E-Commerce for Small Businesses

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Shopping Cart

Having a small business and deciding on starting to sell online can be quite a challenge! The rewards are appealing though and having an additional channel to sell your goods (possibly on global level depending on what you’re selling) should at least be considered. There are many options and I’m going to cover what I would do if I was to setup an online store. I’ll use WordPress as a CMS as my website is already using WP and I know it well.

From a technical perspective, you need to add a shopping cart functionality to your website, you need to integrate with a payment provider in order to be able to process credit cards online, obtain an SSL certificate in order to have the security expected so the customer data does not leak which would be a major disaster.

Once you have the technical platform setup, comes the hard part as you also need to promote the store, create a great experience so the visitors turn into customers as well as keeping up with them in order to build a relationship so you can up-sell them later on. I’ll cover some of the things required and what I usually do once setting this up.

Shopping cart

After looking at many e-commerce plugins, WooCommerce is a great option and is obviously supported and actively developed by a well known WooThemes team. There are so many features and plugins/extensions (some free, some commercial) that you can use for just about anything you would need.

Credit card processing

There are numerous options here and Paypal is always an option but their support is awful and your customers need to leave your website to make a purchase which is not the best user experience no matter how well known Paypal is. I’m recommending Stripe to be used instead. It’s simply the best ┬ácompany I’ve worked with and their API is amazing. Very easy to integrate and there is a WooCommerce extension which makes it very easy to integrate with Stripe you can purchase for $79.

SSL certificate

If you’re using Stripe, you’ll need to purchase a SSL certificate. This encrypts the pages and data that is sent using the forms on your website. It’s easy to find multiple providers and SSL certificates are quite affordable now so go with the one your host recommends.

Design

WooCommerce s very easy to install but it does require quite a lot of config and theming to look as part of the theme you’re already using. Definitely put in the work and make it responsive so it works on smartphones and tablets as well. More and more traffic is coming from mobile devices and people actually shop on their phones.

Blog

If you aren’t already, start blogging and providing useful content on your website. Use content to make a connection to your customers. Publish photos, videos and what ever you can to make your web site known for the products you’re selling. You want to be able to have interesting content so once someone make a search on Google, your site will show up in the search engine results.

Newsletter

Start collecting email addresses and divide them into two lists – customers and prospects (not purchased anything yet but have interacted). Follow up with both lists and make it easy to purchase again or for the first time. Be smart about the emails you send and try to provide original and interesting content. You’re emailing people who are interested in what you’re selling. They wouldn’t have subscribed otherwise.

Social Media

Create profiles on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Start engaging with users and encourage your buyers to become fans and interact with them to make the relationship you have more personal and rewarding. Provide value and see your social media presence grow.

SEO

This is fairly easy but still not. Yoast SEO plugin works out of the box here and Yoast also has a commercial extension specific for WooCommerce. Buy it as SEO is basically free traffic and there is no better way or more economical method for getting visitors to your website.

Analytics

You can use Google Analytics which is free but I recommend you use Mixpanel. It’s free for up to 2000 users and it’s easy to configure with WooCommerce extension (again commercial but well worth it). You’re able to follow the funnel from visitor to buyer and that info is priceless so you can improve the shopping experience and improve your conversion rates.

Be different

Don’t hide the fact you’re small. I believe by being small you have an advantage and can be quirky and interesting unlike the big corporations. Use that to your advantage! You can provide the best support as you can devote more time to your customers and they’re not just a number for you.