Launching a successful ecommerce store in 2021 must provide a good user experience, but how? Check this guide to learn everything about how to design a successful ecommerce shop.
- Find & Fill A Market Gap
- Select & Test The Right Product
- Consider Compliance With Laws & Regulations
- Choose Your Ecommerce Platform
- Create & Optimize Your Website
- Invest In Quality Content
- Boost Mobile Experiences
- Optimize For Voice Search
- Adopt A Visual Commerce Approach
- Use AI & AR To Enhance Ecommerce Experience
- Build An Omnichannel Shopping Experience
- Implement Dynamic Pricing
- Utilize SEO & Web Analytics Support
- Build A Competitive Brand
- Develop A Robust Marketing Strategy
In 2020, many global brands have been witnessing a sharp decline in sales. The usual shopping trends of browsing brick-and-mortar stores are gradually becoming something of the past. Instead, the consumer attention is being drawn away from the high street onto the internet, giving way to an ever-rising inclination to shop online, with a growth in e-commerce stores that is far outpacing its physical counterpart. The dominance of e-commerce has been largely a direct result of the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, which has induced people worldwide to significantly limit their physical interactions. Self-imposed social distancing to avoid contagion, together with the strict confinement measures, have put a large share of traditional retail shops and stores virtually on hold.
The COVID-19 crisis has generally accelerated the expansion of e-commerce, particularly towards new firms, customers and types of products. This has involved a shift of e-commerce transactions from luxury goods and services to everyday necessities, offering a win-win strategy where consumers have been provided access to a significant variety of products and services from the convenience and safety of their homes, while e-commerce owners have been granted a golden opportunity to realize more profits, being the feasible and practical purchase option amid the imposed contact restrictions and other confinement measures in the pandemic.
According to Statista, e-commerce is expected to expand:
- Over 2.14 billion people worldwide are expected to buy goods and services online in 2021.
- Global online sales are forecast to reach 22% of all retail sales in 2023 (vs. 14.1% in 2019).
- Retail e-commerce market sales worldwide will reach $6.54 trillion in 2023 (vs. $3.53 trillion in 2019).
On the other hand, key highlights of the e-commerce report issued by Contact Pigeon shows that orders increased by 60% during the pandemic. The e-commerce market is expected to maintain its upward curve and exponential growth, providing entrepreneurs with an interesting and optimistic opportunity for success. Whether you already have an eCommerce business running or you’re considering starting one, now is the perfect time to put your foot forward.
This comprehensive guide provides you with 15 proven procedures to help you launch your online e-commerce business and/or grow your already existing online e-commerce store.
1. Find & Fill A Market Gap
Market gaps are disguised opportunities. They are openings to produce and sell something customers need, but is not yet available on the market. More precisely, the ‘gap’ refers to the demand for a product/service that has not been met by the supply. To locate these gaps, you can monitor trends in your niche, find an overlooked niche, identify a niche that failed to serve its customers, elicit feedback from customers, adapt existing products/services or distinguish yourself from competitors. Identifying various gaps will generate several business ideas. Conducting market research to compare your intended product/service with those existing in the market, will enable you to make sure that the product/service you want to build your business around is one that people need and are ready to pay a reasonable amount of money to buy. Here is where you need to develop a SWOT analysis, a strategy to fill the unmet need of this gap, then create your business plan and work to launch your business. As a business owner, you should be fully aware of your product, market and target audience. Considering that business is constantly evolving, you must keep an eye on the latest developments and trends in your industry.
2. Select & Test The Right Product
Before settling on a specific niche for your website and offering its products on your online store, perform intensive research. Whether you have products that you want to sell, have peers doing well in a specific niche, or have a passion to work in another is not a sufficient reason to go for your pick. It all revolves around unsaturated markets and markets needs. Once you identify your target market and its needs, consider what you can offer to meet those needs. The best bet would be to search for products that already have a starved audience with fairly limited competition. It is always easier to target a local audience, but if you’re targeting overseas consumers, working with a reliable globalization partner will surely pay off. When you find your product, it’s time to test its appeal and validate the demand for it to make sure it’ll generate the revenue you’re looking for. Testing your product can be done by employing formal surveys & polls, informal conversation, feedback from potential customers & social media, or data gathered from website traffic & advertisements. Another useful option is checking competition to learn what sells, what type of customers to target, how to optimize for conversion and how to get more traffic.
3. Consider Compliance With Laws & Regulations
To trade on the local and global levels, e-commerce stores must comply with national and international laws and regulations. Typically, every new business looks at a set of legal matters. But as national laws and regulations vary from one country to another, it is advisable to consult a legal advisor to understand all the legal procedures necessary for starting a business. Your advisor would help you with information on different taxes for the sale of goods, charging delivery, along with cyber laws. This includes the set of rules involving online contracts, business software patenting, e-taxation, e-governance, and cyber-crimes.
It is also vital to highlight your disclaimer, terms of service, privacy policies on your website to avoid any problems that could arise in the future. Your vendor agreements are another critical aspect that deserves no less attention.
4. Choose Your E-commerce Platform
The largely varied market for e-commerce platforms makes selecting one package to go with a tough and confusing matter. Although the most popular of those are Shopify and WooCommerce, there are still many other options worth considering such as Squarespace, BigCommerce, Big Cartel, Etsy, Wix, GoDaddy, Volusion, Zyro, Magento, PrestaShop and OpenCart.
For an easy-going experience, Shopify is considered the best, in spite of its somewhat expensive monthly hosting fees. Other users see that the free WooCommerce option is the platform to go with, being a more convenient choice for most start-up e-commerce entrepreneurs.
If you’re still hesitant about your online e-commerce store, a detailed comparison among most available e-commerce store options can be accessed in this video.
5. Create & Optimize Your Website
To drive traffic and provide a good user experience, e-commerce websites should have a neat attractive design, seamless navigation, high-quality product images, clear & direct product description and user-friendly cart. Considering that most browsing is through mobile, they should be highly responsive with fast loading speeds. It is, therefore, worthwhile to commit your time and efforts towards optimizing your website. This can be done by boosting your page load speed using caching, reducing the size of images, choosing a fast web host, investing in Content Delivery Networks, removing broken links, reducing redirects and minifying your code. The next important aspect should be your products. Make sure your products and their related description are well organized on your web pages under their right category with a clear design, message, image and that they are easily searchable online by optimizing for SEO. The cart button should be in a visible size on the top right corner of each page beside the offered product to avoid wasting your customers’ time.
6. Invest In Quality Content
Content is everything to your e-commerce business. It is your brand representation that builds awareness, trust and loyalty. It is the material which attracts potential customers over electronic networks and helps in generating more organic traffic. If this content is of a really high value, it has the capacity not only to generate leads but to convert them into loyal customers with the ultimate goal of increasing sales and ROI. Content creates authority and improves your ranking. Accordingly, quality content that provides value, helps customers and enriches users experience is vital to any successful business. It is the main influencer that convinces shoppers to buy products over the internet. This is because when they purchase, shoppers cannot thump the products, smell them, feel them, nor taste them. They base their decisions on the provided content in its various forms, which can be product descriptions, product demos, videos, reviews, sheets, support materials, along with blog articles, social media posts and tutorials. Additionally, producing regular content is an effective resource to answer the search queries of customers on the internet. Blog articles are another resource that keeps customers informed about products without giving a sales pitch to enable them to take the right decision.
As an online e-commerce store is accessible to worldwide customers in different time zones, it should provide customers with instant answers to all their queries. This information should be provided through a comprehensive content strategy that answers questions proactively and offers common requests like delivery, shipment, returns/exchange, product demos, product-quotes. Therefore, developing a documented content strategy that connects content to various parts of the online store and personalizes content and marketing based on customer profiles would help create the right content for surfing customers.
7. Optimize for Voice Search
Voice Search is a speech recognition technology that allows users to use a voice command to perform a search on the Internet, on a website or an application. People are increasingly relying on voice assistant devices like Alexa’s Echo Show, Amazon’s Echo Dot and Google Assistant to do everything, from running timers and reminders to finding information and buying products online. According to Loup Ventures, it is projected that 75% of U.S. households will have smart speakers by 2025. Voice commerce sales are anticipated to reach $40 billion by 2022.
The growing accuracy and convenience of the technology explain why voice commerce is on the rise, a fact which induced both Google and Amazon to push regional languages in their virtual assistant devices with the aim of creating a more convenient shopping experience for their customers. It is, therefore, essential to optimize your online store for voice search.
A simple but remarkably effective way to capture more organic traffic from voice searches to your e-commerce store is to optimize your content to incorporate answers to common consumer questions around your products or market. This can be done by structuring your keywords around all relevant questions and answers, using a conversational tone. And keep in mind that, according to Search Engine Watch, mobile voice searches are three times more likely to be locally based in comparison to their text counterparts. It is also important to optimize your content for a rich snippet placement with a short 40-50 words introduction followed by a table or bullets.
Here are some voice search SEO tips to prepare your e-commerce site for voice queries.
- Understand that the voice search technique is different from the typed search queries.
- Optimize your content to increase your chances of appearing in voice searches.
- Ask all relevant questions and keep their answers clear and concise.
- Use trigger words such as how, what, where, why, define etc.
- Offer voice-based navigation on your website and mobile app.
- Ensure your products can be purchased using voice command.
- Understand your customers and their behaviour.
- Think local.
8. Boost Mobile Experiences
According to Statista, mobile internet users account for 91% of the global online population. Of this percentage, 1 out of every 5 voice searchers uses mobile devices. Online customers are also tech-savvy. If you don’t offer a mobile user experience, they will leave your site. To improve mobile users experience, here are a few points that would help boost their mobile experience:
- Design with Android and iOS in mind
- Offer a super quick interface
- Use Google AMP
- Create an interactive customer experience
- Create a seamless onboarding experience
- Simplify your navigation menu
- Add a search bar to your site
- Display catchy and visually appealing images
- Conduct regular mobile user testing to maximize the quality of the customer experience.
9. Adopt A Visual Commerce Approach
Visual commerce is the concept of enriching customer experience with powerful and inspirational visual content employing high-resolution images, videos, along with virtual and augmented reality, to incite shoppers to engage, convert and purchase. Shopping online totally depends on the information and visuals you provide to present your merchandise and brand effectively. Failing to do this task will cause your customers to abandon their shopping carts.
Here are a few ways to leverage visual commerce:
- Change your default products from JPG to JPEG2000 or WebP formats to improve quality and loading speed.
- Create 360-degree images or videos of the top-selling products.
- Install a visual search tool to allow customers to search for products using images.
- Create visual shopping ads on Pinterest and Instagram to drive traffic to your website and increase sales.
In some cases, customers depend more on user-generated content than branded visuals. In fact, it was estimated that 91% of consumers generally read online reviews before making a purchase and 84% of individuals trust reviews just as much as they trust a word-of-mouth recommendation. Ecommerce stores should also consider attaching user-generated images to their on-site reviews. Tagging the reviewed product within the comment would help customers to easily find and verify the quality of the product they want to purchase. Using immersive visual commerce techniques should immerse your customers in your brand and products as shown in the following enhanced e-commerce experience.
10. Use AI And AR To Enhance Ecommerce Experience
With the use of innovative technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), businesses can not only recommend relevant products to customers, but they can also enable them to visualize themselves in these products or preview them in designed spaces before purchase.
Due to its smart business solutions to small and large enterprises, AI has recently helped e-commerce to reach greater heights via improving user experience and increasing brand awareness. By offering personalized guidance and recommendations to your customers, AI acts as your online in-store associate. AI-enhanced search engines understand the context of a query, even if it was written in a conversational language. It uses shoppers past purchase history, browsing behaviour and ratings to show them products they are more likely to purchase. That is why these semantic search engines provide more relevant results.
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are two powerful technologies that transformed e-commerce and retailers experience and have yet a lot more to promise. Although they might seem similar in many ways, AR and VR accomplish two different things in two different ways. While AR adds to reality, projecting information over what you’re already seeing, VR reality replaces reality, taking you to an artificial three-dimensional environment of its own creation. In other words, AR takes the idea of an immersive experience further, by blending virtual objects with your surrounding environment in real-time, whereas VR uses computer-generated simulation to provide individuals with the ability to interact within an artificial three-dimensional environment using electronic devices, such as special goggles with a screen or gloves fitted with sensors.
Nowadays, Augmented reality (AR) shopping is used in social media filters, in-store navigation, and in virtually trying-on items before purchase, whereas VR is used in previewing placement of products with apps, and in interactive user manuals. With the use of these two technologies, it’s now easier to try out or preview products in 3D to get a better feel of their fit and quality. Unlike in physical stores, online shoppers can’t try on or physically inspect the product they intend to buy. AR helps eliminate this hurdle by letting customers see how a certain product would look on them. In retail shops, the use of VR helps customers to preview the placement of products in 3D to visualize how a product will look in the intended space even before they buy the product. Many businesses operating online and offline today are making use of the latest applications of AR and VR to provide an in-store and an immersive experience to their customers.
By implementing AI and AR in your e-commerce store, you will likely see an increase in conversions and a decrease in the return rate. By 2022, it is anticipated that online sellers will spend $7.3 billion on AI and more than 120,000 stores will be using AR technologies to offer customers a rich buying experience.
11. Build An Omnichannel Shopping Experience
Omnichannel retailing is a multichannel approach to sales that provides shoppers with a seamless and consistent experience across various channels and devices, whether they are shopping online from a mobile device, a desktop, a tablet or a laptop or in a physical store. However, unlike multichannel commerce, omnichannel commerce connects all its multiple online and offline channels together to provide users with a seamless experience across all platforms.
According to a survey conducted by Aspect Software, businesses that adopt omnichannel strategies achieve 91% greater customer retention rates year-over-year compared to a business that doesn’t. With the increase in the adoption of mobile devices and voice assistants, the number of omnichannel customers will increase even more in 2021. Here, the advanced webmaster analytics tool, Finteza, can provide detailed e-commerce analytics and insights to enable you to offer the exact product that your shoppers are looking for and provide a seamless shopping experience.
Other options to offer a more seamless omnichannel experience include:
- Creating a mobile app or a Progressive Web App (PWA), along with optimizing your website for mobile devices.
- Personalizing the customer experience at every possible step.
- Using cloud-based platforms like SAP Commerce Cloud to ensure a personalized and comprehensive e-commerce experience.
- Offering various purchase options, such as
- Buying online, picking up in-store
- Buying in-store, choosing home delivery
- Buying online, getting doorstep delivery
12. Implement Dynamic Pricing
A dynamic pricing approach is a pricing strategy in which prices change in response to real-time supply and demand. Dynamic pricing allows e-commerce retailers to stay competitive and attract more customers, while boosting sales and maximizing profits. It has a major impact on the success of e-commerce stores as it gives retailers the advantage of keeping an eye on the competition and gathering more insights into customers behaviour. Accordingly, e-commerce is moving toward dynamic pricing systems to make the most out of each sale. In this system, prices increase to maximize profits during high demand “boom” periods and decrease to increase sales during low seasons. However, setting the system without any follow up from your side may cause big problems. Dynamic pricing is a sensitive aspect and any wrong use of this approach may generate distrust amongst your customers as a result of excessive price fluctuations or may start an incessant price decrease to undercut the competition.
Therefore, offering high-quality products must be matched with a correctly priced product to generate sales. So, make sure to choose the right price for your products, a price that guarantees you have the best chance of selling your product while making the maximum possible profits. To determine the optimal cost, you could use software to help you set the best price for your products. These tools provide real-time insights into your competitors’ prices, market demand, and perceived value of your products. As this approach depends on collecting much information on your industry & industry standards, market conditions and customers expectations, collecting, organizing, and storing this data in your dynamic pricing tools to suggest optimal prices for your products requires a hands-on approach from your side. HubSpot discovered that 80% of customers consider price the main decisive factor as to buying or not buying an item. This shows how much Pricing affects your customers purchasing decision.
13. Utilize SEO and Web Analytics Support
SEO is the scientific art of optimizing websites around specific keywords with the aim of ranking higher in search results as Google. The importance of SEO cannot be stressed enough, especially with the rapid growth of e-commerce. This means that you must always be on top of SEO to stand out from the competition. To attract customers to a website, e-commerce owners must adopt innovative digital marketing strategies. They must make use of all possible tools, leveraging SEO, SMM, SEM and online advertising to drive more leads & conversions and realize higher profits & ROIs. SEO Optimization helps businesses gain higher online visibility, which in turn create brand salience among customers.
What is the best e-commerce SEO strategy?
- Conduct keyword research to find the keywords customers use in their search and base your site architecture around these keywords.
- Adopt an On-Page SEO to the category pages, product pages and blog through conducting strategic keyword optimization in meta tags and content.
- Use content marketing to drive additional organic visitors to your online store.
- Improve the authority of your online store with link building.
- Measure your SEO with Google Analytics and ahrefs.
- Focus on your social media to build followers and fans.
- Use social media marketing and search engine marketing to promote your products and services.
More inclusive information about e-commerce SEO can be found in Big Commerce’s article What is SEO and Why Should You Care?
14. Build A Competitive Brand
Brand is an identifying symbol, mark, logo, name, word, and/or slogan that companies use to distinguish their product/service from others. It is how people perceive you wherever they interact with your business. The importance of brand is clear when we see customers eager to buy items from specific stores more than others. They usually buy a brand not a product. This explains why millions of people trust and buy products from giant e-commerce businesses like Amazon and eBay. In fact, these companies aren’t just popular shopping sites, but they are major brands. Therefore, to create a successful and profitable e-commerce store, you must do your branding right. To guarantee building your branding on solid basis research your target audience, competitors and market, taking note of customers you can easily sell your products/services to, established brands in the market and interests of your customers & the language they use to express them. Find the focus you want to build your brand around, your unique value proposition you’re competing on and the terminology that describes your brand.
Having set these components, now is the time to choose your name, a catchy slogan, brand look (colours and font), logo, and apply this branding across your business. This gives it a cohesive brand story that represents what your business is and what it stands for. And finally, evolve your brand as you grow, from the theme of your website to your social media presence, customer experience and even your customer support principles.
15. Create A Robust Marketing Strategy
To reach your online sales goal, you have to fulfil many requirements. The first of these would be to meet your customers’ needs by adopting a good marketing strategy. Before putting any product up for sale, it is crucial to identify your target market, find your target audience, know their purchase habits and learn what products they are looking for. Understanding their pain points, finding solutions, winning new customers, identifying the market gap and finding ways to grow and stand out from the competition is a must. Here is where a good marketing strategy comes in handy.
To dominate the market, eCommerce businesses must adopt the latest trends as soon as possible. In 2021, voice commerce, omnichannel shopping, AI, and AR will likely be a common trend. More online stores will start accepting crypto payments to encourage more customers to choose their brand. Dynamic pricing will remain to be an effective way to attract customers.