Planning an eCommerce website for your business can feel overwhelming and confusing. After all, there’s just so much to consider, from what you want it to look like, to deciding on things like payment gateways and what to charge customers for shipping.
Recently, I created an eCommerce planning guide for one of my clients, and realised that many of the points would make an informative and interesting blog post for anyone who is currently thinking of taking their products online.
What to consider when planning an eCommerce website for your business:
1. Your Brand Positioning
In a nutshell, brand positioning is about being able to clearly communicate what makes your business unique.
This is achieved through:
- Visual style – your logo, your brand colour palette, your brand fonts, the sorts of images you use.
- Brand words – the words your brand uses and its tone of voice.
- Defining the exact qualities and/or features that make your brand distinctive, by asking the question: What makes our brand unique?
Brand positioning can be as complicated or as simple as you want it to be. Big retailers have multiple-page brand style guidelines that define their brand. Small businesses don’t need to go into nearly as much detail; but it’s still important to get clear on what makes your brand distinctive. This will help you stand out amidst all the other online retailers out there.
I received this wonderful nugget of wisdom today in my inbox, from South Africa’s eCommerce guru, Warrick Kernes:
“Most people think that the eCommerce market in South Africa is already too competitive for them to even stand a chance.
As a result, they don’t even try to explore this opportunity…
But what if there’s a way for you to WIN and piggyback on the bigger players to fast-track your success?
Well, here’s the thing, Big Players are crucial when it comes to making it easy for customers to make their first online order… And maybe even their second one.
But once they experience the ease and convenience of shopping online, then they’re far more likely to buy from an up-and-coming online store – just like YOURS!
And do you want to know the secret to successfully competing and getting continued, sustainable sales for your online store?
Well here it is: BUILD a DEEP product expertise!
This is golden as it will cause your customers to actively seek you out because when it comes to their purchases, they would rather deal with someone who ACTUALLY knows what they are talking about.
This is your edge on the Big Players because there’s no way that they’re able to compete against your personalized product advice.
So don’t feel put down by the big players, rather:
1. Change your perspective,
2. Develop a specialised product expertise,
3. Serve your customers to the best of your ability and,
4. Personalize your customer’s experience.
This is what will help you WIN in the market!”
2. Who will be using your website?
Planning a successful website begins with thinking about the various types of people who will be using your website. Your job is to make sure their experience of your website is as simple, easy, and intuitive as possible.
Why is this so important? Because intuitive, easy-to-use websites convert more visitors into customers, which means more sales for your business.
3. Payment gateways and payment options
Payment gateways allow you to offer safe, secure and encrypted online payments on your eCommerce website. Using a payment gateway means customers’ sensitive data, such as credit card information, is handled by the payment gateway, and not stored anywhere on your website.
I recommend using the following payment gateways on your website :
PayFast is a trusted South African payment gateway. They allow your customers to pay instantly online by credit/debit card; Instant EFT; Zapper and SnapScan.
Take a look at their fee structure here – https://www.payfast.co.za/fees
Fees can be negotiated, especially as your eCommerce business grows.
Yoco offers a simple + fast online checkout that allows customers to pay online using their credit/debit cards.
Take a look at their fee structure here (online transaction rates applies to eCommerce websites) – https://www.yoco.co.za/za/transaction-fees/
Fees can be negotiated, especially as your eCommerce business grows.
A new and innovative payment gateway that allows customers to pay for their purchase over 3 monthly installments at 0% interest. PayJustNow is the credit provider, and thus takes full responsibility for the payments. Merchants are paid upfront as soon as the order is placed – you do not need to wait the 3 months to receive payment.
Many of my clients have seen great success with this form of payment, especially in our current economic climate.
Watch this video to see how it works: https://www.youtube.com/embed/y8dZ–0DEv4
I believe that % transaction fees are 5%.
Should you use multiple payment gateways on your store?
Yes! Most big online retailers use multiple payment gateways and offer multiple payment options. Plus, if one payment gateway is experiencing technical issues (which unfortunately happens sometimes), customers can checkout using a different payment gateway.
Should you offer a manual EFT option on your eCommerce website?
Many big and small South African retailers still offer manual EFT as a payment option on their eCommerce stores.
When customers choose this option, they do not pay immediately online, but instead checkout and receive instructions to make an EFT payment into the retailer’s bank account.
Because there are more steps involved for the customer, there is more chance of them deciding to abandon the purchase altogether as making an EFT payment is too much effort.
However, many South African shoppers (especially the older generations), still prefer to pay by EFT in this way because they don’t yet trust online payments. So you could be losing out on sales if you do not offer this as a payment option.
A further benefit is that manual EFT payments incur 0% transaction fees – the full payment goes to you, the retailer.
4. Choosing a courier service
Choosing a suitable courier company to work with is important. After all, customer satisfaction is closely linked to how quickly and efficiently their parcel arrives. Offering a fast and efficient delivery service is a vital way to build customer loyalty and get repeat business from those customers.
Here are some of the leading courier services in South Africa:
Fastway – https://www.fastway.co.za/
The Courier Guy – https://www.thecourierguy.co.za/
Dawnwing – http://www.dawnwing.co.za/
Courier It – https://www.courierit.co.za/
Collivery – https://collivery.net/
Pargo (not a traditional courier service, but a great option for customers who want to collect their orders) – https://pargo.co.za/
All of these companies offer different fee and rate structures. According to the eCommerce communities I follow, Fastway and Collivery currently offer the cheapest rates.
uAfrica – An innovative fulfillment service for South African online retailers.
UAfrica is a fulfillment service for businesses that want to automate their shipping processes.
How it works:
1. You sign up to uAfrica (https://www.uafrica.com/plans-and-subscriptions)
2. You (or your web developer) connect your website to uAfrica.
3. When a customer places an order, you (the retailer) sign in to uAfrica and assign the order to one of uAfrica’s courier partners (https://www.uafrica.com/all-about-the-couriers). Orders and all customer information are automatically pulled through to uAfrica from your eCommerce website.
4. The courier collects the parcel and customer is automatically sent shipping updates with a tracking number (keeping the customer updated is an important way to provide a good customer experience).
5. Shipping rate strategy
One of the biggest reasons potential shoppers abandon their shopping carts before checking out is because of unexpected and above average shipping costs.
My advice is to keep shipping rates as simple and competitive as possible.
- Offer a standard flat rate for shipping across South Africa.
- Offer a free delivery rate on orders above a certain amount (this helps to bump up order values).
- For high value, luxury products, consider offering free delivery on all orders.
If necessary, calculate a % of delivery costs into your product pricing in order to keep flat rates as low as possible.
6. The importance of professional photography
Put bluntly, if you use DIY, unprofessional, low quality images on your website, you will hardly get any sales and all the time and investment you put into building an eCommerce website will be wasted.
Investing in professional brand, lifestyle and product photography for your business is a necessity, not a luxury. Images sell your products. If your product comes across as low quality because of a crap photo, people won’t buy it.
Factor in the cost of professional photography when planning out your eCommerce website.
7. Important eCommerce conversion-optimisations your website should have
Here’s a list of the various eCommerce conversion-optimisation features I like to build in to all projects:
- Email marketing sales funnel: The best way to grow your mailing list. Ideally, you should incentivise people to sign up. This could be in the form of a % discount off their first online order (delivered via coupon code) or a free gift with their first purchase. Ideally, you then want to create a sequence of 3 automated welcome emails that get sent when they sign up. The first will contain their coupon code; the second will further introduce people to the brand; the third will be a friendly reminder email to claim their discount.
- Abandoned cart reminder emails: These get automatically sent to a customer who abandons the checkout process before completing the purchase. They can include a coupon code if you wish to offer a discount to incentivise them to return and complete their purchase.
- Automated emails asking customers to review their purchase: It’s very important to start building customer reviews as soon as the eCommerce website goes live. Reviews get shown across your website and on single product listings. They are an important way to assess your customers’ buying experience and build trust and authority with potential customers.
- Facebook and Instagram Shop – Make sure to onnect your website to Facebook and Instagram shop so that products can easily be tagged in posts, with tagged posts linking to the product and easy checkout on your website.
- Intuitive eCommerce website structuring and navigation – When planning out a website it is important to think about all the different types of users who will be visiting the website and what they will be looking for. Thinking like this enables you to build an eCommerce website that is intuitive, easy and enjoyable to navigate.
8. Your Marketing Plan
Build it and they will come doesn’t apply to eCommerce websites. When planning for your eCommerce website it’s important to think about how you will market it.
Some entrepreneurs, especially those starting out, don’t have the budget to work with an external marketing agency, so begin by doing it all themselves. If this sounds like you, then I suggest that you invest in some digital marketing training, particularly Google Shopping ads and Facebook + Instagram ads.
Advertising does help you grow faster, but it’s not essential. I have start-up clients doing 50k months a year or so after launching who built up their businesses over a year through consistent social media marketing + email marketing + brand collaborations, without spending much on paid advertising. Now they at the point of scaling and can invest in paid advertising.
READY SET GOT – The eCommerce package for start-ups and small businesses.
I’ve helped many small businesses plan and build eCommerce websites. It has taught me so much about the challenges each faces and what they really need in an eCommerce website design and development service.
The result is READY SET GO – A comprehensive store-building service for small businesses. Absolutely everything a product-based business needs to start selling online:
- Guidance with regards to planning the eCommerce website.
- Design and development of a beautiful, modern, conversion-focused eCommerce website.
- Access to the eCommerce Website Training Centre filled with guides and video training showing store owners and managers how to manage all parts of their eCommerce website.