Do you own or work for a retail company? If so, do you have a way for customers to purchase your products online? If you answered “no” to the latter, it’s time to establish an eCommerce marketing strategy.
eCommerce (short for electronic commerce) refers to the integrated systems a company has in place for the sale and purchase of their goods and services online, including web and mobile app development solutions and software.
Why eCommerce? Because it’s quick, easy, and convenient. We live in an internet-dominated world where people are searching for products and services online. By offering eCommerce services, your customers can perform a search for specific goods from their mobile phones, tablets, or laptops and make a purchase without having to leave their homes. If your retail store doesn’t provide this functionality, especially considering the current social distancing protocols, you may be missing out on critical marketing and revenue-driving opportunities for your brand.
In this post, we’ll delve deeper into the basics of eCommerce, exploring why eCommerce matters, how to set up your retail business for online sales, various web vs mobile app development solutions, different payment options to offer, and third party platforms you can take advantage of to facilitate sales and increase revenue, improve customer service and retention, and ultimately, provide the best possible User Experience (UX) for your prospective clients.
Retail vs eCommerce
As a retailer, you may already have a small or medium-sized shop where customers can come in and browse your selections and then make a purchase. However, you shouldn’t limit your selling power to in-person opportunities. The main goal of establishing an eCommerce platform is to facilitate the sale and purchase of your goods. Yet, eCommerce solutions also allow retailers to manage all aspects of the sale and purchase process, including monitoring client accounts, product inventory, shipping and tracking, as well as general customer data, such as purchase preferences or trends.
Given the popularity of online shopping, eCommerce isn’t restricted to just consumers; it extends to all seller-buyer relationships, such as:
- Business to Business (B2B) – Retailers selling to other retailers, suppliers, or companies.
- Business to Consumer (B2C) – Retailers selling to the general public.
- Consumer to Business (C2B) – Individuals selling their goods or services to companies.
- Consumer to Consumer (C2C) – Individuals selling to other individuals.
The Benefits of eCommerce
Whether you own a small, locally based retail shop, focus on selling products to mass suppliers, or are independently selling your goods on a smaller scale, eCommerce offers you a way to establish a digital footprint and expand your network of buyers. Below are some of the many benefits of eCommerce and why eCommerce is critical for the growth and success of your retail business.
Having a retail store is an awesome accomplishment, however, if you have just one store or a small chain of stores limited to a specific neighborhood or region, chances are you’ll only attract local customers. eCommerce allows you to expand your retail company’s outreach farther than you can possibly imagine.
Even if you only have one store in operation, you won’t be limited to selling solely at a physical location. Instead, your products will be able to reach prospective buyers across the globe. This allows more people to discover your brand and, in turn, provides you with the opportunity to boost your revenue.
Plus, you may not even need to maintain a physical location. By establishing a website with an eCommerce interface, all you’ll really need to worry about is having sufficient space to store your products and then ship them promptly once a purchase is made. Customers don’t need to spend time at a physical store location; purchases can be made anytime, anywhere.
Convenient Shopping Experience
As a retailer, your main goal is to get your product sold. eCommerce can turn that goal into a reality. With an estimated 2.14 billion people predicted to make online purchases in 2021, it’s imperative to make eCommerce a priority for your retail company if you want to maximize your sales.
The beauty of eCommerce is that you can let your customers use their preferred devices for browsing and purchasing your products. With advanced eCommerce development solutions, you can enable your prospective customers to browse your selections from their smartphones, tablets, or PCs.
Speaking of smartphones, if your customers prefer to shop on their mobile devices, you’ll need to incorporate mCommerce (mobile shopping solutions) as part of eCommerce platform. mCommerce goes beyond just the ability to browse your products on the Web; it involves creating an mCommerce app that your customers can download to their devices to further enhance UX.
iPhone (iOS) and Android (OS) dominate the mobile market, so if you want to provide the ultimate User Experience, you should definitely consider creating a cross-platform retail mobile app that can be downloaded on either device. This way, customers on any operating system can search for specific products, compare items with ease, and ultimately make a purchase.
Easily Track Your Inventory and Shipping Process
If you have more than one retail shop, eCommerce enables you to share your product inventory among all your locations. This means that if a customer is shopping for a product at one of your stores and it’s sold out, they can still purchase it if the product is available at one of your other locations or warehouses.
A representative at your store can request the product from another location or a warehouse and have the item either shipped directly to the customer or to the store for pickup. Plus, both you and your customers can track the shipping process. You’ll be able to tell where the item(s) are at any point during transit and when they arrive at their intended destination.
User Experience is vital when it comes to a successful retail operation. In order to attract and retain customers (and possibly gain referrals), you’ll want to ensure that all prospective clients have a seamless and pleasant shopping experience. eCommerce can take your retail company to the next level. By enabling people to shop your products online, both on the Web and via mCommerce apps, you’ll position your retail company as a leader in convenient and user-friendly shopping solutions.
Setting Up an eCommerce Website
Now that you have a basic overview on why eCommerce is critical to your retail company, it’s time to get started! The first step is to create a website for your shop, if you haven’t already done so. This will serve as the main online destination for your prospective customers. Once you have a website, it’s time to get it eCommerce ready. Afterward, you can focus on developing an mCommerce app.
Steps to Get Your Website eCommerce Ready
There are three things every retailer needs to include on their website to provide the best UX eCommerce experience: a secure server, a reliable payment processing method, and a shopping cart. Let’s explore each of these vital steps in further detail.
All websites need to implement security systems to prevent the hacking of vital data. However, when your website offers online shopping, you need to incorporate the highest level of security to prevent your customers from getting their personal data hacked. Since eCommerce involves online purchases, your customers will be inputting their debit or credit card information at the point of purchase, so you’ll need to add additional layers of security, such as an SSL certificate.
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), often referred to as TLS (Transport Layer Security), certificates not only validate your website’s domain, they also encrypt all the data that is passed between your website’s server and your customers’ browsers. SSL certified websites begin with “https” instead of “http”. Once you obtain the certificate, your customers will get notified when visiting your site that your server is secure, thus, giving them peace of mind in knowing their information will be safe. This will also help boost their User Experience, as they’ll feel more at ease not only when browsing your site, but when making a purchase they’ll know is protected by a secured server.
Payment Processing Solution
The next step in getting your website eCommerce ready is to ensure you have a payment processing solution or payment gateway in place so customers can buy your products. Back in the day, it was common to just use cash, a credit card, or even a check when making a purchase at a retail store. However, with the advancements in Web and mobile technology, customers expect a wide range of payment options to facilitate their purchase process online.
Aside from traditional Visa, Mastercard, or AMEX payment options, below are a few other modern payment solutions that you can incorporate into your newly eCommerce-ready site:
- Apple Pay
- Google Pay
- Amazon Pay
- Cash App
Before selecting your payment options, be sure to review any fees that may be associated with the initial setup process as well as any recurring costs. Inquire with each merchant individually, because no two payment processing solutions are alike. Some will require a minimum purchase amount to be met, or else they will charge you extra for processing if the customer’s item total fell below their minimum. Others will implement expensive chargeback fees, both for you and the customer, if the customer did not have sufficient funds to cover the purchase.
Also, consider the fraud protection systems each payment processing merchant has in place as it applies to both you and your customers. What kind of fraud monitoring services do they offer? Will they take on the responsibility of investigating the fraudulent charges? Do they impose a fee for fraudulent transactions upon retailers? These are all important questions to ask before settling on any one or multiple payment processing companies so you can protect both your business and your customers.
If you’re setting up your retail site to be eCommerce ready, you’re going to need a shopping cart for your customers to gather all their products together and review their items before making a purchase. Shopping carts are essential to eCommerce, and the easier the cart is to use, the better the customer’s UX will be.
Your shopping cart should enhance your online browsers’ experience, not hinder it. Always provide a simple funnel that takes your customers from their shopping cart all the way through to check out. Here’s how to facilitate that User Experience:
- All your products should have a unique online SKU number, in addition to the actual product number that can usually be found on the tag at a physical retail location. Both should be linked together so it’s easy to identify the item, whether shopping online or in person.
- The shopping cart should be added to the main navigation bar on your site or mobile app to make it easy for customers to switch back and forth between the items they intend to purchase and those they have yet to include. This will make it easier for customers to keep track of the anticipated purchase total so they can then choose if they want to remove or continue adding items.
- Consider integrating a “coupon” option so customers can save during seasonal or random sales. An eCommerce developer can help you with this custom eCommerce feature.
- Add a “checkout” option that is clearly visible not just in the shopping cart, but as a pop up that your customers will see while navigating your site. The checkout option can be either a “quick checkout” button that enables customers to purchase something right away (similar to Amazon Prime’s individual item checkout feature) or a traditional checkout option that allows customers to review their cart, add or delete items, return to “shopping mode”, proceed to checkout, input any applicable coupons, then add their personal shipping and payment information.
Most retailers tend to stick with the traditional checkout method since their stores feature products from their own inventory. However, if your retail company is promoting products from various other retailers, you may want to opt for the individual “quick checkout” method. This will let your customers purchase an item right away, while still keeping their shopping cart intact. Otherwise, they would have to either move their items to a backburner list (often referred to as a “Wish List”) or delete all the items they don’t wish to purchase altogether before making their intended purchase.
These are just a few of the top eCommerce web design services you should feature on your retail site to improve your customers’ UX and increase your sales potential.
Setting Up an mCommerce App
Once you have your eCommerce website set up, it’s time to create a mobile app with mCommerce solutions in place. Mobile eCommerce app solutions work similarly to those of web-based solutions. You’ll need to integrate all the same functionalities that your retail website provides, such as a secured platform, payment processing solutions, an mCommerce shopping cart, etc. However, you’ll need to be mindful of your target audience as well.
Mobile apps differ from websites in the fact that they need to be more wary of the target audience that will be using them. Mobile apps need to cram a ton of data and features into a single platform with a significantly smaller screen. Your mCommerce app will need to find a balance between your brand voice (as close to that of your website as possible), incorporate features that are easy to navigate, and also provide a seamless browsing and checkout process.
Below are some ideas to ensure your mCommerce app is top notch:
- Consider your target audience – If your audience is younger, feel free to include flashy animations and more complex navigation systems. However, if your audience is more mature, try to streamline the features on your app so they are simple and easy to use.
- Add multiple contact options – A lot more issues can result when customers make a purchase on a retail app than on the web or in person. Apps can experience glitches a lot easier than websites can and due to the smaller screen size, customers can accidentally click on the wrong product or add additional items for purchase they didn’t intend to. It’s important to provide a customer service solution in your retail app that will enable customers to quickly tackle any issues they may have encountered during the purchase process. Online chat systems are great for getting answers quickly, so consider adding a “chat now” feature. That being said, be sure to provide a phone number throughout the different screens so customers can call a representative. You may even wish to establish a team specifically dedicated to handling mobile app purchases to further improve User Experience and facilitate the resolution process.
- Provide real-time notifications – When downloading an app to their phones, customers can choose whether or not to allow an app to provide updates. Retail app customers almost always choose this feature because they’ll get shipping and tracking updates automatically without having to manually log back into their accounts on the web or call a customer service representative. If you want your mCommerce app to truly provide outstanding UX, be sure to incorporate push notification options and keep them up-to-date so your customers can easily track their packages and all other account status notices.
Selling Through Third Party Platforms
Many retailers that have an existing eCommerce-ready website choose to expand their selling power by advertising their products on third party shopping platforms. However, many brick and mortar shops, local retailers, and individual sellers have yet to follow suit.
Selling on third party websites isn’t limited to more established retail businesses; anyone, even individuals who sell homemade goods, can benefit from these companies. In fact, it can be argued that smaller retailers and individual sellers can benefit the most by piggybacking on the authority these shopping platforms have already amassed.
Here are some of the top shopping platforms to consider to enhance your retail eCommerce reach:
- Shopify – Great for small businesses or individual retailers, Shopify offers all the solutions retailers need to build a website and sell their products. The eCommerce platform offers a range of solutions, including website development, shopping cart recovery, social media integration, and more. Keep in mind that Shopify helps you to create an external eCommerce shopping platform for your customers. It’s not an online retailer. Get the most out of it by pairing up with a Shopify Plus partner.
- Amazon – Arguably the top shopping site in the world, Amazon features a range of products for sale that can reach consumers across the globe. You can add your items to Amazon to help increase their outreach. Yet, with greater outreach comes greater fees. Expect to pay a monthly subscription for both a retail business account and an individual seller account, with the former being more expensive.
- eBay – As an online selling platform, eBay is the OG. Since 1995, eBay has been providing both retailers and individual sellers with a quick and easy way to sell their products. The platform allows for multiple payment options, but it’s up to the seller to choose their preferences. The options are even greater for individual sellers, as they can choose between a quick sale or an auction. Shipping fees are also up to the sellers’ discretion, with the option to select a flat, included fee, or allowing the buyer to pay for shipping costs. Sellers do incur a sales fee, which takes into account both the cost of the item and the shipping preferences. Still, it’s a simple way for retailers to market and sell their products.
- Etsy – This unique eCommerce site caters mostly toward individual sellers or small retail business owners. You can sell almost anything on Etsy, but the site tends to favor handcrafted goods. Listing and processing fees are minimal, so if you are just starting out with a small retail shop, you might want to introduce your products through this site and build a consumer following.
- Instagram Shopping – Instagram has transformed from a social media megahit to one of the most trending online selling platforms. Businesses can create a Shop for users to browse selections, add product descriptions, and make purchases. You can even take it one step further by adding shopping tags to your products to highlight them in your users’ feeds and Stories.
Beyond Online Sales
Outside the aforementioned benefits that eCommerce can offer a retailer, establishing an online presence for your retail business opens up a slew of additional opportunities to attract more customers. For one, you’ll be able to register your business online through Google My Business, Bing Places for Business, Yelp, and others so local shoppers can easily find your shop, purchase products, and even leave reviews. You’ll also be able to create Paid Search Ads that can further boost traffic to your retail site.
You’ll also be able to advertise your products on social media and provide links to individual items. Once a consumer browses your site, you’ll also be able to enable your shopping cart to follow your customers as they browse social media apps and other sites, reminding them not to abandon their cart, showing them when a new sale is happening, and even offering additional discounts should they choose to make an immediate purchase.
Customize Your Retail Store with Our eCommerce Development Solutions Today
By now, you should know why eCommerce is essential to your retail company. Whether you are just getting started as a small retailer or individual seller, we can help you expand your reach and increase your sales volume with our custom eCommerce development services for both Web and mobile. Contact Koombea today to schedule a free consultation and get started on building your retail empire.