Presented by AT&T.
The holiday shopping season is in full swing, and the biggest buzzword of the year is “online.” Survey after survey shows that this year, more consumers will be doing more of their holiday shopping online. If your business is a brick-and-mortar retailer that doesn’t sell products online, you may feel like you’re missing out.
Well, that’s because you are. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Building an e-commerce website or adding e-commerce to your existing website is simpler than ever. Get started now and, depending on the solution you choose, you could have your e-commerce site up within a week—it’s really that easy.
Adding an e-commerce component lets you expand your business without adding a new location. It transforms you from being a local retailer, to a national, or even global one. There are different approaches you can take—you can sell the same products you carry in your store, sell a limited selection of those products, or sell a mix of products from your store and some that are only available online (which can be a great way to make them more desirable).
The simplest way to get started today is to choose an e-commerce provider. Basically, these companies offer a “one-stop” solution. They register your domain name, host your site, provide templates and tools to build your site (or do it for you), and provide shopping carts and tools to accept payment. Most even help you market your e-commerce site by providing search engine optimization and social media tools to spread the word.
If you already have a website (which sounds obvious, but many small businesses still don’t), find out if your current Web hosting company offers ecommerce solutions. This way, you won’t have to port your site over to a new host or start a new site, but you should also check out other options before you make your choice.
TopTen Reviews is a good source for the latest reviews of e-commerce software. This site makes it easy to compare programs and features so you can find what you’re looking for. ProStores, Shopify, Volusion, IMSMB.com and Yahoo! Merchant are some of the popular e-commerce software solutions out there. Also talk to other business owners you know to see what they use and what they like (and dislike) about it.
When you’re deciding among ecommerce software providers, consider:
- Room to grow: You may only be selling a few items now, but if your e-commerce sales take off, that could change. Make sure the provider you choose offers enough services and support to grow with your business.
- Ease of use: Not every ecommerce software provider offers every service, but they should have partners they can recommend, so you don’t have to search for the service on your own.
- Security: It’s imperative customers feel comfortable that their personal data is safe on your site, so always ask about the level of fraud protection and security that the company provides.
- Support: What kind of support is offered? Will you be able to talk to someone, or will you have to search through an online forum for answers? Look for a level of support that fits your level of tech savvy.
Whichever solution you choose for your business, keep these general e-commerce principles in mind.
- Keep it simple. Clean and uncluttered is the way to go. Customers should be able to navigate easily without too many clicks.
- Appealing photos. Product photos are key to making the sale. Features like multiple views, zoom and rotation can help customers get a closer look.
- Words to the wise. Make sure your descriptions are clear (explaining key info like fabric content, dimensions or materials) and enticing. If you’re not a word whiz, look for a copywriter who specializes in e-commerce copy.
- Make contact. Make sure customers can easily see how to contact you if they need more information. Put a toll-free phone number at the top of each page; include links to e-mail you; and if you have the manpower, consider offering live chat so you can help customers in real time.