Best Practices for Running an E-Commerce Site
Once your site is up and running, you'll want to make sure that you operate it in a professional and profitable manner. Here are the top 10 Best Practices for Running an E-Commerce Site:
Organize your products and services by category
Make sure that customers can find exactly what they are looking for by simply checking your product or service category list. No item should be more than 3 clicks from the home page. If you have a large site, install a site search engine so people can drill down to exactly what they are looking for.
Show what you have
Include a clear picture of every product that you sell. Even digital products should have a software box or CD cover. Pictures increase sales and increase the buyer's confidence.
Provide Multiple Payment Options
The more payment options you have, the more sales you will make. If you offer PayPal, you should also offer standard credit card options if possible. Try to accept e-checks, debit cards, and even checks in the mail. Not every customer will have a credit card and you never want to chase away a sale just because the customer didn't have a way to pay you that you accepted.
ALWAYS include complete contact details
Email addresses alone are not good enough. Your customers will have a much higher level of confidence in you if you also provide a telephone number, fax number, and mailing address. If you are not able to give out your actual telephone number, consider subscribing to a virtual telephone company that provides voicemail. Universal Number is a good company. There are many more. Run a search on Google for "virtual voicemail".
List your purchase and return policies as well as your customer service hours, estimated delivery times for physical items, warranties, guarantees, and any other questions that a customer would want answered before they trust you with their money. Consider adding a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page if you have a lot of information that you want to convey.
Keep it in a prominent place, and link it to the home, products and checkout pages, so that customers who are wary of providing personal and credit card details feel comforted. Tell them if you plan to share their email address with others, or plan to send in promotional mail or newsletters.
Confirm Customer Orders
Have your e-commerce software programmed to send order confirmation email the moment that the sale is completed and the payment is processed. Thank the customer for their purchase and remind them about your shipping and return policies. Give them a telephone number to call if they have any questions. Provide a link to your order status page, if you have one, so the customer can check up on their order if they want to.
Keep in touch with your customers
Have a link to join your mailing list on every page and put a check box on your order form. If you don't have mailing list software, get it. Then send a newsletter to all subscribers at least once per month with news, tips and tricks about using your product or service and special offers. Make sure that each message has an "opt out" link so customers can unsubscribe if they no longer want to receive mail from you.
Resist the temptation
Resist the temptation to put pop-up ads or other gimmicks on your website. Not only do they look unprofessional, but they annoy most people and you could end up losing more money than the pop-ups make.
Under-Promise and Over-Deliver
Any time you deliver more than the customer is expecting you come out ahead. If a customer has a problem, address it immediately. Try to offer a free gift or free service with every order. Offer gift wrapping around the holidays or provide a way for the customer to have a gift card inserted in their order. Little touches go a long way. ALWAYS be polite even when you encounter fools; and you will encounter them. Remember -- you never know who someone knows and you can't afford to make any enemies.