eCommerceHow to Create a Successful E-Commerce Platform that Converts Clients
Blurred image of a Retail Shop

How to Create a Successful E-Commerce Platform that Converts Clients

The speed of take-up of online shopping will blow your mind. Accelerated by the unprecedented 2020/ 2021 Covid lockdowns in many countries, online (including mobile) shopping rose almost 28% year-on-year to USD 4.28 billion to the end of 2020 and is expected to rise at least a further 14% by end 2021*, despite the enormous economic impact of the pandemic. You cannot afford to be missing from these channels.

We’ll run you through how to build a successful ecommerce site; how to find the right platform and plan marketing strategies to meet the needs of your target client base. Happy browsing.

Source: Statistica.com, Worldwide Retail E-commerce Sales report 2022.

Shuppy: An example of a successful eCommerce platform that converts​

Planning your site

Your ecommerce site is your shop window, your proclamation to the world of who you are and what you can do for them. It needs to reflect your business and marketing strategies in such a way as to attract and convert the customers you’re seeking. How will this be successful? Be true to your mission; what is it that you bring to the party, versus the other providers out there? What’s your USP and how are you going to demonstrate this on your site? First up, clearly define your target client niches. Who exactly are the candidates most likely to benefit from your product? What characteristics of your offering are they most likely to value and how best can these be communicated? It’s useful to create a number of avatars, or typical clients, that classify these niches. e.g. single mum, Gemma, aged between 20-35 with young children and a part time job, enjoys occasional spa treatment products and flowers as treats. Price conscious, but much more so, time conscious etc. Then you can define all aspects of your ecommerce site, as you would with a physical shop; style, layout, colours, language, content, pricing, promotion, product mix etc. Next, consider your competition. Who else is contending for your avatars’ attention and budget? How are they offering to meet their needs and preferences? No matter how great you think your ecommerce site is, your success will be influenced by what the competition are doing. Do this by acting like your avatar. Google whatever it is that your client base might be searching for and see what comes up. Then analyse your competitive positioning and see how to improve. Once you have clarified where you’re aiming and who is in the way of you getting there, it’s time to take a look at the platform opportunities. Most importantly, choose the platform with characteristics that best allow you to demonstrate your strategy and strengths. Of course, there will be other considerations of pricing, support services, technicalities etc, but understanding the key benefits of each provider and matching these to what will make you stand out from the crowd, is really the most powerful way to proceed within your other restrictions of budget etc. There’s a brief summary of the most popular platform providers at the end of the blog. It may be of help to set out your priorities and allocate points to each platform to see which wins out.

Building website traffic and conversions

How to build your ecommerce site will flow from all the analysis you have done on your target client base and competition. As this is a whole blog topic in itself, with myriad variations to consider, we will leave further explanation for another time. Below, we cover the different marketing strategies, including the vitally important Content Strategy and how to prioritise these for your objectives and KPI’s. One point that is becoming increasingly important, almost by the day, is personalisation and that is across all aspects of your ecommerce offering; both the site itself and all the marketing strategies that you decide to employ, be that social, email marketing, PPC etc. People like to feel special. Personalisation of the shopping experience is a baseline expectation of many, if not most, online shoppers these days. In most cases, failing to do so is really to miss the point. One size no longer fits all and, if you don’t build your ecommerce experience around this new normal, then for most businesses, you’re going to miss out on much of the opportunity. Not only will you increase the return on investment (ROI) in each of the different strategies, but you’re also likely to create blossoming loyalty, as your customers enjoy the easier feeling of shopping somewhere they feel understood and at home.

Mobilemania

With the emergence and popularity of Smartphone culture, mobile commerce has become an increasingly accessible and universal source of sales in the ecommerce market. The convenience attached with smart phones has helped in increasing sales to an extent that M-commerce now accounts for almost 1/3 of global ecommerce business. Just by being a little mindful towards mobile phone users, you can easily gain benefits from this rapidly mushrooming trend.
You don’t need to have a completely separate site for your customers to enjoy a great experience on their phones. In fact, consistency and a repeated message will likely do much more for your brand and sales, than finding the perfect solution for the smaller screen. A website design which is also optimized for mobile ensures that your customer experience is consistent, regardless of device. Your time and resources will be saved as there will be no need to create new images and content for smaller screens (think big images and consider typography from the outset).

Content strategy

Whether we’re talking ‘The Iliad’, ‘Hamlet’ or ‘Frozen’, forget Simba, it’s Content that’s King. In ecommerce terms, your site visitors are likely to stay longer, return and also convert, with high quality, appealing content. Moreover, Google and the other search engines are adept at discerning the quality of your content offering, be it video, written, visuals, frequency of blog posts or consistency (actually, no one but Google knows exactly what they rate, but there’s a lot of evidence that points to these characteristics being key.). Rankings are their way of showing their appreciation for your missives. Invest in your content. Winning content for your specific site will, of course, be aligned with your overall marketing strategy and objectives, reflecting your site’s look and feel and created specifically for your target audience. Furthermore, to optimise success, you need to consider the best times and places to reach your audience, so your Content strategy needs to cover all aspects of
  • medium e.g. TikTok for Gen Z’ers;
  • frequency e.g. a weekly email offering the latest in personalised shopping ideas;
  • timing e.g. evenings on a Thursday, when your demographic, who generally works in office hour jobs, is surfing the net as they relax in the run up to the weekend.
So much to consider. Now to the fun part; budgeting and ROI. Think through whether your target client base are Tiktokers, email openers or like to feel they’ve enjoyed spending your entire Pay Per Click budget in one go, as they circle in for a purchase. Costs for many, if not all, of these strategies can quickly mount, whether fees to Google, video creators or slogan carvers, so it’s really important to think lots about where to spend your pennies. You don’t need to employ every strategy out there; prioritise. You can always experiment with others or add more later. Furthermore, you need to measure how successful those spent pennies have been in terms of traffic and conversions (Since measuring and analysing the success of your site is also an enormous topic, it’s also one for another time. Suffice it so say, it’s very important to the longer term success of your site and a no brainer to get all that feedback as to how your customers voted with their feet, or, rather, their fingertips.).

Choosing your shop windows.

Let’s take a look at each individual marketing strategy in light of your overall business and marketing strategy and objectives.

Optimise for the win: SEO and PPC

Bringing Mohammed to the mountain is effectively the idea with optimisation. You can use either organic or inorganic strategies to bring your ecommerce site right in front of the eyes of the customer, at the top of search engine listings. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the organic strategy, where a vast range of techniques are used that rely on implanting markers into your site to attract Google etc and convince them that your site offers a high quality solution for browsers’ searches and, hence, for the underlying customer. Pay Per Click (PPC) is the inorganic equivalent, where you spend your optimisation budget on direct purchases of the top slots in the listings pages, having outbid any others interested in the same searches, times and positions. It also includes Display advertising which are the banners that appear in lots of different locations e.g. top, side or middle on search pages. Both approaches have their pros and cons, depending on your offering and the competitive environment in which you’re working. Both are skilled disciplines that can be fine-tuned over time, using analysis of previous performance to hone in on the most effective components of performance. Both need to be carefully managed to maximise ROI and avoid hefty costs. Top tips for an ecommerce site include minimising the clicks to arrive at the sought after product e.g. if a customer searches for luxury bread knives, being taken to all knives, or even all bread knives, that includes quality ranges, can easily lead to the search being abandoned. This may seem harsh, but for digital natives and even digital adopters 15-20 years down the line, expectations for efficient solutions are high; all knives simply won’t cut it. Of course, with only 60 characters to play with for SEO headline text and 90 total for PPC, tag lines must be sharp, appealing and a call-to-action (or CTA) in themselves, inspiring the viewer to act now, convincing them that their need can be easily and well met. Furthermore, for SEO, the more the entire site backs up this message, the stronger the SEO will be. Since PPC is a pay-as-you-go service, it does not have the same direct need for excellent and consistent content, but at the end of the day, the customer is much more likely to convert if the site and its content are good, not to mention the wasted spend when customers click and don’t like what they are taken to. Especially for SME businesses, restricting SEO to focus on more specialised, or longer tail, phrases, such as ‘quality bread knives in Harrogate’ can improve ROI, versus going for the more competitive ‘quality bread knives’, where you will likely end up competing against the big boys with their big budgets. While it seems appealing to attract as many visitors as possible to your site, you are likely to not get picked either by Google’s optimisation algorithms, or end users, if being compared to a site or PPC advert that has been developed with a much larger budget and possibly, more provenance. A general rule for optimisation is to stick to your fighting weight. Finally, when deciding your budget allocation between SEO and PPC, it’s important to remember that the two strategies work in harmony e.g. if you don’t know how a key word will perform, you can put it into a PPC advert and find out. Another example would be, if you list for an SEO keyword, such as ‘web design’ and you also buy the PPC slot for this keyword, you subconsciously get more credibility from the viewer and you are stopping your competitor get any exposure.

Social

Despite Social being the current darling of the internet party, especially for younger demographics, it is only one of the possible options for building your ecommerce business. While this strategy has many exciting and creative opportunities, it is important to allocate your budget in proportion to its usefulness in the context of your offering. While TikToking pink, sparkly trainers might be a fabulously successful approach, you may find that personalised Pay Per Click (PPC) or email marketing is a better budget spinner for a more mature, higher end target niche, like real leather walking boots. It’s horses for courses, not social takes all.
As with all strategies, understanding your client base is key. However, it is more key (is that a thing?) in social, since this trend-obsessed and time consuming approach offers real opportunity to create an interactive, almost face-to-face experience between brand and customer. In recent years, this has been a strongly growing trend, though, as with most things, balance here is the path to success. There is a difference between cleverly interpreting your customer’s next need from careful analysis of their past behaviour, versus cornering them at every turn and making them feel hounded or even stalked. People want convenience, but not at the cost of choice.
We would suggest erring on the side of caution, since gaining the loyalty of a repeat customer over the long term (lifetime value or LTV) is generally much more lucrative and with a better ROI, than risking damaging their impression of you for the sake of a single sale. So, get to know your client and treat them as you would want to be treated were you in their shoes.

Email

While emails are the Coronation Street characters of the marketing strategy world, when compared with their glamorous cousins in Social, they are not to be under-estimated when well deployed. However, this applies only by understanding what sort of promotions or updates might interest your client and when they want to hear about them. As with Social, if you harangue them with every offer going, whether within their scope of interest or not, then they will quickly send your emails straight to Junk, or unsubscribe, so respect their wishes. When done with sensitivity, in the context of engaging content e.g. written, video, visual, with suitable frequency and timing e.g. once a week pre-weekend, then you can achieve some impressive results. Once again here, if you are attaching links to enable purchase of specific products, or even to a blog on the same topic, ensure that you are specific with the link i.e. direct to the product of interest (known as taking them to the right landing page) . Motivation falls fast when an extra click or two are involved. Furthermore, the customer can often end up distracted by other lines of enquiry in a more general browse and end up purchasing nothing. This type of experience can quickly overwhelm and in the most part, visitors will prefer to avoid that feeling than battle through it to a purchase.

Profits need purchases

While indicators, like number of followers on Social sites or number of emails in your database, can be helpful targets to build coverage, it’s conversions in the form of sales that actually add to the bottom line. These may of course be achieved through longer term strategies and for many, or even most businesses, building a long term, recurring purchase relationship with the customer will ultimately add profit and improve ROI. Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO, to those in the know) is how this aspect of the process is managed. Through analysis of customer behaviour when being attracted to and when actually on your site, improvements can be made to increase the chances of purchase. CRO includes looking at heatmaps of activity as to
  • where a customer spent their time on your site
  • which points they chose to arrive and leave the site
  • which Call-To-Action (CTA) prompts e.g. clicking on the ‘Pay now’ button, they chose to activate
  • why it was if they chose to abandon their purchase.
Piecing all this information together can lead to a much clearer view of customer behaviour and hence, offer up solutions to increase sales. As data is collected and analysed, different strategies can be tested e.g. through A/ B testing, where two different approaches can be trialled on different customer groups and the strategy with the better outcome implemented thereafter. In a world of data, this sort of analysis is a basic and to not make the most of this incredible source of feedback would be competitive suicide.

Measuring and managing

For many of us the constant electronic monitoring of our every move, virtual or real, can feel a little stifling. It nonetheless offers incredible insights into our needs and motivations. When measured and analysed correctly, it allows you as the ecommerce provider, clear guidance as to how to meet the needs of your customers. Combine superior insights with a Client Relationship Management (CRM) tool and you have a WMD-sized missile with which to blow away the competition and bag the customer for life. In digi-speak, a customer’s lifetime value, or LTV, is their total worth throughout the entire relationship. Especially in terms of ROI, returning customers are winners, since they generally cost less to encourage into another sale, when compared to the cost and uncertainty around winning a new client. Treat these people like gold dust. Communicate in a manner sensitive to their needs and preference, rather than what you are bursting to tell them in your enthusiasm to meet yours. Also, reward them for their loyalty through helping them feel part of your special community, offering promotions that are likely to be of interest to them, or simply showing them the love they deserve. Never forget to appreciate and nurture what you have; a customer in your CRM system is worth two in Instagram.

Are you ready?

Exciting times. Starting up your own ecommerce venture is a big undertaking. However, taking the time to assess your strong points and plan your approach will enormously increase your chances of a lucrative, growing and successful online business. You knew we were going to say it; if you need some help, give us a call. Thanks for your time. The Ecommand team.

Platforms

Here are the most popular platforms to consider when deciding where to build your ecommerce site. Remember, it’s like online dating – it’s the match to you that’s makes it a winner.

CS Cart Logo

CSCART​

  • FAST CONVENIENT AND USER-FRIENDLY. STARTING ONLY $29/MONTH
  • EASY SAFE AND RELIABLE FOR NON-TECH MINDED
  • COMPLETE COMMUNITY SUPPORT AND CUSTOMER CARE
  • PRE-BUILT MOBILE AND OPTIMIZED THEMES AND TEMPLATES WHICH CAN BE CUSTOMIZED ADDITIONAL APPS FOR EXTRA FEATURES AND ADDED FUNCTIONALITY
  • SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZED CONTENT AND BETTER ADVERTISING TECHNIQUES/OPPORTUNITIES
  • ABANDON CHECKOUT RECOVERY
  • TROUBLE-FREE CHECKOUT THROUGH INTEGRATED PAYMENT NETWORKS
Shopify Logo

SHOPIFY

  • FAST CONVENIENT AND USER-FRIENDLY. STARTING ONLY $29/MONTH
  • EASY SAFE AND RELIABLE FOR NON-TECH MINDED
  • COMPLETE COMMUNITY SUPPORT AND CUSTOMER CARE
  • PRE-BUILT MOBILE AND OPTIMIZED THEMES AND TEMPLATES WHICH CAN BE CUSTOMIZED ADDITIONAL APPS FOR EXTRA FEATURES AND ADDED FUNCTIONALITY
  • SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZED CONTENT AND BETTER ADVERTISING TECHNIQUES/OPPORTUNITIES
  • ABANDON CHECKOUT RECOVERY
  • TROUBLE-FREE CHECKOUT THROUGH INTEGRATED PAYMENT NETWORKS
Shopify Features List
WooCommerce Features List
WooCommerce Logo

WOO COMMERCE

  • THIS SOURCE IS OPEN AND LARGELY FREE OF COST. HOWEVER. SOME OF THE SERVICES ARE CHARGED FOR A FEE
  • A WIDE RANGE OF EYE-CATCHING CUSTOMIZABLE DESIGNING OPTION
  • SIMPLE TO USE AND EASILY CUSTOMIZABLE
  • MOBILE OPTIMIZE FOR ADDED CONVENIENCE
  • WORDPRESS COMMUNITY SUPPORT
  • SEO FEATURES
  • YOUR BEST RESORT FOR EFFECTIVE CONTENT MARKETING
  • TROUBLE-FREE PAYMENTS THROUGH INTEGRATED PAYMENT NETWORKS 
WIX Logo

WIX

  • APPROPRIATE FOR FIRST-TIMERS OR BEGINNERS.
  • STOCK TRACKING FUNCTION HAS LIMITATIONS.
  • EASY ON POCKETS. STARTING AT ONLY US $17-25/MONTH.
  • WEB DEVELOPMENT FUNCTION IS AS SIMPLE AS DRAG-AND-DROP.
  • THE TRACKING FUNCTION HAS LIMITATIONS.
  • EXTRA WIDGETS WHEN REQUIRED.
  • A VARIETY OF CATCHY DESIGNS AND USEFUL TEMPLATES.
  • INCORPORATES VARIOUS PAYMENT GATEWAY FOR EASY TRANSACTIONS. 
Wix Feature List
Square Space Logo

SQURE SPACE

  • BUILD AWESOME WEBSITE DESIGN WITH SIMPLE DRAG-AND-DROP FEATURES.
  • BUDGET-FRIENDLY PRICING AS LOW AS US $24-36/MONTH.
  • SEO FUNCTION FOR BETTER AND WIDER REACH.
  • BETTER CUSTOMER CARE AND ENHANCED WEBSITE UPTIME.
  • INTEGRATE WITH SEVERAL PAYMENT GATEWAYS FOR QUICK AND EASY TRANSACTIONS.
  • ABANDON CHECKOUT FOR HIGHER PRICING OPTIONS.
  • INTEGRATED PAYMENT NETWORKS. 
Square Space Feature List
Magento Features List
Magento Logo

MAGENTO

  • STABLE FOR LARGE-SCALE SELLERS AND E-SHOP OWNERS.
  • REQUIRE SPECIFIC SECURE LISTING.
  • PRE-DESIGNED TEMPLATES ARE AVAILABLE FOR CUSTOMIZED WEB DESIGN.
  • CUSTOMIZATION IS POSSIBLE WITH THE HELP OF DEVELOPERS.
  • ADVANCE LEVEL INVENTORY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM.
  • WORKS WITH VARIOUS PAYMENT GATEWAYS for HASSLE-FREE TRANSACTION.
  • NUMEROUS E-STORES AND MULTIPLE SHOP FRONTS. 
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