Complicated, expensive, difficult to administer, too time consuming…. just some of the reasons why people shy away from the idea of taking their business online.

However, it’s the way the world is moving – and considering the statistics from last year that we’ve just seen, it may be worth reconsidering if this is something you’ve thought about before and decided against it.

E-commerce sites have come a long way (which you’ll know if you buy anything online!) and they are easier to build and easier to edit than ever before.

92% of the UK population are internet users. Of those, 77% made an online purchase in 2015. Online sales have been growing at approximately 15% each year for the last three years, representing a phenomenal growth and most importantly of all, over half of online sales last year were made on mobile.

In 2016, online retail hit nearly 20% of retail sales. So, if you are running a small business, can you afford NOT to think about taking your business online? Online sales have doubled since 2010.

We are used to providing e-commerce sites to small and start-up businesses so we thought that it might be helpful to tell you about some must-have things that are important when you are considering what should be involved when you take your business online.

  1. Mobile First Design

With over half of online sales happening on mobile, if your website isn’t responsive then you are likely to lose a lot of web traffic and your chances of making an online sale are low. If you are going to build a website then you need to start with a mobile-first design, whether it’s e-commerce or not.

  1. An easy user experience

Is your website easy to use, with an intuitive menu that allows a user to find what they are looking for within three clicks? If not, then you need to think about how easy it is for someone to find what you’re selling, quickly and easily. People have very limited patience online so make it easy for them!

  1. An easy user journey

The user journey is the path that someone on your website takes, in order to buy something. If you have a site that’s not working for you then is it because your user journey is too long or too complicated? If users get frustrated online, they’ll leave.

  1. A website where you can easily load products yourself without constant support

Many website companies design sites that mean you have to pay them each time you want to update something – that’s not sustainable for you or your business. You need a website that allows you to have control over every aspect so that you can edit, add products and change it as your business needs change. We use WordPress Themes to build our sites meaning that you have full control over every part of the site.

  1. Cost effective payment engines that work

You need a payment engine that is quick, easy to use and easy for your customers to use. It needs to be secure and as inexpensive as possible. We usually recommend PayPal as a payment method (last year about 12% of UK online transactions used PayPal and you don’t need a PayPal account to pay online using it).

It’s quicker, cheaper and easier to set up than other payment gateways but we can work with other payment engines such as Sage Pay or Worldpay depending in your preference. The important thing is that it needs to be quick and easy to use.

  1. Sharing buttons that allow a customer to do your marketing for you

Make sure that your products have sharing buttons on them so that your customers can share what they’ve just bought on social media. It will help spread your message and they’ll do the work for you if they are pleased with their purchase!

  1. Reviews that work well

Get yourself on Google My Business and Facebook but also consider having product reviews on your site so that your customers can comment and review your products. If you’ve got products with good reviews it will encourage other people to buy (how many times have you read the reviews before purchasing?). Work hard on getting great feedback as it will really help your marketing.

  1. A website that makes your admin easier not harder

There are all sorts of really useful things that an e-commerce site can do for you – from automatically calculating shipping rates and generating packing slips for printing, to helping with stock control. Talk to us about how we can make your business better all-round. We can also create websites that integrate with your accounting packages, saving you even more time.

  1. Analytics and reporting that allows you to improve your marketing

When it comes to marketing, understanding your reporting gives you huge insights into who your customers are, how they are finding you and how they are behaving on your site.  Analytics can help you to keep making adjustments that mean that you can keep growing your sales. We can embed Google Analytics on your site and show you how to use it so that you can get the most out of your site. You’ll be able to see how your marketing is working and what’s effective.

  1. Comprehensive Search Engine Optimisation that will consistently get you found online

If anyone offers to ‘get you to the top of Google’ they are talking rubbish. No one can guarantee that, but we can offer you realistic, practical and sensible tips for making the best of your SEO.   We can also equip your site with the software to ensure that your organic SEO continues to improve with time, and your site will constantly climb high in the rankings for the right search terms. We would always advise that investing in organic SEO will give you a better return over time than just buying Google Ad Words, but it does take time for the results to show, so be patient and keep adding relevant, interesting and original content to your site and you should move up the ranking naturally.

We add a special plugin called YOAST into the back of your website.  YOAST is an excellent free SEO tool. We would recommend that any WordPress site has YOAST on it, and we can show you how it works.  This means that you can keep adding exactly the right words and phrases from your industry to your website when you create new products and pages.  This gives you total control and let’s face it, you know the changing offers in your business better than anyone else.

  1. Great support when you need it

If your website goes down, or doesn’t work properly over Black Friday then you are going to be missing out on some serious income. Many web agencies will happily build you a site but may be less keen on helping you out six months down the road. We don’t work like that – we like to think of building you a website as the start of our journey together and that means that if you invest in support with us we can turn around updates, amends and help very fast and in a friendly way too. If you need help with anything to do with your e-commerce strategy or marketing you can always come and talk to us about how we can help, as we don’t just make websites, we also cover all aspects of marketing from strategy to printing and everything in between.

So, if you are thinking about taking the plunge with e-commerce then give us a ring and we can talk through what you want to achieve. It may cost less than you think!