Not sure which platform to use to build your website? Here’s why BigCommerce could be right for you!

eCommerce is having a huge effect on people’s buying habits and transforming a lot of different industries! As the world becomes more digital, selecting an eCommerce platform to build a website for your business has become the equivalent of selecting a location for your brick and mortar store …. really important!

When building their online stores, a lot of businesses are opting to select an eCommerce platform rather than building a custom website from the ground up.

When you think about it, it’s kind of like wanting a new house .. you have the option of building everything from the ground up, which is possible but also a big hassle and a path full of inevitable problems … or you can delegate that task to a company that has a lot of experience building houses, and you can collaborate with them on the way you want it to be … and face much less problems than you would on your own!

Ok, that make a lot of sense …

But how do i know which eCommerce platform to use?

Just like people are diverse and want different things when customizing their new home, the same applies for businesses! Each business is unique and has different needs and requirements.

As a business owner looking to create or update your website through an eCommerce platform, you would need to have a clear idea about the answers to these questions:

  • What are my business needs?
  • What are my sales cycles like?
  • What is my forecast for growth over the next few years?
  • What are my product details?
  • Who am I selling to?
  • What is my budget?

This will make things easy and a lot smoother between you and the developers at the eCommerce platform you end up choosing.

When it comes to eCommerce platforms, there are some good choices out there … and it can be difficult to find the one most suitable for you. If you’re still unsure about which one you’d like to select, here are a few reasons why BigCommerce could be the right platform for you:

Complex Product Variation Options

Most eCommerce platforms provide the basic product options, for example small, medium, or large sizes … etc. This is great, and would suit a lot of businesses selling physical or different category level products.

But what about the companies that need product options that are a bit more complex?

Take Henna Caravan for example. A small company selling home made henna. The owner learned to code and built the website for her company and business was good, but her website was a factor limiting the growth of the company. Henna Caravan needed something more complex: a platform that would be able to host both an eCommerce site, as well as a robust content site that would allow them to educate the market!

Their Henna product could come in paste or powder form, and each form would have the possibility of having different flavours. Each of these had a different price point despite the product in the end being the same. And of course for every option there needed to be information on:

  • Product
  • Ingredients
  • Storage
  • How to use

Step in BigCommerce!

After working with BigCommerce to realize their business vision and potential, Henna Caravan experienced 2X the industry conversion rate on their site and a 33% increase in revenue driven by the new informative product pages through SEO.

“BigCommerce was the only eCommerce platform for a business of our size that allowed for product variant customization in a complex way, and that contained both an eCommerce solution as well as content pages that could serve as a CMS” Carissa McQueen, CMO of Henna Caravan

Number of SKUs & Complex Shipping Structure

A lot of businesses don’t need more than a few thousand SKUs (Stock keeping unit: product/service identification code), and a basic shipping structure that would suit their needs.

But there are other businesses that need SKUs in the millions! And those that have a very complicated shipping structure … a basic one for their eCommerce website just wouldn’t cut it!

Vinyl Express was a Dutch brick-and-mortar that turned into an online eCommerce powerhouse. They are considered one of the companies that are bridging the IT gap between boutique record stores all across the world!

They needed a platform that could support their current 1.17M SKUs that will just keep growing in the future. Most platforms can only support SKUs in the tens of thousands, which definitely wasn’t enough for Vinyl Express!

They also had a very complicated shipping structure. They operate in 5 different countries, with suppliers all over the world! Some send the records to them first and then they mail the order to clients, while others send the records straight to the customers.

All these suppliers:

  • Use different carriers
  • Operate with different delivery times
  • Have different shipping costs
  • Use different currencies
  • Have different import, export and tax rules that apply to them

… so you can imagine how complex the shipping needs are!

After considering the different options they had, they opted to choose BigCommerce as their platform.

“Right now, we have a catalog of 1.5 million records. That’s pretty big, but in two months it will be 2.3 or 2.4 million. Our large catalog is one of the main reasons we chose BigCommerce.” Rogier van Genugten, CEO at Vinyl Express

Mobile Optimization & Website Loading Speed

Different businesses attract different types of customers. And these customers have different buying habits. Some like to use their desktops/laptops for their online business …. While others prefer to use mobile devices like phones and tablets.

Brandon Chatham, the founder and CEO of NatoMounts had some very specific needs for his business, and BigCommerce helped him and his company achieve their goals!

NatoMounts is a company that specializes in smart mounts for mobile devices. The majority of their traffic (90%) and online sales (85%) come from mobile devices. BigCommerce understood this and worked with NatoMounts to develop an eCommerce website optimized to those specific needs!

“The whole experience from landing on the site to checking-out has got to take a minute or less. Our goal is to have them order as much as possible, as quickly as possible. BigCommerce’s integrations with one-click payment systems and the platform’s optimized single-page checkout helps me do just that.” Brandon Chatham, Founder and CEO of NatoMounts

After working with BigCommerce, the time came to test before launch and see the results of all the hard work from both parties …. they tested mobile optimization and were able to get a new visitor on the site, select a product and checkout in a total of 43 seconds! Exactly what NatoMounts was looking to achieve!

Speed of Delivery

Working with the wrong eCommerce platform and developers that don’t fully understand your needs can mean missed deadlines and spending a lot more money than you should!

BigCommerce is known for delivering on time and within budget.

Let’s take a look at the case of Bulk Apothecary. They were founded in 2010 and specialize in selling natural ingredients and essential oils. They have over 9000 product SKUs that are sold from retail sizes up to full truckloads.

They wanted to have their own website that is reliable, able to support aggressive revenue goals and enable the business to continue growing rapidly online.

At first, they chose a platform other than BigCommerce. It wasn’t the greatest choice they made …. It took 10 months and tens of thousands of dollars to have a site that:

  • Was full of glitches
  • Required daily maintenance
  • Still needed more custom development work
  • Had licensing and hosting fees

Not only did this have a negative impact on their rate of growth, but they were fighting to keep the company alive!

They finally decided to pull the plug on the project with the platform and started searching for alternatives to try and save their business. And that is where BigCommerce came to the rescue.

They opted to move their business to BigCommerce Enterprise. The storefront was replicated on the platform in only 4 weeks!

They moved to BigCommerce Enterprise during their slowest selling season to limit impact on the business. “We expected to see a modest dip in revenue due to seasonality, but since switching our online sales are up 15-20%” Gary Pellegrino Jr., President of Bulk Apothecary

Other benefits Bulk Apothecary got from switching to BigCommerce:

  • 10% increase in conversions
  • $50K+ saved on hosting and licensing
  • 20% of abandoned cart revenue recovered

If your business isn’t that complicated, choosing a platform shouldn’t be that difficult. Any of the available platforms would probably be able to cater to the needs of your business.

If your business is a bit more complex however, or it’s growing at a very fast pace … you might need a platform that allows a bit more complexity and customization than the norm, and BigCommerce is the right choice for you!

17 tips on growing your online business without spending tonnes of cash!

Whether you’re a small startup just venturing into the eCommerce world, or a big established player that has achieved millions in sales online … one of your main goals is to increase and keep sales coming!

Contrary to belief, increasing your online sales doesn’t always mean that you will have to splash out a lot of cash. There are many ways to help achieve that goal spending little or nothing at all!

In this article we will focus on some tips and tricks you could be applying to your business to increase sales without spending too much.

1. One core product/service

If you sell a diverse range of products or services through your website, it’s highly recommended to test whether this is the best strategy for growing your online business. Selling too many products in one place doesn’t give room for copy describing them and addressing questions potential customers might have. However if you’re able to offer fewer products or services in one place and provide enough information on each, this will almost always translate into a higher amount of sales!

2. Opt-in offer

This is a very important step for any business big or small. If you’re not already doing this, you’re probably missing out on A LOT of sales! Your opt-in offer is the tool you use to collect emails to be added to your list of subscribers. This list will then be used to send them emails containing useful information and special offers. By doing this you will be establishing a relationship of trust and loyalty with your potential customers and in turn this will boost your sales!

3. Headline optimization

Whether it’s for your blog, sales letter or just copy somewhere on your website … the headline you use will have a bigger impact on your sales than you think! It’s usually the first thing your visitor will see, so it needs to be attention-grabbing in order to convince them to keep reading on. A successful headline would normally highlight a problem that your readers are facing, and stress the main benefit that your product or service has in solving the issue.

4. Infographics

If you haven’t already noticed, there has been an increase in infographic usage on the internet over the past few years. The reason behind this is that it’s a fun, clever way to display bits of information that is very easy for the reader to digest. If you are looking to boost your online sales, using infographics where appropriate is definitely going to help you do that! They will help increase incoming traffic to your site and in turn that will mean more conversions! Not only that, they will also provide you with high value backlinks that will play in your favour when it comes to SEO.

5. Cross-selling

If a person bought one or more of your products from your site, that means they’ve invested time and attention in your brand. They chose you over your competitors to provide them with the solution to their needs, and this only means that they are very likely to buy from you again. If you have any other products or services that would compliment the purchases your customer has already made, you need to take advantage of that and try to cross-sell to them. This has proven to be a very effective method for increasing sales!

6. Video tutorials

This tip is one of the most effective ways of increasing your sales organically without paying a lot of money! Create video tutorials showing how to use your product or containing information you know your audience would value. The more views these videos will generate, the more business you will get. Not only will this create a connection with your audience, but it will serve as an educational tool to promote your product or brand! However, this isn’t the most optimal of strategies for all businesses. If you’re providing a product that isn’t as visual, you can turn to increasing sales through other means like articles, podcasts, etc.

7. Payment options

People are very diverse in their preferences. That means in their preferred methods of payment as well. If you want your visitors to be converting more, you need to make the purchasing process smooth and easy. One of the ways you can do this is to have different payment options (Google Wallet, Apple Pay, credit cards, etc.). This will make it easier for your prospecting customers to give you their money!

8. Image quality

You are presented with two menus and you’re asked to order food from one of them. One of the menus has really nice pictures of well presented food, while the other has fuzzy pictures that aren’t as good looking. Chances are you will most likely order from the one with nicer pictures, even though the food from the other menu could be better. As humans we are naturally drawn to things that are beautiful. The more beautiful and well presented your products look in pictures on your site, the more likely people will buy from you! Hire a professional, or purchase the necessary equipment and have one of your creatives take some great photos for your products … you sales numbers should start rising.

9. Consider "scanners"

Not everyone likes to read all copy they come across on the internet. In fact most people scan through what they find until they reach something that grabs their attention or information they are looking for, then they stop to read. If you have a blog or copy on your website, you need to take this into consideration. While providing a lot of detail about a certain topic or product description is good, instead of having it in big blocks of information … try to break it down into smaller more digestible parts, each with it’s own title or header. Make it easier for them to find the information they are looking for, and in turn this will help increase your sales!

10. Smooth checkout

This is a very important point that a lot of companies surprisingly still don’t understand! A complicated checkout process that requires too much information or has too many steps that take too long will most probably result in an abandoned cart. By making the checkout process very easy and smooth with as few steps as possible, you are almost guaranteed to see higher levels of conversion! This is one of the most important parts of your site, it’s where people convert and you make money! So it’s only natural that the easier the process is, the higher number of conversions you’ll have. To do this you will need to eliminate any unnecessary steps in the process. Make it as quick and easy as possible!

11. Mobile optimization

In a world of quick fixes and instant results, people’s habits are changing. A few years back, almost all online shopping was from computers … but now this is changing and more and more people are starting to shop from mobile devices like phones and tablets. If your website isn’t optimized to these devices, the visitor experience will be very bad and they will abandon your site all together and take their business elsewhere! If you’re looking to boost your sales, you need to make sure that your website is optimized for all devices, or even have a special version for each one. The better experience you give and easier you make it for your visitors to convert, they will!

12. Trust icons

Many online shoppers are worried about the safety of their information. A worried potential customer is one that is reluctant to buy. To reassure them, having trust icons that link to descriptions of all the security measures on your site will go a long way in making them feel a lot more comfortable buying from you! One of the best places to have this is on the checkout page.

13. Re-marketing

This is one of the most effective marketing strategies today. If you’re not using it, you need to seriously rethink your strategy. By not using re-marketing you are basically relying on visitors converting from the first time they visit your site, which rarely happens! Re-marketing will keep your brand on the minds of potential customers and give them several additional opportunities for conversion later on. This strategy will definitely help you boost your online sales.

14. Follow-up email

One mistake a lot of companies make is not following up with customers after they make a purchase. This is really bad for customer retention. This sends a message that you only care about getting their money and not about the customers themselves. By sending a follow-up email you can check in to make sure the quality of the product/service was as expected, you can ask them to get in touch with you if they have any concerns, questions or complaints. This will show that you care about their experience, could be a source for some very valuable feedback that will help you do your business better and it will help you stay top-of-mind with all the customers that have purchased from you. All these factors are almost guaranteed to help turn them into returning customers and increase your sales!

15. Social media listening

Social media listening is an effective way to increase your sales. Monitor conversations about your business online to see what people are saying about your brand and products/services. By doing this you will be able to identify the most common issues or complaints some of your customers might have and fix them accordingly. Some companies even take social listening a step further and listen to conversations about their competitors as well waiting to dive in and help any unsatisfied customers. All this means more sales and more money in your pocket!

16. Social media engagement

Sometimes on social media potential customers visit your page and begin to ask questions about the product/service you provide. By answering their questions honestly and giving them the information they’re searching for, this shows them and others that you care about customers and make time to give them the attention they need. This will build trust and in turn your sales will jump in numbers!

17. Loyalty & rewards programs

Let’s face it, we all like free stuff! By having a good loyalty and rewards program in place you will be encouraging your customers to come back and buy from you again. Free shipping, discounts, add-ons and small gifts are some of many benefits that customers can get through these programs. The more they buy from you and collect points, the more loyal they will become and help increase your sales!

If you take these tips into consideration and optimize them for your business, you will surely see a spike in sales without splashing out a lot of money.

Some may work better for companies than others, but all in all they definitely will help you improve efficiency and capture sales that you were missing out on!

That said .. don’t try to apply them all at once and measure how much your sales have increased. In order to better understand what works best for you and your business and become even more efficient in the future, it’s recommended that you apply one at a time and measure the rate of it’s success. Each business is unique and will have a different outcome.

6 questions to ask yourself before building your eCommerce website, so you don’t make the same mistakes your competitors are!

As the years go by, online shopping continues to grow at a staggering rate! People are shopping online from their laptops, computers, mobile phones, tablets … and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down!

With this rate of growth, companies are moving their businesses online and the demand for building eCommerce website just keeps increasing.

Being a part of a project to build an eCommerce website is very exciting to say the least. Whether you are the business owner or on the development side, there is a certain feeling you get when starting work on this kind of project. You push to solve design and functionality problems that will develop the end product in an original work that all parties can be proud of!

Building an eCommerce platform is not a project to be taken lightly though. It needs proper preparations or things can go wrong really fast!

Before you move forward with building your website, there are a few key questions you should ask yourself in order to develop a great foundation for working with the development team.

Question 1: What am I selling?

This is the bread and butter of your business. Whether you are selling a handful or ten thousand … you need to know the products inside and out!

Are you selling shoes? What are the brands, styles, sizes, colours, weight, materials, etc.?

Are you selling digital music albums? What are the genres, file sizes, file formats? Who are the artists? Etc.

This information will be crucial when the time comes to start building your website. It will determine things like how the products can be displayed, what categories to have, the different search functions that are going to be available, and so on.

Using this information, and based on their previous experience, maybe the developer you’ll be working with can come up with a unique feature or way of searching/showing the products on your site that you’ve never even thought of before!

You will need to have the answer for this question on lock-down before beginning any kind of work on developing your eCommerce website!

Question 2: Who will I be selling my products to?

Take the time to understand who your customers are. You will need to ask yourself some questions like:

  • What age are my customers? Gender?
  • What is the average income level?
  • What are their purchasing habits?
  • What is their general lifestyle like?
  • How do they talk / do they use certain words/slang?

… and so on.

Knowing all these details about your customers/target audience will prove invaluable when deciding on the design and content of the website.

Let’s say that you’re selling products for old people (aged 60+). This piece of information alone will probably let you know that you need to have slightly larger than normal text on your website as a lot of people above that age tend to have poorer eyesight. You know that the copy should not have any slang terms, as older generations might not be in touch with or understand it’s meaning. For steps like registration and checkout you will need to spell everything out and make sure you are extra clear (maybe even with small video examples or pictures showing how) because they’re probably not very tech savvy!

Regardless of how you design your website in the end, there will always be people that love it and those that hate it … because in the end we are all diverse and have different tastes. But by having a strong answer to this question, you will ensure that the website you and the developers design will attract the audience that you are targeting!

Question 3: Who will be responsible for product photos and copy?

Photos:

An eCommerce website that is well designed is meaningless if the product photos aren’t up to standard.

When you pick up a catalog and start flipping page after page looking at all the beautiful, well presented products … you can’t help but feel an emotional connection to what you’ve seen. In your mind you’ve chosen a couple of favourites and even though you might not be looking to buy, you know which one you would choose if you were!

You want your audience to feel that kind of connection with your products, and poor quality images won’t achieve that.

In order to prepare for your eCommerce website, it would be a good idea to already know who will be taking the product pictures for you or even have them ready! You don’t want to be that website owner that has their website launch on hold while they scramble to find or make good photos of the products! This will add an unnecessary amount of stress both on you and the developers.

Having these photos ready beforehand could even give the designer some creative ideas on how to display them on the website!

Copy:

Just like the pictures of your products are important, the copy that describes them is also important.

The person responsible for this role should be someone who is well aware of who your audience is (2nd question). You don’t want someone writing copy suitable for someone their young age to an audience of people over 60! They need to understand who they are writing for, understand what they like, how they talk, points of interest for them, etc.

The earlier you know who will be responsible for writing the copy, the better. This way they can coordinate with the developers on the length of copy for each section or product description and how it will be displayed!

Question 4: What is my marketing strategy going to be?

What good is an eCommerce website that is very well designed, has some really high quality pictures of products and good copy all across, if no one is going to visit it?!

This is probably the most important of all the questions to ask yourself! How you set your marketing strategy will determine which potential customers you will attract to your new website.

Marketing your eCommerce website efficiently will do wonders for it on the long run! You will need to focus on things like:

  • Good content
  • Marketing on social media
  • Proper SEO tactics
  • Email marketing
  • Offline marketing

If you don’t think about these different aspects of marketing before you start developing your website, you might reach a point where it has launched and you’re still struggling to get any return on investment.

Be prepared! Thinking the marketing strategy through a bit in advance will help you have everything in place once the website launches so you can start making returns on your investment asap!

Question 5: How will I secure my website?

As the owner of an eCommerce website you will be responsible for handling a lot of sensitive information for your clients (credit card info, full name and address, etc.). There are rules and regulations for security compliance that you must follow.

If these rules aren’t carefully taken into consideration when building your site it can result in some serious fines and your company’s reputation will suffer a HUGE blow!

In order to be prepared, read up on all the rules and regulations so you have an idea of what needs to be done. This will prove very helpful when starting development on your site, if for any reason the developer oversees or misses one of the security rules, you can save your company’s reputation and money by identifying what needs to be done before launch!

Question 6: How will I ship the products?

Having the answer to this question before development is vital. Depending on how you want to apply it, the process of integrating the shipping section into the eCommerce website will vary in complexity!

Are your products  going to be integrated with a shipping vendor? All of a sudden things just got a bit more complicated when developing the site! And not to say that complicated is unachievable or bad, but knowing the answer to these types of questions will help identify what the website needs to be like early on.

Maybe you’d like to have your own set of shipping rules where if a customer orders over X amount of products in one order, they will get a certain discount on shipping or even for free. Implementing that into your eCommerce website will be different than applying a standard shipping method.

Think about this in advance and when the time comes, speak to your developer about it and let them know exactly how you’d like your shipping system to be applied … by doing this you will be on the same page and squeeze out most room for misunderstandings and errors!

Now that we’ve gone through the 6 most vital questions to ask before developing your site, make sure you really take the time to think them through.

A lot of companies underestimate the importance of planning and thinking ahead on these core issues and think that they’ll figure it out as they move along and save some time. But in the end they find themselves splashing out way more money, having delayed launches, or things get really complicated further into the development of the site because there wasn’t proper communication from the start.