eCommerce is the term for buying and selling products and services over the internet. eCommerce strategy refers to the techniques and processes businesses put in place to sell their products or services effectively. An eCommerce strategy has to cover how your products or services will be displayed, how potential customers will find your site, how payments will be handled and how you will dispatch the goods or services to them.
What is eCommerce?
eCommerce (or online shopping) covers the whole process of finding, choosing and buying products online. This requires some form of check out, which typically uses credit card payments and encrypted payment processing or a payment gateway.
Internet sales offer a few benefits over traditional sales techniques:
- Lower operating costs means that online sellers can price their products more cheaply than a physical store - eCommerce reduces labour costs, overheads and employee errors.
- Online browsing, purchase and delivery is more convenient for customers.
- Products can often be sourced more cheaply from overseas vendors.
- More variety can be offered as online stores often do not hold inventory (this is called ‘drop-shipping’).
- The ability to handle complex product searches without the need for a knowledgeable employee to facilitate.
How do customers find eCommerce stores?
The first part of an eCommerce strategy is customer acquisition, which can be done through:
- Online marketing
- Offline and direct marketing
- Public Relations
How are online stores organised?
Once customers find an eCommerce website, they need to be able to find the product they need easily. Most eCommerce stores separate their products into categories and provide search functionality to help visitors locate the product that suits them and their budget best. Common organisation techniques include sorting based on price, on product type, on manufacturer and on how new the product is.
Most eCommerce sites use a ‘shopping cart’, which collects the desired products before purchase so that they can be bought together in a single order. Once a customer is satisfied with their purchases, they will take their shopping cart to checkout where the final price is confirmed and payment is made.
How do online payments work?
Online payments require a payment gateway. Payment gateways provide the secure link between a website and a bank. When credit card details are submitted to the store, the payment gateway receives them and sends them to the bank for verification. The bank then replies with either accepted or declined. The payment gateway relays this response to the user and the payment is either accepted or not. Payment gateways allow visitors and websites to send and receive money safely, lowering the risk for both parties.
What happens after payment?
The final part of any eCommerce strategy is delivery and follow-up. Most eCommerce websites include options for both standard and express delivery, with price estimations for what the courier or post costs will be. After the customer completes their purchase and chooses their delivery method, the product is dispatched. Some setups include tracking so that customers can see the status of their delivery in real time. Finally, a strong eCommerce strategy will include some form of follow-up so that customers are remarketed to for special offers or deals.