We have come a long way from the first attempts at e-commerce in the early 1990’s, when the web was in its infancy. In fact, many of the e-commerce sites which can be built in a matter of hours now are far more advanced than sites that took months to build just a few years ago.
Creating an e-commerce site has never been simpler than it is now. You can have anything from a simple store setup with manually generated buttons on payment services such as PayPal and Google Checkout all the way to a totally custom design with custom functionality tied into your business model.
There are e-commerce news sites, forums, mailing lists, communities, open source software, proprietary software, out of the box solutions, custom solutions, and basically more information than one person could possibly digest in one lifetime.
With all of the advances made in e-commerce over the past 20 years, many people are more in the dark than ever. There is an overload of information about different software, platforms, SEO, social media, and other topics.
Who should you listen to and how can you possibly make sense out of all of the contradicting ideas out there? This book was written as a guide to help people answer many of these questions and get themselves pointed in the right direction when it comes to e-commerce.
Whenever possible, I will not be addressing particular technologies or software. These change far too often to write anything meaningful about them in any great detail. If I did so, this book would become irrelevant six months from now.
What I will address are tried and true techniques for choosing the appropriate software (whatever it may be), hiring developers, using social media (even as new sites become the ‘next big thing’), search engine optimization techniques that are always relevant, and how to convert more sales.
After reading this book you should be able to objectionably compare different e-commerce solutions, know how to hire a competent developer if you need help with your site, how to leverage social media regardless of what new social media outlet pops up, and how to use well written copy along with sound SEO techniques to drive traffic to your site and convert that traffic to sales.
I also encourage you to continue your education in this field. There is no “magic bullet” that will automatically bring you big profits and high conversions in the e-commerce game. You need to constantly stay on top of trending technologies, learn about your customers, assess your competition, and tweak your product lines.
Types of E-Commerce Sites
All e-commerce sites are not selling the same type of product. As such not all e-commerce sites have the same needs and goals. This is not a comprehensive list, and in fact many of the most successful e-commerce sites are the ones that create their own revenue model and niche.
This is your traditional e-commerce site. This is the site that most people think of when they think e-commerce. This type of site deals in the sale of tangible, physical products. A traditional e-commerce site usually is defined by the following features:
A listed of tangible, physical products usually divided into categories and sub categories
A product details page for each product. This page usually contains a description, product specs, an image gallery, and product reviews
A ‘shopping cart’ that holds a customer’s items they want to purchase until they checkout
A checkout process that allows users to enter their billing and shipping information
Tax and/or shipping charges are usually collected at this stage.
The site owner is notified of a purchase and handles fulfillment, either through an automated process or manually.
The virtual products e-commerce site is very similar to the traditional e-commerce site with one main exception. This type of site deals in the sale of virtual products such as music, images, videos or e-books. This type of site is usually defined by the following features:
1. Listing similar to that of a traditional e-commerce site
2. Shopping cart and checkout process are also similar
3. Checkout usually does not include shipping or tax charges as there are no tangible goods being shipped
4. Fulfillment is automatic with the customer usually being emailed a link to download the virtual item.