The Ecommerce Blueprint

A comprehensive guide to selling online

THE ECOMMERCE BLUEPRINT
 
A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO SELLING ONLINE
What is Ecommerce?
Ecommerce describes commercial transactions conducted electronically over the internet. While the first thing that may come to mind is the traditional retail model of selling physical goods online, there are many different ways to buy and sell in the ecommerce business environment.
Ecommerce Business Types

The four most common categories of ecommerce are (but not limited to):
B2B (Business to Business)
These businesses sell their products or services to other companies. An example of a B2B businesses is a wholesale distributor who sells directly to retailers.
B2C (Business to Consumer)
B2C businesses sell directly to the general public, typically through shopping cart software or order forms, without needing any human interaction. This is the kind of business most people think of when they hear "ecommerce."
C2B (Consumer to Business)
Instead of listing a product for consumers to buy, C2B businesses look for requests posted online by consumers. A consumer will post a project with a set budget online on a site like Upwork and Fiverr, and companies bid on the project. The consumer reviews the bids and selects the company.
C2C (Consumer to Consumer)
C2C business is typically in the form of online classified ads, forums or marketplaces (such as  Craigslist, eBay and Etsy) where individuals can buy and sell goods.
It’s very likely that your business fits into one of these categories; however, there are many exceptions to these business types, including C2G (Consumer to Government) and P2P (Peer to Peer).

Why Is It Important to Take Your Business Online?

 

It’s How Consumers Want to Buy

Ecommerce has become the consumer norm. Because shopping online is much more convenient and offers a wider variety of product options, shoppers have quickly adjusted. Let’s face it; not many people would prefer leaving their house, driving to a busy shopping center, and then waiting in line to purchase something as trivial as a DVD or paper towels, when they could just order those goods online and have them delivered to their doorstep within days.

In fact, BigCommerce says “51% of Americans prefer to shop online in 2018.” Because customers do favor online shopping, Statista says ecommerce sales in the US are “projected to surpass 603.4 billion US dollars in 2021.”

The Online Marketplace is Booming

Here’s an alarming stat that should make you want to start selling online: Even though ecommerce is growing by 23% each year, BigCommerce says “46% of American small businesses do not have a website.”  With more than 79% of Americans shopping online, the majority of small businesses are missing out.

While the ecommerce environment may seem crowded at first glance, it’s a market brimming with potential for growth.

The Benefits of Ecommerce

Starting and running an ecommerce business comes with a long list of benefits, including:

Convenient Experiences for Your Customers

Offering your products and services to customers no matter where they are – whether at home, at work or even traveling – adds a whole new level of convenience to your business. All customers have to do is visit your ecommerce site through their computer, tablet or smartphone, and place an order.

New Global Markets for Sellers

Before ecommerce, the vast majority of businesses were limited to a customer base within their geographic location. If a customer couldn’t easily drive to your location, you didn’t have their business. Now with ecommerce options available, online shoppers anywhere in the world can purchase from you.

Showcase Your Products and Reviews

When customers are shopping in a physical store location, there’s only so much information you can display to them. Even with signage, a sales rep, and the description on product packaging, the information a customer gets on in-store products isn’t as thorough as what you can easily provide them online.

In an online store, you have the unique opportunity to present your customers with a wide variety of useful information: customer reviews, price comparisons, ingredient lists, instructions for use (video or text), pictures of the product, and more.

Be Open for Business Around the Clock

People are busy, and when your business operates on limited working hours, you miss out on sales. For example, if your business is open from 8 A.M. - 5 P.M. on weekdays, you might not get much business from working professionals whose working hours are the same. Getting your business online means opening your doors 24/7 without having to physically be there – a win-win for both you and your customers.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Taking Your Business Online
 
While ecommerce is certainly a great market to enter for many business types, selling online isn’t necessarily for everyone. Ask yourself these questions to find out if ecommerce is right for you.
Is Internet competition affecting your business’s sales?
Have customers asked if you have a website or the option to purchase online?
Are there products being sold online that are similar or even identical to the ones you sell?
Will the profits your online business earns justify the upfront and continuing costs?
Do you have the desire and resources to run a packing and shipping operation (if you have a physical product)?
Do you have the space to store merchandise for shipping to customers (if applicable)?
If you answered “yes” to any (or all) of these questions, then it’s time to get started with ecommerce!
The Goal of This Blueprint
Invention and creation takes a lot of hard work — and when you’ve put your heart and soul into a product or service, you want the world to know about it. Maybe you have a brick and mortar establishment already and want to make the jump to an online presence. Or perhaps you already have an online presence and want to monetize it. In this blueprint, you’ll learn how to get paid for all that hard work.

Learn everything about running an ecommerce business from the basics of merchant accounts to understanding basic security issues and much more. First, we’ll start with a quick overview of the ecommerce environment as well as the players in taking payments online. Then we’ll move into the nitty-gritty of how to set up your ecommerce business and attract people to it. By the time you are done reading this blueprint, you’ll have everything you need to take your business online.


 
Table of Contents
CHAPTER ONE
Where to Start
Understanding the complexities of the ecommerce business environment is half the battle. See how money moves online, and learn all about payment gateways, aggregators and ecommerce platforms, including all of their advantages and disadvantages.
CHAPTER TWO
Order Page Conversion
Your web pages need to wow your visitors and convince them to purchase. Learn how to use effective page design strategies and copywriting tactics to increase conversions and make more sales.
CHAPTER THREE
Driving Traffic to Your Website
You first need to get visitors to your web pages before people can start buying your product or service. Here are the best and most effective strategies for driving traffic to your ecommerce website.
CHAPTER FOUR
Order Fulfillment
Once someone buys your product or service, you need to deliver on that promise. Here’s how to fulfill orders online via shipping a physical product or delivering an online product.
CHAPTER FIVE
Other Considerations
A compilation of everything else you should know about selling online including information on: security, migrations, integrations, and ecommerce law.
CHAPTER SIX
The Ecommerce Checklist
Now that you’ve read through the entire blueprint, use this checklist to ensure you incorporated all the most important elements into your ecommerce business.
CHAPTER ONE
 
WHERE TO START
Selling your products and services online is the biggest opportunity in the history of small business, as the internet offers access to prospects around the world who were previously impossible for small business owners to reach. But before you can take advantage of this enormous new market, you need to first figure out one fundamental thing: how to actually take payments and orders online. 

Bridging the gap between your website and your customers’ wallets is something you want to get right the first time. The pitfalls of getting it wrong are too great, often causing lost revenue, angry customers or even having your income frozen. If you make good decisions from the start, you’ll be able to deliver a smooth experience to your customers and maintain flexibility for future growth and promotional ideas.

In this chapter, we’re going to outline the players involved in taking payments online, the process of getting from credit card to bank deposit, and the specific things you should consider as you choose providers for this crucial part of your business.
The Players

Traditionally, taking payments online requires you to choose three providers who all work together to allow you to capture credit card information and get paid. Here’s what you need to know.
The Card Issuers

These are Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and all the debit card providers. Their job is to make sure the consumer has enough credit when a payment is attempted and, if they do, to send the money to the merchant account who requested the charge. Then, the card issuers collect that money from the consumers via their monthly credit card bills or by deducting it from their bank accounts.


The Merchant Account

The merchant account providers are big banks that have direct relationships with Visa, Mastercard and American Express. They are the ones that actually validate the card with the card issuers and let you know if it was approved or declined. They also are the ones that get the money from the issuers and deliver it to your bank account.

Merchant account providers are fundamentally responsible for any credit card fraud that happens, so they have to be careful who they give merchant accounts to. If, for example, you charged a bunch of customers’ cards and never delivered the product, those buyers are going to want their money back. They’ll call their credit card issuers and “charge back” those fees, and the issuers will look to the merchant account provider to get that money back.

Because merchant account providers don’t like losing money, they take all sorts of precautionary measures to make sure that never happens, including running credit checks on you (the business), making sure you’re a real business, looking at your website, holding back a portion of your revenue as a sort of insurance policy, and they can even withhold all your income if they get nervous about your activities. So, maintaining a good relationship with your merchant account provider is important. It’s also wise to have a backup plan in case things go south.
The Gateway

The gateway provider offers another service, which is mainly for your benefit as the seller. They take the card information from the checkout software provider (below) and send it over to the merchant account, get a response, and send that back to the checkout software provider. They also keep track of all your transaction history, so this is where you log in to get your accounting information. Often, the gateway provider is the tool that syncs with Quickbooks or Xero or whatever accounting software you choose. Importantly, they also store your customers' credit card information and process future charges or refunds for you.
Alternatives to Merchant Accounts and Gateways

The credit card processing business is a big and lucrative one, so there are many options available on the market. Today, there is a relatively new breed of payment provider that is doing a good job solving some of the key frustrations that merchants have had with the traditional model: unexpected fees, complexity and onerous contracts. Providers like Stripe and Paypal have made accepting payments online easier for merchants by acting as both the merchant account provider and the gateway, while doing away with the monthly fees and long-term contracts that traditional providers have always required. In exchange for their service, though, their “flat-fee” pricing isn’t the cheapest, and most sellers will find the traditional providers to be more cost effective when their monthly sales volume grows beyond $10k or $20k per month. Still, some merchants find the convenience to be worth it.
 
If you sell “high risk”’ products or services (e.g., guns, porn, pills) or have an unusual business model (e.g., spiky sales from running product launches) there are providers who specialize in serving you, so seek them out. For the rest of us, just about any provider of the above services will do.
The Checkout Software

Selecting a checkout software provider is a crucial decision that will make a big difference for you as a seller and for your customers who use this software to check out online.

The checkout software handles a lot for you: It creates the page on which customers enter their credit card information and check out. It helps calculate whatever taxes and shipping costs might be due so you charge the right amount. The checkout software is where you set up your products, set your pricing, and create offers such as a free trials. It lets you know when it’s time to deliver a product and often helps deliver it. It keeps track of what’s been sold, who is buying what, and even allows you to issue refunds when necessary.
Some providers, like Shopify, help you create an entire website with a shopping cart and checkout process. Others, like ONTRAPORT, make it easy to integrate checkout on your own site but also allow you to offer free or paid trials, payment plans, manage discounts, short-term sales, coupon codes, one-click upsells, and much more. 
There are so many providers, and so many features on different systems, that making a decision on checkout software can be overwhelming. Adding to the challenge is that once you choose and get started with a provider, it can be really time consuming and expensive to switch to a different provider down the road if your business changes or you discover you need a feature that you don’t have. So, you really want to get this right the first time if possible.

To help you make the best decision, here is a checklist of things to consider as you compare checkout software providers:



Shopping Cart vs Order Forms

Some systems offer a checkout process like Amazon, where customers add multiple products to a cart and then check out when they’re ready. If you are an ecommerce store with a bunch of products, then this functionality is crucial. Shopify is hard to beat in this category, though there are many other options.

However, many businesses typically sell one product at a time: You simply choose a product and buy. If that’s how your business works, then you’ll be better served by skipping the complexity of the shopping cart which creates drag in the checkout process for your buyers. Instead, opt for a system which offers a simple order form for checkout.


Stay Flexible

You don’t always know what the future holds, but you want to be ready for it. As your business grows and your ecommerce skills advance, you will want to experiment with different strategies for increasing sales, and you don’t want your checkout software to limit your options. Even if you’re not going to use them today, look for features that enable subscription management, optional payment plans, paid and free trials, delayed billing, and coupon codes so you can offer discounts and special offers. Here’s what you need to know about each payment type:
SUBSCRIPTION MANAGEMENT
This allows you to offer a product with continuous recurring payments (per day, week, month, quarter or year). With subscription products, you can also delay billing.
OPTIONAL PAYMENT PLANS
This option is great for products with a high price point — it allows you to break up one payment of $497, for example, to three payments of $199 per month.
PAID AND FREE PLANS
This gives customers the option to try your product with less (or no) risk by offering a trial period.
COUPON CODES
These offer your customers personal or group coupons to reward them with a discount or free gift.
Control the Card

Most new sellers don’t think of this, but it’s a big one: You want to consider who is holding your clients' credit card information. Because of the expensive security measures required to securely and legally store card data, most checkout software providers don’t do it. Instead, they simply pass the card information to the gateway (or Stripe or Paypal), and let them store it. That may work for awhile, but as your business grows and your needs change, you may want to change merchant account or gateway providers. Too often, sellers find themselves in trouble with their providers for things as simple as selling too much, too quickly. Suddenly, their merchant accounts are frozen and business grinds to a halt.
In any of these scenarios, if you don’t have your customers’ credit card information (to run future charges, refunds, subscription payments, payment plan payments, etc.), you going to run into problems. If you do, you’re in luck: Simply open a different merchant account and continue business as usual.

Holding your clients’ card information is the cheapest business insurance you can buy. (Of course, you won’t keep the information yourself — it’ll be stored with your checkout software provider who can afford to manage the security issues. That’s another reason to pick your checkout provider wisely.)


Deal With Dunning

If you run, or expect you might run, a subscription business or you offer payment plans for goods or services that are delivered prior to receiving complete payment, then you have an additional challenge to deal with: What happens when a card bounces or expires? The process for managing this is called “dunning,” and you want to make sure your checkout software provider deals with this well. At the very least, there should be settings for automatic retries, a notification system for failures, and a way for buyers to update their card information by themselves, without requiring them to call in. Ideally, the system should integrate with your product delivery process so that you can limit access or stop future shipments until the account is up to date.


Create a Customer-Friendly Refund Policy

Having a customer-friendly refund policy builds good rapport, instills trust, and ultimately can land you with more loyal customers. In order to make this easy for your business, make sure that your ecommerce platform makes the process hands-free and cost-free. It will give your customers piece of mind and save you the headache of dealing with poor refund experiences.


Follow-Up for the Win

In order to compete in today’s marketplace, it’s important to make the most of every prospect interaction. That means strong lead capture and follow-up, especially after a prospect has visited a checkout page but failed to complete the transaction. A solid cart abandon process is a no-brainer way to increase sales, and your checkout software provider should offer that functionality.

 
Be Ready for Advanced Marketing Tactics
Once you’ve got the basics in place, there will be an unlimited number of new ideas, strategies and tactics that you’ll want to test as you improve your online presence over time. While you may not use them now, features like split testing, detailed prospect tracking, deep integration with your CRM and marketing tools, and having lots of control over how your checkout pages look are all important to consider as your business grows. 
Partner Programs Work

Consider the possibility that you’ll want to be able to track who is sending you referrals and be able to reward those partners. That functionality requires, at the very minimum, a solid integration with your checkout software. To avoid a lot of headaches that come with tracking across sites and devices, it’s best to have partner program functionality built into your checkout platform.


Support Matters

Finally, as you compare providers, remember that your checkout software really is at the heart of your ecommerce operation. The company providing it should be reliable, stable, and be there when you need them. When it comes to managing the security, scalability and reliability required to support the core of your financial operation, it’s worth considering who’s standing behind you.

By spending the time to compare and evaluate your choice in checkout software, you’ll save yourself the enormous cost of undoing a poor decision down the road. Take your time, choose wisely, and you’ll end up with a better-converting sales process, more revenue, fewer problems, and a business that supports your growth well into the future.

 
Securing Your Ecommerce Site
SSL Encryption

When your ecommerce shopping cart or order form sends your customers’ sensitive, private data to your payment gateway, you need to encrypt that information to make sure hackers can’t access their credit card info. That’s where SSL certificates come in. 

According to DigiCert, “SSL certificates are used to establish a secure encrypted connection between a browser (user's computer) and a server (website). The SSL connection protects sensitive data, such as credit card information, exchanged during each visit (session).”

The SSL certificates take your customers’ data and encrypt it, or scramble it up in a non-comprehensible way, so that no one can understand the information unless they have the encryption key. This ensures a customer they have a secure connection from their web browser to a secure server. If you want to sell online, you absolutely need an SSL certificate.
PCI Compliance

Keeping your customers’ payment information protected is in your best interest as well as theirs. In order for this to be possible, the big credit card companies forged the PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance standards. These standards were established to protect consumers’ credit card information and guarantee a level of security for when credit card transactions are processed. You as a business owner/merchant are obligated to comply with these standards unless you want to fined by the credit card companies or your bank. Each credit card brand has its own levels and requirements of PCI compliance that depend on your annual volume of processed transactions. Be sure to research these and comply accordingly.


Collecting and Managing Credit Card Numbers

A merchant like yourself should be stringent on how credit card transactions are managed, especially regarding the method in which they’re stored in your ecommerce platform if you keep those in your database. In order to be PCI compliant, a software must encrypt cardholder data with at least a 128 bit SSL certificate. This means that during processing, the credit card number transmitted online will be converted into code. It can also be stored as such in case your ecommerce account is compromised for any reason.
Ecommerce Options

There are essentially five ecommerce options: online marketplaces, hosted ecommerce sites, custom self-hosted sites, stitched together options, systems based on a CRM or inbound marketing platforms.
Online Marketplaces

Online marketplaces are one-stop shops that allow you to upload your product onto their site and access their members to sell to. They generally handle all of the user interface aspects as well as controlling the interactions between you and your customers. They are quick to set up and easy to use. 

Examples: eBay, Etsy, Amazon and others.
Advantages
These are usually incredibly easy to get started (typically you just upload products and pictures and start selling)
They usually offer access to a substantial customer base
They often handle credit card interactions
Usually easy to navigate for both the buyer and the seller
Disadvantages
They often charge significant fees per sale (eBay charges up to 10% of sale amount)
Because there is a wide audience there is often hefty competition as well
You usually cannot use your own domain name
Smaller sites may not be as trustworthy
Limited customer service for you or your customers
Potential limited control of:
  Product
  Customer interaction
  Sales process
  Delivery method
When to Use This Solution

If you are just starting out, have a limited inventory, sell one-off goods, or do not have the expertise to manage the technology, this may be a good option for you. Many of these options offer you room to grow, as eBay does with its eBay store option. Generally speaking, however, you will quickly need a solution more advanced than these if you want to grow.
Hosted Ecommerce Sites

Hosted ecommerce sites offer some of the advantages of the above but offer much more flexibility for the merchant. They still offer content hosting but allow for more control and customization. 

Examples: Shopify, Volusion and BigCommerce
Advantages
Easy to set up turnkey solutions
Hosting costs are often rolled into a monthly fee rather than a per item fee
Many integrate card processing and merchant account services
Increased control of user interface
Typically good customer support
Disadvantages
Can be expensive (Shopify unlimited runs $179/month)
Still limited in customizability
Can get complicated if you are integrating other tools, possibly requiring coding
Reliant on customer support for customer issues
If payment gateway and merchant account are not offered, these will require additional work and costs by the merchant
Some still have transaction fees (BigCommerce charges 2% at some plan levels)
When to Use This Solution

Hosted ecommerce sites are a good option for businesses selling a variety or high quantity of items. You have the time to customize your site but don’t know how or want to do any coding.
Custom Self Hosted Ecommerce Sites

These are similar to the above but, rather than hosting them on their site, you will instead maintain your site on your own domain. They offer the tools to manage your inventory, sales and user interface, but they do so on your site. 

Examples: Zencart, Ultra Cart, Magento and OpenCart.
Advantages
Fully customizable interface
Options to integrate numerous add-ons
Customer support typically available
High levels of scalability (can grow as you do)
Disadvantages
Typically requires either design knowledge or the ability to pay someone to do this for you
Must plan carefully to make sure that everything fits and works together
Any issues that emerge are generally on you or your developer to fix
Requires additional costs and work to set up payment gateway and merchant account
When to Use This Solution

Custom self-hosted ecommerce sites work well for big operations, tech savvy entrepreneurs, or those with a source for development. These solutions are definitely more advanced and more complicated to manage, but they offer significantly more control and ability to integrate.
Stitched Together Options

These are easily the most complicated to maneuver and include cobbling together individual providers for each of the components that you need or desire, including email management (e.g., Mailchimp), digital product download apps, shopping cart software, click and pay options, a merchant account, payment processor, among many other options.
Advantages
Can select and thus pay for only those components that you want or need
Much wider range of choices for each component
Can offer more control over user experience and merchant capabilities
Disadvantages
Increased risk of bugs due to integration communication issues
Costs can add up with each add-on
Can offer a disjunctive shopping experience for customers
Can be difficult to manage for merchants (particularly reporting)
Complicates customer support for both you and your customers
When to Use This Solution

We do not recommend using this solution. It quickly gets overly complicated and makes growth particularly taxing. If you want to purchase a base system which you can add additional functionality to, we recommend the fifth option below.
Customer Relationship Management Platform

Building your ecommerce business with an all-in-one customer relationship management (CRM) platform will not only give you endless room for growth, but also the ability to manage your entire business in one place. 
Advantages
Seamless integration across software needs
Simplified customer support
Typically have high functionality
Reporting metrics available
Once up and running are typically easy to manage
Disadvantages
Can be expensive, especially for businesses that are not yet established
When to Use This Solution

Because of the flexibility and ease that they provide, all-in-one CRM platforms are the ideal option for an ecommerce business with regular sales. With your entire business on one platform, you won’t have to patch together separate solutions for emails, landing pages, forms, etc.

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CHAPTER TWO
 
WIN THE SALE WITH THESE STRATEGIES FOR HIGHLY CONVERTING PAGES
Once you’ve set up your ecommerce software, you’re finally ready to start selling. However, you can’t simply post a photo of your product, add a “buy now” button, and expect the sales to fly in. Some strategic thinking needs to go into each step of the online sales process in order to ensure you’re getting the most from your marketing efforts.

There are three key pages to think about in order to most effectively drive conversions and take care of your new clients: your sales page, your order page and a thank you page. Here’s what you need on each to make sure you’re covering your bases and getting the highest conversion rates possible.
Sales Page

This is where you entice the customer to click through to the order page, so use benefits-focused copy and a clear call to action. Business owners often spend a ton of time on their sales page, but then disregard the next step which is just as important: the order page. 
Order Page

At this point, all that's left is to get the customer to click "buy." Keep it simple and instill their trust in you.
Thank You Page

The sale isn't over yet — the thank you page is an opportunity to upsell and start a continued relationship with your new customer.
Sales Page

Whether you’re selling a digital or physical product or a one-on-one coaching session, the sole purpose of your sales page is to inform visitors of the value and benefits of your product, thereby enticing them to make a purchase. Sales pages can be long form — with detailed descriptions of benefits, testimonials from existing customers and more — or much shorter and to the point. The best choice often depends on product price and complexity, but testing various sales pages is going to be the only way to know for sure what works best for your market. 
Sales Page Checklist

Here’s a checklist of the most common components you’ll find on a high-quality sales page.​​​​​​​
HEADLINE
A powerful headline and subheadings that grab visitors’ attention and get them to read on.
BENEFITS
This is your golden opportunity to get visitors excited and persuade them to buy from you. When appropriate, a high-quality video may take the place of long-form offer copy. Make sure you reiterate the benefits of the item, not just the features: Why will it make a difference in their life? How will they feel after buying it? 
OFFER
What are the terms of the deal? A confused mind never buys, so make sure this is clear. What’s the price? When will I be charged? What’s included? When will I receive it? What if I don’t like it? 
SOCIAL PROOF
Including testimonials on your sales page is one of the best ways to build trust in your product and brand, thereby boosting conversions. If you’ve got a few loyal customers, ask them to send you some kind words based on their experience. If you can, include their pictures and names. Other types of social proof to consider using include awards your company/product has won and “As Seen On…” logos of media outlets you’ve been featured in.
GRAPHICAL MEDIA
Graphical elements and stunning images showcase your product visually as well as reiterate the value you’re delivering. They allow customers to easily and effectively analyze your product while building customers’ trust and confidence in your product/brand. Great images also increase likelihood of social media shares.
SALES VIDEO
A demonstration of your product, its benefits and the pain points it addresses does wonders for instilling buyer confidence.
CALL TO ACTION (CTA)
A bold CTA should be immediately visible upon landing on your sales page and clearly indicate where a customer should click to buy from you. If your sale or promotion ends soon, try using a call to action like “Buy Now — Offer Ends Tonight!” or “Limited Quantity — Purchase Now” to elicit urgency and boost sales. 
At this point, your prospects have made it all the way through your marketing funnel. The people viewing this page are the most ready-to-buy audience you’ll ever get, and all that’s left for you to do is to win the sale, so it’s imperative that you optimize your order page to make it happen.

Having an attractive and simple layout with minimal content is a major component, but there are also several additional details that can have a surprisingly large impact. At the core of it all: increasing trust and reducing uncertainty
Order Page

At this point, your prospects have made it all the way through your marketing funnel. The people viewing this page are the most ready-to-buy audience you’ll ever get, and all that’s left for you to do is to win the sale, so it’s imperative that you optimize your order page to make it happen.

Having an attractive and simple layout with minimal content is a major component, but there are also several additional details that can have a surprisingly large impact. At the core of it all: increasing trust and reducing uncertainty.
 
Order Page Checklist

Guarantees

Consider your customers’ biggest fears about buying your product — and then address them with a guarantee. The goal is to promise your customers something that will negate their excuse not to respond to your call to action today. Quell their fears by promising to make it right should you fail to deliver on your promise. This is also an opportunity to reiterate your refund/cancellation policy.
Trust seals and certifications

Show your customers that you’re watching out for their best interests regarding their payment by including trust seals and certifications at checkout. This verifies to customers that your site is legitimate and therefore helps push conversions. The most-trusted seals are Norton Secured, McAfee Secure, Verisign and Paypal Verified.
Secure checkout confirmation

Ensure customers that their credit card information will be safely encrypted and transmitted using SSL technology to eliminate security risks. Make sure the green “secure” symbol is displayed in your browser when you visit your order page. You may also want to include your SSL Certificate logo to reiterate to customers that all their credit card information is protected by a trusted company.


As few form fields as possible

As a general rule, the more work the customer has to do, the higher the barrier to conversion. Stick to the required order form fields, such as name and credit card information. If you do want additional information without impacting conversion rates, you can add a second form on the thank you page.


No clutter

Your order page should be very simple and clean; don’t clutter it with unnecessary copy or outbound links that can distract buyers and deter them from completing the purchase.
Clarity

Pay attention to details and consider the questions your customers might have during checkout. For example, if you’re accepting payments in U.S. dollars, make sure it clearly says that in the “price” field. If you’re offering a subscription service, clearly explain whether the payment amount is per month or per year.
Reiterate your great customer service

Provide the phone number or email address for if they have any questions, and/or simply confirm that you have a great customer support team that will ensure they have a great experience.


No last-minute surprises

There’s nothing like getting to an order page and then finding out shipping isn’t really free or your promo code isn’t valid. Make sure you’ve communicated clearly throughout the sales process and that your promises are confirmed on the order form to avoid last-minute abandonment.
Thank You Page
Often overlooked, the thank you page is actually one of your best opportunities to build your customers’ confidence in your brand and further nurture your relationship with them.


Thank You Page Checklist

Thank you headline

A message of gratitude confirms the sale, acknowledges the customer, and reaffirms their decision.

 
Opportunities for more sales

Upsell and cross-sell offers that will enhance their recent purchase can further reiterate your value. Thank you pages are also great places to provide special promotional coupons as well as links to additional related content to maintain their interest and move them along your sales funnel.


Customer experience improvement

Provide content that gives the customer more information about the product they just ordered, such as how to use it. You can also build their confidence by showing them how much others love your company and your product by including testimonials.
Data collection

Include a survey, or progressive forms, to capture information that will help you further segment and understand your customers’ wants and needs. Now that they’ve purchased from you, you’re not risking cart abandonment by asking them for more information about themselves.


Social share buttons

Engaged leads and satisfied customers are prone to sharing their experience.
Throughout each page of your sales process, it’s important to be consistent in general with your copy and design. Consistency is vital to instilling trust, and trust is vital to conversion. 

Another key factor: mobile-responsiveness. Make sure your pages are accessible and attractive on a tiny screen — using mobile-ready landing page builders like ONTRApages — to keep customers from closing the page. 

While the page elements above should dramatically improve your conversions, keep in mind that every business is different. As long as your pages build trust and reassure customers that they’re getting a great product, you’re well on your way to ecommerce success.
CHAPTER THREE
 
DRIVING TRAFFIC TO YOUR ECOMMERCE WEBSITE
Once your website is ready to start accepting online orders, you need to get potential customers’ eyes on it – or in marketing terms, drive traffic to it. There are several effective communication platforms you can use to attract leads and customers to your site. Here’s what you need to know about each one:
Email

When it comes to earning site visits from leads and customers, email marketing is still the most effective communication channel for businesses — even with all the newer and shinier options out there.

According to online marketing expert Neil Patel, “When you consider the intensity of the noise on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media networks, it becomes clearer that the best place to communicate with potential customers is via their inboxes.”

Because email is such an effective way to interact with your contacts, making it part of your ecommerce strategy throughout the entire customer lifecycle can positively impact your ROI. Here are the email strategies and elements your ecommerce business needs:


Build a List
Effective email marketing all starts with building a list. The larger your potential customer base is, the more you’re setting up your business for long-term success.

To get started, you can use pop-up offer forms, blog subscription lightboxes, and checkout forms. As your list begins to grow, you’ll quickly find that your email marketing would be even more effective if you could personalize your messages based on leads’ interests.

Segmentation

You have different types of customers; why talk to them all the same way? To send messages targeted as narrowly as possible to your customers’ wants, interests and behaviors, it’s crucial to divide your customer base into segments. By doing so, you ensure that your messages are not only welcome in their inbox, but also enticing enough to click on and engage with, ultimately resulting in a sale. 

Newsletter

Creating a weekly or monthly email newsletter is a win-win: You get clicks, views and overall boosted performance, and your contacts get relevant and helpful information delivered right to their inbox. Although newsletters aren’t the place to showcase your promotional content, they are providing your contacts with a regular source of value, which warms them up for your offer emails. 


Other Email Campaign Ideas

Once you have a steadily growing and segmented list, you can start experimenting with many different types of emails and see what works best in your business. Consider implementing emails like these in your marketing campaigns:
Tell them when a product they’re interested in is about to sell out or increase in price. 
Give them a heads up when their credit card declined while they were trying to buy something from you so they can try again or contact you.
Get in touch with them on the anniversary of their first purchase from you to thank them for being a loyal customer.
Let them know when their credit card on file is about to expire (especially useful for subscription-based business models).
Send them an email with a unique offer or a nice message on their birthday to show them you care about keeping their business.

Social Media

Organic social media posts are an incredible tool for driving traffic to your ecommerce web pages for free. By building an audience and sharing relevant and engaging content on your social media profiles, you can drive a high volume of clicks without paying for advertising. Here are some of the most effective social media platforms for ecommerce businesses.

Facebook

Facebook remains the gold standard social media platform for ecommerce. With its ever-growing list of ecommerce functionalities and an audience of more than 2 billion active users each month, Ecommerce Guide says adding sales to your business Facebook page “just makes sense.”
Instagram

Getting your audience’s organic attention on social media platforms can be tough, but with Instagram’s visual nature, Shopify says “the average engagement ratio per brand is 10 times higher on Instagram than on Facebook.” But how do you measure organic ROI? If you match up Instagram metrics with your sales funnel, top-of-funnel is your new followers and likes, middle is comments, and bottom-of-funnel is link clicks in your bio (measured through a UTM variable).  


Pinterest

With Pinterest’s unique mood board layout and the option to create buyable pins, it’s perfect environment for users who love to shop. ReferralCandy says, “If you’re in the ecommerce business and you don’t have a well-stocked, lively Pinterest page, you’re literally losing sales.” 

YouTube

There’s a lot more to your brand than can be seen in a quick text post with a link and image. To demonstrate your products or services in a way that text and pictures can’t, try creating YouTube videos

Experiment with all the social media platforms out there to find out which is most profitable for your online business.

Advertising

Once you’ve mastered the basics of driving free traffic, you’ll soon be ready to venture into the world of digital advertising to promote your ecommerce website. There are two ways to launch an ad campaign: contextual advertising and search advertising.

Contextual Advertising

With contextual advertising platforms, you can target your ideal audience by placing ads within the content of their existing social networks and other internet platforms. These ads work because they are placed within a particular context, and use interest-based, behavior-based and demographic targeting to get in front of the right audience. Some contextual advertising platforms include:
Search Advertising

With search advertising, rather than displaying ads to users as they are consuming content, content is actually suggested to users based on terms that they have searched. Search-based advertising is focused on keywords – it’s essential to zero in on the keywords that people use to search for the content or information you’re offering, and then bid on those keywords to show up in the sponsored results.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you’re thinking of launching ads for your ecommerce site:
KEEP AD COPY CONSISTENT
This is incredibly important to keep viewers from getting confused once they click through to your ecommerce web page. Make sure they immediately know they’re getting what they came for.
TARGET YOUR ADS TO YOUR BUYER SEGMENTS
You’ve already done the hard work of segmenting your list. Now, all you have to do is write your ads as though you’re speaking directly to each of those people. Use their language and focus on their pain points.
PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR COST PER CONVERSION
In advertising, you typically have the option to pay per click or to pay per conversion. Although pay per click tends to earn you cheap traffic, if it’s not actually resulting in visitors completing your conversion goal, then is it really worth it? Achieving a lower cost per conversion tells you that you’re getting quality traffic.
SELL THE CLICK
When creating ads that drive traffic, your job is to get people to click – not to completely sell them on your product all from one ad. The ad’s job is to get people to your product pages and become familiar with your site, so keep it simple and focus on getting them to click.
Retargeting

Whether your customers and leads bought your product or not, the customer lifecycle doesn’t end once people leave your page. If you have their email address or even if they’ve simply been cookied while visiting your tracked web pages, you can retarget them to keep products they’re interested in top-of-mind and increase your chances of selling to them.
SEO

Search engine optimization, commonly referred to as SEO, is the tailoring of your online content in order to appear near the top of search engine results pages when users search for specific keywords. 

Why is it so important to rank highly on Google search results page? According to Leverage Marketing, “The average web user won’t go past the first five listings on a search engine results page.”

How can you make it easier for search engines to find your content and display it to the right search users? Here are a few tips:
Use accurate and descriptive title tags and meta descriptions. These help users (and Google) figure out if your page is what they’re looking for.
Try creating different Landing Pages for customers who search for specific keywords. According to Modassic Marketing, “Creating several SEO landing pages that each focus on a specific keyword phrase is a great strategy. However, it is important to make sure the content on each page is unique. Don’t simply duplicate a page and only change out the keyword.
Optimize for keywords that are specific to your business. Focus on long-tail keywords to get visitors who are more interested in your page’s content. 
Rich snippet displays can be incredibly impactful when optimizing your ecommerce website for search engines – they are perfect for product reviews. If you’re serious about optimizing your ecommerce website, consider installing rich snippets.

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CHAPTER FOUR
 
ORDER FULFILLMENT
A fundamental part of selling online is delivering your product or service to the consumer. Here’s how digital and physical products are delivered and the advantages/disadvantages of each.
Digital Products

There are a number of ways in which digital products like PDFs, images, and videos can be delivered to your customers. Here are some of the most common:
Attachment Links

Attachment links are typically included in email body copy and sent directly to the consumer immediately after the purchase is confirmed.
Advantages
Attachments are simple to set up, and with some work upfront and the right software, this can be automated so future delivery is taken care of for you.
They warm your customers up to opening emails from you, making it easier for you to engage them with email offers in the future. 
Disadvantages
Sending attachments can be taxing if automation is not in place.
Download Links

Downloads are links hosted directly on a site that can be accessed once the customer’s payment is approved.
Advantages
The process is really easy for both the consumer and the merchant.
Fewer steps need to be taken than with email attachment links, making it less likely that the consumer will back out.
Disadvantages
It decreases the number of points in which you can interact with the consumer.
It can be more complicated to set up and track.
Membership Site Access

Membership site access allows you to assign a username and password to a consumer, giving them access to your website (or portion of your website) that has valuable content on it.
Advantages
This experience offers more options for richness and depth of material for the consumer.
It offers an easy opportunity for the merchant to continuously collect subscription fees.
It offers ease of use for the merchant.
It can increase consumers’ perception of value.
Disadvantages
If the site is not managed well, consumers can either get overwhelmed (because the information is not well curated) or bored (because the information not engaging).
Membership sites may decrease the number of interaction points with the consumer.
Physical Products

There are a number of concerns for merchants who sell physical goods online, but at the top of the list is shipping: How much should you charge for shipping? When should it be free?

Deciding on the best method for shipping, including how much you’ll charge, can be tricky, but the solutions below can help you to determine which best fits your business needs. Alternatively, you can try several of these methods using split testing to determine which method works best for your clientele
Free Shipping

Whether you decide to charge your customer for the shipping or not, someone needs to pay for it. As a seller, you can either absorb the cost or pass it along to the consumer by increasing the cost of the good.

There are three ways to offer free shipping. The first is to simply offer free shipping on all orders. The second method is to charge for shipping, unless a preset quantity is reached (either item count or a dollar amount). The third is to offer free shipping to qualified members only, for membership enrollment, lifetime purchase amount, or VIP accounts for example.

Here’s a summary of the advantages and disadvantages for the different types of free shipping:
Always Free Shipping
Advantages
It’s easy for consumers. 
It’s a highly attractive selling point.
There are no unexpected shipping costs at checkout.
Reporting is easy for the merchant.
Disadvantages
If you’ve increased the price of the good to compensate for offering free shipping, the consumer may shop around and find that your product is too expensive.
Can get pricey if your average consumer is further away or ordering heavier items than when free shipping calculated.
Costs can creep up through increases in shipping charge.
Free Shipping If Order Exceeds a Certain Dollar Amount or Quantity
Advantages
It incentivizes the customer to purchase more in order to meet the minimum for free shipping.
Those increased sales should help offset increased shipping cost.
There’s no sticker shock for the customer at checkout.
Disadvantages
You must have an ecommerce solution that technologically allows for this. 
It can get complicated.
If it’s not carefully monitored, loss of income can result.
Costs can creep up if shipping averages are not correct or if consumer spending changes.
Free Shipping for Qualified Members
Advantages
It incentivizes the qualification process.
It can assist in retention.
Disadvantages
It can get complicated.
If it’s not carefully monitored, loss of income can result.
You must have an ecommerce solution that technologically allows for this.
Costs can creep up if shipping averages are not correct or if consumer spending changes.
Calculated Rate Shipping

With calculated rate shipping, once the items are placed in a shopping cart or the buyer has filled out an order form, shipping is determined based on shipping method, item(s) being purchased, and distance from the merchant to the consumer.
Advantages
It’s transparent to the consumer at check-out.
There are no extra costs to the merchant (because costs of shipping are passed on to the buyer).
It adjusts for distance to the buyer (so closer buyers and buyers from far away pay appropriate amounts).
It allows for items’ prices to remain lower, making them appear more competitive.
Disadvantages
It can lead to sticker shock at checkout and, thus, abandoned orders.
It may not account for the cost of shipping materials like boxes, bubble wrap, tape, etc.
It can get complicated for the consumer, particularly if there are several shipping variables (such as speed of delivery, shipping purveyor, etc.).
Variable Rate Shipping

With variable rate shipping, you set some criteria that’s not directly related to increased shipping costs, but is often associated with it. For example, the merchant could offer a flat rate with an additional charge for Alaska, Hawaii or international. Alternatively, the charges could be based on number of items purchased (e.g., if you buy one to five items, then shipping is $5, if you buy more than five items, shipping is $11).
Advantages
Costs are transparent to consumers before they start shopping.
More control of what to charge based on your customers’ orders.
Reduces risk for errors and complications when taking into account express and international orders.
Takes into consideration your variable expenses including employee labor, shipping supplies, transportation costs, etc.
Disadvantages
Consumers may be turned off by what they perceive to be expensive shipping costs for what they ordered. 
Other Shipping Considerations

Your Customers’ Location

When deciding whether or not you’ll charge for shipping, take your customers’ location into consideration. Are they mostly nearby, or in far away rural areas that incur surcharges? The further away your average customer, the greater overall shipping costs you’ll incur.

Your Competition

Are you in a highly competitive market? The cost of shipping could make or break a customers’ decision to purchase from you versus a competitor.  

Collecting Shipping

Depending on the ecommerce software you choose, collecting shipping fees can be easy or somewhat complicated. Simple solutions like Amazon Marketplace and PayPal automatically link directly with UPS and USPS to make the process of shipping easier. More complicated solutions will need to be integrated with add-ons from UPS, USPS or FedEx

Tracking

It’s a common best practice to allow your customers to track their shipments. These can be self-managed without extra software or can be integrated into your ecommerce system using APIs from the various shippers. There are also a variety of plug-and-play shipping options that work with a variety of types of ecommerce software including ShipStation and Shyp.

Working With a Fulfillment House

Another shipping option once you have reached a significant size is to contract with a fulfillment house. Fulfillment houses manage your inventory and ship your goods, allowing you to focus on sales (as long as the product is ready for the fulfillment house to distribute).

CHAPTER FIVE
 
OTHER ECOMMERCE CONSIDERATIONS
You’re almost ready to start selling online. This chapter discusses all the extra information and last-minute details you should consider before starting an ecommerce business.
Integrations and Migrations

When setting up your ecommerce business, you may discover that the software you selected — whether self-hosting, stitched together or all-in-one — doesn’t have all the functionalities you need. That’s when you know it’s either time to integrate with an additional tool, or migrate to an ecommerce platform with a wider range of features.
Integrations

According to TechTarget, “Integration is the act of bringing together smaller components into a single system that functions as one. In an IT context, integration refers to the end result of a process that aims to stitch together different, often disparate, subsystems so that the data contained in each becomes part of a larger, more comprehensive system that, ideally, quickly and easily shares data when needed.”
Integrations basically connect all of your software solutions together. For example, if you’re using your ecommerce system and want to use an external shopping cart that can log product purchases in your ecommerce system with detailed analytics, you can integrate all those systems. This can commonly be done using an API (Application Program Interface).

If this is your game plan, you’ll need to find an ecommerce software that has an open API. This means you can plug codes from other systems into your software and vice versa in order for them to be linked. That way, any data entered in one is entered in the other automatically. It’s incredibly important for all your ecommerce solutions to work together so that no information is falling through the cracks, and your business can run as efficiently and smoothly as possible.
Migrations

Sometimes the ecommerce solutions you choose end up not being exactly what you were hoping for, not meeting your expectations, or are simply not scalable. This is 100% normal and part of finding the ecommerce solutions that work best for you.

However, switching, or migrating, between ecommerce solutions can be a major pain if you aren’t prepared. Sometimes the difficulty of the process convinces people not to migrate at all and just stick it out with their existing solutions. It’s important to have an escape route planned when you are choosing your ecommerce solutions so that if you choose to leave that solution in the future, all of your highly valuable data isn’t lost.​​​​​​​

Most ecommerce players will allow you to export your contact data as well as other data as a .csv file which equates to a spreadsheet in Excel or Google Sheets.

Here’s the data you’ll want to consider exporting should the situation arise:

Contacts/client info
Product sales logs
Open orders on products
Email templates
Affiliate data
Ecommerce Law

​​​​​​​Before you hit the ground running in your ecommerce business, it’s a good idea to be familiar with the laws behind selling online. The ecommerce law landscape can be tricky to navigate as there are numerous complex legal issues that change depending on what you sell, where you sell it, etc. It’s important to stay informed and be aware of the legalities of the ecommerce world in order to protect yourself and your business.

The best way to educate yourself on ecommerce law is to actually seek professional legal counsel. However, if you’d like to learn the basics of ecommerce law, check out these detailed resources:

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CHAPTER SIX
 
THE ECOMMERCE CHECKLIST
Once you have a product that you’re ready to sell online, use the checklist below to make sure all your bases are covered.
Business Basics
Do you have a digital product, service or physical good that you want to sell online?
Do you know how your product differs from your competitors?
Do you know your ideal customer inside and out?
Do you have a domain name?
Do you have an existing brand?
Getting Started Selling Online
Do you have a business license?
Do you have a business bank account?
Does it accept all major credit and debit cards?
Have you chosen an ecommerce platform and payment gateway?
Do you have an SSL Certificate?
Sales Page
Do you include a powerful headline and subheads that grab your visitors’ attention?
Is your body copy benefit-driven vs. feature-driven?
Do your calls to action stand out and entice visitors to click?
Is your page layout easy on the eye?
Do you effectively use video?
Are your pages mobile-responsive?
Do your pages feature social proof elements such as awards, media logos, trust seals, or testimonials?
Driving Traffic
Do you have email campaigns ready for when you launch your website?
Do you have the software required to start building a contact list?
Have you created personas and segments for your customers and leads?
Do you have a social media presence?
Is your website optimized for search engines?
Are you running any paid ads to your ecommerce site or products?
Fulfillment
If you’re shipping a physical product, have you chosen a shipping solution, method and rate?
Do you know how you are going to fulfill your sales?
Can your customers easily contact you if they need support on a purchase?
Other Considerations
Are you familiar with ecommerce laws for your country?
Are any necessary integrations installed and working properly?
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