Online retail is such big business that many companies want to add e-commerce to their websites. According to the Department of Commerce, fourth quarter 2016 e-commerce sales increased 14.3 percent over the same period last year. E-commerce sales in this quarter were $102.7 million, compared to $89.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2015.
There are a number of digital tools that can now help companies add e-commerce so customers can purchase products directly from the web. Products like Shopify, Wix, Squarespace and Magento can integrate shopping cart technology into existing websites.
If you want to add e-commerce to your business website, you may want to have the following tips in mind:
1. Pick the site's theme before you add e-commerce.
Some of these digital tools have free themes that can be customized for the e-commerce part of your company's website. Having the theme fit with the current style and navigation of the other segments of the site can help the new e-commerce section appear integrated. A business can choose from generic themes from places like Themeforest or a theme from a shopping cart provider like at Shopify.
2. Choose the products you want to sell.
Since it may be difficult to post all a company's products on their website when beginning to add e-commerce, I suggest starting with the top 20 percent of the products that may account for 80 percent of the sales.
Having clear and engaging photography with creative product descriptions can help increase sales. Using digital tools like Pixelz adds professional white backgrounds to all your pictures, which can improve a product's display.
3. Use independent page URLs.
Make sure whatever e-commerce shopping cart tool you select allows for independent page addresses and the ability to use your company's own domain and IP address and not theirs (e.g. www.yourcompany.com/shop instead of www.ecommercetool.com/yourcompany).
Having an independent URL is important since there is typically a correlation between the page URL and the key search terms. When a company starts to add e-commerce, some platforms automatically generate these page URLs using the names of the products and categories in the online store. For SEO purposes, you may want to choose an e-commerce platform that allows independent control in naming pages so it can include more of the description of the product since customers typically search this way.
4. Use independent meta descriptions for text and images.
This is the text that appears below the page title in the search results. It can have a considerable influence on whether customers will click to visit that page. When beginning to add e-commerce, choose a platform that gives independent control of what this text says.
Use a descriptive ALT tag on a product image to describe the picture so it can rank higher in Google's image search results.
5. Test and test some more.
You want to make sure that your e-commerce addition works for your customers. You can test all parts of the e-commerce website by taking the point of view of the customer. Actually place orders that charge a credit card. Use all types of web browsers and devices, especially mobile, since this may be how the majority of your visitors visit your site. Have friends that know nothing about the company or products test the site. Go to each of the settings of the store so it is configured correctly. Make sure you know how the site will accept payment, what it will charge for shipping, the processing of returns and other customer service policies.
Since most e-commerce implementation have early problems, check the platform's technical support for ease of use and responsiveness.
7. Add a blog.
One of the features that can have an influence on search results is blogging. Most sites do not have products that are so unique that others will provide external links to it, but they may link to expert subject material on a company's blog. These links can be a huge factor in how prominently the site appears in the search results. Consider choosing an e-commerce platform that has a blog as a standard feature and ensure that it is listed under the same domain as yours so it can help the ranking of the company's product pages.
8. Set up social sharing icons for your e-commerce site.
Allowing visitors to easily share products on social media—or send them to their friends—can help spread the word about your brand. Using tools like AddThis or ShareThis can help include all the popular social media platforms.
9. Add product reviews.
Product reviews can be an easy way to add user-generated content to any e-commerce site. Reviews are typically viewed very favorably by shoppers since they value what other consumers think. You can use digital tools from Shopify or an independent product like Buddy Reviews to add product reviews to your e-commerce site. You may want to monitor these pages so only reviews of the products get posted.
10. Get paid.
In order to get payments from customers, the company needs to get approved for a merchant account from their bank and have a payment processor to handle the transactions with the credit card companies. When starting to add e-commerce platforms, many businesses opt to utilize the shopping cart's own proprietary processor. PayPal and Google Wallet are other options to use if your company wants to bypass both of these steps.
Read more articles on e-commerce.