How to Build and Grow an E-commerce Business

When it comes to developing an e-commerce website to sell your products online, each business has unique needs and goals. Creating an effective e-commerce site involves combining multiple elements that reflect your brand, attract visitors, and entice people to become loyal buyers.

What Makes an Effective E-commerce Site?

Whether you’re creating a new e-commerce site or updating an existing one, remember that as website capabilities have evolved in recent years, so have customer expectations regarding the shopping experience. Ask yourself these questions in order to guide your e-commerce development plans:

  1. Can customers easily access the site on their phone or tablet (responsive design)? Do photos and videos load quickly?
  2. Can customers easily search and purchase items on their mobile devices? Can they simply press “buy” to make a transaction?
  3. Can customers easily navigate products in ways logical to the business?
  4. Is it easy for administrators to add products or update information and images? Is it easy to find programmers when needed?
  5. Does the e-commerce system integrate well with back-office tools, such as NetSuite,QuickBooks, and ERP, POS or CRM systems?
  6. Does it work with shipping software to facilitate inventory management?

If you already have an e-commerce website and answered “no” to any of these questions, it may be time to update to keep it the best in its market. If you’re embarking upon creating a new e-commerce site, use these questions to guide what you need the site to do.

To make sure your site satisfies current customers and attracts new ones, while being easy for you to work with behind-the-scenes, include these key features:

  • Distinctive site design that reinforces your branding
  • Efficient transactions using credit cards or PayPal
  • Security of information
  • Search friendly design and search engine optimization (SEO) methods
  • Configured to the needs and goals of  your business, i.e., showing shoppers related products
  • Database integration to easily update data feeds and upload to shopping channels (AmazoneBayBizrate,Google ShoppingNextagShopzilla, etc.)
  • Integrate well with back-office software for accounting, supply, shipping, etc.
  • Scalability to easily add products and product lines
  • Drop-ship integration for selling products from other suppliers

Magento and Shopify are two well-established platforms that may suit your needs:

  • Magento websites are user-friendly for the shopper as well as those managing content updates and administrative tasks. It’s an extremely flexible, robust, and effective platform for businesses looking to provide a complete shopping experience. Magento suits diverse business types, product lines, and business models, while offering specialized shopping functions (i.e., customizable orders). Products can easily be updated while also integrating with back-office functions.
  • Shopify is ideal for smaller businesses wanting a quicker-to-build yet effective platform for online shopping. It enables a fluid shopping experience on mobile devices and computers. Shopify is just right for recent e-commerce start-ups or businesses that don’t need heavy back-end functionality.

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About The Author

Matthew Harris

Matthew began designing and building websites in 1995, and has since grown Harris Web Works (formerly Medium Well) into a full-service online marketing provider. He continuously adds expertise to become proficient in the evolving world of e-commerce, digital marketing, search engine optimization, mobile web, and more. Client work includes large corporate websites to comprehensive, customized services for small-to-medium sized businesses. He has worked as a designer, programmer, marketer and project manager. Matt is on the Board of Directors of Search Engine Marketing New England (SEMNE), and is a partner at Digital Media Sync in New Haven, CT.