You’ve had a great idea for an e-commerce business and after a lot of planning you’ve decided to go for it and actually set up it up. The problem is that you’re worried about the possibility of the business failing as the rate of failure for e-commerce stores is extremely high at around 90% in the first 18 months. This is the elephant in the room threatening to pop the balloons at your launch party.

In this week’s blog we’re going to take a look at what factors influence ecommerce success and failure. It’s not an exhaustive list but if you concentrate your efforts on these then you’ll have a better chance of beating the odds.

Traffic

Site visitors = potential customers. No site visitors = no customers. I realise that this is hardly a ground-breaking statement but it is still a fundamental requirement for any ecommerce business. Not everybody that walks into a ‘real’ shop is necessarily going to buy something; the same applies to an online store. Once they’ve found your store whether it be through Google, a word of mouth recommendation or perhaps ad words then you’ve got to be ready to offer them what they want and turn them from a visitor into a customer.

You’ve still got to get them to your site though. Building your traffic is down to your content strategy, PR, advertising on and off line, adwords, social media and traditional marketing such as promotions and offers for return customers. Opening your site and simply expecting people to find it let alone Google and the other search engines isn’t going to work. Get out there and promote it.

Website Quality

Saving money on the design and build of your website could end up being a false economy as ecommerce sites have to be able to handle a lot more user based activity than conventional websites. If you can start things off with a well-designed website then you’ll much more likely to make the user experience an enjoyable one rather than a stressful battle. All the best ecommerce sites display good functionality, load pages quickly, are easily navigable, are mobile friendly and have a safe payment portal.

With all of these to handle before you even start trying to sell things you could be forgiven for wondering why on earth you thought that building an ecommerce store was a good idea but help is at hand from the variety of ecommerce platforms out there. With the ability to pick and choose from modules that provide the tried and tested components you need such as sliders, product menus, contact forms, buttons and everything you could possibly require, together with a good designer you can create a strong site.

As the UK’s premium PrestaShop partner, we build ecommerce sites for clients worldwide using this popular platform. Adaptable and user friendly we do the tricky work which allows our clients to get on with the important job of running their business and doing what they’re best at.

Investment

Although you may not have the set up or running costs associated with a bricks and mortar shop, ecommerce businesses are not necessarily going to be light on the pocket. Investment in the core start up elements go far beyond the website itself. Stock, advertising, marketing and your standard overheads and other variable costs all need to be factored in.

Just because you’ve not got a ‘bricks & mortar’ shop to kit out doesn’t mean that you can get by on a shoe string budget. Of course, one of the main attractions of online selling is the fact that you’re able to reach a far wider market than the equivalent traditional shop front but without sufficient and prolonged investment you’re not going to be able meet the demands of the customers no matter how near or far away they are. Be careful and manage your budget closely. Spending your entire budget on the website will leave you with a fantastic looking site and not much more than that.

Get a plan in place. Agree a strategy with your bank and investors for growth. Keep things simple and save money without cutting corners but through careful management.

The Check Out

Cart abandonment is a big issue for all ecommerce sites so if you’re looking at ways of improving the performance of your site then this is definitely somewhere you need to be focusing on. According to research conducted by the website baynmard.com the average documented abandonment rate is 68%. In other words you can do everything you can to get visitors onto your site and then into the checkout phase only to lose them in the final approach to closing the sale.

People end up abandoning their basket at the checkout for various reasons but some that you can influence include the process being to complex; pages loading to slowly, poor information and lack of guidance. Ironing out these one by one and you’ll improve your chances of turning your visitor into a customer and subsequently a return customer as they eventually leave your site thinking to themselves how simple it all was.

Research

Having a good idea is sadly no guarantee of success in the world of business and therefore ecommerce too. It always depresses me to see traditional shops open up with great fan fare and then a year or so later the To Let sign goes up in the window. Not enough footfall becomes not enough profit and finally they can take no more. Someone’s dream has been snuffed out.

Even if you’ve got every else pinned down a lack of research at the outset before you go further into the process. Balancing the romantic plans you have against cold reality is not going to be pleasant necessarily as it’s possible that the facts and figures might send you back to the drawing board and in search of another idea altogether.

A business plan, good in depth costings, market analysis, selecting the best shipping options and independent impartial advice will put you in the right position to finally set up your website and start the fun stuff. If you jump in the pool without checking whether its full of water then you might not enjoy the swim.

Customer Service

If you aren’t 100% focused on looking after your customer throughout their journey and beyond then you’ll pay for it sooner or later. Handling the expectations and demands of your customer isn’t easy but if you’re able to develop a reputation for dealing your customers in a friendly and efficient manner then word will spread. The web is social by nature and ecommerce is just another element of this. Social media, reviews, word of mouth and testimonials are all there for you to make the most of.

The funny thing is that if you do have a bit of a drama and there’s a shipping mistake or one of your suppliers lets you down with a delivery causing a customer to be delayed then this is when you can pull out the stops and turn a negative into a positive. If you go that extra mile for your customer then there’s a good chance they’ll return and if you’re lucky bring their friends too.

Trust

Without the ability to place their trust in your website very few customers will part with their bank account details and other private information and why should they? Everyone knows that shopping online can be a bit risky and so to counter act this, storeowners must prove their customers are completely safe with them. Being able to offer a secure payment gateway such as PayPal along wit easily visible contact details, SSL protection against hackers gives customers the signal that they’re dealing with a trustworthy business. This peace of mind enables them to complete the sale content that their money and private information are safe.

Plan. Prepare. Smile. Be Flexible

The world of ecommerce is not for the faint hearted but then whoever said running any kind of a business was easy. If it was everyone would do it. We love ecommerce businesses and do all we can to help our clients develop strong and most importantly of all, sustainable ecommerce websites. There are many factors that play a role in the rise and fall of ecommerce sites and understanding the basics of what to do and on the flip side, what not to do will give you a fighting chance of beating the odds and winning.

When it comes to ecommerce our team here at Teapot know their stuff. Our online portfolio is full of examples of websites we’ve built for clients across the UK, Europe and beyond. If you’d like to discuss how we can help you to realise your vision then get in touch. Our experienced team of PrestaShop developers are always ready for a chat and love a new challenge.

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