Does my business need an online store? eCommerce demystified

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By Jake Evans, Website Development 

The Coronavirus has turned the world into a virtual-first economy overnight, it seems. The businesses that are winning are the ones that are well represented online and have easy-to-use consumer features and avenues to provide products and services to customers remotely. That said – those businesses with eCommerce capabilities (“online stores”) are leading the pack. 

We have built eCommerce solutions for many of our customers, so we wanted to share with you how you can serve your customers through your website. That might mean selling physical products, scheduling services online, or accepting payments for whatever kinds of offerings you provide. 

eCommerce – a short breakdown

There are two eCommerce setups that we’ve deemed are the best solutions for our clients: Shopify and WooCommerce. Shopify is used when you need an all-in-one solution; in other words, we can build a customer’s entire store through Shopify. Conversely, WooCommerce is an eCommerce solution that integrates with WordPress websites, and it’s flexible and robust enough to sell nearly any kind of product or service you can imagine. 

Additionally, we find that most eCommerce clients are surprised at how easy it is to manage their eCommerce stores themselves, to execute tasks such as adding new products and modifying existing ones – that’s why we’ve settled on Shopify and WooCommerce as our go-to eCommerce solutions. Timelines for the creation of eCommerce solutions are pretty reasonable as well, with the integration of WooCommerce into an existing WordPress website at around a week, and with the creation of a brand-new Shopify or WordPress with WooCommerce website at around 45 business days, just to give you an example of our own timelines for implementation.

Whoever you use to set you up with an online store, make sure that your vendor trains you thoroughly and provides you with your recorded training session so that you can refer to it in the future.

Integrating your online store with In-Store POS Systems

Many businesses investigating eCommerce options for the first time want to know if their Point-Of-Sale system can integrate with their website’s eCommerce piece. Many times, the answer is yes, although this depends on several factors (such as which POS system you are using). 

The good news is, there are many third-party vendors out there that make interfacing with your POS system a breeze.

Non-Traditional eCommerce transaction types

Even if you think an eCommerce solution won’t fit your business model, you might need to think again.

Let’s say your business revolves around scheduling in-home visits. We can build an automated scheduling system on your website that allows customers to book a time slot and pay for their service all at once. This is easier for the customer, and it automates some administrative tasks for you. 

Maybe you accept members into your organization, and you expect dues to be paid by check. Not only can we set up Online Membership payments, but we can configure those to recur automatically, offer trial periods, and provide access to “Member-Only” sections of your website. 

Before you decide that an online store won’t provide your business with any benefit, talk to an expert about what products and services you offer. Their answers and suggestions might surprise you.

Advanced online stores: how to improve the eCommerce experience

So you’ve had an online store for some time, and now you’re looking to take things to the next level? Rebuilding your website with your eCommerce solution at the center is a natural next step.

Bolting on eCommerce to an existing website is a fine solution for many businesses. That said, nothing beats a new website built around your products and services. A new site will also lend consistency and a cohesive narrative to the website visitor’s experience, thus increasing the likelihood of gaining a repeat customer.

Other strong benefits of recreating your website are:

  1. You have the ability to work your online store into your site’s visual design from the beginning, instead of just working it in ad hoc.
  2. You can place Call-To-Actions where they make the most sense, linking visitors to your store and particular products.
  3. You can build in compatibility with your digital marketing campaigns, enabling you to measure traffic coming to your new online store from your digital advertising campaigns.
  4. You are able to generate a new sitemap and produce website content that is specially designed to guide your website visitors to your products.
  5. Other good behind-the-scenes “stuff” that makes search engines happy (i.e. Code and metadata informing Google and other online platforms about your offerings.)

Make a great impression with your business’ eCommerce solution

As more and more people spend time online, the importance of your website shifts from a simple business requirement to potentially the first visual interaction your customers have with your brand. 

Make sure you’re representing your business in the best light possible with eCommerce solutions that make it easy – and desirable – for customers to do business with you.