The Secret to Ecommerce Success - A Site People Love
I've been running an Ecommerce business since 1998, and consulted on a number of others in recent years. And over the years I've been fortunate to stumble on a formula to Ecommerce success that I just don't see written about elsewhere - and is drastically different than the "direct marketing" approaches (long sales letters, unique selling proposition, etc) that I see marketed everywhere.
What is this approach? For lack of a better term I call it the "Quality Approach". In all my web ventures I never think about how to sell a customer. Instead I focus on providing the best customer experience that I possibly can - a site that loads quickly, has easy to use navigation, focuses on the customers concerns and questions, and provides more information and in a more usable way than any other site on the web.
And while you may not have heard of this "Quality" approach from the various self proclaimed web marketing experts, the "Quality" approach isn't exactly unheard of - you only need to look at such online powerhouses as Dell, Amazon, Ebay or Google to see what I'm talking about. Now I'm not equating my humble small business website with these giants, but our approach is the same - to provide the best possible customer experience for our users, and one that is in a different league than all our competition. The kind of websites that, when a visitor finds them, they think "Wow, this is a Great Website!"
Creating a "Great Website" is hard work, but it is worth it. I never try to sell my customers, yet I still convert 2 - 3 times the normal rate of visitors than a basic business website. How? By providing a better web experience for my visitors and focusing the site in a very laser way to provide the highest quality experience possible.
Bottom line - the quality of our websites is the driving factor behind our sales. Our customers tell us over and over it is that they just feel more comfortable buying from us based on both our websites and customer service. We don't sell products, we really sell our business. And the single most important way customers get to know us and want to do business with us rather than our competition is the quality of our websites. Simply put, our customers love our sites and would rather buy from us than our competition.
There is a downside to this approach compared to the usual website design - it is time consuming, requires a great deal of thought and is lot of work. Unlike the direct sales approach, the quality approach isn't something you can do in a day (by writing a sales letter), put on the net, and let it run automatically. The quality approach is very time intensive and also takes a lot of time on a daily basis - just like running a "real" business.
It takes a great deal of effort just to sort out how to put a quality site together for any business, and then a great deal of additional time to then put the site together in a usable way, get the site going, listed on the search engines, advertise the site, test the site's advertising and conversion to see what problems the site may have and correct them, and then do the daily customer service for the business.
While the work may diminish a bit after a number of months, after the initial web design phase, I still find I spend hours a day on my main web business after 7 years of business on the Internet. It is my business, and I view it like that - and one that takes constant care to make sure my information is up to date, that I'm optimizing my marketing and sales options, and that I have an effective sales process and customer service. The quality approach offers no shortcuts, but that is its inherent strength - it is hard to do and so most websites don't attempt it. So those that do have an advantage in a competitive market that often makes all the difference between success and failure.
If this approach sounds interesting to you, you may want to first look at our Top Ten Q & A's Creating a Small Business website. They will give you a good idea of the lay of the land, and my philosophy of web design and web business. Then to help you understand exactly what it takes to build a successful web business, I've broken the process into three essential steps:
Step 1:Laying the groundwork for your Website. Only you can lay the groundwork for your site's success, and this section discusses defining your website's market niche, testing it out, and then the process for coming up with your site's content and flow.
Step 2:Creating and Designing your Web Business. Come along and see what it is like to design a real site. Rather than try to teach web design in some sort of dry way, I wanted to teach it experientally - have you ride along and see how it is to design a new site. And with my wife's ok, this section shows the blow by blow I went through in putting together her businesses' website, My Favorite Baby Carrier. Hopefully, this sort of experiental approach will help you understand the different considerations when designing a site and at the minimum make you a better consumer of web design services. And I hope it may also inspire you to go ahead an create your own site.
Step 3:Making your site work. Once you've got a site designed then the real work begins - making it work. I discuss getting traffic, how to track your site's users to maximize your site's potential, and trying to ensure that your site is converting as well as possible.