7 Best Practices for Selling Online: eCommerce Is Alive and Well

Simple ecommerce
Simple ecommerce

Image: Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Of course Amazon.com, Kmart and other global and national brands are growing and will continue to flourish online. However, I do not hear much about shopping carts and ecommerce in the small business world anymore. Of course sales are happening, but so much of the focus and hype is on….you guessed it…social media.
Having said this eCommerce is alive and well.
Ecommerce company BigCommerce is doing pretty well and co-founder Mitchell Harper gives some insight in the following Q&A.
There are a lot of web and ecommerce hosting companies on the market. What differentiates them?
There are definitely lots of web and ecommerce hosting companies, but BigCommerce is the only ecommerce marketing platform that allows businesses to not only sell online but also to drive an enormous amount of traffic to their online stores using built-in marketing tools to rank on search engines like Google and Bing with expert search engine optimization.
You can also advertise on Google AdWords, Yahoo Search Marketing, Google Products (formerly Froogle) with a few clicks. Also with our soon-to-be-released version 6 you’ll be able to sell on eBay, Shopzilla, Shopping.com, Beso, MySimon and PriceGrabber.
The real challenge with ecommerce is getting people to your online store, not necessarily setting up the store, so that’s why BigCommerce is now the fastest growing ecommerce platform in the world.

With the growth of blogs and many business owners using Typad and WordPress, is the need for a traditional web host still there?
If we’re speaking in the context of ecommerce or selling online then most definitely. Content should be used to effectively frame what you’re selling. For example, if you sell funny t-shirts then you need a blog which you update every few days with pictures of funny t-shirts from around the Internet or with stories about how your t-shirts are designed or made. Even better would be a regular video blog which you record and post to YouTube (for the viral effect) *and* to your site’s blog as a reason for people to come back or bookmark you.
The good news is that ecommerce software like BigCommerce also has blogging software built-in, so instead of setting up a separate WordPress blog and trying to link it to your online store, you can use the built-in blogging options to create new posts and have them show up on your BigCommerce home page.
Is BigCommerce a web host or ecommerce service? I think both…right?
BigCommerce is a hosted ecommerce platform that lets you a) setup an online store with all of the features of Amazon.com and b) publish content such as web pages, contact forms, blogs, menus and frequently asked questions. It’s a true all-in-one offering for anyone who wants to sell online and drive traffic to their new BigCommerce online store.
What role does PayPal play in the small business ecommerce area, compared to you and other hosts such as Yahoo, GoDaddy, Register.com and Network Solutions?
PayPal is one of many options for collecting payments online. While PayPal by itself is a good way to sell basic products online (by adding a “Buy Now” button to your web site), it falls short when you need an integrated checkout experience and the ability to track inventory.
Compared to Yahoo, GoDaddy and others who offer basic ecommerce software, PayPal doesn’t give you the ability to setup a full online store – you can simply accept payment and then the rest of the transaction is left up to the business owner to process manually, such as sending the invoice, shipping the package, assigning a UPS tracking number, etc.
BigCommerce takes offerings from Yahoo and GoDaddy one step further to offer business owners an all-in-one offering. PayPal is one of over 50 payment gateways supported by BigCommerce and it can be integrated into your store’s checkout with literally 5 clicks and in 30 seconds. The benefits to your customers are immense – they can complete the entire order in your BigCommerce store without every leaving, and you can process the order from your BigCommerce control panel in just a few minutes.
What are some top 10 (or less or more) best practices that you’ve seen work for your customers to increase their sales?
On my ecommerce blog (http://www.bigcommerce.com/ecommerce-blog/) and YouTube Guru channel (http://www.youtube.com/bigcommercedotcom) which has nearly 500,000 views I regularly upload videos sharing best practices about selling online. Here are some of the more popular ones:
1. Use social media like Facebook and Twitter to connect with your customers after the sale. Share useful tips, tricks and videos so you can start building out your own community
2. Don’t compete on price. Come up with one reason why you’re better than your competitors (such as bigger product range or a 365 day return policy) and promote that absolutely everywhere – on your web site, in your marketing and even on your invoices. Your unique selling point (USP) becomes your brand.
3. Write your own product descriptions and craft them to appeal to your target audience. If you sell cosmetics to women then make sure you speak directly to them using benefits instead of features. For example instead of saying “this lipstick is a beautiful shade of red”, say “your lips will come alive and your girlfriends will envy how amazing you look thanks to the amazing shade of red, which is only available in [product]”. Benefits speak to our emotional needs and features simply tell us what the product is.
4. It costs 7 times more to attract a new customer than it does to retain an existing one, so make sure you have a newsletter signup box on your website and send monthly newsletters with useful information about the products you sell or the industry you’re in. Again, if you sell lipstick to women then figure out what else they might like and send them targeted news around that in addition to pure product news. No one likes to receive just advertising in their inbox.
5. Automate as much of your business as you can. Why employ someone to write and print packing slips when software like BigCommerce can do it for you automatically? Automation is a win-win for you and your customers. It will allow you to grow your business faster and with fewer costs, meaning you can afford to put more money into marketing.
6. Including a security seal and logos on your website for credibility. Do you accept payment with PayPal or Google Checkout? Add their logos to the bottom of your website. Have you purchased an SSL certificate? Add your security seal to your website – especially the checkout page. Especially when you’re starting out you need to leverage credibility of big brands to win your customers trust.
7. Provide your customers with a publicly accessible area to engage with other customers and your team. We use GetSatisfaction to have an open community when customers and potential customers can ask questions, share ideas and praise. We have thousands of participants and it’s a great way to strengthen your bond with customers and also their bond with you. Remember, long term you’re building a brand so do whatever you can to foster communication around what you’re doing.