There has never been a better time to dive into the exciting world of ecommerce. The wide availability of affordable web hosting, intuitive shopping cart platforms, and secure payment processing has made it possible for anyone to get started almost instantly with minimal investment. If you’re preparing to open your own online store, there are a few important things you’ll need to understand.
If you want to maximize your sales, you need to build an online storefront that caters to the ever-shrinking patience of today’s consumers. That means optimizing your page load time, minimizing the number of steps required for checkout, promptly answering all customer questions, and shipping packages as quickly as possible. Consider that most online shoppers won’t wait more than 5 seconds for a web page to load, and American consumers now expect to wait no more than 4 days for a package to arrive. When it comes to your business, time is money.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is very important for your online business, but many business owners fall into the trap of focusing exclusively on search engine rankings at the expense of conversion optimization. It’s not enough for people to find your website; your ultimate goal is for these visitors to make a purchase. In order to achieve this, you need to ensure that your site is properly optimized. This can mean streamlining your website (see #1 above), making products easy to find, listing recommended products in the sidebar, and even experimenting with different site layouts to see which configuration yields the greatest amount of sales. If you use an ecommerce platform, look for conversion optimization apps that you can install.
When comparing hosting options for your ecommerce store, pay particularly close attention to the uptime/downtime statistics. If your site suffers frequent outages, it will cost you money. Consider that, in June of 2007, Amazon.com went down for about two hours — and the estimated cost to the company was $3.48 million. And that was over a decade ago, when online shopping wasn’t nearly as prevalent as it is now. Make sure to host your site with a company that guarantees 99.99 percent uptime. Many companies still only guarantee 99.95 percent uptime, and while that might seem like an infinitesimal distinction, it’s actually the difference between a couple of hours per year and a couple of days per year.
You have a lot of competition out there, and very few consumers are likely to give you a second chance. With that in mind, make sure that every aspect of your ecommerce site is pristine. This means an attractive site design, a user-friendly interface, top-notch customer service, and a product or service that gets people excited.
If you want to maximize your sales, you have to give people an array of options when it comes to payment. It goes without saying that your payment processor should accommodate a wide range of credit cards on your website, but that’s not enough if you truly want to be competitive. A virtual terminal is an extremely valuable tool to use, as it enables you to accept payment via phone or fax and also process refunds and even set up a payment schedule if necessary. The more options people have, the more sales you’re going to make.