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How to decide if e-commerce is right for you:

The decision to launch an e-commerce website is no small choice and typically can’t be made without some serious thought as to what your business would need. 

So, now that you’ve got a little bit of background about what goes into a full e-commerce website, we can start to think about if it is the right choice for you.

While we can’t give you an exact “yes” or “no” answer because it depends so heavily on your business and your customers, we can give you some things to help you identify if e-commerce might be the right next step.

Signs you might be a good fit for e-commerce:

There are some indicators that make it almost a no-brainer to launch into e-commerce.

  • Most of your direct competitors are offering direct purchase options from their website. This is a pretty strong indicator that your customers will likely expect to be able to purchase products directly and, thus, will frequently choose a competitor over you because it is easier. This is also a sign that others in your industry have pretty successfully figured out how to build an online store you can look at for functionality inspiration.
  • You have a clear catalog of products that people would purchase with no changes. If you have a selection of products you sell that don’t allow any sort of customization and are just purchased as-is, you are probably a shoe-in for e-commerce.
  • You sell a product with minor, easy to define customizations. If you have option selections between colors, sizes, or features, you should be able to pretty easily build those options into a store as choice selections for users. As long as you are able to clearly detail a base price for each product and know exactly how much each option selection adds to the price, e-commerce is likely a good fit.

Signs you might not be a fit for e-commerce:

While you can get really creative with e-commerce solutions, especially if you build a custom solution, there are some indicators that e-commerce may not be a fit (or just really complex to build and manage).

  • You have 100% customized pricing for each person who buys something from you. This example is very rare, and I’m also a huge proponent of not using customized pricing as an excuse not to talk about pricing at all. However, cases like this often indicate that it would be more effort to build and maintain a digital store-front than it would be worth in additional business.
  • You ABSOLUTELY MUST talk to a person before they can purchase. Again, I hate when businesses use this as an excuse not to provide information. So, if this is the case, I’d really revisit your business model and see if you are just missing an opportunity to make things easier or simpler for buyers. But, there are some businesses where this is the case, and as such, e-commerce often doesn’t work.

How can you create an e-commerce-like experience without a full solution?

Now, here’s where things can get fun and creative. You may find yourself somewhere in between being a fit for e-commerce and it being really difficult to achieve. If that’s you, consider how you can make life easier for your customer by removing tension from the purchase process

There are great lessons learned from the experience on an e-commerce website that can be used on non-e-commerce sites — without launching a full e-commerce solution.

Here are some great examples that can get you thinking about what this might look like for you.

Product listings and filters

You may not be able to go the full step to selling your products on your website, but you can always allow people to search, view, and learn about your products in a way that feels like an e-commerce experience.

The team at Critical Process Filtration does just this on its website. Purchasing from them requires an application process before any sales can be made, so direct e-commerce is pretty tough. But they do a great job providing information about all the products they offer in a user-friendly, searchable way for people who are considering buying or requesting a quote.

Price calculation

Another common approach is to get people as close to the final step of purchase as possible. This can be achieved by building calculators or tools that help people narrow down their options so they know exactly what they should be purchasing. The final step of this process will require them to speak to someone before actually purchasing, but it gets visitors almost all of the way to the finish line.

This is where Self-Configuration tools really shine.

Venture Pact, a company that does custom app design, does this with their pricing calculator. It allows the user to detail out everything they need from a project so they actually get an indication of final price. The last step is simply to talk with a person to confirm all the pieces of the project.

The sky is really the limit. While these examples help give you an idea of the ways other companies have mimicked the e-commerce experience to create great features on their non-e-commerce websites, they are by no means an exhaustive list.

Take a look at the most popular e-commerce websites like Amazon and see what they are doing to make it easier, faster, and more fun to interact with their website. There’s no reason you can’t create a great experience based on these examples even if you don’t build a full e-commerce website.

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