E-COMMERCE

Everything you wanted to know and need to know about selling online

The term e-commerce refers to the buying and selling of products and services via the web, and more simply to online shopping. It is a business model involving a set of transactions and business operations:

  • Business-to-Business (B2B),
  • Business-to-Consumer (B2C),
  • Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C) or Consumer-to-Business (C2B).

e-commerce guide

Read on, because in the resource you will find tips on how to successfully run an ecommerce store and you will learn more about the following topics:

  • What is e-commerce?
  • Why create an ecommerce site?
  • How much does it cost and how to start an eCommerce?
  • How to open e-commerce on Amazon?
  • How to sell with Shopify?
  • What is the best eCommerce software and how to manage it
  • What mistakes to avoid to bring traffic and acquire customers
  • How to become an eCommerce professional and which eCommerce course to choose.

What is E-commerce and how it works

The definition of ecommerce for Wikipedia is:

Electronic commerce is the set of transactions generated by the buying and selling of goods and services over the Internet and the communication or management of commercial activities via the web.

Therefore, to succeed in making one’s products known via the Internet, it is essential to learn all the secrets and adopt the necessary steps to sell online, starting with the creation of e-commerce and ending with the legal aspects of ecommerce regulations.

Online distribution of digital content, investment transactions on trading platforms and similar banking initiatives, and other public administration settlement procedures also fall within the scope of e-commerce.

Whoever intends to embark on an extremely competitive world such as e-commerce must necessarily have a solid grasp of the platforms for creating ecommerce sites and the tricks for selling online effectively, and must know the main steps to follow in order to open an e-commerce business and set up a site that generates turnover. In addition, he or she must know the main strategies to succeed in e-commerce.

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The advent of virtual shops has changed the game of retailing, both in terms of intermediation and disintermediation. In fact, the world of online sales brings together niche needs, reaches users even very distant geographically, and can increase purchasing power. Moreover, it can lower channel costs, give rise to direct contact with users thanks to communities, and allow the management of products built on demand up to total customization of the product/service.

The rise of e-commerce sites has led to competitors fighting side-by-side, eliminating time and space. In this scenario, the role of the consumer becomes more and more considerable. By now, the customer informs himself on blogs, social media, and product and price comparison sites. He is therefore better prepared and must be placed at the center of every e-commerce project. In this guide, you will discover the steps to follow to open an ecommerce store from scratch.

Why selling online is profitable

By now, when we talk about business, the boundary between e-commerce and “traditional” commerce is very thin, i.e., the direction is moving towards complete integration of the two worlds. However, the specific weight of e-commerce, of the sale of products on the Internet, is growing very promisingly in the current and near-future compared to the evolution of offline business. This starting point makes it clear why constant updating on the part of the manager, the entrepreneur with his own business, and the individual worker is imperative in order to keep up with the times and the demands of the online employment market.

It is therefore natural that the requirements of companies include digital competencies, skills, and e-commerce project management skills. Generally speaking, knowledge of what e-commerce is and of the web marketing discipline with regard to online sales is required.

From a “personal” point of view, learning to work with transaction sites on the Internet means knowing how to handle tools, software, and platforms, and administering technical aspects necessary e.g. to adapt the figure of the shop assistant and convert it into an online store manager, all the way up to a career as an e-commerce manager.

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The impact of e-commerce in the world of work

E-commerce is a growing market phenomenon, not insignificant for entrepreneurs who earn money on the web through the sale of goods or services to customers, whether business or consumer-oriented. The need, valid for managers, but also relevant for employees and office workers, is to understand the influence of online commerce on business life, as well as on the career path of freelancers.

This clarification is necessary for light of the mutation of the labor market and the purchasing habits of people who are increasingly inclined to satisfy their needs by relying on online shopping.

To find your way in the industry, it is good to ask yourself what you need to know about starting and running an eCommerce site, what the best sales techniques are, and to learn the characteristics of those who are successful in the digital marketing sector.

Growth trends

E-commerce is a fast-growing sector.

And how is e-commerce performing? The figures that are recorded every year show an increase in turnover of 20% compared to the previous year. The most successful sectors are tourism and leisure. Despite the enormous growth, we are still far behind the figures of the leading Western countries.

Shops that become showrooms

Regarding the coexistence of physical stores and online shops, we come to the idea presented by Luca Papa in his video: an innovation in the retail concept. The impact of ecommerce websites will have a tangible effect on local businesses, which will see their role in the sales funnel change.

The “real” shop as we are used to experiencing it will cease to exist to make way for the showroom, a place to see and try on products and then finalize the purchase on the web. It is already common to approach the search for a desired good in this way, exploiting the advantage of “touching”, testing, and measuring items and then taking advantage of the services offered by ecommerce in the virtual shop.

Specifically, the example is to identify an object, physically try it out and in parallel activate the smartphone search to find out where it is best to buy it using the best price or the most convenient online service.

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The best e-commerce platforms: advantages and disadvantages

When designing an e-shop, one must carefully choose the technology with which to realize it. There are two solutions for creating a digital space that enables online transactions. Let us take a closer look at them in our eCommerce guide.

Proprietary platforms

What does a proprietary platform mean? When ecommerce is completely realized by a programmer or a web agency.

This means that the entire Html and Css structure, any programming (C# or PHP), database architecture (SQL Server or MySql), and any control panel are realized “by hand” on the basis of the customer’s indications and wishes. The realization of a custom-made updatable site involves a higher cost since the e-commerce work and technical skills required are many and more complex.

Proprietary software advantages:

  • A solid base of extensions;
  • Business class support,
  • Total scalability;
  • High reliability;
  • Available in hosted and SaaS modes.

Proprietary software disadvantages:

  • Variable license fee;
  • Limited modifiability;
  • Limited ecosystem.

Open Source CMS

The Open Source Content Managing System, ecommerce software gives you the power to start your own e-shop more easily and economically. The best ecommerce source solutions certainly include Shopify, Magento, WordPress with WooCommerce or Prestashop.

One is inclined to think that one can do e-commerce for free with these platforms, but the truth is different.

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Whenever we decide to launch our eCommerce with CMS, we become solely responsible for the actions we take. We are responsible for choosing the hosting service that will host our eCommerce management system, we are responsible for installing the CMS, configuring and securing it, maintaining it on the servers, and so on. It is certainly a low-cost solution and we will also have included the ability to view and modify the source code. We will have great advantages, especially in terms of flexibility and customization of the solution.

The most widely used open-source platforms are the following:

  • Magento;
  • WordPress with WooCommerce, WP e-Commerce, and Jigoshop plugins;
  • Joomla with the VirtueMart plugin;
  • Shopify;
  • PrestaShop;
  • Open Cart.

How to run an ecommerce

Before discovering the elements that make up an eCommerce, I suggest you take a look at our E-Commerce Glossary and elaborate on these topics in our free eCommerce webinar.

The product catalog

The key to e-commerce growth is to have as wide a selection of products as possible and to plan categories to make the product easy to find. Category planning plays a predominant role in the success of e-commerce.

So there are two factors to keep in mind:

  1. have a wide choice of goods;
  2. cataloging them methodically to make them easily traceable by customers.

Organizing customer service

Customers must be put at the center of the project, and the service offered to them is one of the most important aspects to consider. We never tire of saying this in the guide. One must excel in the critical aspects, which can be identified in:

  • Returns management and product delivery

Return is one of the most important services as it creates trust in the customer. It is necessary to implement the return strategy so that it is as fast and simple as possible.

Delivery is the highest barrier to overcome. First and foremost, it must be fast and accurate. It must lower the shipping cost and calibrate the price to the customer’s expected performance.

In addition, it is of particular importance to communicate to the consumer how to track their purchase in order to reduce anxiety and reduce service calls. Therefore, providing timely information and anticipating possible customer requests by means of the tracking service (as we will see in the section on logistics) make all the difference.

organize customer service

  • Customer care and trust

Support is another key point.

Operators should always be available, possibly 24 hours a day, and should give direct telephone support without intermediaries. If possible, a chat support tactic should be explored. Operators should be able to build a relationship with customers and support their choices.

Also, remember that customer care has a deep understanding of your customers’ needs. Trust plays a key role in the purchase decision.

There are various ways to nurture trust:

  • Security messages on the site;
  • Provide precise details about the seller;
  • Define and make public a return procedure;
  • Excellent multimedia content;
  • Publish customer reviews and opinions;
  • Keeping a transparent policy on social media;
  • Generate word of mouth.
  • How and when to communicate with ecommerce users?

Ineffective communication is among the common mistakes of ecommerce. We must seize the many opportunities offered by the sales process and in particular:

  • Abandoned trolley;
  • Order confirmation;
  • Shipping notice;
  • Cash on delivery payment instructions;
  • Return modalities;
  • Customer satisfaction check;
  • Product review request.

ineffective communication

Logistics

Logistics is also another area to be implemented when implementing an e-commerce project.

  • How important is the delivery time?

The delivery deadline is probably the feature with the most relevance and a point that can make the difference between a sale being realized or not.

The buyer wants the purchased item at home and immediately. The choice of the forwarding agent to be used therefore becomes essential. Note that the buyer wants compliance with all the conditions written on the e-commerce site. This is why it is advisable to write down a delivery time of e.g. 4 days, rather than guaranteeing delivery in 2 days and delivering the goods after 3 days. In addition, it is good to rely on a courier company that gives the condition to track shipments. Good tracking requires reliable forwarders, so it is better to rely on safe carriers even at the expense of higher costs. At all times, both traders and buyers need to know where the items are and the exact day of delivery or collection.

  • How should packaging be handled?

Packaging is crucial. Good packaging allows goods to arrive intact, avoiding problems with customers and carriers. Packaging must be diverse and adapted to the items to be shipped.

  • How important is it to have a wide network of points of presence?

It is vital to have the widest possible network of points of presence in the territory. With a dense network, we will avoid non-delivery and consequent stock-outs. We will also have the means to handle payments locally.

large networks

  • Which logistics model can be applied to ecommerce?

E-commerce logistics models can be divided into two categories:

  • The traditional model is in which customers make the purchase and the seller ships the product directly to buyers from its warehouse.
  • The drop shipment model is a sales model whereby the seller sells items to an end user, without physically possessing them in their warehouse. The seller, having made the sale, will transmit the order to the supplier, called a “drop shipper“, who will ship the products directly to the end user.

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Improving the customer experience

When setting up an e-commerce platform, it is of paramount importance to take the user experience into account.

The User eXperience is the combination of graphics and content that are proposed to the user. Below, in this guide dedicated to the online commerce system, is a list of elements to consider in order to optimize the CX /customer experience).

  • Optimizing content

Content is King. Content is very important, it must provide a lot of useful data and information to the user arriving at the e-store. It is important to have intellectual property on the content and not to copy it from other sources. To optimize the content we have to evaluate:

  • Tools to enrich a product description;
  • Images and videos;
  • Reviews;
  • Price comparison with competitors;
  • Shopping tips;
  • Related products;
  • Variants.
  • Improving the site search

Very important is the search on the site. Whoever searches for a product on the internal e-commerce search engine must quickly see the article he needs. At this stage, great care must be taken and importance attached to redirects and synonym searches.

These are examples of internal search engines in eCommerce:

  • dtSearch;
  • Shish-e;
  • ht://Dig;
  • Adobe Search&Promote;
  • Oracle.
  • Carts and checkout pages

Among the e-commerce mistakes often made is the failure to optimize the shopping cart page and checkout page. Indeed, it is at this stage of the marketing funnel that many potential customers are lost. Study and continuous optimization are required to avoid losing customers.

Tax obligations of an e-business

What to do to open an online shop in the tax area? The legal part is essential, and it is, therefore, a must to be assisted by a specialized lawyer in order not to incur penalties. For all legal and juridical aspects, we suggest consulting the “e-commerce tax regulations”.

In this ecommerce guide, we report on some of the practices to be considered:

  • File a commencement report with the municipality of residence;
  • Check the legality of the chosen domain name and ensure its ownership;
  • Ensure that you own the copyright for the content of the site;
  • Minimum site content:
    • Name/company name,
    • Domicile/legal seat,
    • Contact details (not only email),
    • REA registration/trade register,
    • VAT number,
    • (*) Extremes of the licenses required for the specific trade,
    • (*) Professional/state registration.

Legal aspects for web stores

  • “The indication in a clear and unambiguous manner of the prices and tariffs of the various information society services provided, highlighting whether they include taxes, delivery costs and other additional elements to be specified”.
  • “The indication of the activities permitted to the consumer and the recipient of the service and the details of the contract if an activity is subject to authorization or the object of the service is provided E-Commerce and Websites by law page 30 on the basis of a license agreement
  • Making available the information necessary for the conclusion of the contract (Art. 12 of Legislative Decree 70/30);
  • Comply with the Consumer Code:
    • 52 – Information Obligations,
    • 54 – Order processing within 30 days,
    • 64 – Right of withdrawal within 10 working days,
    • Comply with the requirements of Legislative Decree 196/03 “Personal Data Protection Code”,
    • Publication and acceptance of privacy policies,
  • Since 1 June 2012, Legislative Decree 69/192 has come into force to regulate the use of cookies,
  • Notify the Garante della Privacy of the information held and its processing.

Improving the lead generation of your e-commerce

Once the E-business is established, one has to create traffic and acquire new customers. Therefore, you have to plan a customer acquisition strategy, i.e. lead generation. You have to understand where the online user is, how he or she uses the means to buy, and what he or she buys. The solution is to be able to implement a marketing mix strategy in order to:

  • lowering costs;
  • reduce risks;
  • differentiate users (because they are not all the same!).

Traffic acquisition can be realized through different channels, let us see them in detail.

Direct traffic

What exactly does “direct traffic” mean?

By direct traffic, we mean users typing the exact address into the browser including return users.

It is a very profitable flow because it is not always burdened with marketing costs; qualified because the users who arrive directly express great interest in the site. Moreover, this traffic can be generated by branding campaigns both on social media and with advertising tools such as Google Ads.

SEO

Traffic from search engines is very high, so much attention must be paid to SEO optimization. SEO for e-commerce is quite complicated as platform structures are increasingly articulated with many product pages.

seo optimization

Here are some crucial points you need to keep in mind when doing SEO on your eCommerce:

  • Try to send traffic to the product pages so as not to lose visitors.
  • Implement OnPage – OffPage measures.
  • Product categorization – should be done with the terms used by users in the search in mind.
  • Article name – should be placed in the HTML tags, should emphasize its importance, and have the right keyword density.
  • Description of the good – avoid it being too short or unnecessarily long, it must contain an appropriate first/second/third level Keyword Density.
  • Alternative searches – include the other terms and must come from a study of the keywords used to find the articles.
  • Keyword density – must be evaluated on the entire page once merchandising is completed.
  • Link building – needs content generation strategies. It should be done at all levels, using different types of content and source sites. An investment must be planned to link different pages according to the focus keywords relevant to the page.
  • Avoid confusing Google with excessive links to the same term that lead to different pages or different levels on the site.
  • Also, carefully avoid duplication of generated pages, otherwise the link-building strategy is thwarted.

Google Ads and Displays

The comparison site is widely used by digital sellers. The main price comparison platforms are Idealo, Trovaprezzi, Kelkoo, and Ciao. But there are many others. These are the main features of price comparison sites:

  • They are aimed at generating traffic, mainly B2C;
  • They offer price comparisons between different retailers;
  • They are usually compensated by CPC;
  • They offer a few additional services;
  • They are historically in decline;
  • Google penalizes them heavily (perhaps because of Google Shopping).

Display advertising has the same purpose of capturing the user; it is usually remunerated at CPM. The new frontier is Real Time Bidding.

Affiliation networks

An affiliate network is a platform that brings publishers and affiliates together. The publisher is the one who runs a website/blog; he wants to earn money with banners, links, and landing pages provided by the affiliate. The platform takes care of performance tracking and sending payments. Affiliate platforms bring together many players of all sizes. The compensation scheme offered is usually CPS (Cost per Sale).

In addition, they offer other possible campaigns such as SEM or Email Marketing Automation for eCommerce. The two main international players are Tradedoubler and Awin (formerly Zanox).

  • They are aimed at generating traffic, mainly B2C;
  • They provide price comparison between different retailers;
  • They are usually compensated through CPC;
  • They offer few additional services;
  • They have historically been declining;
  • Google penalizes them heavily (perhaps due to Google Shopping).

Social Networks

Social networking has also become very important from the perspective of online retailing. Through the social network, we can reach a very good segment of discreetly targeted traffic to generate direct traffic through branding campaigns. This is usually qualified traffic with a high conversion rate.

Social media can be used in the early stages of the funnel to make relevant advertisements appear, but also to re-display ads to users who have visited a site without purchasing or have abandoned the shopping cart. In the latter two cases, we speak of remarketing. This customer acquisition technique can also be used on Google Ads.

Email Marketing

Email is always undervalued, but continues to be the most profitable source of user acquisition.

email marketing types

Three types of email marketing can be identified:

  • Emails on the commercial database;
  • Emails on external databases,
  • Email via transactional communications;

The distinctive elements to be borne in mind are:

  • They have a high effectiveness rate and low cost (for internal databases);
  • Great possibility of experimentation:
    • A/B testing,
    • Graphics, format, promotions.
  • Ecommerce sites possess vast databases on which to perform message segmentation.

Marketplaces

Marketplaces are platforms where goods from different suppliers or different sites are grouped together. We can identify eBay and Amazon as the best-known marketplaces. In particular, Amazon offers many opportunities and related services that make it easy to sell on the e-commerce portal.

Mobile Commerce and Social Commerce

Mobile Commerce (also known as M-Commerce) means the ability to manage e-commerce through the use of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

mobile commerce and social

Ecommerce and mobile, a combination that took its first steps in the late 1990s, is growing steadily and will continue to grow in the coming years. Also of great interest in this area is InfoCommerce, which is becoming increasingly popular. Many users inform themselves on the Internet before making a purchase using blogs and forums.

The term Social Commerce usually refers to a set of sales strategies and tactics that combine social media/social networking and peer-to-peer communication systems to generate commercial transactions. In other words, it is the meeting of Social Media and Online Shopping. In the peer-to-peer form, it has always been present on the net via Ebay. In the Social Media form, it is still at the stage of discovery and evaluation.

There are various forms of Social Commerce: communities, marketplaces, and generic sites that allow users to sell to other users.

These include eBay, Etsy, and Amazon Marketplace.

How can you sell through social networks?

Sales are generated through social referrals or made directly in the community. We can sell e.g. using Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

What are buying groups?

Products and services are offered at reduced prices when a sufficient number of customers commit to purchase. E.g. Groupon and Letsbonus.

What do we mean by participative e-Commerce?

Consumers are directly involved in production through voting systems, financing, and interactive product design. Threadless and Kickstarter are examples.

What are the most common mistakes in ecommerce?

Learning the basics of e-commerce through trial and error is not really a smart or profitable way to do it.
Here is a list of 9 frequent mistakes to avoid.

  1. Choose the wrong platform
    Choose a platform that best suits your needs and has all the necessary elements to create your web store.
  2. Unknown online identity 
    A logo is usually the first element that any visitor notices on a site. It must make a lasting impression in the user’s memory. The site should be pleasant and attractive. In addition to images, video tutorials, and graphics, integrating the logos and brand names of famous companies into your shop will certainly attract the attention of present and potential customers.
  3. Incorrect, incomplete information
    The information page is the second/third most visited page. Providing incomplete information significantly hampers the credibility of the website. The information page offers an excellent opportunity to tell your story, add essential contact information, and include details on the authentic location of the shop. Also, avoid using a generic email address; it is better to have a separate email to make it immediately recognizable.
  4. Absence on social
    You have to publicize your e-shop on social media in order to make yourself known and to know the needs of your target group.
  5. Absent SEO strategy
    No matter how attractive your website is, if you do not rank in search engines, it will be difficult to achieve the desired results
    Being present on the first page is crucial to success.
  6. Exaggerate with pop-ups
    Do not exasperate the user with pop-up advertisements because they can irritate them and cause them to leave the site earlier than expected.
  7. The site is not optimized for mobile
    Nowadays, the vast majority of people surf with smartphones, so it is imperative to create a responsive, mobile-optimized site.
  8. Ineffective CTA’s
    Call to Action buttons. They must tell the customer exactly what to do to get the best offers or discounts.
  9. Don’t do A/B tests
    The A/B test is perhaps the essential tool for market research. Used by most e-commerce sites. Basically, it helps business owners understand customer preferences and see what works and what doesn’t. Thus, it is a great way to improve the overall buyer experience.

Remember that the tech-savvy online buyer is not simply looking for profitable product offers, but expects a complete and convenient shopping experience.

Newcomers to the industry usually have a tendency to make the simple mistakes listed above. However, avoiding making these simple but dangerous Ecommerce mistakes is possible with a little care and awareness.

learning basic error

How to create an e-Commerce from scratch

Finally, here is a list of the basic steps to take if you want to move from the idea of e-commerce to actually selling online:

  • Definition of the product segment;
  • Identification of the market segment (customer base);
  • Choice of overall and sales strategy;
  • Definition of key activity measurement indicators;
  • Drafting the marketing plan;
  • Definition of the supply chain and operational procedures;
  • Creating an effective user experience;
  • Choice and implementation of the technology platform;
  • User interface design;
  • Legal audit and drafting of related documents;
  • Interfacing with internal/external IT systems;
  • Creation of site content;
  • Management of customer service procedures;
  • Definition and implementation of the traffic acquisition plan;
  • GO LIVE!

This article is based on the contents presented in the Digital Coach® E-commerce Course and in particular in the lessons of our talented lecturer Diego Vicamini. In addition, our school also gives you the opportunity to become a certified e-commerce specialist and e-business professional with the E-commerce program.

Instead, if you want to acquire an in-depth knowledge of the digital world, we recommend you pay attention to ours:

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