E-commerce Startup Guide

How to optimize your online store to complement your brick-and-mortar store

By Colleen Malloy

Think click-and-order and brick-and-mortar can’t live in harmony? While online behemoths like Amazon dominate the e-commerce space, small businesses are learning how to cash in on consumers’ on-the-go online shopping habits.

If you haven’t entered into e-commerce or you’re looking to optimize your online store, read on to learn how you can cash in on the online shopping trend in this month’s article, “E-commerce Startup Guide.”

Deliver a premium user experience

Shopper confidence can be won or lost the moment someone hits your site. If you don’t have a great-looking site that includes all the elements that shoppers have come to expect from a modern e-commerce site, it will be difficult to convince anyone that you have a legitimate business that can be trusted with credit card information!

In addition to the important first impression that your branding and general site aesthetics can make, it is important that you consider overall website navigation and usability. The study of usability has become both an art and a science; and if you work with an industry provider, you’ll reap the benefits of the research that they’ve conducted to create navigation, site structure and other features, including sophisticated search tools that are the most intuitive to the industry’s average users.

If you’re tasked with creating your own user experience, just remember that the goal of usability is to make your website navigation so intuitive that your site visitors don’t have to use any brain power while surfing your site — make it easy for them to find what they need and click “buy.”

How can you accomplish this? Anticipate what your site visitors want and quickly guide them to the correct destination on your site.

Those destination product pages are the most important pages on your site as the final barrier between the customer and the sale. Be sure these pages fully communicate all of a product’s attributes, including size, color, price and all other relevant details provided by the manufacturer. Product photos are a must and adding video can make the experience of virtually interacting with a product more engaging for your potential online customers. Plus, while I risk sounding like a broken record month-after-month, these detail-rich product pages are search engine optimization (SEO) gold!

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of a strong call-to-action. Make sure it is easy for your customers to select the product and add it to their cart for checkout.

Mobile matters

According to Internet Retailer, mobile commerce now accounts for 21 percent of e-commerce sales — an estimated $84-billion industry. If the fact that one out of five shoppers is utilizing a mobile device isn’t enough to persuade you that you need to go mobile, perhaps the fact that Google updated its search algorithms April 21 to increase the ranking of sites that are mobile-friendly will. Google says that the change will have a significant impact on all mobile searches to offer users higher-quality mobile search results.

Is your site mobile-ready? Not sure? Check out Google’s Mobile-Friendly test at http://bit.ly/1EVi9R3. The tool will analyze your URL and report if the page has a mobile-friendly design. If you get a negative result, call your website provider immediately to correct this critical error!

Cart considerations

Once you’ve optimized your shopping experience for desktop and mobile users, be sure that you make it just as easy to checkout, removing any unnecessary steps to improve your conversion rate. Offer a simple, visual experience at all times. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to hunt down a website shopping cart to check out! The cart and its contents, including item thumbnails of the parts or equipment, should be easy to access from any page on your site, so that online buyers can quickly double-check features, quantities and costs before completing their transaction.

Security concerns

With major security breaches recently occurring at some of the leading online retailers, customers are hyper-vigilant when it comes to protecting their credit card data and personal information.

The first step to take is to ensure your online payment system is Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of requirements designed to ensure that all companies that process, store, or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment. Depending on your e-commerce volume, you’ve got a couple of options.

The first option is to work with a payment gateway, which is a service that authorizes and processes credit card payments for e-commerce transactions. It’s the equivalent of a point-of-sale terminal, except that it’s specific to your e-commerce orders.

PayPal Express is also a viable option if you have a PayPal account. This checkout option allows consumers to purchase goods with a credit/debit card or via a PayPal account. Just be aware: You’ll pay per transaction, so if you anticipate high e-commerce order volumes, a payment gateway might be your best bet.

Now that you’ve got your payment processing squared away, be sure that you’re also giving your site visitors the peace of mind that their personal information is safe on your site.

All pages that collect personal information should be secured with a Secured Socket Layer (SSL) certificate that automatically displays the pages in the address bar proceed with https:// (rather than unsecured pages proceeded by http://).

A small lock icon should display in the address bar in browser windows on secured pages. This icon is clickable to view the site’s SSL issuer, type and expiration date.

Prominently display the shield icon and/or logo of your SSL provider on your home page to provide your site shoppers an added visual reassurance of your website security. Need help navigating SSL? Talk to your website provider.

While we could dedicate full volumes to getting the most out of your e-commerce business, this startup guide should get you rolling in the right direction to help you maximize the impact of your online store to complement your traditional brick-and-mortar sales, bringing you online sales all yearlong.

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Colleen Malloy is the director of marketing at ARI Network Services. Prior to joining ARI in November 2013, Malloy served as the editor of Motorcycle and Powersports News. She is dedicated to the mission of helping dealers improve their operations through the implementation of ever-evolving best practices paired with ARI’s suite of an award-winning data-driven software tools and marketing services that help dealers “Sell More Stuff!” — online and in-store. ARI removes the complexity of selling and servicing new and used inventory, parts, garments and accessories for customers in the outdoor power equipment, powersports, marine, RV, automotive tire and wheel, and white goods industries. More than 22,000 equipment dealers, 195 distributors and 140 manufacturers worldwide leverage ARI’s website (www.arinet.com) and eCatalog platforms to “Sell More Stuff!”

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