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Building A Successful e-Commerce Website

With an abundance of available tools in the market, creating and setting up your own e-commerce website is easy. It will probably take you less than an hour to have your e-commerce store set up and ready to go. However, the hard part is guaranteeing its success. Your e-commerce website has to be fully functional, interactive, and most importantly, user-friendly. Here are 4 ways you can build a successful e-commerce website. 

Create Your Brand Story 

Your brand story is the first thing you should create when starting your e-commerce business. Unlike many aspects of the job, it isn’t something that can be automated. It is the personal and human element that your customers will see frequently. You can use the following questions as a guideline:

  1. What does the company do?
  2. What does it want to achieve?
  3. How does it go about doing its job?
  4. What are the current struggles?
  5. How does it respond to competition/ status quo?
  6. What are the highlights?

Use the answers to create a compelling brand story that not only acts as a copy but also as a reminder of who you are. Everything from your products, curation, design, collaboration and other partnerships should work with your brand story in mind. 

Select Your Platform

The next step is creating your e-commerce platform. Choosing the best platform is the key to success. Your online platform plays an integral role in setting your business operations and creating an attractive brand image. If your e-commerce business highlights a variety of items at affordable prices, you can have better luck at marketplaces with that existing image instead of creating yours from scratch. However, if you are going for a niche, high-end, or sustainable approach–you may want to distance yourself from the usual online platforms.  

Well-Established Marketplaces

While this is not exactly creating an e-commerce website, it is something you have to consider. Top marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and even Wish already have an established culture. Users know what they are after when they visit these websites.

 So what are the reputations of these platforms? Amazon has a little bit of everything–diversity is the expectation with next-day shipping and low prices. Wish is similar to Amazon, but their main appeal is the low rates and free / only pay for shipping deals.

If Amazon and Wish inspire low cost, eBay and Etsy are for niche markets. While eBay locked in the e-commerce market early on, and well before Amazon, it is known for bidding wars and item resale. They are the top choice for individuals to sell vintage items and memorabilia. Etsy, on the other hand, is known for their selection of indie products, hand-crafted goods, and small online businesses. Planner Kate, Salty Stitches, ModParty, and Yakutum are some examples of successful Etsy businesses.  

Select the right marketplace to reach your target demographic. 

Build website

Starting Your Website From Scratch

If your e-commerce business focuses on product curation, custom services, or values not reflected elsewhere, you can create your own online business website from scratch. 

You can use Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, or WordPress to create your website. All of these website platforms have business packages and templates for your convenience. However, you can always opt to get a regular website and pay for extra plug-ins that support online sales. You can also hire a programmer to help you add a couple of customisations. 

An example of a successful e-commerce website is Warby Parker, a US company that sells a variety of eyewear and accessories. You probably heard about them through their GQ interview or opinion pieces of e-commerce done right, but here is a refresher:

They launched their own website and got a 20,000 customer waiting list–all without the existing users of market places like Amazon and Etsy. They created a website that highlighted service, a try-on feature with free shipping for returns, and advocacy, where they donate a pair for each one you buy. 

User-Friendly Design And Features 

When you create your e-commerce website, keep the design tasteful and user-friendly. Good design is where form meets function. So invest in having an in-house designer. Their work can do wonders for the overall presentation of your products, your service and your brand. 

You can see this in action with Glossier’s website and social media platforms. As a New York-based beauty company that started as an online-only store. It now has 3 physical retail stores with random store pop-ups in the US. While there isn’t a store on every block, it is a sought after brand with a massive cult following waiting for the next new product. Glossier’s success boils down to its brand story and website design. 

Besides a beautiful website, remember that Google considers the user experience. Your website should be able to load fast and adapt to different devices. When you have all 3 bases covered, you have the front end taken care of, not it is time to consider what goes on behind the scenes. 

E-commerce store on tablet

Carefully Plan Your Operations

Successful e-commerce websites are all about the shopping experience. Convenience, product selection, prices, customer service–all of these things work to secure your clientele. Once the operations behind the scenes fail, you lose the trust and rapport with your market. 

You can improve your operations by minimising any redundancies you may have in your system to keep things efficient, and by having a quality control team on hand, you can ensure that all your products and services are consistent.

Supplier

Aside from the front-end, the back-end of things must also be in order. A supplier management software by GatekeeperHQ can help you keep track of each order. You can easily spot non-compliant suppliers, overdue stock, or poor product quality. As your e-commerce business grows, the burden is on you to be able to give consistent quality products and to be able to deliver on time. If your supplies are late, then your delivery will be delayed too. Since the e-commerce business also factors in local and global distribution, it can seriously ruin your timeline. 

Vendor

These management systems are not solely for suppliers. They are usually combined with other services, like vendor management. If you are also serving business to business, you can better assess your vendor’s return on investment (ROI). When contract renewal season comes around, you can decide whether their performance can justify a renewal or extension.

Besides delays, a lousy supplier might slip in subpar products. For young, independent e-commerce websites, this does not work in your favour. Consider Jaclyn Hill, an American beauty influencer who attempted to make her own makeup line. Her lipsticks had so many issues that she had to recall products and refund customers. It is expensive to recover from that kind of issue, and it could have been avoided when it was done right the first time around. 

Your suppliers and your vendors are an integral part of your business model. Make sure you stay on top of them and have contingency plans in place, especially during the first few months. 

Logistics

E-commerce does not have the same limitations as most businesses. If you want to reach a global market, you can! But then it boils down to logistics. You have to figure out which courier service you will use. 

You can use international couriers like FedEx or DHL, they tend to be expensive, but they offer more security. You can also opt to use your postal service. Most e-commerce websites use your local postal service or courier services like GrabExpress. Then they switch to FedEx for international shipping. 

Another option is to make the customer decide, but in that case, it isn’t sustainable. The moment you exceed a hundred orders per day, you can’t keep going back and forth with shipping companies and prices. It is best to be upfront about what company you prefer and to stick with it. While you miss out on a couple of customers, it presents a more professional image. 

Decide on your area of service and test out different shipping services before you settle on the right one. Without a physical store, your logistics provider has to do most of the leg work. If you don’t find a decent one, you may have to regularly pay out of pocket to replace faulty products from poor handling.

Accounting and tax

Accounting 

Last, but not the least, look into your finances. One of the reasons why e-commerce is so popular is because of the minimal overhead. You don’t have to pay for a commercial space, electricity, and physical advertising. However, just because the cost is minimal, doesn’t mean you can neglect the financial aspect. 

Any internet-based company or business takes time. You need to project years into the future and assume for the most part, that you won’t be making any. E-commerce is a gamble–you should be equipped with professional advice. If you do not have a strong background in bookkeeping, you can look into accounting software or applications. Or you should get an accountant on hand. 

Building a successful e-commerce website takes a lot of work. You have to hit all the right points and consistently do so. While the internet has many competing businesses, it is nowhere near saturated. There is still so much you can accomplish through the internet and who knows, maybe you can be the next Big Thing.  

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Lynne Huysamen

Mommy to a pigeon pair, blogger and online marketer. Lover of chocolate, good books and buckets of coffee.

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