eCommerce Website Design – How to Succeed With Online Sales
Getting Started With Your eCommerce Website Project
This is a long article about eCommerce website design which we wrote to clarify the steps and challenges involved in delivering a great, money making website that sells your products online..
eCommerce websites differ from a traditional brochure website in many aspects and this article is to set expectations for you rather than say – yes of course lets do an eCommerce site for you and watch the money roll in.
With the advent of easy to use templates, hosting packages that make it easy to get a website up and running and the perception that if you want to make some money online all you have to do is put up an online shop selling your wares and you your virtual shop will start making money right away.
This is far from the case. But it is of course possible but it takes more than a good looking site. We will expand on this below.
Making Money with an eCommerce site
The bottom line from day one is that you want to make online sales. We understand that. You rent doing just to showcase a service, you want people to buy your products or services. Your simplest idea is get a website, sell your products make money. You have seen tons of other sites selling similar (or even identical) products and you want a piece of the action,.
It isn’t that easy. We have designed and developed eCommerce sites for lots of businesses and the following rules ring through for all of them.
- Businesses that already had a presence (physical shop or a known brand) usually had a much shorter period between a site launching and making sales (we will expand on that reasoning below).
- Businesses who were relying solely on the online presence to make sales have much bigger challenges to make sales and often due to lack of marketing made little if any.
The perception that all you need to do to make money selling online is to set up a site with a shopping cart and wait for the money to roll in is flawed..
So the setting up of a website that looks great though important is just the first step. Then the work begins to show people what great products you have and start promoting it. But lets first talk about marketing your finished new online shop before we actually talk about the making of it (and the costs).
Marketing Your Online Shop to Potential Customers
eCommerce Websites for Established Businesses
The businesses mentioned above with a physical selling presence are usually able to hit the ground running with selling online as the usual reason they started an online store was due to customer demand. They also realised he lower cost of transactions for selling online. No need for a person at the till, less handling costs and often a happier customer as they didn’t have to make the journey.
But the initial sales and the curve to making the first sales is lower as they can advertise in their shop, perhaps on existing media that they are doing and get sales right away. This isn’t to say that they are entitled to a flood of sales as they still need to follow established marketing and optimisation to grow their online sales.
eCommerce Websites for New Businesses
The word challenge is over used in business but making sales online for a complete new business can be a HUGE challenge. Unless your product is unique the odds are that you are already competing with other businesses. To summarise the challenge, without marketing, setting up a new eCommerce site that looks great, has your products (however many that may be) and then sitting back in the expectation of instant online sales will usually end up in disappointment.
Here from a top level is why
- First to Market: As we mentioned you are probably not first to market. Having an established presence with a site in place for many years that another business have been marketing and using established SEO and optimisation techniques means you have to catch up and beat these competing businesses to make sales.
- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) : SEO is the ongoing process of optimising both your site and improving your online presence for search. All sites need to focus on it but none more so than eCommerce. A simple example can show how doing something right versus wrong can make a small difference. We see lots of eCommerce sites where they copy the product information verbatim from the other site. Here is some more information on eCommerce SEO to help you. It is an area that cannot be neglected. When you don’t focus on every product and category page on your site and work diligently to make them the best quality possible you will be rewarded appropriately.
- Marketing: closely linked to SEO you need to be marketing your eCommerce site all the time. You should be using social media channels Facebook (paid and unpaid), Twitter, Instagram and others. Building up useful information to share with clients. Using email to reach out to existing and new customers. The list is extensive. When you ignore it people will ignore your site.
A quick sidebar on Google and people who shop online today.
People now surf the Internet from many different devices and often get to your site from many different sources and not just search. When they are making a purchase they use a lot of information to help them make their decisions. Of course a great sales website and design is critical but they look at a lot of more factors.
Where do you show up on search, how detailed are your pages, what is your social media presence, do you provide support and a lot of intangible emotion related items.
They also rely heavily on others peoples feedback so you need to treat every transaction with a lot of care and attention in the sales process and post sales process.
Often all of the above is bundled into an emotion, gut reaction but this is delivered by great marketing, website design and products/
If all of this sounds daunting it isn’t. Your approach to establishing an eCommerce site needs to be more focused than a business website as you want to make sales. So lets dip into the design and development end and explain why it costs more to design and develop for online eCommerce than a traditional site.
The Design and Development of an eCommerce Site
If you know nothing about how website design and development don’t worry we won’t baffle you with technical terms. The design time and effort involved in an eCommerce site needs to be understood as you may look at a quote for a brochure site next to an eCommerce site and wonder what the price difference is based on.
In its simplest form website design is the creation of visuals for all your pages on a website using tools like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. Think of drawing pictures online (we hate that analogy believe me but it does help). When you the customer approves the visuals, ten a website developer converts these into an actual functioning website.
A lot of online sites sell prepared sites skipping the design and development completely. Think of buying a website from the plans versus getting a house developed by an architect (the website designer) and a builder (the website developer). There are also sites like Wix and Shopify to name a few that allow you to get setup quickly with a standard site or an eCommerce site.
We do not support any of these sites or development but based on our marketing conversation above and our details below we hope we can explain why.
So lets expand on design and what it means to people who don’t spend every waking hour staring at a screen.
eCommerce Website Design
For a traditional site we can and do design every page on a site that a client wants but you can get away with designing the home page and using a simple layout for the sub pages. Some of the eCommerce design points below are still valid though for brochure sites though.
- For eCommerce it is more complex. If you can recall the last time you bought anything online we are pretty sure it went something like this.
- You searched for a product using Google (or went straight to a site.)
- You went to a category page then a product page.
- Your browsed the details. Checked the price, looked at some pictures.
- You then selected options like size, specification, colour and hit Buy (or some such button).
- You then went through a process where you used your credit card to make the purchase.
- You then got confirmation that you and paid and an email
- You may or may not have got a follow up email or emails as your delivery was processed.
No the typical eCommerce Shopping Cart (we will talk about these further down) has inbuilt code that can be designed and customised to give the best shopping experience possible. This is just being all high brow it is critical. Great designs are a factor in convincing people to make a purchase online.
Great eCommerce designs establish trust and work to convince the user that using their money to buy a product or service from you is the right thing to do. Is price a factor – of course but trust, credibility and ease of use are others.
It is quite common for someone to spend a little more on a product online even though they know they can get it cheaper elsewhere online or from a high street shop.
Having a poor customer experience for sales means that at any stage in the process above you may decide to exit the shopping process. How often have you gotten frustrated at a shopping checkout when it prompts you for way too much information or makes it so hard to move through a form.
For this reason the design and development work for eCommerce does take longer. Of course you can default a lot of things but working on great user experience (or UX to get techy) really ensures that the hard work you may have spent above on marketing isn’t wasted.
The End Product – The eCommerce Site
In the very first instance we design and deliver great eCommerce websites. Its what we do. This covers all of the items below
- Custom Visual & Layout Design
- Product Layout Flexibility
- Payment Gateway Integration
- Search Engine Optimisation
- Website hosting
We ensure that your eCommerce platform is visible on all types of devices from laptops to smartphones and every device in between. Online shopping now takes place from many locations and we make sure that your customers can too..
Before any of this starts we have the marketing and SEO conversation. Very simply put new online sales sites that invest time, effort and yes some money in marketing and SEO do better than those that don’t. Being blunt those that don’t barely do a trickle of sales.
eCommerce SEO and Marketing – The Hard Facts
This may read funnily but it does happen (or at least clients try it). It isn’t the clients fault it is just a lack of understanding of how SEO and marketing works.
- A client comes to use and we create an amazing eCommerce website.
- They then ask us to “get them sales” or market it or whatever language they are comfortable with.
- They then think that in a few days, weeks or months the sales will start with no input from them.
It just doesn’t work that way. We understand how you as a customer may have no clue about eCommerce or websites or any of the goings on. Thats fine thats what we are experts in. But what fuels great SEO and marketing is information and material. Product information, company information, visuals, pictures, video, sounds and so on.
We get ten times better results with our marketing efforts (and not just for online sales sites) when the customer is on board. It may be them but they assign the right people to support the marketing.
The SEO and marketing of eCommerce is detailed and technical and also a lot of just plain grunt work but the fuel comes from you, your products and production process.
There are hundreds to thousands of eCommerce websites making little or no money out there. We have to admit we have designed and developed some of them. In all cases the reasons the ones we designed, developed and delivered failed was due to lack of investment in marketing in the first instance and when commitment was made due to lack of support from the client.
eCommerce- The Bottom Line
When we started creating websites back in ancient times we thought “Build it and They Will Come” would work. But nothing could be farther from the truth. It is so easy to get some sort of basic online presence started now. You can have a working website up and running in under a day now if you know what you are doing.
And guess what. Everyone is doing just that. Then they wonder why they aren’t doing gangbusters business.
Todays online success is a mix of content creation, marketing, SEO and as we mentioned slogging away at the right stuff to get customers online.
Finally (yes) we created this article for two reasons. One was to help you – we hope it does, and practicing what we preach to create a decent article to start you thinking about eCommerce and associated website design topics.
We could have dropped some filler text in here full of the usual garbage you read “great quality, fast, super” but we wanted to spell things out at least from a top level. You can do really well online when you apply yourself properly and use tried and tested techniques.
We hope start your journey soon.