Random rambling (but perhaps useful) on ecommerce website development

It would seem that 2014 is the year of ecommerce websites (well for Elementary Digital anyway) and we’re currently visiting and talking about online shops a lot so we thought we’d share some of thoughts about ecommerce website development, so here we go:

1. Go to where your audience hang out first – we’re probably doing ourselves out of potential work here but paying for an ecommerce website before you know anything about your audience will only end in disaster and no-one likes to waste money.

Your first port of call should be to try Ebay, believe us lots of people ‘hang-out’ there and if your ecommerce ideas is going to deliver your new 3 day week lifestyle then you should dip your toe in the water first of all by setting up an Ebay shop. Cost effective, relatively easy to do and quick to set up you could be selling within days.

Once you’ve started to get some transaction and a knowledge of your customers then you’re ready to set up an ecommerce website.

2. Bespoke or off-the-shelf – lets make this simple a typical digital agency will have a team of say 5 to 10 developers creating their bespoke content management system, they’ll be very proud of it and it’s probably pretty good, however what happens when that team disband or the company decides to close the doors, whose going to support the system then or when Google brings in a new update on the shopping feed and they have to rebuild the ‘product management system thingy’. If you choose a system like Magento or Woocommerce (WordPress Ecommerce Website) then your development team is millions of people across the world all contributing to the community and constantly evolving the content management systems. Hopefully you get our drift, bespoke is developed by the few, off-the-shelf is developer by the many.

3. Search engine optimization at the core – we hate saying this (it’s a classic) but, ‘why have the best looking website in the world and no traffic’. Everyone has heard about SEO these days (even my retired mother) and to develop a website that focuses more on being ‘pretty’ than ‘found’ is insanity. Sure you’ve got to present your brand in the correct way, but creating a website that is 100% focused on seo should be top of the list of requirements. We ‘bake-in’ seo from the beginning, everything is focused on ensuring over time the site ranks for your products and then converts.

4. Product pages – we’ve done a lot of research on which layout works best from a conversion point of view and our conclusion (based on insight and results), the classic three column approach, something that websites have strived to move away from but it works. Put the image on the left, upsell/urgency messages in the middle and price/buy now on the right. In designing your product pages worry about conversions, not aesthetics, when you land someone on your product you want them to buy, nothing else.

5. The best conversion tool – believe it or not is still the phone, people like to talk to people when they’re buying something (unless it’s low value). Make sure you feature a non 0845 prominently throughout, if they call you’ve got a better chance of converting.

6. Listen to Google, they are here to help (and take your money) – Google product feed provides you with a quick way to get your products listed and to start selling. However we’d say 9 out of 10 sites we begin to manage are not configured or badly set up for the Google shopping feed. If you’re going to develop an ecommerce site make sure that the shopping feed is included at spec stage (Magento/Woocommerce come with it as standard).

7. Make it individual – a laborious task but if you can make all your content as individual as possible, this means product descriptions, meta data, images, etc. The more unique and targeted you can make it for seo the better it will be in the long run.

8. Brands sell – it’s a nice concept creating your own stuff to put on a website and then sell it to some lucky people. However the reality is brands are recognised and they sell. If you want to sell your own hand crafted products do so, but include a selection of brands that can bring people to your site.

9. Buy anywhere – the world has gone mobile (we’re not telling you anything new here!). People want to be able to buy products when they’re on the bus, train or in the pub. Your site needs to be either a) responsive or b) a dedicated mobile site. Also, allow them to pay with Paypal, appreciate the fees are expensive but mobile browsing is about ease, don’t put up obstacles.

10. The cash register – don’t rush into your merchant account or payment gateway. There is a new wave of payment providers starting to make in-roads into the market place offering cost-effective, easily integrated solutions, have a look at Stripe. Creating a spreadsheet, but the name of providers on there and then weigh up your options.

Here end’s the ramble, hope you found it useful, as ever please contribute your thoughts.

Author Gyles Seward

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