1. It's about product – not technology
Internet technology enabled the whole ecommerce revolution to happen, but even online, your focus should still be product. You must provide things that customers want to buy on the web, at a price they can afford. Then tell them about it. Simple as that.
2. Marketing, marketing, marketing
To help customers find you, you need to know how they are searching for products or services like yours online.
- What are the key phrases they use to search for your type of product? Use them in your web pages.
- What other ways do customers search? Talk to people and try to find out.
3. Offline marketing
It's true that all of your prospects are online, but they spend more time offline. Will traditional marketing such as PR or direct mail help? Sometimes the answer will be no, but you can't just assume that. Ironically, a lot of online businesses created an initial buzz through offline methods.
4. Build trust
Buying online is impersonal and involves a lot of faith. How does a visitor know that the goods they ordered will arrive? So:
- Reassure them as much as possible, by having a good photograph of you, your staff or your office on the 'About us' page.
- Join at least one merchant accreditation scheme, such as ISIS, TrustUK or SafeBuy.
5. Remember your existing customers
Once you are up and running, remember that existing customers are your best customers. So:
- Use special offers to encourage them to visit your site
- Use a newsletter to keep them informed
- Create a loyalty or affiliate scheme to reward repeat orders
6. Use proven technology
Use technology that works, not something that's a work in progress. As an ecommerce vendor, I must admit to a degree of bias, but why bother debugging software from a start-up or paying thousands for a bespoke solution that leaves you reliant on the designer? Use a package that is already working on thousands of online stores, and is in constant development.
7. Sell from the second they arrive
Once someone arrives at your site, the selling should begin. Leave the smooth talk out, and show them your products. Don't ask them to register before they can browse — there will be time for all that once they’ve decided to buy.
8. Make sure your site works for you, not your designer
The Direct Line red telephone continues to be used because it works – however irritating it is. The same principle applies online. Don't let a fantastic design spoil your business because, for instance, it takes so long to load that people just click away. Make everything the servant of the business objective – to make sales.
9. Get a good online payment provider
You need to be able to take payments online, and it makes sense to team up with a good one. There is a list of good UK payment providers at www.actinic.co.uk/services/occs. (I recommend you check out which provider offers to spot fraudulent payments.)
10. Sign up with a good hosting company
Your online store needs to be hosted somewhere, and there are plenty of great deals for good, low-cost web hosting. Type "web hosting" into Google to get a list. Personally, I'd recommend using a hosting specialist, rather than a jack of all trades.
Chris Barling is the CEO of ecommerce software supplier Actinic, writing as an expert for The Marketing Donut.