Growing your business

How To Set Up E-Commerce For Your Business

16 November 2017
3 minutes read

Emma Doyle

The internet was built for business, and as it has grown it has blossomed into a booming global marketplace. Trading online has eased the buying process for thousands of consumers, but what is really making online retail so appealing to the businesses themselves?

  • One of the greatest assets of e-commerce is that no matter what time of day it is, your store will always be open for business. So, customers who otherwise would not be able to visit your physical shop can now access your products and services at a time that suits them – which could lead to more sales!
  • At least 81% of shoppers are conducting online research before buying too, so having a digital store can help consumers to access the product information they need to comparison shop.
  • Expanding online can also boost your brand awareness.
  • And offer you some extra flexibility in your own working hours too.

With 77% of UK adults having bought goods or services online in the last 12 months – as found by the Office for National Statistics - online retailers face an ever maturing marketplace and more savvy customers. Now competing on price, customer service and interactive experiences such as gaming or customer recognition when it comes to enhancing their e-commerce tactics.

But getting started really isn’t too tricky! That’s why this month we’re sharing our top tips on how to get onboard and get started with e-commerce for your business:

Getting Started 

Whether you’re starting from scratch, or thinking about the e-commerce add-ons that you can integrate with your existing business website, there are several points that you should consider when moving to trading online.

When setting up your trading platform, are you going to set it up yourself? Or employ a web designer? Are you going to use an online web builder, or e-commerce extension such as Shopify? The answer will be different for every business. But whichever route you choose to take, do make sure to factor the following points into your decision:

Cost: You may decide to trade online using an e-commerce platform. If so, calculate exactly how much you can afford to pay for it each month; don’t forget to include extra costs such as domain fees and any individual transaction fees.

Maintenance: Trading online can give your business access to an ever-growing global market, but making this work will demand regular site maintenance, such us updating product listings, and secure management of your customer data too. Make sure that the platform you choose isn’t too complicated to update; and consider whether you have the resources to build and manage your e-commerce site effectively, or whether you will have to have it maintained by a third party instead.

Payment options: Ensure that your chosen e-commerce platform will allow for your customers to use a varied set of ways to pay you. You may also want to use encryption, this can be done easily with an authentication certificate such as SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). This is important for giving your customers confidence in making transactions online, and for keeping payments safe.

Design: This isn’t just about showing off your business in the best possible way; but, similar to the security of your online payment gateway, the design and navigation of your site is hugely important in establishing a credible relationship with your customers too. Working to build this trust, make sure to go with an attractive website design that is also easy for the viewer to use.

Choosing a Platform

Kinjil Mathur, CMO at Squarespace says: “My advice for any brand that wants to enter the digital space is not only to make sure that they own the first touch point, but to also make sure it represents them in the best possible way . . . When I was advising clients on how to get online 10 years ago it was so expensive to have a really good-looking website. Now you are able to do that for much less.”

Here are just a few of the platforms that can do just that for you:

Shopify – Shopify already serves over 500,000 merchants worldwide! It’s a great platform to begin with as it lets you create your store with a pre-made template and comes at a range of monthly price points to suit your budget. You will be able to add the Shopify shopping cart into your existing website too.

Squarespace – Squarespace also comes with a huge range of beautifully designed templates for you to use and customise, and includes useful analytics too so you can monitor how your website is performing. Unlike many other e-commerce providers, Squarespace doesn’t charge per transaction fee; but it does charge an overall monthly subscription fee which is a little higher than its competitors’.

Magento – Magento is often considered as the most flexible e-commerce platform, but you will have to learn the basics of the software to get going. It is available at two price points; either Magento CE which is free to download and use with no monthly fee, or Magento EE which is popular with larger businesses. If you’re up for a little coding, you can add Magento’s e-commerce functionality to an existing website too.

Check out e-commerce comparison sites such as Ecommerce Guide for more!

Mobile vs. Desktop

Recent research by sales software provider SaleCycle has found that, of their surveyed 500 retailers, 51.3% of the website traffic that they received came from mobile devices; but this only accounted for 36.8% of their sales overall. But why is this? It may be that many shoppers and businesses feel more comfortable on desktop, using the larger screen to navigate, view product images, and input sensitive data such as addresses and bank details.

In addition, research by digital consultancy agency ComScore has claimed that consumers prefer to use desktop for big ticket purchases – such as holidays, furniture, or computers – too; which is partly why MikMak, a shopping mobile app targeted at the “iPhone generation”, doesn’t sell anything over $100 and instead focuses on pushing smaller purchases such as smaller gadgets and home goods.

On the other hand, last year overall mobile web usage overtook that of desktop for the very first time; with research agency Statcounter tracking that 51.3% of pages were loaded on mobile in October 2016, compared to just 48.7% on desktop.

Statcounter’s Chief Executive, Aodhan Cullen, says that these figures “should be a wakeup call, especially for small businesses, sole traders and professionals, to make sure that their websites are mobile friendly. Many older websites are not.”

To adjust your site for these mobile consumers, it will mean building it to be responsive. This means it will automatically change to fit a viewer’s screen size - whether that be a smart phone, a laptop, or any other tech – without you having to create specialised websites for each gadget. Many web builders will already have options for implementing responsiveness in their templates.

Considering points from both sides, perhaps the choice between desktop or mobile online shopping isn’t about a competition between the two! But instead about being prepared to provide the best experience for whichever path your customers choose.

Showcasing Your Products / Services

Brendan Cooling, the Head of Digital and Data Driven Marketing at ANZ advises: “Rather than crowding your web pages with the entire product range and multiple categories, every page should be intuitively easy to navigate and aesthetically pleasing.”

Considering this, when listing your products or services on site, make sure to use high quality photographs. Customers will be making their buying decision based on what they can see, so it’s important to present your business in the best possible light – this is your digital storefront after all.

You’ll also need to include some clear descriptions of your offering beside each item to provide a little more detail. You may want to include information such as product size, material, and any care details such as washing requirements or maintenance tips. And, of course, you’ll need to list your pricing and delivery options too.

You can enhance the path to purchase further by doing your best to have fast page loading times; ultimately, streamlining that purchase process! A quick fix for doing this can be to optimise the images you use on site and making sure that they are of a reasonable file size whilst maintaining their high quality appearance. To find out about further methods to improving your site speed, you can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to pinpoint areas of improvement.

If you’re just getting started with e-commerce, you can simplify the process further by focusing on just one or two product lines when moving them online. Once they’re all set up, monitor their performance and demand before uploading your entire range.

Customer Service

“The key to success for e-commerce retailers is to provide an exceptional shopping experience and customer service,” says digital marketing consultant Shane Barker. “You need to put your customers first and ensure that they don’t go through any trouble while trying to buy from you.”

And he’s right! Going digital means your business will now open for 3 or 4 times longer than it was solely as a brick and mortar store. And with this increased access to online consumers, you’ll need to be able to provide some form of customer service too.

It is unlikely that you’ll be able to answer their emails and calls at all hours of the day, but you can set up an FAQs section on your e-commerce site to take care of things whilst you’re off the clock – and empower your customers with self-service too!

In terms of content, pre-empt the information that shoppers would need when making their purchase at your store; this may include what they can expect from delivery, what your returns policy is, or if there are any product / service specific details that they should know.

And in terms of service, do ensure that you provide your contact details as well to invite your customers to get in touch should they still have any unanswered questions.

Additional Resources

Looking for some inspiration for your online store? E-commerce platform Shopify have a brilliant blog filled with suggestions and success stories on how to get your business trading digitally.

And to read more about the benefits of trading online or how to get started, check out the below:

Five Reasons You Should Consider Moving Your Retail Business Online – Huffpost

11 Of The Best Ecommerce Stats from 2017 (So Far) – SaleCycle

7 Things To Consider When Choosing An Ecommerce Platform – AmeriCommerce

E-commerce: The Legal Stuff You Need To Know Before Selling Online – The Guardian

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