim like, “Build Your Ecommerce Store in Minutes” but frankly, that’s just not realistically true. Sure, you may be able to get the basics going, like setting up your information and picking a theme but, unless you’re The Flash, it will likely take hours, and even days, to get the look, functions and necessities you want. Sound fun? This is why it’s important to do the research beforehand, have a solid idea of your expectations and know what shopping cart software can deliver. The claim of a store in minutes may be technically true, but there’s a lot more thought and work that go into an online store that will actually attracts traffic… the kind of traffic that completes an online purchase.
- Mobile Integration Mobile traffic and sales are huge these days… but you already knew that, right? What some experts used to consider a passing trend has developed into a new type of commerce on its own. Mobile commerce, affectionately referred to as M-Commerce, accounts for more than 50% of eCommerce traffic in 2015. And according to TechCrunch, last year represented a tipping point in mobile commerce, so much so that Digi-Capital reported VCs invested an estimated $4.2 billion in m-commerce from Q3 2013 to Q3 2014. That was almost quadruple the investment of the year before!
- Customer Reviews and Content Content, content, content… content is king and one of the most important ways to be noticed by search engines in 2015. Content is the first thing Google recommends in their Steps to a Google-friendly Site and then it’s mentioned eight more times in the short write-up. In the past, black hat SEO would use tricks like keyword stacking and paid links to try and rank but Google and other search engines have caught on. Now, only quality content that is educational and fresh will give you the page rank results you want. If you are looking to partner up with one of the top ranked eCommerce software options, make sure the solution has a built-in blog, a section for customer reviews, or maybe even product Q&A opportunities. Creating your own quality content, or having it created for you, will always be essential but if you can get free content from your audience, that’s better for everyone! They’ll feel involved and you’ll be able to connect with them through comments while helping your online store rank better. It’s a win-win situation!
This list of eCommerce necessities is just getting you started with the essentials you’ll need before buying web store builder software. For more great tips on finding the solution, check out Part 2!
Do you have any questions about buying eCommerce software? We’d love to hear your thoughts and help in the comments below!
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