E-commerce can sometimes seem deceptively simple. You get a product, you get a website, you get some advertising up, and then you start counting up how rich you are. Except of course that real life isn’t quite like that.
E-commerce is more like a chain link fence. Each stage is critical, and if any of the links in the chain are below standard the whole thing is likely to collapse. It’s very easy to spend a great deal of time, money and effort focussing on one or two key areas of the e-commerce chain without realising the truth: there are no key areas.
Or more accurately, every single link in the chain is key. Not to making a sale perhaps, but in leading your visitors inexorably towards that point.
A Few Hard Factsâ€¦
Here are a few hard facts to realise before tackling the challenge of creating an e-commerce platform or business presence which is likely to be economically successful:
- Most of your time, effort and money will be spent on elements of the e-commerce process which do not directly result in a sale
- It will often require at least 5 reminders of your business before visitors start to consider your business as a potential supplier
- Special offers, discounts and vouchers can actually result in sales being lost
- As many sales are lost at the checkout as at any other stage in the process
- Traffic doesn’t necessarily equal sales. Neither does a mailing list. Or even customer interest.
The Sales Funnel Or Lead Nurturing Process
There are plenty of right ways of going about getting a successful e-commerce platform up and running, but there are also many mistakes too. Most of these mistakes fall into one main category: failure to understand the importance of lead nurturing. Sometimes also referred to as the sales funnel this is the process which almost all of your customers will go through.
It’s important to realise that customers don’t turn up at your website out of the blue, add a product to their basket and then hand over their credit card details. The process is a lot slower than that, and fraught with difficulties at each stage.
Although the sales funnel or lead nurturing process has been divided into many different stages, the simplest way of thinking about it is as a three stage process:
- Awareness of your brand, product or service
- Evaluation of your product or service compared to alternatives
- Purchase of your product or service
What is also important to realise is that at each stage you need to treat your customers differently. To help you understand why this is important, consider a typical visit to a high street shop.
To begin with it’s obviously important to make sure that potential customers are aware of your brand. How many times have you suddenly noticed a shop in the high street that you’d always walked past and never really stopped to notice before? Or were suddenly told about a shop that’s been nearby for ages but which you knew nothing about? Getting the message out is important, including through social media and adverts such as PPC.
However, it’s important that these adverts and messages are raising awareness of your shop or brand, and not just standing on the street corner shouting at people walking past about how fantastic your product is and how much they obviously want to buy it. That’s a good way to put people off.
It can be extremely irritating and off-putting if, when you step into a shop, one of the sales people vomits up out of the floor in front of you and starts trying to sell you stuff, pushing you, pressurising you and generally invading your space and making you feel less inclined to browse.
It’s important when people visit your e-commerce website that the landing page isn’t stuffed with ‘Buy Now’, ‘Time Limited Offer’ and other messages which make it clear to potential customers that you’re only interested in selling stuff to them, not listening to them, understanding their needs or offering support, help or advice.
Instead, offer them advice, product comparisons and the chance to sign up to newsletters for other helpful information. By all means showcase what you can offer, but only as part of your way of offering advice, support and recommendations. Give your customers the chance to evaluate you and your products or services before even thinking about encouraging a sale.
Finally, once your customer is ready to make a purchase, be ready to act straight away. This is not the time to start distracting them by pointing out your newsletter mailing list, registration benefits or alternative deals. Once your customer has said ‘yes’, then sell the product.
Don’t make the mistake of asking if they have a discount code or voucher just as they’re about to enter their credit card details. This usually results in them assuming that there are ways of getting the product cheaper, and they’ll cancel the sale, leave your site and start Googling discount vouchers and codes elsewhere. For a great example of an e-commerce site click here.
This article was written by James King, general blogger and life enthusiast.