The difference between an abandoned basket and a sale

For many businesses looking to sell online, a well-designed e-commerce platform can mean the difference between an abandoned basket and a sale, and ultimately the success or failure of your business. Scott Brant, operations director at Vizulate Digital, shares his tips on what you need to consider when taking your business online…

First thing’s first; avoid off-the-shelf website packages

Setting up a basic ecommerce website is relatively inexpensive compared to how it was just a few years ago. However, many providers offer off-the-shelf e-commerce solutions and start-ups often (understandably!) go for the most cost-effective option. However, this usually means you’ll have to compromise on some features or functionality that could make your website more successful, such as user experience (UX).

Similarly, your website should constantly be evolving to deal with the needs of your customers, and with an off-the-shelf package, you could find that it quickly outgrows the entry-level site or requires more functionality. For example, you might want to integrate it with some of your other business systems, such as accounting and marketing software, and very few off-the-shelf sites offer this level of integration out of the box. This means you’ll then have to reinvest heavily to get a website capable of dealing with your new requirements and growth.

Instead, invest in a website that reflects where your business wants to be, and not where it is today.  That usually means finding a specialist digital/web development agency that will be able to advise on the best way to build and grow your website.

Don’t do your own photography!

Unless you’re an actual photographer, doing your own photography is generally something to avoid. What’s more, taking pictures of your products on your living room floor with your smartphone just won’t cut it.

It’s a cliché, but if you’re selling products online, then a picture speaks a thousand words. If those product pictures are taken on a smartphone you aren’t showcasing your products in the best light and people will be far less likely to buy them.

A good idea if you’re working with a supplier and you’re going to be selling their products online is to put the onus (and cost) on them to provide you with professionally taken product photography. Otherwise, hire a professional product photographer to do them for you; it’s always worth the investment.

Always set aside a budget for customer acquisition
Undoubtedly the biggest mistake start-ups make when setting up an e-commerce business is significantly underestimating the cost of customer acquisition i.e. actually getting people to their website!

They outline a budget for the cost of the design and build of the ecommerce website itself, but fail to allocate any investment for marketing and advertising. It’s no good spending thousands of pounds to create the best website in the world that nobody visits. Even if you work with a company who specialises in search engine optimisation (SEO) it can take months for your site to start ranking in search engines like Google for your website’s key search terms.

Be prepared to spend money on some form online advertising such as Google Ads or Facebook and Instagram ads that will create awareness of your site and drive traffic to it as soon as it goes live. Longer-term, allocate a budget to invest in an ongoing search engine optimisation strategy. Search engine optimisation is something that your website will always need.

Factor in the cost of selling online

Most ecommerce websites will use a secure third-party payment gateway to handle online payments and transactions (think PayPal, SagePay etc). While setting up these gateways on your website is usually free of charge, there is an ongoing charge for using their service that you’ll need take into account.  Some will take a percentage of your sales, while others will charge a flat monthly fee depending on the number transactions your website handles each month.

Do your research. There are plenty of companies out there that provide this service, some better than others. Find a provider that is cost-effective for you and your business, and working with one that ensures the security of your customers’ personal and financial data is paramount. Failure to gain your customers’ trust in this area is the difference between an abandoned basket and a sale, and ultimately the success of your e-commerce business.