E-commerce best practice - What's your ecommerce strategy for the year ahead?

Ecommerce best practice

What’s in this article?

Why start an ecommerce business?

Getting started with ecommerce

Putting your ecommerce site together

Moving into online selling, when you’ve traditionally been a brick and mortar retailer, can feel like a seismic change. If the prospect of expanding into e-commerce makes you break out in a sweat, you’re not alone. However, selling your products online can seriously boost your income.

Whether you’re an established retailer or want to start an e-commerce business from scratch, this guide is here to help. We’ll walk you through all you need to know about running a successful e-commerce business, from setting up your online store, to marketing, payments and customer data collection.

It can take a little time for your e-commerce business to establish itself and to iron out any creases. However, with a little dedication and an open mind, you could be operating a thriving e-commerce business in no time.


Why start an ecommerce business?

The Office for National Statistics reports that more than a third of UK retail sales are made online. If you’re not selling online, you’re not accessing this valuable market (worth £693bn in 2019, according to research by Statista).

On top of grabbing yourself a slice of the lucrative e-commerce market, there are a plethora of other advantages to selling online. Whether you choose to embark on e-commerce to support your bricks and mortar retail business or sell exclusively online, there are clear arguments in favour of e-commerce.


  • Lower costs

The costs involved with setting up and running an online store are far, far lower than selling from a physical premises.


  • Higher profit margin

Because costs are lower, profits are higher.


  • Freedom

You don’t have to be present at a store to sell online. You can work more flexibly, from home, or from anywhere really.


  • Sell to the entire world

Selling online opens up the entire world to your products, providing you offer international payment and postage options.


  • Sell while you sleep!

Imagine waking up to the news that you’ve made sales overnight. Online selling means selling 24 hours a day, every day of the year.


  • It requires fewer man-hours.

Ecommerce is far less time and energy consuming than physical retailing, allowing you to cut staff costs or keep them low.


Getting started with ecommerce

Once you’ve decided that setting up an ecommerce store is the right move for you and your business, it’s time to get started. You have a lot of choices to make at this stage, so make sure you take time to read around the options and look for good deals. You’ll want to ensure you have scalability, flexibility, and that the costs involved are right for you and your earnings potential.

Choosing a platform

This is one of the most important choices you’ll make when getting started with ecommerce. Here are some of the most popular ecommerce platforms, with some information about each, which could help you decide.


Shopify

Shopify is one of the most popular and trusted e-commerce platforms in the UK. It offers masses of themes to select from and assures users that they don’t need any special skills or knowledge of coding, for example, to set up or operate their shop.

The themes are categorised and are really very attractive and there’s also a Shopify app store where you can choose from hundreds of apps to help you sell and enhance your store.

Shopify is especially suited to larger businesses and allows you to easily scale up your operation. You certainly won’t grow out of your Shopify store. Some argue that their obsessions with ease-of-use mean that those looking for a high level of adaptability and function may struggle with its limitations.

You can use Shopify for free for 14 days but costs then start from £22.09 per month for a basic package.


Squarespace

Squarespace Commerce is a platform specifically designed for e-commerce and is well known for its fantastic design features, perhaps above and beyond those offered by any of the other e-commerce platforms. The platform makes customising the designs really easy and they all allow your products to really sing.

Using Squarespace will help you create a very slick, well-designed e-commerce store, but it is slightly more complicated to use and become comfortable with than Shopify, for example. However, if features and great design is your priority, this could be the choice for you.

The cost of using Squarespace Commerce starts at £20/month for the basic commerce package, rising to just £30/ month for the advanced version.


Wix

Wix is an e-commerce platform that allows users to tailor their experience of using the tool to their personal technical know-how. This means it can adapt to those who are newbies with no tech expertise but is also a good tool for those with a little more knowledge who want to be able to utilise this when putting together their online store. There is even an option to use coding if you can.

User experience is everything to Wix and users enjoy the templates available, although you can’t switch between them, which is something some users have viewed as a negative.

You can use Wix to build your e-commerce website for as little as £13 per month, which rises to £22 for the full site with all features.


Shopwired

Shopwired is a UK based e-commerce platform provider with a very good reputation among its users. The tool offers easy integration with Facebook and eBay stores and can help you get started on your e-commerce journey quickly and easily.

You can try Shopwired out for free for 14 days, after which, charges start from £24.95 per month, rising to nearly £70 per month for a premium site.


eKM

eKM is another UK based option that offers a complete e-commerce site building tool for a set monthly cost. As a UK-based business with UK-based support, it’s managed to garner a lot of support from its users who appreciate the ease of use and advanced selling tools.

Setting up and operating your store through eKM costs from £34.99 +VAT per month, rising to over £200 per month for the advanced service. This makes it a pricier option than many of its competitors, especially the larger international players.


Putting your ecommerce site together

Invest in proper photography

The way your products are photographed is incredibly important to sales. The products should be shown with plain backgrounds, in use, being worn (if relevant), and next to other items for perspective. Natural lighting is always best and image editing tools are a must to make sure your images are super professional.


Words

It might be a good idea to pay a professional copywriter to create your sales listings. Describing your items in detail, with all the specifications a customer would expect, but maintaining a good sense of what converts is a professional skill that most business owners wouldn’t have.


Conversion, conversion, conversion

Read up on what makes a good website in terms of sales conversions and apply what you have learned. Calls to Action (CTA) are a vital part of the conversion process. They can also help you gather information from consumers that visit your site but don’t convert into a sale, allowing you to target them in your marketing.

Marketing

Selling online doesn’t just stop with setting up your website. Once everything’s in place, you’ll need to get the word out there. There are a number of ways you can do this, but most ecommerce businesses use a combination of digital marketing approaches.

Gathering consumer data from your buyers online is a must. Once you’ve formed a mailing list, it’s time to get an email marketing campaign underway. A monthly newsletter can be an effective way to engage with customers who can opt in and out of communications. Include updates on your business, offers, new products and links to other content, such as blogs and relevant news stories.

Social media is another must-have supplement to your ecommerce store. Setting up a Facebook page is often seen as a minimum requirement from a social media marketing perspective for small ecommerce businesses, but Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn are also worth considering.

Getting found on search engines is one of the best ways to grow your business and your sales. You can boost your search engine rankings through paid search, also known as pay-per-click (PPC), using tools like Google Ads. This can generate excellent results, but don’t overlook organic search. Creating engaging and informative content and blogs, incorporating keywords that consumers will use when searching for your products, can deliver a serious return on investment.


Payments and shipping

Accepting as many payment options as possible will increase your consumer base when you sell online. Online payment options like PayPal and Apple Pay are preferred by many these days, so don’t limit yourself to accepting Mastercard and Visa.

When it comes to shipping, reliability is everything. Packing should be secure and you can set up business accounts with delivery providers such as Royal Mail, DPD and Parcel Force to make sure you keep your costs down and your delivery standards high.

Saving on shipping can be achieved by buying packaging in bulk and making sure you pack into the smallest size possible. Postage costs differ according to parcel size and weight, so bear this in mind. For more details on shipping for eCommerce, Shopify has a good guide here.

To sum up, establishing a new e-commerce business is going to be a learning curve for anyone, but you certainly don’t need any technical skills to get started. There will be a platform that’s perfect for your needs regardless of whether you want a simple, intuitive set-up, or a more involved process that allows you to bring your vision to life.

If you give your e-commerce site consistent effort and keep plugging away, you will likely gather traction and see sales start to soar. Good luck!


Caroline Ramsey

Caroline Ramsey, Editor

Caroline is mycashline’s business and finance editor and doubles as our copywriting whizz.

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