E-commerce continues to reach new heights. Customers in the U.S. spent more than $450 billion on retail purchases online in 2017. The increased convenience and lower overhead costs make e-commerce a winning proposition for U.S. shoppers and businesses alike.
While the benefits are undeniable, e-commerce websites have a lot more going on than meets the eye. In this post, we’ll discuss the top considerations when adding e-commerce capabilities to an existing website.
The Advantages of an E-Commerce Website
- Additional sales channel: Adding e-commerce to your website makes your business more flexible. You can accept alternate methods of payment such as PayPal and run marketing campaigns on social media and other online platforms.
- Open 24/7: E-commerce websites aren’t limited by the constraints of brick-and-mortar stores, like business hours and staff availability. Purchasing through a website reduces the friction on the part of the buyer, making it easier for customers to convert.
- More purchasing data: Many businesses choose to make their entire catalog available only through their website. They can then use these sales figures to determine which items are most in demand and offer them in stores.
- Cheaper: All brick-and-mortar stores have to deal with business expenses like rent, employee salaries, and property taxes. On the other hand, website development and hosting are the only costs to get your own e-commerce website off the ground.
Planning a custom software project? Our planning checklist takes you through the key steps to set your project up for success.
How to Enable Your Website to Support E-Commerce
When adding e-commerce functionality to your site, you should know that you have multiple options at your disposal. Take stock of your business situation, needs, and objectives to decide which one is right for you.
The WooCommerce plugin for WordPress now powers 30 percent of all online stores. WooCommerce is free to install and comes with built-in themes and an analytics platform, making it easy to use for beginners.
If your business requirements are very basic, then WooCommerce might be enough for you. However, know that you’ll have to pay extra for features such as selling memberships or charging subscription fees. WooCommerce is also not very customizable and can’t easily handle more complex business logic.
Shopify is a packaged e-commerce platform that runs on 10 percent of all e-commerce websites. The software is optimized for use on mobile devices and comes with many built-in features, including different themes and analytics.
Like WooCommerce, Shopify is best for businesses without too many custom requirements. Shopify’s three-tiered pricing model also means that you can end up paying a great deal just to get one or two features that you really need.
Some companies choose to sell their products through a third-party website such as Amazon, Etsy, or eBay. They provide a link from their business website to the off-site marketplace where customers can make the purchase.
This option allows you to build on top of an existing foundation, but it also limits you in terms of customization. You’ll need to abide by the third party’s terms and conditions, and your store will be vulnerable to any downtime or data breaches that they suffer.
Building a custom e-commerce website is the most time-intensive of these options, but it also has the potential for the highest return on investment. No matter what your business model is, you can build an e-commerce website to support it.
Custom websites can grow with your business and include exactly the features, flow, and logic that you need. Unlike the other three options above, building a custom e-commerce website typically involves a larger upfront capital investment in exchange for lower recurring costs.
Factors to Consider When Building an E-Commerce Website
- How will the cart and the checkout process be configured?
- How will you store customers’ card information (and how will you protect it)?
- Will shoppers see recommendations for additional related items?
- Will you send an email reminder if items in the cart remain unpurchased for a specific period of time?
- How will you notify shoppers when an item is out of stock, and what options will they have?
Coupon Codes and Promotions
Coupon codes and promotions are excellent marketing tools, but you need to carefully map out the logic behind them before adding them to your e-commerce website. For example, some discounts may only apply if you buy a certain number of items, or free shipping may only kick in once you spend a certain amount of money.
When adding coupons to the site, you need to consider questions such as when the discount will be valid, what happens when it expires, and whether discounts can be stacked on top of each other. You may also need to deal with coupon codes where you give a commission to a particular salesperson or influencer responsible for bringing the customer to your business.
Depending on the products you sell, shipping can require a good deal of custom business logic. Perishable items might need to be kept warm or cold, especially at different times of the year. This requires special care, and it might mean that you need to ship these products overnight.