The definition of ECommerce is: commercial transactions conducted electronically on the internet.
It really is as simple as that, if you are taking payment online then you have a form of ECommerce in place.
There are many types, I will look at the most common and most useful ones here to get us started.
Payment via form
This is the simplest setup and allows you to accept payment via an online form. Your client enters some information and either enters an amount, selects a product or pays a preset amount by submitting the form. This can be linked to payment gateways like Stripe or PayPal to process your payment.
For simple payments this is a quick and painless way to get started.
For most people this is what we think of when we say ECommerce. An online shop offers products or services for sale via a website. Payments are going to be processed via something like Stripe or Paypal as in the forms example, but an online shop usually has some form of checkout process.
Your client will generally select products or services from your website and add them to a cart or basket, then proceed to checkout where they submit payment information.
This option can be as simple or complex as it needs to be so it has the capability to be a lot more powerful than the forms option.
There are a handful of items that you will need to put in place for an effective online shop, we’re going to go through this at a top-level now and go into more detail in a future post.
There is any number of platforms that you can use to build your online shop, too many to go into here. We will compare two that are representative of most of the options available as an example.
First is the Shopify option, an example of an “off-the-shelf” eCommerce solution. The pluses here are that it is quick and easy to set up and to manage. The negatives are that it is limited in customisability and that it can work out much more expensive as it is subscription-based.
The second is the WooCommerce option. This is an add on for a WordPress site and the negatives are that you need a WordPress site (unless you already have one) along with hosting plus it involves a bit more setup, depending on how complex your online shop needs to be. In the plus column, it generally costs much less in the long run and it is highly customisable to your exact needs. We have several clients who use WooCommerce to take bookings as well as those selling products or services.
With either option you will need to think about and decide on how integrated it needs to be with your website and how the flow from website to shop should work.
As with anything, there is a reason that both exist. You will need to select the option that is the best match for you and your business needs.
Products or Services
As I mentioned, bookings are also possible here but generally you will be selling products or services.
Each product needs the following information:
- Product name
- Product description
- category/sub category (depending on how many products you have but set yourself up with room for growth here)
- Product images – a main image and, depending on how photogenic your product is, a gallery of images to show the products other sides.
- Taxes – VAT? Inclusive or Exclusive?
- Shipping – if you are selling a physical product how much does it cost to ship?
Your product page should be clear, attractive, and provide all of the information to allow the customer to purchase in as simple a format as possible.
It is worth taking time to set this up correctly as it makes it easier to manage as you go and also makes your shop easier for your customers to use.
Sounds more technical than it is, this is the flow users will take as they use your shop. It is crucial that a visitor can find what they need quickly and easily and also that they can complete the process to purchase in a painfree way.
Test it out as a user, ask your friends to test it out, so that you can see what it is like for your customers and remove any pain points.
Do you want to offer special deals or discounts? What format are these likely to take?
- discount – percentage or flat rate, which products/categories does the discount apply to
- coupon code – codes can be used to apply discounts, these can be auto applied or shared with customers to manually enter at checkout. Be careful about limiting usage on coupon codes to avoid losing too much money
- BOGOF – buy one get one free, doesn’t really need explanation but again you’ll need to define which products/categories are included and whether the free product is the more or less expensive one.
Again, it’s worth taking the time to test this out and make sure you’ve considered all angles so that it is enticing for your customers without hammering your profits.
We would also always recommend not doing the eternal sale thing where you always have discounts on your shop. This devalues both the discount you are offering and the product/service itself.
We couldn’t not, could we?? It’s really important to make sure that your products and categories are picked up by search. These pages should be showing in search results where they are relevant for the search term.
Using relevant keywords and checking other SEO factors are covered will make sure your products are seen.
You can also submit your products directly to Google and link to social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, to sell directly from there. Just make sure you are doing things for a reason rather that just because you can!
ECommerce is a topic that feels really daunting so we would suggest giving some thought to what you would like to do. Consider whether you have used online shops that you found particularly easy to navigate (or particularly difficult!) as this will give you a good idea as to what you want in your own shop.
Figure out the what first before considering the why as what you are trying to do will dictate the other decisions you make.