Ecommerce Primer Part 2: Enhance Your Web Shop

Once you have the e-commerce site basics covered and your Web site launched, it’s time to look at adding optional elements, like e-mail marketing and Web analytics, to your online retail site.

In Ecommerce Primer: What You Need to Set Up Shop Online, we discussed the basic fundamental building blocks of an e-commerce Web site. These include the domain name, site hosting and design, merchant account, payment gateway, shopping cart and site security.

However, retail Web sites need to go beyond these basic elements to be successful.  As the site owner, you need to grow your online business and enhance the on-site experience for your customers. You will also want to work on increasing traffic to your site and acquiring new customers. 

In Part 2 of this e-commerce guide, we look at five e-commerce services and solutions that can help you better manage and grow your online retail business.

Behind the Scene Essentials: Analytics, SEO and E-mail Marketing

Web Site Analytics

Web site analytics software provides insight to Web site traffic. The data obtained through a Web analytics program can help you better understand who visits your site, where visitors come from and which pages they visit. You’ll be able to see what keywords people searched with to find your site, how long they stayed on a given page or on the entire site, what links they clicked on and when they left the site.

Analytics software also tells you where people leave your site; this can help you identify a problem with your shopping cart or help you understand why you aren’t making higher conversions.

SEO: Search Engine Optimization

Now that you have an e-commerce Web site, one of the biggest obstacles you face is making sure your site gets a good placement in natural search engine results.  This is where search engine optimization (SEO) comes in handy. 

In a nutshell, SEO is the process of increasing the number of visitors to your Web site by having your pages rank higher on a search engine results page (SERP). The higher a Web site ranks in the search results, the greater the chance that people will visit that site.

Google owns the largest share of Internet searches, so most sites optimize for Google first. Some business owners may invest in hiring an SEO expert, but if you have a small budget to work with, there are many things you can do on your own to boost your rank in search engines. 

Remember that while SEO gets a lot of hype, it should not be the number-one focus. A search engine can direct traffic to your site, but if you don’t have a great design and quality products, people won’t stay and shop no matter how much you have invested in SEO.  Invest in your site functionality and design first, and then follow the do-it-yourself tips offered in this Ecommerce Guide Tips article to get started on optimizing your e-commerce site. 

E-mail Marketing

E-mail marketing is more like a venture all on its own—not just another element of doing business online.  When done well, it’s an effective way to keep in touch with your customers. By offering newsletter sign-up boxes on your site you can acquire a subscriber list, and then send out promotions and special offers to increase sales.

You need to use good judgment when e-mailing newsletters or you run the risk of spamming your list. Industry reports indicate that the most successful campaigns contain a good mix of knowledge and sales promotions.

Many site owners use an e-mail marketing software package to handle their campaigns. This type of software automates the process, ensures that you comply with the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act with every e-mail you send, handles all unsubscribe requests, plus it will provide you with analytical information—like who clicked which links and who made purchases based on your campaign. You can’t easily obtain this data cannot when you do e-mail campaigns by hand.

When looking for an e-mail marketing solution, start-up costs are usually quite cheap, but subscription prices tend to be directly linked to the number of e-mails you send out.  Remember that as your business grows so will your subscriber list. Find out what kind of pricing the provider offers for subscriber lists of 5,000, 10,000 and higher. Also, make sure the solution you choose has features like customizable templates, analytics to see at least click and open rates, and the capability to segment lists and to do A/B split testing.

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