How to set up an online shop
Setting up an online shop is a great way to either enhance your physical selling presence, or to get started selling to anywhere and everywhere. But you want to ensure that it looks professional, provides a great experience for your customer, and fits with your overall brand. We spoke to Deborah Todd of sportswear brand Zaazee about how she started her online shop, and also picked the brains of ecommerce experts Ometria.
Developing the website
We developed our online shop from scratch using the Broadleaf Commerce framework to get us started. It gave us the flexibility we wanted and, as one of our directors is a top Java Developer, it was a great fit. The ZAAZEE website continues to grow and change based on feedback and things we feel will improve the experience of our customers.
Features and functionality
Our target audience is females and I felt that simplicity was key. I dislike complicated sites, so wanted to give our audience the best user experience alongside an excellent product. We wanted to make it simple to understand and simple and easy to use (and buy from). It also had to work on mobile - over half our traffic is now on mobile. We also wanted great social media integration. We wanted to make our products real and achievable - we think that showing our growing community on the site through bespoke Twitter and Instagram feeds is a great way to do this.
Our website is setup for high availability, so we haven't had any major issues that have meant downtime and customers being unable to use the site. There have been occasional usability issues but we try to guide the customer through them and endeavour to continually improve the user experience. We use a hosted payment service so we don't have too much to worry about on that side.
How the process works
We’ve kept the buying process pretty simple. The website handles email confirmations and inventory, and we use email to notify us that we have an order. The admin part of the site also forms our order management system that generates the documents to send with the customer’s order and handles the dispatch process to notify our customer that their order is on its way.
We do track aspects such as abandoned carts, but we personalise the response to them. We don't harass our customers - they're free to look without us chasing them if they don't make it to the checkout. We’re confident we’ll have made a positive impression and that they'll come back. We (hopefully) make it clear on the site how to ask us a question if they has a query about a product (or anything else) using tools like PureChat's chat widget.
If there’s an avenue to drive traffic, we’re on it or investigating it. We're new and happy to try different things. We’re a progressive company and always open to ideas and innovation. If they work for us, we continue to invest; if they don't we learn from the experience. We look to engage across social media channels but email remains a powerful way to get people back to your site. People take quite a bit of persuading to try something new, especially online. We also do lots of PR - meeting journalists face to face and getting out there as much as we can. Networking is a great way to meet new people which helps us see how we can continue to make the site even better.
Looking after customers
We want look after our customers and aim to give very engaging and personalised service. Together with our products this is what differentiates us from our competiton. We like to surprise our customers and have been known to throw in the odd freebie here and there (especially if it will complete the outfit!). As we grow we don't want to lose this and loyalty is likely something we will be looking at. But something of value, not where you have to earn a million points.
Selling on or off-line
I like selling both offline and online. I love meeting my customers face to face, seeing how they like trying on the clothes and getting their feedback straight away. However I love getting an order online - it's a great feeling that someone has bought from the website. It’s even better when we get repeat orders!
Tips from Ometria
Ivan Mazour is the CEO of Ometria, an analytics platform that lets online retailers sell smarter. Here are his tips for startups setting up their first online shop. "Choosing the right ecommerce platform is one of the most important technological considerations when you’re starting up. There are a whole host to pick from, but I’d recommend choosing a platform that will get you going quickly, that gives you the ability to easily plug in other functionality (marketing or SEO extensions, for instance), and that can scale easily as your business grows, like Magento or Shopify. Putting in place a system for measuring your performance from the start is also really important. Having a grasp of what is and isn’t working in terms of acquiring new customers is key to building your business, and will help prevent you from wasting money on channels that aren’t working. Finally, using data to talk to your customers in a personalised way is becoming increasingly crucial to building brand loyalty. While this may seem a daunting prospect, there are a lot of solutions that let small online retailers personalise their customer communications, sending them relevant messages at the right time in their customer journey. For example, small brands can now easily make use of custom audience targeting on social media, or set up personalised triggered emails."