Courtesy navigation

Ecommerce

E-commerce: shopping trolley keyEcommerce is an effective way for you to attract new customers and cut your costs. If you're a retailer, you can sell through an online shop without the costs of a high street shop and in-store sales staff. A single ecommerce website can serve your entire target market, and even if your customers sometimes need face-to-face meetings, it enables them to make repeat purchases online.

Planning your ecommerce website

You might find an existing ecommerce platform you can use to sell online — many small businesses sell through eBay or Amazon, for example. There might even be a specialist auction site or online marketplaces for your industry too.

Selling through others can be straightforward and inexpensive, but it won't give you the same flexibility as selling through your own website. Using ecommerce software — such as shopping cart software — to build an online store within your website can transform the way you sell.

Before you build your online store, however, you will need to know:

  • How distance-selling law will affect your operation (you may have to adapt your terms of trade, for example).
  • What kind of payments you are going to accept and make arrangements for (for example, to accept credit cards online).
  • That your ecommerce site has effective security protecting the site itself, payments and customer details.
  • How your online shop will link with your product database and accounting systems.
  • How you will fulfil orders (for example, by using a delivery company).
  • How you will keep product information up to date, deal with customer enquiries, and so on.

Ecommerce web design

Good design is crucial to making your online business a success: a well-designed online store is good to look at and easy to buy from. Poor design will damage your brand and discourage potential customers.

Easy navigation through your ecommerce site is essential, so customers can quickly find the product they want. They need clear information about the product and it should be easy to order and pay for.

At the same time, the design and content of your site should help you stand out from the competition. Good content can lift you in search engine rankings and make it easier for potential customers to find your online shop. Helpful product information and ease of contact - by phone as well as email - will set good standards of customer service, while regular updates can encourage repeat visits.

Over time, website analytics and customer feedback can help you further improve your website and build your internet business.

More on this topic:

Find more articles, videos and tools in the Resources box.

You can also find out about the technical requirements of selling online from the IT Donut and information on your legal responsibilities when selling online from the Law Donut.