If you’re serious about taking your business online, you also need to be serious about eCommerce website development.
It’s no longer enough to just have a run-of-the-mill website.
As more and more companies have invested in their own sites, every industry has become exceedingly competitive. You either have to invest in your site or you’re going to have a hard – maybe impossible – time keeping up with competitors that do.
But what is eCommerce website development?
What Is eCommerce Development? A Simple Definition
eCommerce website development is a collection of services aimed at building, maintaining, and improving websites that are designed for eCommerce purposes.
In short, the goal of these services is to develop websites that are designed to sell products. So, that's the ultimate goal. While development may be aimed at anything from creating better blog content or improving the site's navigation, the ultimate goal is simple: did this work help to sell more products?
And though every website is as different as the companies they represent, the good news is that there are 3 services in particular that every eCommerce organization will benefit from when it comes to their websites.
We'll cover those in just a moment, but for now, let's quickly cover what it takes to take your current website and adapt it for eCommerce purposes.
Adapting Your Business Model for eCommerce
In a moment, I’m going to cover the three eCommerce website development services that every company should consider for dominating their industry online.
However, before you can start making the most of those services, you need to understand how your market behaves when they go online to make purchases.
How do they search for the products you sell?
What kinds of websites are most popular within your industry?
What types of assets do they use to sell their products?
Whether you’re B2B or B2C, a big company or a small one, have great branding or none at all, your first step toward eCommerce website development needs to be looking at what your market wants from online businesses.
Fortunately, doing competitor research online has never been easier. With the right software, you can research what your competition is ranking for in Google and what kinds of keywords they’re targeting with their ads. You can also go right on their site to see what type of user experience they provide. You can even sign up for their emails to get a better sense of their email marketing strategy.
This kind of research takes two main ingredients to pull off:
- Time –There’s no two ways about it. This kind of research is probably going to take a lot of time. The good news is you should only have to do this once before launching your eCommerce site. Then, it’s just a matter of keeping tabs on your market and updating your website as necessary. Of course, you can always save time by relying on an eCommerce agency with proven results.
- Flexibility –In any case, making the right decisions about your company’s eCommerce needs is easier if you remain flexible. As I mentioned earlier, you may learn that your current approach needs to be adjusted – maybe even changed dramatically. Often times, what might work in a brick-and-mortar store, a trade show, or through other traditional methods doesn’t translate to success online.
It will also help if you understand the three eCommerce website development services your company needs.
The 3 eCommerce Website Development Services Every Company Needs
While there is an endless list of ways you can build your company’s online presence, here are the three eCommerce website development services that are absolutely essential.
1. Website Development
Obviously, you’re not going to get very far online if your company doesn’t actually have a website.
So, let’s start there.
If your company doesn’t currently have a website – or if you’ve decided to scrap your current version and start from scratch – then the first step will be choosing an eCommerce platform. There are dozens of choices these days, but the four most popular platforms are:
The right eCommerce platform for your company will depend on what your unique needs are – again, that goes back to the initial research phase you’ll want to go through before deciding. If you’d like help from an eCommerce consultant, feel free to contact us.
Most eCommerce companies should invest in customized checkout pages, too. It’s just such an important factor for the success of your eCommerce store that relying on a platform’s default version isn’t an option.
(This is especially true for WooCommerce’s checkout page)
That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
There are countless ways you can customize your site so it’s perfect for your market. Experienced eCommerce developers can accomplish this by coding with any combination of the following popular languages:
eCommerce Site Migration
If you’re just starting out learning about eCommerce website development, then you probably don’t have to think about site migration at the moment.
Migrations only become important if you outgrow your eCommerce platform and it becomes necessary to switch to another.
In any case, migration can be a very involved, delicate process.
However, if done correctly, we’ve seen successful site migrations (with some other changes) increase companies’ revenues by over 60%:
Website Maintenance and Ongoing Improvements
Websites aren’t static business investments.
They’re not set-it-and-forget it assets.
As time goes on, you’ll need ongoing website maintenance to keep up with updates to your platform, extensions, and plugins. Otherwise, you’ll run into performance problems or, worse, security issues (eCommerce tools often need security patches to address vulnerabilities).
Most businesses also contract eCommerce developers to help them with regular improvements, too. Usually, this means enhancing their site’s user experience, which I’ll cover next.
A website’s UX refers to the “user experience” it provides to visitors.
If your site is little more than a blog, UX is fairly straightforward. It’s hard to do wrong.
But for eCommerce sites, UX is vital to retaining visitors, ensuring they view every relevant product, and, of course, maximizing conversions.
For example, one of the most common elements that UX developers look at is navigation.
Does your eCommerce site make it as easy as possible for shoppers to get from point A to B? Are they struggling to find the products they want? Are there category pages helpfully organize your inventory into amounts that are easy to scan?
In fact, 94% of shoppers say it’s the most important feature of a site – hence why so many eCommerce development agencies treat this as a UX priority.
That’s far from the only important UX improvement you can make to your eCommerce site, though. Our agency has helped clients with everything from site design to graphics and visuals to usability to payment options and more.
Just about anything you can do to make your eCommerce site more user-friendly is going to be worth it in terms of traffic, conversions, and profits.
3. eCommerce Marketing
eCommerce development services can give your company a website that fits like a glove and offers your customers the experience they want.
However, without optimizing the top marketing channels, that website won’t be able to attract the visitors you need to maximize your ROI.
WhicheCommerce marketing services you’ll need depends on your industry and the specific market you’re trying to target. Some eCommerce companies would immediately fail if they couldn’t leverage the power of SEO. Others should use SEO, but they need PPC even more. Still others should focus primarily on driving traffic from social media.
To help you better understand which of these marketing services should be included in your eCommerce website development budget, let’s quickly go through each of the four main options.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) covers a wide range of practices aim to convince search engines to rank your website higher on their results pages for valuable keywords that will attract lots of traffic.
The more you improve your eCommerce site’s SEO, the more potential customers Google and other search engine will bring you.
eCommerce companies utilize a lot of SEO strategies that are considered " on-page” methods, which means they mainly alter what the visitor can see. Two common examples are creating SEO-friendly blog posts and product descriptions.
However, the big difference maker for eCommerce sites is usually what’s calledtechnicalSEO. This refers to features of your website that visitors don’t see, but that still affects their experience (sometimes indirectly).
Think about load time as an example. If your site is slow to load, Google will take notice and drop your rankings because that’s a real turnoff for its users.
There’s also the crawlability of your site. Is it easy for Google to find all of your pages, so it can show them to your users? As eCommerce sites tend to have hundreds, thousands, or even hundreds-of-thousands of pages, crawlability is often an issue.
This is why eCommerce website development agencies tend to be quick to suggest technical audits before beginning any SEO work. Until any of these issues are addressed, a lot of other SEO work can fall short of their targets.
The one potential drawback of SEO is that it may take months – or even years – for these tactics to gain you the kind of traffic you want. If your industry is full of eCommerce companies that have already optimized their sites for a number of years, you’ll have a lot of catching up to do.
This is why eCommerce companies often invest in PPC, too. Many rely on this method almost entirely for their traffic because their industries are so competitive.
That’s because, with pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, you couldinvest in ads today and see results by tomorrow.
The way it works is simple
Even if you’re able to use SEO methods to reach the first page of Google, if Amazon is sitting at the top of that page – much less if it has more than one position there – you’ll struggle to get any clicks.
Google isn’t the only game in town, either.
There’s a whole world of online advertising known as display ads whereby you can pay to place your company’s advertisements on websites that are popular within your industry. Entire paid ad networks exist that make it as easy as possible to leverage this kind of advertising.
Social Media Marketing
This option is fairly self-explanatory. It’s a type of paid traffic that focuses exclusively on social media platforms. From Facebook to TikTok to LinkedIn, all of these platforms offer options for running paid ads.
Aside from the fact that these sites are SO insanely popular, another advantage to social media marketing is the level of detail you can hone in on when targeting potential customers.
On Facebook, for example, you can run ads based on users’ traits like their locations, interests, behaviors, connections, and more.
You can even run ads on lookalike audiences, which are essentially groups that are similar to your current customers. Basically, you can tell Google, “Go find more people just like the ones who have already bought from me.”
And like email – which I’ll cover next – social media can help you build a captive audience that you can access at a moment’s notice. Instead of waiting for your market to search for your products – like you have to do with PPC and SEO – you can post updates that get in front of your market right away. This includes updates with links to your eCommerce site’s product page.
Of all the options you have for marketing your eCommerce business, email actually has the best ROI. On average, email marketing returns $36 for every $1 invested.
Email marketing is so powerful for two reasons:
- First, as I touched on earlier, email lists give you immediate access to your market. Whenever you want to run a sale, launch a new product, or promote a new blog post, just send an email to your list.
- Second, these recipients have either purchased from you before or opted in to receive your emails. This means they’re far more likely to repeat those behaviors: either buying from you or consuming your content.
Now, email marketing also has a major drawback. Just like with SEO, it takes time to build your list.
For one thing, you first need a traffic source that will bring guests to your site so they can opt in for your emails. Even then, it could be months or years before the list grows large enough that it delivers the huge ROI I mentioned earlier.
This is why developing your eCommerce website to its full potential will involve some combination of the marketing tactics we just covered.
Marketing Services for B2B Companies
If your business is a B2B company, it's essential that you partner with an agency who understand how yours differs from a B2C company.
All of the above services are still important, but the approach isn't the same for B2B companies.
Check out our post on B2B eCommerce strategies to see what we mean. Just by adopting some of these strategies, you could easily see results in the very near future.
Investing in eCommerce Website Development in 2022
By now, you probably understand why eCommerce development has become such an important investment in 2022 for business owners who take their sites seriously. You’re either developing your business’s eCommerce presence or you’re vulnerable to competitors that are.
And yet, if you’ve never invested in these services before, it’s understandable that you might be hesitant.
At IWD, we can help you better understand your company’s eCommerce goals, what your options are for reaching them, and a timeline for doing so.
Contact us today to begin taking your first steps toward a better, more profitable eCommerce website.