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Ten E-Commerce Tips for Small Business Owners

Ten E-commerce Tips for Small Business Owners

No matter what kind of business you have, chances are you could benefit from embracing e-commerce as more than just a temporary accommodation to COVID-19 restrictions. The more that consumers grow used to the convenience of online shopping, the clearer it becomes that e-commerce is here to stay, even after in-person services resume. Whether you are a new business or have been established for many years, e-commerce offers opportunities that will serve your business for years to come. Now could be a good time to invest in not only creating an online presence but optimizing it so that you can grow and nurture your relationship with customers throughout lockdown and beyond. Below are 10 tips to achieve e-commerce success.

1. Invest in a reliable and attractive e-commerce platform

Your website is a huge part of your business’s image and brand. Just as you would keep your storefront clean and attractive, your website should draw customers through the front door and into the “rooms” beyond.
To create a comfortable and engaging experience, use more photos. People process images significantly faster than text. The best way to catch your customers’ attention is with visual appeal. Recreate the impression they would get if they walked into your physical building by unifying colours, fonts, themes, and images throughout your site. Here, you want to keep the visual message as focused as possible. Rather than mixing and matching, this is the time to pick a single theme or idea and incorporate it throughout your entire website.
Your website is the first point of contact for most customers. You want it to not only look professional, but also to be reliable and secure. Make sure whatever platform you choose uses an SSL certificate. Track all your orders, require strong passwords for customer accounts, and run a PCI test to identify and help address website vulnerabilities. Platforms such as Shopify and BigCommerce are especially known for being secure and reliable, taking some of the stress out of the process both for you and your customers.

2. Be mobile friendly

Make sure your website is mobile friendly. More customers are shopping on their phones and tablets than ever before, and a website that does not adapt well to this, can lose out on a lot of business. Making a mobile friendly website can be as simple as choosing a mobile-responsive theme or template that shrinks to accommodate the smaller screen of a smart phone. Other tips include keeping your design as simple and light as possible, using a larger font, and eliminating pop-ups.

 

3. Replicate the in-person experience as much as possible

Alongside the visuals, your website should be comfortable and easy to use, resembling in-person purchases as much as possible. Make sure the purchase process is smooth and short by using simplified shopping carts and return customer or guest check-out options.

Make sure your prices are reasonable and be sure to offer sales and promotional products. It is also a good idea to promote free shipping and eco-friendly shipping—packaging that is ecofriendly and recyclable. In addition, shipping should be quick, as customers will be more inclined to come back if they received their orders in as little time as possible. The more you can recreate the ease of in-person experience, the better. Which leads us to the next point…

 

4. Use Live Chat

Humanize your site by including a live chat option. The chat button should be in the most prominent place possible throughout the entire site so that customers can use it to ask questions at any point. This gives customers the sense that they are engaging with a person, not a machine, and again, replicates the in-person experience in which sales representatives would be there to assist. Statistics show that live chat helps customers to make decisions faster and increases sales.

 

5. Listen and adapt to feedback

Make it easy for your customers to reach you with feedback. Both positive and negative feedback provide opportunities for you to adapt to your customers’ needs and wants. Listening and adapting wherever possible will ultimately make your e-commerce stronger and more successful. Again, you want your customers to feel that they are engaging with a person, not a machine, so being prompt to reply to feedback and open to adapting accordingly helps to build trust between you and your customers and will bring them back for more.

 

6. Utilize customer reviews and testimonials

Much of what has been said so far is to encourage making e-commerce as much like the in-person experience as possible. It can never be exactly like in-person, however. While that does bring challenges, it also brings opportunities. This includes using customer reviews and testimonials to promote your products more directly than often happens in-person. Because they lose the ability to touch, feel, and try products, customers will want to know more about the product than just the description. Wherever possible, let your customers learn from each other. Even if this is in general reviews, customer-to-customer promotion tends to be more impactful than marketing alone. While your customers are on your site and looking at products, let them see what other customers have said about their experience.

 

7. Offer sign-up forms but keep them simple

In addition to hearing from other customers, let your customers have the option of hearing from you through emails, newsletters, and sales promotions. The sign-up should be as simple as possible, since all you really need from your customers are email addresses. It is not necessary or advisable to ask for full names, mailing addresses, or other information.

The content of email, newsletters, etc. should also be simple and to the point. Do not inundate customers with unnecessary marketing and be sure to offer exclusive discounts, bonuses, or limited time deals to make it worth their while.

 

8. Learn about SEO but don’t let technology be a barrier

Learn as much as you can about SEO and digital marketing, but at the end of the day don’t let the complexity of technology be a barrier to building your e-commerce business. There are tons of apps and products designed to automate the technology you need, as well as courses and videos to help you through the process. Get to know your options. Plug and play options are there to do what you don’t know how to do.

In terms of SEO, a few quick tips are to optimize titles, URL, descriptions, provide useful and fresh content, improve your website’s loading time, implement google authorship, and register your website with Google and Bing webmaster tools.

9. Invest in digital marketing beyond your website

Social media is by far the most effective way to reach customers. Creating and maintaining a social media presence is key to successful e-commerce. You should be posting regularly, including three images per day, and monitoring for feedback.

Although it may be tempting to turn this aspect of marketing over to someone else, small business owners who directly monitor social media gain a wealth of insight into their customers’ habits and responses that can help them to adapt accordingly and nurture more long-term relationships with customers.

It can be overwhelming to keep up with all the different platforms every day on top of all the other tasks you need to do. Fortunately, there are a myriad of services designed to help simplify your social media marketing strategy.

The OrangeTwig app, for example, is a complete social media tool kit that automatically fits your products into compelling, professionally designed posts and promotes these on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr. Rather than spending time designing posts to adhere to each platform’s best practices, these services automate the whole process. All you have to do is enter the content of what you want each post to include, and they do the rest. This leaves you time to actually engage with customers who respond to your posts and learn from feedback.

 

10. Embrace your niche to stand out

Online, you are competing with more businesses than ever, but small businesses offer something that larger companies do not. Embrace that and let it shine. “Local” these days can mean beyond a single community, to province, or even nation-wide. This means you have the potential to reach more customers than ever who are interested in supporting small Canadian businesses. Your strength is in providing something unique that customers can’t find anywhere else. Avoid spreading yourself too thin by focusing in on your best products and reaching out to that target audience.

 

Conclusion

E-commerce is definitely here to stay. While in person shopping offers an experience unlike any other, small businesses can leverage their online presence to not only offer a safe, convenient, and comfortable online shopping experience, they can use this time as an opportunity to invest in the future to make sure their businesses stay relevant for many years to come. These tips are just the beginning. There are numerous resources out there for small business owners to learn how they can optimize e-commerce. Below are just a few of the platforms that offer courses, tools, and more information for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

 

Resources

Online Business Canada

Ecommerce Canada

Trade Commissioner Service Canada

Shopify

OrangeTwig

CodeAcademy

Hubspot Academy

Moz – Free SEO learning centre

Khan Academy

MIT Open Courseware

 

KCCT Original Blog

by Ginny Sadlier, Freelance writer for the Kawartha Chamber of Commerce and Tourism

The Kawartha Chamber of Commerce & Tourism strengthens business, regional recognition and pride of place by serving our members and communities. Proudly representing members in Curve Lake First Nation and the municipalities of Douro-Dummer, North Kawartha, Selwyn & Trent Lakes. Through its many varied programs, events, and activities, the Chamber advances and promotes the well-being and interests of local businesses and the communities they serve.

 

If you are interested in writing a guest blog for our website please connect with our Membership Coordinator at membership@kawarthachamber.ca