Opening New Doors: E-Commerce Tips for Small Businesses

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Opening an online store isn’t difficult, but competing in the E-commerce arena does require an understanding of your audience, E-commerce best practices and attention to detail.

According to experts at RJ Metrics, about 10 percent of all websites are E-commerce sites, and only 110,000 online shops generate revenue of a meaningful scale.

Try these E-commerce tips for your business to overcome the challenges that selling online presents. 

Related Article: Project Management Tips for Creating an E-commerce Site

Invest in Tools That Create Transparency

WorldPay’s Global Shopper Report revealed that more than half of the 19,000 customers surveyed named unexpected costs such as shipping, handling and sales tax as primary reasons they opted not to buy from an E-commerce site.

Improve your chances of conversion by integrating shopping cart functionality that lets customers know exactly what shipping, taxes and other applicable fees they can expect based on the items they put into, and remove from, their shopping cart. 

Optimize Your Load Times

An E-commerce site demands certain features, including clear and accurate product images, copy that’s optimized for search, search features that make it easy for the customer to find what they want, and a simple and seamless checkout process.

Slow site load times, however, can negate the appeal of all these site features, and the hard work and money you invest into implementing them on your site.

Perhaps more importantly, the difference between success or failure in E-commerce hinges on seconds: One study by Kissmetrics revealed that 47 percent of customers expect the desktop version of a web page to load in two seconds or less before they’ll abandon the site.

Test your site functionality to ensure it loads quickly for both desktop and mobile users. According to Shopify, more than half of all E-commerce transactions now take place on a mobile device. 

Related Article: Don’t Let It Happen to You: 5 Mistakes That Will Ruin Your E-commerce Site

Don’t Force Customers to Register

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Forcing guests to register on your site or log in to an account they’ve previously created is one the biggest conversion killers in E-commerce, according to experts at Nielsen Norman Group (NNG).

Make it clear on your home page that site visitors have the option to log in, create an account or check out as a guest. Remind them they do not need to create an account in order to purchase on your site’s checkout page (even if you highlight some of the benefits of creating an account).

NNG’s experts also recommend that your checkout flow highlight that password fields are optional to make sure guests aren’t confused about their ability to purchase without an account.

Build a Site Your Audience Can Trust

Secure payment gateways, mobile payment systems and third-party fulfillment services have empowered small business owners to offer a seamless checkout experience that’s comparable to the processes used by large E-commerce retailers, but you must make sure the customer knows their sensitive data will be kept secure.

CIO Magazine reports that up to 25 percent of customers will abandon a purchase from an E-commerce site that they don’t feel offers security. Display familiar logos (like VeriSign and major credit card or payment acceptance symbols) to reassure customers.

A 2013 study by The Baymard Institute revealed that when site visitors see the Norton Secured logo on a website, they have the greatest level of perceived trust with the site’s security. 

Related Article: Buyers and Sellers, Beware: Data Dangers of E-commerce

Tell Your Story to Connect With Customers

Small business owners can use their story to form a connection with E-commerce customers. Use your site’s “about page” and social media presence to establish an identity customers get to embrace.

Let customers in on your backstory: Why you established your online store, and how you’re committed to delivering positive customer experiences.

Include your name, phone number, physical location and an email address so that customers understand there is a live person behind your online business they can contact when needed. 

E-commerce sites may be less challenging to launch than a brick-and-mortar store, but you have to work just as hard for the customer’s business online as you do offline.

Test every aspect of your site on a variety of devices to confirm that its functionality, navigation and usability all deliver a customer experience that’s appealing and competitive with other retailers. 

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