While there are a lot of experts in the field of eCommerce, sometimes it can be almost like pulling teeth to get a straight answer about what is required in order to build and operate a successful business website. There are a lot of half-hearted tips, tiny little things that anyone could figure out after just a couple minutes of dabbling with Web design or by perusing the competition. But these tips are different - they get down to the nitty-gritty of eCommerce structure, design and operations to help give you the best start (or re-boot) to help get your business on the right track…
#1 - Start at the Core
The infrastructure of an eCommerce site is its backbone; what separates the successful businesses from the ones that fail. By designing a site that is run off a solid hosting company, a reliable server and a strong structural foundation, you will help to avoid some of the most costly mistakes that online businesses make each and every day. Choosing a quality hosting company that will allow your account and service to grow as your business grows, that provides a steady and reliable server to host your pages, images, videos and other content - you will skip past damaging incidents, including downtime, server failure, outages and loss of data due to structural integrity issues.
Make sure to choose a host that is reputable, has at least several years experience working within the industry and will give you a list of customers that you can contact for references. Make sure to contact those references, ask the difficult questions and make sure that the host you choose will be able to handle the workload you plan on giving it.
#2 - Design for Success
The basic design of your website is very important too. Make sure that you choose the best eCommerce solutions to run and support your data, customers and payment processing. If you want to run a professional business, make sure that you start professionally from the outset. Don't rely on free programs, free hosting or other non-supported, unprofessional software that could put your business in jeopardy.
Make sure to choose a solution that will be easy to use, easy to maintain and won't require a lot of updates, adjustments or alterations to work in accordance with the rest of your site and business plan. There are a lot more options available today than there were available just a few short years ago, so there's no excuse for using sub-par solutions to run your eCommerce website.
#3 - Make it Easy
One of the biggest complaints about business-based websites today is that they are difficult to navigate. Some designers get all caught up with the idea of throwing in as many bells and whistles as they can muster, while forgetting that customers might not be able to follow the navigation of the website or find all those super-cool (but hidden) drop-down menus.
The best way to avoid this from happening is to think about what you want your customers to do when they get to your website and how you want them to get from point A (arrival) to point B (purchase). This is sometimes known as the "buy path," a set, structured approach to attracting customers and moving them along to the purchase stage of the experience. Knowing how you want them to travel from A to B before you even begin designing the site will help you to create a seamless and error-free navigation that your customers will enjoy.
Keep all your bells, whistles and fancy Flash-based logos to use on your design production website's portfolio pages. When designing for product or service sales via your business, make sure to keep it simple and remember always that less really IS more.
#4 - Automated + Streamlined = Super Smart!
Have you ever heard the saying, "work smarter, not harder?" This is very true of Web design and development. You want to make sure that your website is as automated as possible and streamlined enough that you can do updates, check sales or data and add in new items from your mobile device and home as easily as you can at the office.
Automated features, that will update regularly such as "best selling items" or "new items" or even "related items" that are based on the user's experience and actions, are also a great way to fill your site with options, opportunities and information that won't require any extra work on your part. Most of these items are "keyword rich" and will also go a long way toward boosting your website SEO (search engine optimization) with the top search engines - it's a win/win!
#5 - The Most Powerful Marketing Tool
Perhaps the most powerful marketing tool on the planet is what is known as "word of mouth" advertising. This happens naturally when people purchase a product from your website or enjoy some information that you have shared and then tell others about. Make it easy for them to do this by incorporating social networking icons and opportunities into your site.
Just by adding ways for your customers to "tweet" on Twitter, "share" or "like" on Facebook or even post a feedback review on your site will help you out here in ways you might never have imagined. Consumers like to know what other consumers think about products before they invest money in buying them for themselves. Reviews are an excellent tool for solidifying a customer's ideas about a product they are thinking about buying. Social networking tools are a great way to spread the word and will help to increase the popularity of your website, your products and ultimately improve your bottom line!
Once you are able to implement these ideas into your website and incorporate them into your overall business structure and plan, you will begin to see a big difference in the way that your visitors view and use your website. The most important tip of all is to just "stick with it," and keep making the changes that are necessary to your success. Always be on the lookout for better ways to do things, ideas that can help to improve the overall shopping experience for your customers. This is the true key to success!