With more people than ever before shopping online, e-commerce growth in Canada has seen a 10% year-on-year growth over the last few years. In 2022, it is expected that the total value of all Canadian online sales to reach nearly $80 billion. If this growth rate continues, the Canadian e-commerce market could reach $104 billion by 2025. If you’re not selling online, you are missing out on potential extra revenue from this growing sector and losing valuable customers who prefer to do their shopping online. Furthermore, in the event of a future lockdown or other disruption, you won’t lose the opportunity to sell to your customers. Read on to learn more about e-commerce for small businesses and the chance to earn more revenue.
What Is an E-Commerce Website?E-commerce or electronic commerce is simply the buying and selling of goods, services and digital products over the internet rather than from a physical store. An e-commerce site is synonymous with having an online store. Through an e-commerce website, your customers can purchase items from your business, and you process their orders, payments, shipping and handling and provide them with customer service. Basically, it works by allowing the electronic transfer of funds and data between your e-commerce site and your customers and potentially a third party for payment. With the growing use of smartphones, e-commerce has seen a major boost and lets your customers shop from particularly anywhere.
Why Do Small Businesses Need E-CommerceE-commerce is a crucial strategy for small businesses now more than ever. This is mainly because customers now have many ways to do their shopping and online shopping is the most convenient and popular choice. The COVID pandemic caused major disruptions to many industries over the past two years, and the adoption of e-commerce has seen a rise and a higher success rate. With the presence of an online store, you can continue to sell goods and services to your customers amid any disruption. The pandemic has also forced buyers to look for alternate ways to fulfil their buying needs. Businesses that have adopted an e-commerce strategy were able to meet the changing needs of their customers.
Benefits of E-Commerce to Small BusinessesThe Business Development Bank of Canada says that online shopping is growing fast in Canada and e-commerce is becoming a necessity for Canadian small businesses. There are many benefits of e-commerce, including lower costs, increased revenue, the ability to track customers, search engine traffic, expanding your reach, improve customer experience, no time restrictions, and the ability to add it to your new or existing website. Let’s look at these benefits of e-commerce more closely.
Lower Operating CostsOpening a physical store requires leasing a commercial space, buying furnishings, hiring staff, and other amenities, all costing quite a bit up-front. With an online store, it is less expensive to set up thanks to low-cost platforms such as Shopify and WooCommerce. These services make it easy for you to start an online store, providing you with everything from an attractive, mobile-friendly site, to accepting payments and managing your inventory and shipping. They can also integrate sales and inventory management between your online store and your brick-and-mortar location.
Increased Business RevenueWhen you are able to reach a wider market with your online store, your customer base will grow, and this can translate into increased sales. The more sales you have, the greater your revenue. With this increased revenue, you can increase your product line, or invest more in marketing to bring in more customers.
Track Your CustomersWith powerful web analytics, such as Google Analytics, you can gather a huge amount of information about your customers. You can track everything from where they come from, what pages on your site they visit, and what they are buying. With analytics, you could know things like: what are your best-selling products? What design elements or promotions generate higher sales? You can then use this valuable data to optimize your online store and marketing efforts.
Search Engine TrafficAre you tired of sending endless emails, contacting customers by phone, or pushing marketing messages to your customers? With search engine traffic, attracting people to your online store has become a bit easier. When your e-commerce site is well positioned on search engines, you start receiving recurring traffic to your store. Slowly, you can build your customer base with good e-commerce practices and turn these leads into buying customers. You just need to make sure your website is optimized for search engines (referred to as SEO) to appear near the top of searches and attract more traffic. And our SEO services can help you do just that.
Expand Your ReachE-commerce opens a whole new expanded market for you. It allows you to sell not only within your local community, but also in your province, nation, or even other countries. Although there are challenges with an expanded market such as shipping, foreign exchanges and taxes to worry about, there are many useful plugins in WordPress that make this a simple procedure.
Improved Customer ExperienceWith an online store, your customers can shop on your site anytime and from anywhere. You can make the experience even better with apps that let your customers examine your goods up close and chat with your staff. As we have learned, any disruption to normal business operations of your brick-and-mortar store, such as the COVID pandemic, can hurt your bottom line. An e-commerce site can remedy this situation, allowing you to continue selling your goods online and serving your customers.
No Time ConstraintsUnlike a traditional physical store that operates within set hours (think 9 to 5), an online store is open 24/7, 365 days a year, even on holidays. As long as you have a stable hosting provider, your e-commerce website really has no downtime. This provides convenience for your customers as they can shop whenever, and from wherever they are. Imagine waking up to learn you made sales overnight. How nice would that be!
Ability to Add to Your New or Existing SiteYou’ll be happy to know that adding e-commerce to your website, whether it’s a new or an existing one, is easy and there aren’t too many complicated ways to do it. It will depend on which platform your website is built with.
Install PluginIf your site is built with WordPress or Joomla, all you need to do is install a plugin. For WordPress, you’ll need WooCommerce. For Joomla, you can install Hikashop.
Standalone e-Commerce PlatformIf you prefer a standalone eCommerce platform, you can add a separate one to your existing site. You just need to build a different website just for e-commerce and link to it on your existing platform. You can do so using a website builder like Selz or hire an e-commerce developer like WDK to create the website for you. Just be mindful that your design and branding should be consistent on your two websites.
Add a Shopping Cart or a Payment GatewayThis is a good option for you if you only have a few products and don’t need any advanced features. There are a few payment gateways as Snipcart, Sage or PayPal you can integrate into any platform.
Add a Shopify ButtonYou can also add a Shopify Buy Button to your website and it shows your customers’ product pictures, descriptions and prices. The button is customizable to make it feel like it’s part of your website. This is a paid option and is good for any website, new or existing.
Tips for eCommerce SuccessThere is no doubt you should be taking advantage of the significant growth of e-commerce in the months and years ahead. However, you can only expect to see good results if you do it the right way. That means paying close attention and following these helpful tips for e-commerce success.
Start SmallDon’t stress yourself out trying to create a huge, high-end website with hundreds of products. Just start with a free or low-cost e-commerce site and test three or four products to see how customers respond to your initial offering. Then you can work out any issues in your ordering and fulfilment process, making sure it all goes smoothly for your customers.
Attractive Branding & DesignYour website design can make or break your e-commerce business. It all comes down to that very first impression and you want it to be a good one. A modern, clean site that functions well and is easy to use sends a strong and positive message about your brand. If potential customers aren’t captivated by what they see on your website, they’re not going to stick around to buy from it. Almost all of your customers’ first impression is designed-based, including colour, text, and images. So it is super important that these be appealing, inviting and representative of your brand. You want your e-commerce business to resonate with your customers and reflect your brand. Your website needs to appeal to them, instead of repelling them.
Mobile FriendlyNowadays, most e-commerce transactions occur on mobile devices. That is why having a mobile-friendly e-commerce site is so important because you don’t want to miss out on visitors that are using their smartphones. Luckily, Google has a tool you can use to test if your site is mobile-friendly. Just make sure your navigation, buttons, and images all work well and load quickly on mobile to offer the best buying experience.
Invest in SEOSearch traffic is very important for e-commerce as your customers often use Google to find the products they are looking for. The higher you appear in the search results, the easier it will be to increase your sales. You want an optimized website structure, correct keyword and content targeting, properly placed and structured calls-to-actions, fast page loads, and responsive design, just to name a few of the important optimization techniques to improve search engine visibility. Don’t worry if you’re unsure about SEO, we are here to help you. Connect with us to learn more.
Prioritize SecurityYour e-commerce site will handle your customers’ sensitive personal data and credit card details. Protecting this information is critical as any comprise of such information can tarnish your reputation and leave your customers very upset. Thus, any website that collects, stores, and processes this type of information must be secured with a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate. The SSL encrypts and safely transfers personal data and prevents any criminals from stealing it. You can check to make sure your website is safe by looking for the “s” in the “https” in front of your web address.
Learn & AdaptYour first effort in e-commerce may not be completely flawless. But through testing, and learning, you can make consistent improvements to your online store. Web analytics and various other e-commerce tools allow you to test the different aspects of your website design, content and functionality. You can perform A/B testing, which is essentially testing two versions of something on your site. For instance, you can test whether customers prefer a product shown on a neutral background or a brighter colour. From there, using your analytics tools, you can learn which version had higher conversions or sales. Then, you can make any changes you’ve learned to improve your online store. Just make sure when you do these tests, that you have enough traffic. You can also do user testing, as well as functionality tests, such as your checkout process to make sure everything is working correctly.
Key TakeawaysYou now know that e-commerce is a big deal and that it’s here to stay. You’ve learned that starting your own online store isn’t expensive and that it could bring you increased revenue, allowing you to expand your customer reach, with the ability to track them, and also improve their experience. With an e-commerce site, there are no time restrictions, and it’s relatively simple to add to your new or existing site. The idea is to start out small, paying attention to your branding and design, being mobile friendly, having your site optimized for search engines, and using SSL to make your transactions secure. To succeed, you also need to test your e-commerce website, learn from your testing, and make improvements to it. We covered a lot of material and there is certainly a lot to consider. But don’t feel overwhelmed—you don’t have to do this alone. WDK’s e-commerce services can help guide you through the whole process, taking you step by step through the planning to the opening of your online store. Contact us today to get your e-commerce site started!
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