The online industry is becoming so huge that no business owner can afford to ignore it. But if you have been in the traditional retail sector for a number of years, how do you take your products online in a way that can be competitive? Moving online brings with it a whole new set of business challenges. The e-commerce sector, as it is known, is a complex industry. It is helpful to know what you are in for before you jump in with both feet and commit to the project.
Setting up an e-Commerce Website
There are various things that need to be considered when you plan to have an online store. For a start, you cannot have just any website hosting package. An online store requires a database that can integrate with the front end of the website. This requires a specific type of hosting and detailed website design. There are many hosting providers that have specific packages for e–commerce. These are worth considering as they make the design process much easier. Perhaps one of the most important aspects of an e-commerce site is to have a secure payment portal. Typically, this involves setting up a merchant account, and having a shopping cart and card processing software on your website. Most merchant service providers have specific e-commerce packages that integrate with your website and other business software.
How Do People Shop Online Compared to How They Shop in a Traditional Retail Store?
If you have run a traditional retail store for some time, going online will require quite a mental shift. Customers shop quite differently online compared to how they shop in a physical shopping mall. The first thing you need to keep in mind is that online shoppers are all about convenience. They shop online because they can do so without having to get in their car and drive to the mall. Shopping online also provides customers with a wider range of choice. This makes it far more competitive. In a traditional store, if your price is a little higher, they may purchase the product anyway. Going to another store that is cheaper will still cost them in terms of time and effort. Often, they will take this into account and decide that it’s easier to just buy the item while they are at the store.
In the online environment, it takes minimal effort for them to log onto another website and compare their price to yours. Shopping at many different stores is therefore made much easier for customers. Having an online retail store requires a delivery mechanism. Because customers are no longer physically in your store, they can’t take the products with them when they check out. You therefore need to have a delivery method in place so customers can get their products in a reasonable amount of time.
Lastly, the vast majority of online transactions are paid for using credit cards. Cash transactions and bank transfers are a tedious way to transact compared to the convenience of credit cards.
Considerations for the Design of Your e-Commerce Site
When designing your e-commerce site, remember that clients want two things from you — convenience and security. They want to know that they can get the products they are looking for and that their credit card and personal details will be kept secure. Making sure you have good virus and spyware protection on your website is essential. Using a reputable merchant services provider will help you maintain a high level of security when processing credit cards on your website.
In terms of convenience, your website should respond quickly to requests. If you have a search feature on the website, its results should be accurate and relevant. When customers select items and place them in their shopping cart, they should be able to review them before deciding to purchase. Perhaps the most important aspect relating to convenience is the efficiency of your checkout process. Too many websites fall short when it comes to this. The systems delay, hang or time out, and the client gets frustrated and leaves to shop elsewhere. Having a speedy and efficient checkout process is one of the most important components of your e-commerce website. A good checkout process can make the difference between you getting a sale and the potential for repeat business from a customer, or losing them forever.
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