January 18, 2016
Launching an eCommerce website in today’s ultra-competitive global marketplace is not for the weak of stomach. With major players including the likes of Amazon, Best Buy and eBay, it can be hard to envision how a smaller online store could successfully compete for sales. Many eCommerce stores have failed because they could not be innovative and revamp. But with these five tips in hand, you can set up your small store not only as a competitor, but as a preferred shopping site for your customer base.
Tip 1: Provide ultra-clear site navigation.
If you have ever walked into one of those big box brick-and-mortar retailers (Wal-Mart, Costco, et al) and felt simply overwhelmed by not just your choices but the sheer size of the place, you are not alone. Add to this the fact that you may walk half a mile (literally) before you find what you are looking for, and you have just outlined the competitive advantage of having a smaller store. Not all customers want infinite options — especially busy customers who need to shop, swipe and go.
What to do to compete: Set up your site navigation so visitors can quickly and easily find what they need, add it to the cart and pay — for each and every product you offer.
Tip 2: Make sure you use high quality images and clear product descriptions.
No matter how fast and easy it is to shop on your site, if your customers can’t figure out what you are selling, you won’t make any money. Customers look for two factors: clear visual images and equally clear product descriptions (keep these short and sweet). You want your site to look as professional as any big box eCommerce retailer’s site, so go ahead and compare your images and your product descriptions with the big boys and see how you stack up.
What to do to compete: Check out how your site displays in different browsers and on older and newer operating systems. Also be sure your images load quickly and accurately. Make sure you use jpeg images that are 300dpi or higher and that your text wraps properly around the images.
Tip 3: Ensure it is clear what you sell (at a macro and micro-cosmic level).
If you complete tip 2 correctly, it should be clear at the micro-cosmic level what your eCommerce site is selling. But what about at a macro-cosmic level — when your site lures in a casual Web visitor who is thinking about purchasing something online? Can this visitor figure out what you sell — enough to know if they want to go or stay?
What to do to compete: Make sure the images, text and overall look/feel of your home page and any landing pages you are using make it oh-so-clear what you are selling.
Tip 4: Make it clear that your site is safe to shop from.
No customer today wants to risk making an online purchase if it might compromise their sensitive financial data or lead to identity theft. You want to broadcast that your site is safe to shop from. Be sure you use secure SSL encryption and that you display badges from trusted online security sources such as virus scanning software and secure checkout.
What to do to compete: Look to see if your store displays an “https://” or a lock in the browser search bar. Add badges to your site to indicate it is a secure and protected place to shop.
Tip 5: Be accessible — and not just by e-mail.
If you have a phone number customers can use to get help with their orders, online chat that is instantly accessible and a mailing address, then you are already on your way to looking like an established business. At this point, your size doesn’t matter so much because you are transparent enough to publicize where you can be found in the event of a problem. If you have articles from recognized news sources, you can add these as well so customers realize you may be small, but you are great too.
What to do to compete: Add an instant chat resource and a phone number to your website. Add a physical mailing address as well. Add some customer testimonials that speak glowingly of your customer service.
By following these five tips to the letter, you may just discover that your customers actually prefer shopping with you and not with the big boys like Amazon, Best Buy, and eBay. You offer a personalized yet secure shopping experience complete with hands-on customer service and a wonderful niche market of high-quality products — what customer could ask for more? So don’t allow yourself to get intimidated by the bells and whistles the big sites offer. If you do what you do well, you will have all the business you can handle.
Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who has worked in eCommerce for the last five years. She currently writes for Rakuten Super Logistics and recommends them for all your online order fulfillment needs to further your success.