Ecommerce (“electronic commerce”) is the process through which physical and/or electronic products are bought and sold online. This shopping process is more popular than ever before, and has largely outgrown brick-and-mortar stores in many industries and markets.
With the increasing use of mobile devices and social platforms to find, research, and purchase products, a professional ecommerce store is essential for the continued success of any brand or business.
Types of ecommerce.
Simply stated, ecommerce is the process of buying and selling physical or electronic items online, but not all ecommerce stores are alike. First, let’s look at the three primary types of ecommerce transactions:
- Business to Business (B2B)
The business sells directly to another business—an office supply store, a commercial leasing office, or software developers, for example.
- Business to Consumer (B2C)
The business sells directly to consumers—a retail store, grocery store, or entertainment streaming service, for example.
- Consumer to Consumer (C2C)
A consumer is selling to another consumer through an auction, a social media platform, or a reselling service, for example.
Because there are different unique transaction types, there are many different processes and approaches for ecommerce depending on the industry. A retail store (B2C) will most likely have product pages, a shopping cart, and a check out process that allows the consumer to make one-time purchases of individual items, while a software company (B2B) may sell their software licenses through a subscription plan. If a consumer is reselling a used item to another consumer (C2C), they may use an online marketplace to find a buyer and make the transaction, or they may connect with them through social media and simply have the buyer transfer the funds through a banking app.
Benefits of ecommerce.
Ecommerce is vital for the success of any business in the digital age, but many brands and businesses are still hesitant to take advantage of it. Some fear that it is too daunting of a task, or are unsure of any real benefits, but a professional ecommerce site is very achievable and has some huge benefits…
- It is often significantly less expensive than owning or leasing a physical store, reducing overhead fees
- It is a faster and more convenient transaction process for both you and your customers
- It makes your products available to a larger geographical area, reaching a larger audience without additional physical locations
- It increases revenue by reaching more customers than physical locations alone and by being available for customers to shop 24/7/365
Ecommerce site essentials.
Because not all ecommerce sites and processes are the same, and different industries require different functions, it’s important to evaluate what you are offering and how those transactions should be processed. But regardless of whether you are selling individual items or subscriptions and whether they’re being offered to other businesses or consumers, there are a few elements that are essential to any professional ecommerce website.
Branding. For businesses who have had or still have brick-and-mortar locations or have sold products through other avenues (traditional marketing, online marketplaces, etc.), brand consistency is key. Your existing customer base should be able to recognize your brand as soon as they arrive on your ecommerce site, and trust that you are who you say you are.
Responsive Design. As we mentioned earlier, shoppers are using their mobile devices to find, research, and purchase products more and more frequently. Optimizing your ecommerce website for mobile devices will ensure the best user experience for your customers when they’re shopping on their smartphones or tablets.
Steller UI & UX. Speaking of user experience… It’s important that the UX and UI (user interface) of your site is efficient and in-trend. If a customer has to go through an unnecessary or excessive number of steps to complete a transaction or to even find the product they’re looking for, they may abandon their cart and look elsewhere. Keep your users’ experience in mind when designing and developing the browsing and checkout processes to ensure they have a smooth and satisfying experience.
Smooth & Secure Payments. No matter what products you’re selling or how you’re selling them, a secure payment gateway is mandatory. Without a secure payment gateway, you put your customers’ information and your reputation at serious risk. Providing your customers with a smooth, secure, and transparent payment process is essential—it ensures their trust and safety and your continued success.
Bringing your store online.
If you’re ready to begin selling your products in the digital world, there are two common ways for you to bring your store online.
Leasing an ecommerce site
Leasing an ecommerce platform such as Shopify, BigCommerce, or Wix is a great option for many startups and small businesses. It’s a do-it-yourself approach, eliminating the cost of a professional web designer/developer or agency. With most platforms, customization and design is limited, so the process of creating an account, styling your store, and uploading your products is fairly simple. But keep in mind you are leasing your ecommerce site for a monthly fee that covers your ecommerce site hosting and the basic capabilities/tools to operate your online store. Depending on the needs of your business, you may also need to utilize additional tools and widgets, which usually incur additional fees.
If you have sufficient experience with similar platforms, you can likely handle the project yourself on a flexible schedule and without the fees charged by a freelancer or agency. But if you do not have any prior experience or understanding to lean on in this process, you could expend a significant amount of time and energy on the initial process, and you could also be at risk of significant profit loss or customer dissatisfaction if orders are not processed and fulfilled properly due to site errors or incorrect setup.
Building an ecommerce site
If you are looking for an option that is more robust, more customizable, and capable of including/implementing more unique features, then building an ecommerce site on an open source platform is what you need. We host our ecommerce clients’ websites on WordPress and use the WooCommerce plugin to securely and seamlessly manage their products, inventory, and orders (along with any other store features they desire). This allows us to fully design and develop their entire site and online storefront, as opposed to working with limited templates.
Working with a professional agency to design and develop your ecommerce website requires a more significant initial investment compared to leasing, but there are many invaluable benefits to this approach:
- It eliminates the monthly leasing and widget costs
- It guarantees a stellar UX/UI
- It allows complete control and customization
It also often provides a more intuitive process by having a nearly endless source of tools and features, eliminating the need for several additional widgets.
Grow your revenue online.
Whether you’re looking to finally dive into the ecommerce world for the first time or your current ecommerce site needs an upgrade for 2020, our team is here to help. Let’s discuss your target market, your products, and how we can design and develop an ecommerce website that meets all your needs and exceeds all your customers’ expectations. We can also discuss how to market your new ecommerce site so you can reach a large audience and increase your leads, conversions, and revenue. Give us a call!