E-Commerce is the future. However, does the idea of an e-commerce project feel overwhelming? Where do you begin? This article, part 3 of our e-commerce blog series, is full of helpful tips for implementing e-commerce in your company. We explain what to look out for in e-commerce in general and give you seven tips that will make integrating your various systems a breeze.
The first part of our blog series on e-commerce and systems integration was a comprehensive 101. In the second part, we looked at the advantages of e-commerce and how you can maximise these through digitalisation. In this third part we give you seven tips for how to be successful at e-commerce. Finally, part four looks at integration solutions for an online shop.
How to be successful in e-commerce
Before you get started with your e-commerce project, it’s worth considering some things in advance. Really assess from the start which strategies and products your organisation genuinely needs, and what would perhaps only be a nice extra. You will discover that the ideal mix of solutions for your needs is as individual as the company itself.
- What is the target audience for your online shop?
- Which e-commerce platform would make the most sense for your business?
- What systems and processes do you want to join up?
- How will your e-commerce strategy improve the customer journey?
- What are your concrete goals for the next few years?
Develop an e-commerce strategy that suits your business. How this looks will depend on a number of factors. Are you new to your business or do you already have several brick-and-mortar shops? How many established competitors are there in your market? What target group would you like to reach with your product?
7 tips for establishing an e-commerce business
Make establishing your e-commerce business a breeze with these seven tips:
1. Find your niche
Competition is much tougher in e-commerce than in traditional retail. After all, you may be competing with suppliers from all over the globe. Observe your competitors to find a niche where you can differentiate yourself and stand out. Then, you can appeal to your target audience and run promotions on the channels which are most relevant to them.
- What makes your offering unique?
- What can you offer that others can’t?
2. Stay current
Keeping the contents of your shop up-to-date is key and almost certainly something your competitors do. A carelessly maintained shop is akin to throwing money out of the window. As search engines like Google look for regular updates for their ranking, a well-maintained shop maximises your chances of being found online. After all, the best online shop in the world is no use if your customers can’t find it.
3. Be aware of security and legal issues
Everyone’s talking about IT security in these digital times. It goes without saying that you need to protect particularly sensitive data such as customer and bank details and stop them getting into the wrong hands. Make sure your customers are able to make secure payments. The particularly secure, encrypted communication protocol https:// (hypertext transfer protocol secure) is now considered standard and many customers expect nothing less. If you do offer lower security, you need to be aware that this may deter some customers. There are some regulations that apply specifically to online trade, including stipulations on closing contracts and storing personal details. Make sure you are fully aware of these to avoid unpleasant surprises down the line.
4. Continually improve your site
Competition in e-commerce is high and competitors are only a few clicks away. In contrast to traditional retail, there is no personal interaction between buyer and seller. This means that even slight mistakes can cause customers to leave for the competition. There is therefore no excuse not to continually improve your website.
Optimising page load times and taking other search engine optimisation measures will result in a better Google ranking. If you also ensure that your customers enjoy an intuitive user experience on your site, customers will not only find your shop, but will also stay there.
5. Assess your technical specifications
When starting out in e-commerce, the first things to look for are a suitable hosting provider and a solid technical foundation. The technical components of an online shop include the shop system itself and interfaces for connecting other systems such as app access and third-party shipping and payment systems. You may also wish to integrate further systems such as web analytics, a product management system or a customer relationship management system. An early look at system compatibility can save you a headache down the line.
One important aspect to consider is where your server is located. The further away the server is from your customers, the longer a page takes to load. Depending on where you plan to sell your products, you may consider national, continental or even global server hosting.
How should your customers be able to contact you? The options range from simple e-mail contact to contact forms and customer forums. These all have very different demands on your workload, especially if you add further options such as through social media. Digital natives have grown to expect short response times. On social media, for example, users expect a response within an hour.
As you can see, there is a lot to consider. At the same time, e-commerce also offers exciting possibilities to inspire your customers that do not exist in bricks-and-mortar retail. Consider for example, virtual gait analysis in the sports sector, or choosing new spectacles with augmented reality.
6. Be honest about delivery times and charges
As we’ve already discussed, e-commerce lacks the personal interaction of traditional retail. This makes it all the more important not to scare off your customers with hidden costs or long delivery times. Be open in your dealings with customers.
Many people underestimate the complex logistics in shipping a product. In drop shipping, for example, online retailers do not hold the items they sell. Instead, they are shipped by the wholesaler or manufacturer, with the online retailer merely acting as an intermediary. This makes good, quick communication between the online retailer and the shipping agent essential to give the customer clear, reliable information on the delivery time and costs. However you get the goods to the customers, be honest in your ability to deliver and fair in your shipping charges, and let your customers select the best delivery slot for their needs.
7. Do not underestimate the costs of e-commerce
Although e-commerce is less expensive to offer than bricks-and-mortar retail, it is not free. Even before you start e-selling, there will be costs for setting up the online shop and payment system as well as for an integration platform to integrate existing and new systems. There may also be licensing fees. Once up and running, you will have ongoing costs for regular maintenance, generating content and logistics. Calculate these in advance and keep a good eye on them to ensure your online business is running smoothly.
In this age of digitalisation and industry 4.0, even small businesses are expected to have an e-commerce arm. An online shop is open around the clock and around the globe, giving you access to a wider customer base and new markets. Once you have chosen the systems you need and integrated them through a powerful integration platform such as the SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS), nothing can stand in the way of your e-commerce success! In the fourth and final article in this blog series, we will look at what to consider when integrating various systems with your online shop.
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Written by: Rolf WesselRolf Wessel has been product manager at SEEBURGER AG for software applications and services for electronic business data exchange since 2010. His focus is on solutions for SAP, electronic invoicing (e-invoicing) and innovations for the digitalization of business and technical business processes. The Forum elektronische Rechnung Deutschland (FeRD) appointed Rolf Wessel as an expert. As project manager at the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT), he develops international trade facilitation and establishes standards for electronic business processes. Furthermore, he represents the German delegation of the FeRD at the Franco-German workshop with the Forum National de la Facture Electronique (FNFE) and thus supports the government initiative for international standardization and harmonization of e-invoicing processes. He is a member of the working committee "Electronic Business" at the German Institute for Standardization. (DIN) and Association for Electronic Invoicing (VeR). Rolf Wessel graduated in business informatics (FH) with a focus on financial management and production planning. After working in the electrical, financial, consumer goods, software and mineral oil industries, he had been a systems analyst and IT project manager in the retail and logistics sector from 2003 to 2010.