The Internet is evolving and so are your customer’s expectations. It’s no longer enough to have the best technology or the best price. Now they want to order online too!
Should you offer online-ordering?
Although you may want to jump on the bandwagon, not all products are conducive to selling online. A general rule of thumb is if you have a standard off-the-shelf product, you should offer it for online purchase. On the other hand, if the buying process is too complicated, online ordering doesn’t make sense.
Pricing is also a consideration. People are more likely to buy less expensive products online, but if it’s a straightforward purchase and they have all the information need to buy it online, price is not a factor.
For products that are both simple and inexpensive, online ordering is essential. People don’t have time to call or fax for a product they can order easily online. If you don’t offer it, your competition will. The sooner you can establish online ordering the better.
For most technology companies, it’s not that simple. Some products are straightforward and others are complicated. What if your company offers both?
Leading your prospects through the buying process
The ultimate goal is to encourage prospects to buy by automating the buying process. Since the sales process is not the same for every product, different products require different online sales strategies.
Many companies dump all their products into a shopping cart whether or not customers will want to buy them online. This isn’t the best strategy. If your visitors are shopping for a costly, complicated system that requires a personal consultation, why lead them to the shopping cart? This just complicates the sales process. Better to encourage them to call or submit a quick quote form to get the ball rolling.
Leading your customers to the right place will increase your chances of closing the sale. If the product is simple, lead them to the shopping cart. For more complicated products, lead them to a simple quote form and/or encourage them to call. The primary goal is to capture the lead so you can convert them to a sale.
Building an eCommerce site
There are many different options for e-commerce sites. In essence, a shopping cart is based on a database. Unless your website is a dynamic website with database capabilities, you will have to build a separate site for your shopping cart and integrate with your current site.
This is a big undertaking, and if your website is out of date anyway, it might be better to start over with a brand new site than to add a shopping cart to an existing site. Why waste time integrating a site that’s out-of-date? Better to start over with a clean slate.
However, if your site is large and/or fairly new, you may want to do it in stages. First, build the shopping cart, and then integrate it with your site. The goal is to make it look like one site to create a seamless shopping experience for your customers.
Once your e-commerce strategy is in place, the next step is to choose an e-commerce platform.
Choosing an e-commerce platform
What software platform should you use for your online store? There are many different options to choose from, so do your research to find the best option for your company. A little foresight upfront can save a lot of heartache later. Here are some of the things you’ll want to consider in your evaluation:
- Is it easy to customize?
- Is it SEO-friendly?
- What kind of support do they offer?
- How many products will you be selling?
- What options do you need?
- How is shipping handled?
- Will it be easy to manage?
- What payment gateways does it support?
- What are the technical capabilities of your in-house team?
- What is your budget?
- Who is going to manage the shopping cart?
There’s nothing worse than getting your shopping cart all set up to encounter a “deal-breaker” – the one thing that just doesn’t do what you want and you can’t fix. Often times, the deal-breaker doesn’t become apparent until you are in the final stages. This is a complicated process and you won’t want to start over, so think it through. Make sure you choose a solution that meets your company’s needs.
If your company is small and you don’t have the resources to outsource, you can add a shopping cart to your site with a do-it-yourself solution. Ask your hosting company what they offer for shopping carts and look online. Although these are inexpensive to get started, they usually involve a monthly fee. They are also difficult to customize and are not as professional-looking as an integrated solution.
If you have the resources to create a custom shopping cart and the size of your company warrants it, you may want to consider this option. However, there are many off-the-shelf solutions that are free or inexpensive to implement. Most developers start with some sort of off-the-shelf solution and customize it.
There are many different options for off-the shelf e-commerce solutions. Make sure the solution you choose will work for the long term and be easy to manage. It’s best to let your web developer choose a solution for you. Shopify and Magento are the two most popular in this category.
WordPress is one of the most popular solutions for e-commerce and for good reason. As a dynamic platform that’s built on a database, WordPress is an excellent e-commerce platform. WordPress offers a variety of e-commerce solutions in the form of plugins. Plugins are free or inexpensive to buy, and there’s generally no monthly fee involved.
Make sure the e-commerce plugin you use meets the requirements of your shopping cart. Shipping is one area to research. Not all plugins have the same features, and you don’t want to set up your shopping cart to find it doesn’t do what you want.
In addition, beware of plugins that don’t offer support. There’s nothing worse than getting your cart all set up and having problems that can’t be solved. Better to pay a little bit more and get support.
Woo Commerce is the most popular e-commerce solution. It’s easy to set up and free for the basic version. You may have to add a few extra plugins to get the functionality you want, but it’s worth it. You also get better support if you buy plugins.
There’s a lot more to setting up an e-commerce site, but this should be enough to get you started. Basically, once you choose a platform for your e-commerce site, select a payment gateway, build your cart, and integrate it with your site.
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