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The Ecommerce Maze

The Ecommerce Maze
Yep, I'm a tech expert and I shake my head in wonderment.. is that a real word?  I'm making it mine today, and I want to personally say congratulations if you are a successful online store owner, who didn't get discouraged, confused, frustrated and built your store once, because I'm betting that if you've gone out on your own, you've tried a few.

When starting out with any ecommerce solution, it's important to not get too wrapped up in what is being sold to you on screen, but to strategically look at what is important to you in delivering a sale.

Take away the the pretty screens, fancy, staged demos, which will only ever show a store working either at demo style level or at a level that hides the problems because to me, many demo's I see are like reference letters..  Ak yourself this.. when was the last time you ever sent a client to bad reference??? Really, we all know it's never going to happen. You always show yourself and your capabilities in your best light.  

I think people suffer more from the Shiny Bright Store Syndrome, where they see something that looks mouthwateringly awesome, where your products are in fact shown like a showroom car, like a tempting seductress, only to find that it's vritually impossible to buy, and worse than that.. the picture looks better than the product.  

I have a true story here - Once upon a time, an old client I had sold cabinet hardware.  So in love with his products, took photos of them, and put them online, and I thought these were pretty darn good, because they displayed the product on it's own, in a detailed way but there were a few shadows as you get with shiny round things, or matt silvery products.  Anyway, unhappy with the shiny bright objects, and so in love with his own product range, (which I might say was exceptional) decided to take it to the next level and get 3D rendering of his product range, and they were amazing, jawdropping renders, artistically done, and with such detail that you were buying perfection.  The problem with that was you were buying what you saw on screen, a perfectly modelled, picturesqe, flaw free picture, which when you received the product could be very disappointed.  In fact it's my understanding that people were.  Not because the products were not good, they were, they were incredibly high quality, but they were buying a product, not a picture.  

The moral to this true tale is that you need to look at your products and be honest and match your market.  Good photos are important, but you need to make sure the pictures related correctly or you will create a world of hurt with web savvy clients who could affect your merchant account, which I will discuss in a later post.

So, get realistic.. look at what you're selling, how it's going to be shipped, and the market you're wanting to appeal to and not punching above your weight when it comes to types of shopping cart.  

There are several things any store owner will get caught out in and in my 14 years of looking at shopping cart technology, talking and advising clients, and have had more frustrations with unhappy clients with unrealistic expectations, I can confidently say that the biggest thing that will stop a store from going online in a timely manner is the shipping and the image quality, which sounds like I'm contradicting myself on the previous comment and with the quality of cameras these days and the 'everyone's a photographer syndrome'  it's true, we get great photos now, so how about we scrap that cunundrum and just keept it at shipping.

While I shared that true story about product images, I can also share another with a client who had a gift hamper store who literally the day before going online, presented how the shipping should work,  Given that we'd asked for months, literally months, for the shipping method that was to be used, our requests were ignored while these amazing, arty farty, pictures were being taken, to find out that there was the most ridiculous, complex shipping method of a group of products that may have looked amazing on her website, but they were going no where.. In fact by the time the site eventually went live, the product range she was selling, much of it had expired.

The shipping procedure we were given were literally .. This is how I think I want to sell my product so I don't lose any money at all, and it fits within my schedule around the kids... Yes, that's what we were presented with.  

Now, there are some people who can't be told can they.  So in disgust this client packed all her images up and moved to another store product but doing it all herself because it appeared I knew nothing.  After 9 months, I went to her website and found that the store was not live.  It was there but with a 'store opening soon' button and I called her and asked her if she was ok and what the problem was.. and what do you thing it was?   Ok no prize here because I've written this to address the point - it was the shipping.. even on her own was unable to understand that shipping is an absolute priority if you want your products to leave your home, warehouse, garage and not expire or lose market trends.

The shopping cart product she had chosen did not have any mathematical function what so ever to actually convert, understand or relate her shipping needs to get her hamper business online.  Ultimately the process was simplified to fit standard shipping methods, and that took 16 months after packing up shop so to speak and leaving me and I had worked with her for about 7 months, and she had been on this journey for about 6 months before being introduced to me.

If you calculate that - 23 months from an idea to online. I really feel for people who embark on this journey with no understanding, no expectations and no budget and I bet the interwebs is littered with unfinished stores, disappointed outcomes and it doesn't have to be that difficult.

Here's my tip for one step in untangling the eCommerce maze - 

Get your shipping sorted out.  Research and find out the best way to send your product. 

Answer these questions to yourself while looking at shopping cart products - 

  • What is your cost of shipping
  • Who is going to be your primary shipping provider
  • Is your shipping time sensitive
  • Will you be providing in store pickup
  • The reason for this is because different store products handle shipping differently. 

Please note, I'm not going to give anyone any steadfast guarantees on how their store outcome will be and I'm offering you some tips that would have made my work easier to do and while we have had susccesses, there have been times that I wish my clients had listened to us just that little more.  We have very successful online stores that our customers have used for years and continue to profit from a good online store.

Next we'll be talking about images for shopping carts - the good, the bad and freakin' crazy.

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