While we’ve all heard that eCommerce is ‘the future’, and you may even have the facility to sell some of your products or services online already, you probably know it goes a great deal further than just that. With the steady increase in people buying online accelerated by the pandemic, it’s become more significant than ever for those wanting to start their own business, or to keep an existing one afloat.
Changes in shopping habits
If you are one of those thinking that the increase in online sales was just because of COVID and everything will just return to normal as soon as the dust settles, there are two reasons why you are probably mistaken. Firstly, a large number of people who were resisting making online purchases because of lack of knowledge or fear, have had to make an online purchase or two through necessity, and found in the majority of cases it’s not nearly as scary as they thought.
Secondly, though just as significantly, people had to use eCommerce for normal, everyday purchases rather than just larger purchases like a new TV and have been introduced to the convenience of having things turn up with just the click of as a mouse. As we know, in a world where convenience is king, this presents a major and irreversible change in the way that people buy things.
Changes to sales processes
This is, in turn, leading to a change in how some companies are configuring their websites. They, like you, might have started selling on their website maybe through plugin, or just adapting current pages in an older website template. This set-up, where the website is centred on information about the company, will give the visitor the option to buy, but it is more of an add-on.
This model, since the Covid outbreak, is rapidly being transmuted into one which is predominantly an ecommerce site with pages of information about products niches which now act as the first point of contact that was previously made by a person in store or salesperson.
While there is nothing wrong with the older, ‘information first’ model, the reason it is being upgraded is that by using this model you’re probably only getting ‘found’ online by the people who are searching for your brand rather than the item you sell.
Using eCommerce for extra traffic
More on the details around that in a minute, but first, if you are looking to expand your online reach, you should also consider looking at using the established platforms like Amazon and eBay and what they can do for you. The obvious advantage here is that Amazon and eBay get millions of searches every day so can be an easy source of traffic, but the equally obvious disadvantage is that you are listed literally right next door to the competition.
This means that if you can stand out from the crowd here, you might catch the eye of new customers who prefer your brand and return for repeat purchases, which is great and might have you wondering if you even need your own website at all. However, the thing to remember here is that while they are a source of ‘free’, if non-exclusive traffic, the platform is not yours – and if for some reason your product is banned, or if you fall foul of some unforeseen rule change, that’s a potentially large section of your business gone overnight.
Your own ecommerce platform
You can sidestep any problems of having all of your eggs in one basket by setting up your own eCommerce site in addition to having a presence on more established platforms. However, something you might have learned while selling on eBay or Amazon still rings true here – if you’re not on the first page you might as well be nowhere.
If that sounds like a tall order on something as undeniably vast as Google, there are some reasons for optimism. This is because you are not necessarily just looking for results for you overall product description, but instead looking to feature for more niche descriptions (sometimes referred to as long tail keywords) for which there will be less competition, which you’ll agree is not nearly as bad as it might have seemed at first.
This is firstly because customers have had about 20 years of having the internet in their lives and have become more sophisticated when using it. So, if they want, for instance, a 120 page a white spiral bound sketchbook, that’s what they are likely to type into Google, not just the word ‘sketchbook’ like they might have done 10 or even 5 years ago.
Secondly there are tools that can help you with the whole thing even if you’re a complete novice. Something like the ecommerce google shopping guide can help you feature in the Google rankings for relevant search terms in a position where you are more likely to get customers. If you have done more than five minutes research into the costs of creating and running Google ads, the value of tools like this should be obvious.
However, whether you choose to use one of these guides, or forge you own harder and potentially costlier path, it will be easier if you were to use a dedicated eCommerce platform rather than just popping some shopping cart software or a PayPal button or two on your existing website.
Many platforms exist to help you build your own online store – you’ve probably heard of Shopify if not any of the long list of alternatives – which will sit on your own domain and do most of the legwork for you. This will mean that regardless of what platforms like eBay, Amazon or even Etsy think of what you are selling (or how you are selling it) you will have a professional looking home for your online sales.
In fact, you might find that by using a specialist platform your workload might be reduced rather than doing it all piecemeal yourself. Of course, whichever ecommerce software you happen to use will come at a price, but this is balanced with the fact that they then take care of all upgrades and adapting to all of the newer innovations, and you just update your software.
It should also be mentioned that this works just as well if you are selling digital products like Canva templates or eBooks just as easily as if you were selling cat toys or DVDs. It is this flexibility that means that you can adapt a basic structure by introducing various themes (in very much the same way you would in WordPress) to give your store a unique look but at the same time keeping the same functionality.
To wind things up
Selling online is here to stay and if your business wants to stick around, then it should sit up and take notice. The change in shopping habits due to the pandemic has meant that a working eCommerce website is not only now the norm for a company, but it has also become a necessity for survival.
Luckily, there are a huge number of people in the same situation as you, which means you are all starting from the same place. In addition, a range of tools and platforms exist that can not only stop your business from getting left behind, but to grow to become much larger than it ever was before.
Content marketing and inbound marketing expert, Steve Conway is passionate about discovering new tech which will enhance his already well-honed digital marketing skills.