How To Branch Out As An Ecommerce Site

Operating an ecommerce store can be highly rewarding, but there will always be room for growth. If you want to compete with the bigger brands in the world, then you will want to identify ways in which you can branch out and expand your operation. This will help to bring in more customers and increase your sales, and when you use the best expansion methods this could have a huge impact on the amount of money that you make from your ecommerce business. So, if you are looking to brand out but you are not sure how then read on for a few tips.

Diversify

One of the best ways to branch out is to diversify your operation so that you appeal to a much wider group. When you expand your target customer base you are not limiting yourself and could double your business. This can be done by:

Targeting new customers: Identify a new target customer base but be sure not to neglect your current target market. This new customer may be closely related to your current, so retain your identity.

Add new products: It can also be highly effective to add new products to your range. Again, this may be related to what you currently sell so think about the type of person that purchases your current products and what their wants and needs are. Additionally, it is worth looking at trending products and consider adding these to your lineup.

Sell Your Products Elsewhere

It can be frustrating when you have high-quality products, but you do not get the same amount of traffic as the larger, household retailers. Fortunately, there is a great solution to this problem in the form of marketplace integration where you can sell your products through larger retailers but still under your name and allowing you to handle the shipments, enquires and more. For instance, www.sellercloud.com allows ecommerce stores to integrate with Walmart which is one of the biggest and most recognizable retailers in the world which could significantly increase product demand and brand reputation.

Increase Visibility

One of the most effective ways to upscale your operation is to increase your visibility online. You could have the best products on the market, but if you are not easily found online, then you will never succeed. This means that you can branch out by taking steps to increase your visibility and online presence. Internet marketing is an excellent way to do this, and it could help you to climb through the organic listings and compete with the top names in your industry. Additionally, you need to make sure that your ecommerce store is of the highest quality with professional standard photographs, detailed product descriptions, customer reviews, and a seamless shopping experience.

Branching out with the above strategies should enable you to go on and find greater success and increase your brand awareness. The ecommerce industry is one which is fiercely competitive which means that it can be hard to stand out from the crowd and succeed, but with a little patience and hard work you should be able to branch out and bring more customers to your store.

Image: Bruce Mars

7 Ways to Improve the E-commerce Checkout Process

Image: Mateusz Dach

User experience is now the dominant factor that determines the success of a website or an ecommerce store. Users have more options to choose from and are more sensitive to bad experience, which is why the best way to boost conversion and reach that new level of success with your ecommerce site is by fine-tuning the user experience to the last detail.

The checkout process is a big part of that experience. After searching for information and going through the usual decision-making process, your potential customers are finally ready to make a purchase. How can you improve the checkout process and deliver the best experience? Here are the top 7 tips you can use.

Maintain a Smooth Flow

I know how tempting it is to cross-sell other items, tell customers about this awesome promotional offer you have going, or even persuade them to shop some more and sign up for your newsletter before checking out. You want to garner attention to all of these things at once and adding them to the checkout process is a great idea, isn’t it?

Well, it isn’t. in fact, it is a bad idea. You already have potential customers in the process of buying your products; the best thing to do is provide them with a smooth flow throughout the checkout process. All of the extra offers and discounts are distractions that may – and will – lead to dropped carts.

As mentioned earlier, today’s users are more sensitive; they get annoyed much more quickly. When they do, even if it only takes another step to complete the order, they will abandon the cart. Those customers will not return to your site; at the very least, it will take a considerable marketing effort to bring them back.

Keep It Short

Another thing to keep in mind is the length of the checkout process. You want to make the entire wizard as short as possible; adding more steps so that you can capture more information about the customers or offer them discounts is indeed counterproductive. The checkout wizard must never be longer than 4 steps.

Customers start by reviewing their orders; this is step one. They then add a shipping address and select a shipping method that works best for them; this is step 2, and it is a step that can be eliminated when the customers are on their second purchases. Next, customers select a payment method, review the total amount they need to pay, and hit the Pay button to make that payment; this is step 3. The last part of the process is confirmation that the payment is successful and goods will be delivered soon; this is step 4.

Some sites are working harder to shorten their checkout process to 2 steps. With bigger ecommerce sites like Amazon, you can even make a purchase with just a click of a button. This is what you need to be aiming for.

Image: jeshoots

Make it Mobile-Friendly

This next tip is rather obvious, but it is a tip that many ecommerce sites still fail to implement. Having a mobile-friendly checkout page is an absolute must, considering over 60% of today’s internet traffic come from mobile devices. On top of that, mobile users are more likely to make purchases online when the user experience is pleasant.

Making a checkout process mobile-friendly isn’t just about making the pages themselves responsive. You have to make sure that every part of the process, from the automatic shipping cost calculator to the final Pay button, works as planned. Often times, there are scripts that simply wouldn’t run on mobile devices; these are the kind of issues you need to anticipate.

There are also technologies that allow mobile websites to perform better on mobile devices. Programing languages and UI kits designed for mobile sites are capable of delivering native-like performance, complete with fluid animations and speedy page transitions.

Eliminate the Back Button

In the old days, users are forced to go through the checkout wizard in a linear way. Users always started from one end of the process and were forced to complete every step to finish the process. When a user wanted to change the shipping address, that user needed to go back through the steps and find the shipping page to make the changes.

This should never be the approach you use today. Checkout wizards are still organized in steps, but that doesn’t mean the process itself can’t be fluid. There are ways to keep every aspect of the process accessible without breaking the user experience.

My favorite implementation is a dynamic sidebar, where information such as the purchased items, shipping address, the total, and selected payment method are displayed after every step. Customers can then choose to modify any of those details by clicking a small ‘edit’ icon (or URL) below each element. Don’t forget to take the customers back to the current page after making the changes; using a modal popup on desktop sites is a good alternative to consider.

Show the Customer’s Progress

Customers have the need to know where they are in the checkout process – and how much further they have to go to complete that process – so it is best to give them that information. Add a progress bar – you can get creative with the approach that works for your site in this case – to the top of the checkout interface so that customers can keep track of their progress.

Don’t forget to handle the payment process carefully too. You want to show movement as the system tries to process the customers’ payments. An animated progress bar that ends with the status of the payment – a green checkmark if it is successful or a red cross if it isn’t – adds that extra touch that the customers will appreciate.

Speaking about payments….

Offer Sufficient Payment Methods

Not being able to make a payment conveniently is still the top reason why customers abandon their carts. This means you have to take extra care when choosing the payment methods that you want to accept. Credit card payments should be the standard, so make sure you provide this payment method as part of your ecommerce site.

Digital payment methods are attractive too. Services such as PayPal and Skrill are services that a lot of customers use. Offering these services as accepted payment methods will help attract more customers to the site.

Lastly, stay up to date with the latest payment options. This is more for marketing and branding than for UX improvement, but it is a step worth taking nonetheless. When customers see that your site accepts Bitcoin, for example, they get that extra confidence that may just be what is needed to get them to hit the Checkout button.

Understand the Customers

Last but not least, always go the extra mile to understand your (potential) customers, especially during the checkout process. A good way to get started is by doing detailed hotspot analysis to identify how the checkout wizard performs. You can also improve conversion by being more actively attentive.

OptinMonster and its Exit-Intent tool is a good example to look into. Instead of annoying every potential customer, the tool spots customers that spend more time than usual during the checkout process and offer those customers live support or additional discounts.

These 7 tips on improving your ecommerce site’s checkout process are not the only ways to boost conversion and improve user experience, but they are great points to implement if you are serious about delivering the best UX. Start today, use the tips we discussed in this article, and watch as your ecommerce site becomes more effective.

Top tips for sourcing products for your online store

To take your online store from dream to reality, there are a few things you firstly need to consider. One of the most important being, deciding on a supplier for your chosen products. It will be hard for any business to succeed without good, honest suppliers. You need to do a lot of planning to find the right supplier for your business. It’s essential to your business that you know how your products cost and if you can make any profit from them. If you’re new to the world of business, here are some top tips on what to look out for when sourcing products for your new venture.

It’s a good idea to begin with that you get your business registered. This is a simple step that just requires some formal details and occasionally a one-off payment. Once completed you will be given a registration number will have your own registered business name. You can now start getting in touch with potential suppliers and distributors. Having these details available makes your business look more professional. Reputable suppliers should always ask for your formal business information.

Many will not even consider working with your if you aren’t registered. On the other hand, if the supplier does not ask you for at least your business number it could mean they are not a reputable source. They may be charging more than they should be.

online store

Don’t be tempted to rush or buy cheap and bad quality products for your store. The excitement of getting started can cause people to cut corners and make mistakes. There are people out there who will seize the opportunity to sell you bad products at an inflated price. Always do your background research on potential suppliers. Check out their websites and social media pages. Their website should look professional and include plenty of information. Look at this wholesale body jewellery site to get an idea. If possible always read online reviews from previous customers, to get an idea of what you might be getting yourself into. Starting your own business can take time. Don’t be naive in thinking you will get rich quick. It happens rarely and in reality takes a lot of hard work. Not doing your homework on wholesalers and suppliers can kill off your business before it has even begun.

Think outside of the box when searching for suppliers. There are plenty of places you can buy products from aside from the internet. Trade shows are an ideal way of meeting suppliers face to face and building a rapport. You also get to see the product up close to access the quality. Arts and craft fairs are also a great place to find one-off products and smaller local manufacturers. Or look further afield and source suppliers from China or India. If buying from international suppliers again always do your research. You may need to hire a translation service, so there’s no gaps in your communications.

You should now be feeling more confident when sourcing your products. It’s an advantage to know what potential scams are out there so you can avoid them. I hope the products you find makes your online business a roaring success.

 

What makes a good online store?

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These days you can buy just about anything in an online store from make-up to car parts (Yep, you guessed it , there really is an OnlineCarParts.co.uk !) But if you’re setting up your own online store, here are the most important features you’ll need to consider:

Traffic

Whether you’re selling make-up, car parts or anything else, if nobody knows it’s there then you won’t have any customers! Every online store owner needs a clear plan of how they will get visitors to the store not just occasionally, but consistently every day.

There are many ways of doing this including search engine optimization and social media as well as paid methods such as Google Adwords or Facebook Advertising.

Branding

Having a professional image is essential if people are to trust you with their credit cards, but that’s just one of the benefits of branding. These days you need to have a presence in multiple places online including Facebook and twitter. Having a consistent brand across all of these ‘properties’ allows your followers to recognise you and feel at home with you wherever they meet you.

If your look and style is professional and consistent, then that builds confidence and you’re much more likely to get sales.

Don’t just get customers, get fans

Which would you prefer? People who just buy your products or  raving fans who love what you do and can’t wait to tell their friends about you? Fortunately, with tools like blogs and social media platforms you can build and army of fans.  Use creative campaigns to tell the story behind your brand, what’s new and what’s in the pipeline. Don’t just tell them what you do, tell them (and show them) why you do it. Share insider secrets and what you’re planning next.

Email marketing

Once you have visitors and customers, encourage them to return by emailing them regular updates and offers. After all, it’s easier to sell to someone who already knows and likes your brand than someone who has never heard of it before.

Use your URL

Have a URL that’s memorable and easy to spell, then make sure it’s in all your printed material as well as being on your emails signatures, social media profiles and anywhere else people can find you online.

Test, test, test

Once you’ve got potential customers to your store, you need to make sure they are converting into sales. You need to be continually testing you prices, products, copy and everything else about your store to increase your conversion rate.  In order to do this you’ll need to collect data, so make sure you set up Google Analytics as soon as you can.

It’s got to be mobile

A responsive website is no longer an option. That’s a website that looks good on any device, mobile, laptop or desktop.  According to online store platofrm provider Shopify (in this Econsultancy post) , one third of sales came from mobile devices in 2014.

So there you have it – now it’s time to start your own online store!