Guidelines to running your own e-commerce website

Realm Digital 24 October 2017

Whether you are thinking of starting an e-commerce website or just looking for ways to improve your existing one, let’s face it, good advice is always appreciated. Making a success of an online business can become quite the tightrope act if you don’t lay the right foundation for your business and leave room for it to grow. In this article, we have compiled a set of guidelines for setting up and maintaining an e-commerce website.

Have you established a niche?

When Jeff Bezos started Amazon and shipped the first book from his garage, his focus was, first and foremost, to sell books. Even though Amazon is now a major e-commerce store that literally “sells everything from A to Z”, when he started out, he stuck to one niche. Books.

Although there may have been room for a website that sells anything you can think of in 1994, the reality is that 20 odd years later, the market has become so saturated with e-commerce trade that a successful business needs to be very clear on what its niche in the market is in order for it to stand out.

What are your goals?

Once your niche has been defined, take some time and set a few goals in running your e-commerce site.

Remember that goals should be evaluated as your website grows and, as such, you should start small. In the first few months, try to set realistic, achievable goals that involve traffic and conversions, rather than earnings. Then, as soon as you’ve reached your initial goals, revisit and adjust them on a regular basis. Think carefully about what it is you want to achieve, as well as what kind of impact you want to make, before starting your e-commerce store.

Does your current platform fulfil in your immediate requirements or will future goals require a new system?

Deciding on which platform your e-commerce website will run on or whether your current platform is sufficient for your growing business is a consideration that needs to be revisited as often as the goals you set for your expanding business.

Which e-commerce platform is right for you?
The e-commerce platform best suited for your business is determined by a number of things. How many products do you plan to sell? How much customizing do you want to do to your site? Which functions and features do you want your store to possess? These questions will help you determine whether you should be opting for a self-hosted or hosted e-commerce store.

It is also worth knowing that there are a huge amount of options available – whether hosted or self-hosted – as well as multiple marketplace websites to choose from when it comes to selecting a platform for your e-commerce site. If you are just starting out, take the time to research which would be the best fit for your website.

Is it possible to change platforms at a later stage?
Changing platforms can be challenging, time-consuming, and expensive – and it may result in undesirable downtime or a major overhaul of your store’s appearance.

E-commerce platforms all rely on different code and database structures. What works perfectly on one platform may not work at all on another. Still, the fact remains, however inconvenient and how much it takes getting used to, that it is possible to change platforms later on if your e-commerce website outgrows its current platform.

Do you understand who your customers are and how to keep their attention?

When using any of today’s popular platforms, running an e-commerce store means having unlimited access to a vast amount of data. Your company’s marketing, merchandising and customer insights allow various opportunities for you to boost your revenue, build your customer base and grow your business. But are you actually reading the right data and do you use it to your benefit?

Really understanding who your customers are is about much more than just their identity. It refers to their likes and dislikes, their needs and the contextual knowledge of time and place. Customers prefer to be known as individuals with distinct preferences, not just a member of a demographic, target market or segment.

Your company’s ability to embrace technological transformation will determine whether you are able to deal with increased demands from customers and whether you will handle challenges and disruptions experienced in the digital marketplace. So much more than just collecting data, actually knowing your customer has become less about the data you are able to collect and more about your ability to model their online behaviour.

Moving away from a product-focused approach and making the customer experience the focus of your strategy means being able to provide products and services that consistently meet customer needs. This is a very important differentiator in a market that is saturated with stiff competition. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that knowing your customer starts with analytics.

Improving the customer experience sounds simple enough, but it is reliant on much more than just data. In fact, you can have a mountain of data at your disposal, but if you don’t have the right data from across the right channels, you may still not be able to make all the puzzle pieces fit together in your quest to provide an enhanced customer experience. Once you have the right data, the next step is finding a way to identify useful information from that data. These insights will then provide your business with everything it needs to provide exactly what your customers are looking for and create customer experience like no other site.

The use of analytics, to conclude, is therefore not just about measuring and collecting data or selecting metrics anymore. These days, it has become more about how you will use this information to figure out what your customers are experiencing. Furthermore, if you can combine your customer insight with all your other relevant data, you can make small, timeous tweaks to your website and increase the quality and consistency of the customer experience permanently.

For more information on analytics and how to harness your data to improve your understanding of customers and their experience of your site, click here, here or give us a call.

Realm Digital. Every step of the way.

No matter where you are in the process of starting up or running your own e-commerce website, we are here for you. With a profound understanding of all things digital, we would love to discuss ways to strengthen your business and help you reach your website’s full potential in the e-commerce environment. Let’s get in touch.