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Making your eCommerce site a success

By Stuart McLaren on Tue 12 March 2013 in Web & eCommerce

This final blog of the series will show you how you can really start to build a solid plan to make your eCommerce site a success. 

Our eCommerce specialist, Sarah, has a real understanding of what makes eCommerce sites a roaring success, that’s why we’ve come up with some questions (that businesses like yours, will ask themselves when making the all-important move online) to ask her.

It is understandable, and sensible to ask yourself a whole host of relevant questions when planning to move your business online. As with any business venture, there is always a risk involved and it is important to have a bullet-proof plan to make sure you have considered everything before your eCommerce site goes live. So we’ve saved you some time and hassle and came up with a few FAQ’s to get you on you started…

For this blog we are going to assume that we are talking to an audience that is already or is looking to trade online in the Business to Business arena.

My customers aren’t used to buying online and may not want to – how can I encourage them to move online with us?

The first part of this question is answered in a previous blog, where we talked about picking a clear ‘primary audience’ for your site to target (click here to review). The profile of your primary audience will help with some fundamentals in terms of encouraging them to buy online. If you are moving customers from telephone ordering to web ordering, spend some time listening to the types of conversations & questions that go on currently and make sure that the same information & facilities are available on-line.

For example:

  • Larger businesses buying regularly for stock during the working day: A typical profile might be that they have several members of staff that will add to a daily order as the day progresses. This order will be closed & placed by a manager at the customer before your delivery cut off time.
  • Occasional purchaser of particular product for stock in a reasonable quantity: A typical profile might be that they need to be able to view a history of the product that they bought before, rather than searching the site, and that they have a special negotiated price that will need to be reflected online.
  • Onsite tradesmen buying components for their work: A typical profile might be that they buy at the end of the working day for the following day’s jobs, they are a mobile worker and would like to be able to browse & buy the items required using their mobile phone.

Once you feel confident that you are offering the facilities online that are necessary for your primary audience you can start leveraging the buying power of your customers.

How can I leverage the buying power of my customers online?

Once you have answered the point above you can then start applying further online tactics to increase average order values and order frequency from your customers.

  • Online Discounts: In most businesses ‘discount’ is a swear word! However, it is worth contemplating as a tool to both drive customers to order online, and also to drive additional business from those already ordering online. For example, a month after Countrywide Electrical Distributors (CED) went live with ProspectSoft Web Solutions they offered a simple 2% discount to any of their customers who ordered online instead of over the phone. As a result, they saw their number of online orders increase by 103% per month and their eCommerce revenue increase by 111%. So even a very small discount can have a disproportionate effect on the online behaviour of your customers
  • Up sell / cross sell: We are all familiar with the amazon ‘people who bought this also bought…’ or the ‘recommended for you…’ This is great functionality if you have a vast product range and a huge customer base that will allow this type of report to be valuable to your customers. However we find that for most SME businesses operating successfully online a better offering is ‘People who bought this were also interested in..’ which then allows you to control the results based on your expertise on your product range. Getting this right can have a dramatic effect on the average order values, an online shopper will typically have allowed themselves over twice as much time to place the order as they would have done if they were telephoning to order.
  • Delivery charge thresholds: Whether you go for free delivery on orders over ‘£££’ or lower charges as the order increases, make this information obvious, remind customers as they build their order how far they are from the next threshold. Giving an incentive like this to add a few more items to the order is a powerful way of ‘tipping people over the edge’ as far as buying additional items or larger quantities is concerned.

Strangely buying online is still perceived by most people as predominantly a leisure / pleasure activity – and this will undoubtedly work to your advantage in the goal to maximise your customers buying power through your online portal.

What are the pitfalls, and what may stop my customers from buying online?

There are a few critical factors that can cause issues if they are not approached in the right way.

  • Delivery Charges: Don’t make them complicated, and don’t hide them until the last point of the checkout. Online purchasers are constantly looking for the ‘what’s the catch here’ moment. Currently, with too many sites on the web that ‘catch’ moment comes at the point when the delivery charges are revealed in the checkout process. Make your delivery charges transparent – and fair! If you absolutely definitely can’t avoid complicated charges, then offer a link to a page that states your clear policy which customers can navigate to from your home page, so that there is no feeling of hidden extras.
  • Registration vs Guest: Again, people can be resistant to filling out lengthy registration forms, if you can offer all three buying options as follows you will minimise potential issues here…
    – Login for existing customers (pre-issue these to all the customers that you currently have)
    – Register (make the form as simple as possible)
    – Guest Checkout (quick and easy for one off or first time purchasers). Try not to put hurdles in the way of a customer buying online.
  • Regular content updates: Many SMEs still stand by the “set it and forget it” philosophy of eCommerce sites. This can cause websites to appear stale or out-dated compared to websites that are frequently updated. Not surprisingly regularly adding content to your website means that your customers have something new and interesting to read. The key here is to have a system & process that makes this as easy as possible for you and as automatic as is reasonable for the site. For example, you may have a monthly marketing meeting internally, one of the outputs from this meeting should be ‘web updates’, things like news articles, upcoming events or exhibitions, new product or service launches or special offers.

Content & imagery for these elements can be created & even loaded to the web site ahead of time – a ProspectSoft site can manage dynamic content like this with a live from – to date that will automatically post & remove the content on the set dates.

This will allow you to manage the content, keeping it fresh without having to become a daily or weekly ‘slave’ to your site.

What next?

We have shown you how despite common belief, B2B eCommerce is set to overtake B2C eCommerce in a big way – and how along with all the other benefits, a well-planned B2B eCommerce site which has been specifically tailored to your business can reduce your costs and vastly improve revenue. With this in mind, as well as our best practice tips and advice, you can now start to plan your next move. If you would like to arrange no obligation eCommerce consultation with one of our eCommerce specialists please contact us today.