What is e-commerce?
E-commerce is a term that we hear a lot, but what is it? We all know how easy it is to go into a shop and by a product. E-commerce is just that – but online. Instead of handing over your money physically in a shop and having your product right away, an e-commerce website handles all of this online and then sends your product out to you once your order is processed.
It’s likely that you’ve been on quite a few e-commerce websites. Whether it’s been to buy new clothes, household items or just something you can’t seem to find in a shop. Many businesses choose to have their own e-commerce website as it can be cheaper and easier than having their own physical store.
If you’re thinking about starting your own e-commerce business but don’t know where to start, we’ve got some helpful information coming up.
Why do I need an e-commerce website?
If you’re a business that sells products or services, having an e-commerce website can make things much easier for both you and your customers. An e-commerce site can have everything about your business, from a contact page to FAQs as well as having an area to sell your products too. This means that your customers will only have to go to one place to find everything they need to know about your business.
As well as having everything in one place, having an e-commerce website can even help you increase the amount of sales you get. If a potential customer is going onto your site to find out more about you, they may browse around your online shop and find something that they want/need.
Lastly, if you don’t have a physical shop – you’re going to need somewhere to sell your products. Whilst some individuals resort to places like Amazon or Ebay to sell their products, having your own secure and branded e-commerce website can make customers feel much more at ease and confident about shopping with you.
How do I set up an e-commerce website?
Knowing that you want an e-commerce website is a step in the right direction – but setting one up can feel a little complicated. There are two ways you can build an e-commerce website – doing it yourself or using a web designer.
If you choose to design your own e-commerce website, there are plenty of easy-to-use platforms to help you do this. However, it can still throw up some challenges. One of the most common e-commerce platforms is Shopify. This platform is perfect for smaller businesses or those who are just starting up their own e-commerce site.
Even if you’ve never built a website before, Shopify makes it incredibly easy to build your website with clear and simple labels to tell you where things need to go.
The DIY way isn’t for everyone. If you’re not confident in building it yourself or you don’t have the time, using a website designer to do this all for you can be much easier and quicker. You will still be obliged to communicate with your website developer to discuss the design, content and your products, but they will do the hard work for you.
Using a website designer can be more expensive than doing it yourself. The way you build your e-commerce website comes down to three things – your budget, the time you have and your skills. Take a look into your options to find what will work best for you and your business.
What’s important on an e-commerce site?
The main goal from an e-commerce site is getting customers to buy your products. Just setting up a platform doesn’t guarantee that you’ll start getting sales straight away. You need to make your site easy to navigate as well as making your customers feel like they’re safe. Buying products online is something that can make some individuals feel quite nervous, especially those who aren’t as familiar with the internet.
We’ve made a list of things that we think are important when you have your own e-commerce site. If you already have your own c-commerce website, it’s a great idea to look through what you have to see if you could improve anything.
- Good service. Just as if they were in a shop, your customers might have questions about a certain product you’re selling and may not buy it unless they are answered. It’s a good idea to have an easy way for customers to contact you like live chat or a phone number so that they feel supported. Not only this, after a customer has purchased a product from you, it’s important that you follow up via email to ensure they are happy with what they have received.
- A search function. Not all of your customers will be completely new. You may have individuals who are returning to your shop with the goal of buying a product they know you sell. In this case, the last thing you want is for your customers to be searching through pages and pages of products to find what they need. Instead, adding a search bar where your customers can type in what they are looking for will make the process quicker and easier – as well as improve the user experience.
- Security. When you go onto a website, you may see a small padlock icon appear in the search bar – this is to tell you the site has an SSL Certificate. In simple terms, this means the website is secure and used an encrypted connection. This is especially important on websites that sell products as customers will be entering personal data into the site. It’s essential that you have one of these with an e-commerce website.
- Easy payment system. We mentioned earlier that making your customers feel safe is a big part of an e-commerce website. Having an easy-to-use payment system can encourage your customers to buy your products. To do this, make sure you are only asking for details that you need to process the order. If there is too much information to enter, it can put customers off. Also, try to use more than one payment method. Not all of your customers will use PayPal – make sure you include an option for customers to pay with their own cards too.
Types of e-commerce models
An e-commerce model is who your main customer is. Whilst some businesses focus predominantly on selling to consumers, others are only businesses who sell to other businesses. There are 2 main models which are the most popular.
- Business to Consumer (B2C). The B2C model is probably one that you’re more familiar with. This is when a sale takes place between a business and a consumer. For example, if you were to go onto a business’s website and purchase a household item, this would be classed as B2C.
- Business to Business (B2B). This is the process of when a business buys a products or service from another business. This could be a manufacturer and wholesaler. The products or services are usually only available for businesses to purchase and include software, and raw materials.
Examples of e-commerce
If you’re still stuck as to what e-commerce is, we have some examples of things that are commonly sold through e-commerce websites. These aren’t just things that you can’t buy in shops, but some are made to only be purchased on the internet.
- Subscriptions. This is one that is commonly only sold via e-commerce websites as the subscriptions are online services. Subscriptions are purchased to gain benefit on buying the same products and services on a regular basis.
- Wholesale products. Although there are stores in which you can go and buy products in bulk, it can be easier to do this all online. Not only does it mean you can get it delivered directly to your premises, it’s also much easier to see what is in stock.
- Drop shipping. Drop shipping is the process of selling items that are manufactured and shipped by a third party. These are products that you can only purchase online as they are commonly made in different countries.
Benefits of e-commerce
Whether you’re a customer shopping on an e-commerce website or a business thinking about starting your own one up – there are benefits to everyone. If you are still feeling unsure as to if an e-commerce website is for you, we hope these benefits will push you in the right direction.
- Lower costs. When you have your own physical shop, there are many costs that come with it. However, having your shop online can eliminate a lot of these and make having your own business cheaper and easier to manage.
- More convenience. An online shop offers much more convenience to both the customer and business. For customers, they are able to find products from all across the country or world which they wouldn’t be able to find if you only had a shop. For businesses, it allows you to reach out much further to a bigger market. You won’t be limited just selling products in your hometown, instead you can reach as far as the other side of the world.
- A better customer experience. Sometimes in a busy shop, it’s difficult to give every single one of your customers the outstanding service your business prides themselves on. However, when customers shop online, your website can automatically give them suggestions for other products they may like as well as provide all of the information on what they’re buying. As well as this, the aftercare can be much easier with a follow up email.
We hope that we’ve given you a much better understanding on the world of e-commerce. Even if you already have your own physical shop, there’s nothing stopping you from setting up an online one too.
If you require help with building an e-commerce website, please contact us for our advice and assistance.