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Due to the events of the last few years as well as a natural progression, more and more stores are operating as online-only and forgoing the brick-mortar selling model.
The benefits are easy to see; lower overheads, less human resource required, and higher convenience for the customer. One thing that many don’t realise as they are making the switch is that without proper execution, these benefits are not realised and can instead cause a significant downturn in efficiency and sales. Here are a few things to be aware of, or consider, when moving to e-commerce business model:
First things first, are your main customer base users of online stores? If your customers aren’t generally the type to buy online as a default, you may be pushing them towards competitors who do have physical stores.
It has been previously held wisdom that older generations don’t use e-commerce, but the stats don’t support this, at least not entirely. While the oldest band of users, aged 55 and over, use e-commerce stores less frequently than their younger counterparts, they are still making purchases. According to Eurostat, in 2022 59% of users aged 55 to 74 make a purchase online.
What about the preferences of your core demographic? This arguably affects willingness to purchase online more than age does. Are you selling a luxury good, or a product that requires in-person inspection and selection such as house paints? If a user could reasonably be expected to want to touch, see, hear, or otherwise experience the physical product before making their decision, an online-only model may be difficult to pull off. That is not to say that online-only is out of the question, it will just require a skilled team to build an e-commerce website to best replicate that experience digitally.
With the improvement of DIY website builders in the last decade, the barrier to entry has become lower and lower. With this low barrier to entry comes the pitfall of homogenous design, a thousand e-commerce websites selling the same product from a site that looks 80% the same as its neighbour. Simply changing your logo and layout is not enough to constitute a website fit for the brand it is representing.
Does your brand portray an image of fun and creativity? Animations, movement, and dynamic imagery should be used to sell this concept. Does your brand instead position itself to be professional and distinguished? In this case, animations and over-the-top imagery would do nothing but detract from that aesthetic. A clean, minimal design with a focus on user experience would be more appropriate in this situation. The level of control required to execute on a brand aesthetic fully is something that generally cannot be achieved in DIY website builders and they are constrained by the fact that they need to service as many different stores as possible. If you want to stand out from the sea of competitors, you need to do something more. This concept was taken to heart by Ninety-Nine Street, who’s creative website that be firmly lodged in every visitor’s brain: https://ninetyninestreet.co.nz/
Store Specific Features
Some products and industries require unique features to convey all the information that a user needs. This could be filtering options specific to those products, forms with unique outputs or entirely unique pages for content that is only applicable to that company. We at Nimbl have developed websites with all the of the above and have received feedback that these features were what tipped customers over the line into making a purchase.
When considering what unique features to add, it is worth considering the following:
- Does my industry have a unique system that users will be expecting to interact with? Such as the flight number system specific to Disc Golf, and seen in Discshop: https://discshop.co.nz/shop/
- Does my company need highly individualised pages to show each product? An example of this is the 6 unique products on Marinaquip: https://marinaquip.com/shop/pile-rings/
- Does my company need to ask a specific set of questions before recommending a product? While not an e-commerce, this is well demonstrated in the Garage door visualiser on Dominator Auckland: https://dominatorauckland.co.nz/
When you get a website developed for your business, an important consideration to make is whether you plan to maintain your data yourself or if your new provider will maintain it for you. Maintaining it yourself costs nothing but eats into your time, having it maintained for you costs money but doesn’t eat into your day. If you are managing it yourself, it is important to make sure that the website is built for purpose and isn’t cumbersome to use when altering your data. A good website developer will build your website in a way that allows flexibility for both options. Its your store and you need to be able to alter it when needed, but they should also be able to do edits to your data too.
When migrating your products into the new website or simply starting an e-commerce website for the first time, there is a lot to consider.
- Are you going to manage stock numbers or simply make all products ‘always available’?
- Will you maintain your products in an external spreadsheet or within the website?
- Are your product images a standardized ratio, background, size or resolution?
- Will you be adding new product categories to your website in the future?
To save yourself time and money, its best to get your products into an excel spreadsheet which can be imported into your new store. This is significantly faster than manually creating multiple products and significantly cheaper than having your website developer ask you a million questions so they can fill out the same information. Generally, a product needs these fields at a minimum:
- Image (in the form of a URL)
- Stock Quantity
- Attributes (such as sizes or colours available)
If you can get your products into this configuration before you start the website development process, you will be saving money that can be spent making improvements elsewhere.
The final section of things to consider is integrations. Shipping providers, mail lists, reselling platforms, payment services, inventory and accounting software are some of the most common ones but the number of integrations available is infinite. Here is a list of integrations that we often recommend our clients use and build into their e-commerce stores in New Zealand:
Mailing lists are a great way to engage with your customers after they have left your site. Users are usually added to mailing lists in two ways, when they make a purchase, or when the voluntarily sign up from a form or popup. This is a proven techniques to keep your products fresh in users mind, but just be careful to not overdo it or else it may give you an adverse effect!
Shipping Providers (NZ):
There are many shipping providers, so be sure to compare them carefully to get the best deal when sending your products domestically and internationally. Many companies will integrate with a shipping consolidation services which allows them to flick between different providers for each order. This is very useful when one shipping provider gives you better rates internationally and other give you good local prices. Our pick of the bunch for New Zealand is StarshipIt but be sure to ask your web developer what your available options are.
- The Market
Many stores will sell their products on their own e-commerce store as well as other well-known platforms such as eBay. Most large platforms provide their own integrations into e-commerce stores but if you are planning on connecting to multiple, consider using a consolidation service such as Omnivore.
It’s important to shop around when it comes to payment merchants as you may get a different price between different providers. You will need to pick one if you want to take payments, so make sure to consider your options before committing to one.
“Buy now, pay later” providers like Afterpay and Laybuy are a good way to pull hesitant buyers over the line, but be aware that this comes with a percentage cost, generally around 4-10%. If you think it won’t impact sales too drastically, you can pass this cost onto the customer as a “buy now, pay later” fee.
There you have it, that’s our list of things to be aware of when moving to an e-commerce website!