Ecommerce has become a huge market over the past two decades. People love shopping online, whether that’s on a huge marketplace like Amazon or a tiny independent store selling a handful of products, and businesses are taking full advantage of the benefits.

In this guide, produced by our content team within the content marketing agency POLARIS, we take a closer look at ecommerce, including the best platforms and tools, the pros and cons, and examples of ecommerce websites, to give you all the information you need about buying and selling online.


What Is Ecommerce?

Ecommerce simply means selling products or services online rather than through a brick-and-mortar store. Some companies sell products in their physical stores as well as online, while other businesses sell exclusively online.

Ecommerce gives businesses a way to start selling with low costs and without any need to rent a store, and they can sell at scale even with a relatively small operation. All you need is a virtual space like a website or social media page where you display your products and connect with customers.

Customer payments are made directly via your website, and the purchase is typically shipped to the customer’s address. Because customer service cannot be provided in person, it is often provided via chat, phone or email.


Best Ecommerce Platforms

If you’re thinking about setting up your own ecommerce business or expanding into ecommerce, you’ll need to know about the different platforms.

One option is to use an online marketplace like Amazon or eBay. With these marketplaces, you benefit from large volumes of targeted traffic, but you’ll need to pay fees for the privilege and competition can be tough.

Another option is to set up your own ecommerce website, and there are several platforms available that make it easy to do this.

These ecommerce platforms host websites, provide payment processing solutions and allow you to integrate multiple plugins for every purpose. Some of the most popular ecommerce website builders include:

When you choose an ecommerce platform, you should consider the type of ecommerce business you run, the size of your inventory, the features you need, the ease of use and the cost of the platform.

Best Tools for Ecommerce Websites

One of the great things about ecommerce is that there are so many tools to help you run your business successfully.

You’ll find tools for almost anything you need, from marketing to SEO to customer service and more. Here are some of the best ecommerce software solutions:

  • Klaviyo – Email marketing is essential for many ecommerce businesses that send out promotional emails about new products and sales events, and Klaviyo is one of the best email service providers for ecommerce stores.
  • Ahrefs – SEO is important for many ecommerce companies. When people search for products online, you want them to find your products in the results. There are many SEO tools available, but Ahrefs is one of the most comprehensive.
  • Zendesk – You will need to ensure you provide excellent customer service with fast replies to sort out problems and answer questions. Zendesk is one of the best tools for this.
  • ShipStation – This shipping solution makes the whole shipping process seamless. It integrates with the biggest ecommerce platforms, and it’s suitable for ecommerce businesses of any size.
  • SurveyMonkey – You might want to find out what your customers think about your store, your products and more, so use SurveyMonkey to send out quick surveys to get feedback, then use the results to improve your business.

Best Practices for Building an Ecommerce Website

If you’re just starting to build your own ecommerce website, or you are planning to do so in the near future, there are several best practices to keep in mind.

Firstly, choose the right ecommerce platform for your purposes. Look at the main platforms above, try them out and get a feel for them. Which is most suitable for your business? Whichever solution you choose, ensure the website itself has an attractive design but that it is also fast and responsive and has an SSL certificate. You’re likely to generate more organic search engine traffic if you have a fast and responsive website and create a good first impression so visitors don’t bounce as soon as they arrive.

Use high-quality images throughout your site. People cannot pick up the products and hold them as they would in a store, so you need to go out of your way to make it easy for them to picture using the products. Include lifestyle images showing people using the product, product images that make the size of the product clear, and high-quality images that shoppers can zoom into.

Make it easy for shoppers to find the information they need. Create a resource library with lots of answers to common questions, and set up a chatbot. Make sure customers can easily find your telephone number and email address if they need to contact you. Add a search feature so people can easily find exactly what they are looking for before they get frustrated and leave.

Capture email addresses when you can, either by offering a special discount on arrival or when they purchase a product. Then you can continue to reach out to them so they don’t forget about you.

Start gathering reviews as soon as you can. No matter how compelling your product descriptions are, the reviews are going to have a big impact too. Lots of positive reviews will give people more confidence and get them to trust you more.

Create a simple and seamless buying process where customers can choose the exact product variation they want and complete the purchase in as few steps as possible.

Start a blog to encourage more engagement and also to improve your SEO so more people can find your products in the search engines. Build your presence on social networks too.

Use an analytics tool like Google Analytics to follow the customer journey. Work out where customers are coming from and the products they are looking for so you can keep improving the experience.


Examples of Ecommerce

There are countless great examples of ecommerce websites all over the world, and you can use them to get inspiration for your own store. Here are a few of the best ecommerce websites that are doing it right:

Nike has a great-looking website with lots of white space that makes its products stand out clearly. Its minimalist design means there are no distractions, and finding and buying the product you want is effortless.

Beardbrand is a good example of a store selling beard products. Not only are the products presented well, but the site has a lot of useful articles that help engage shoppers and make them stay on the website longer, as well as being a way to improve SEO.

Lush is a well-known cosmetics store, and its website is bright, bold and packed with colour. The attractive product images really stand out, and navigation is clean and simple so you can easily find exactly what you want.

Dick Moby sells glasses and sunglasses, and the website is packed with high-quality product photos that make them look appealing. It’s simple to navigate and find what you want, and the copy on the site is engaging.

Chubbies combines great product photography, humorous copy and simple navigation to provide an excellent customer experience.


Advantages of Ecommerce

There are many advantages for businesses to branching out into ecommerce or selling online exclusively:

  • Reach more customers by selling to people all over the world.
  • Easy to list and sell new products.
  • Cut costs by not having to rent a physical store.
  • Generate traffic to your website via multiple channels, including the search engines and social media.
  • Constantly optimise your website based on data to improve the experience and get more sales.
  • Easily scale your business as you grow.


Disadvantages of Ecommerce

Even though there are many advantages of ecommerce, there are still a few disadvantages to be aware of:

  • Website problems could have a negative impact on sales.
  • Many customers still prefer to shop in real stores rather than online.
  • It can be harder to personalise the experience for customers.
  • There are security issues to consider, including the need to protect your site from data breaches.
  • Ecommerce is very competitive in almost any niche.
  • Customer returns can be a cause of frustration and affect profit margins.


Grow a Successful Ecommerce Business

Ecommerce has never been so popular, and it’s only going to get bigger. As more people start shopping online to get what they want faster and with greater convenience, there is a huge opportunity for businesses to take advantage of this.

Whether you already sell in a brick-and-mortar store and you want to branch out to ecommerce, or you are planning to set up an ecommerce-only business, this guide should give you the information you need to get started.

While there is a lot to consider, it’s never been quicker or easier to set up an ecommerce business. So choose your ecommerce platform, set it up and start selling to the world.


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Expand Your eCommerce SEODecember 11th, 2017