How to Create a Website to Sell Things

By Scott Hornstein

If you have a product or line of products that appeal to a specific consumer audience buying over the Internet, then e-commerce is for you. To develop the steps in creating an e-commerce website, we've interviewed an expert we respect, Andrew Schulkind of Andigo New Media. Here are his suggested steps to success:

Who Is Your Market?

Take some time a really think about your audience. Who are they and why do they want to buy your product(s). Make a list of their demographics and psychographics, and create a benefit hierarchy which will show the most important reasons they buy to the least important. Are there different segments that have slightly difference characteristics or may behave differently? How do each of these individuals get information - where do they go to learn about products like yours? Are there other outlets (competitors) for these products? If so, what is your compelling competitive differentiator (why should they buy from you)?

What Do You Want Your Market to Do?

Of course, we want the audience to buy, but the buying process may not be instantaneous. Make it easy for them to find the information they want. Engage their interests and bring them to the logical conclusion: a purchase. And don't forget that many may be accessing your site from a mobile device. Increasingly this is BIG part of e-commerce and you must maximize the customer experience for the mobile buyer.

Building the Site

Your site must have a way to display your goods and a way to process the transaction. You might want to consult or use a professional web designer. If you want to do it yourself, please think about using a service such as Shopify, which provides easy templates for website construction, secure hosting, a merchant account, and all the back-end processing. They charge a fee, but they take all the worries away.

Market the Site

Get the word out, consistently and with urgency. Your message should be where your audience goes for information, such as social media. Integrate the message about your e-commerce site with all your other marketing. Keep your site interesting and fresh with new content, such as a blog. You may not be able to exactly measure the contribution of this content, but it adds credibility, builds your brand and provides other ways that people may find your site. If someone buys, say thank you and repromote your products and competitive differentiation. If someone is interested, but doesn't buy right away, develop a program to nurture them, perhaps through email.

Metrics and Measurement

We want to do more of the things that work and less of the things that don't work, and the only things that can be improved are the things we measure. So there are a few metrics that we want to pay attention to. The number of visitors is a starting point. People can't buy unless they come to the site. How many came and how many interacted or went to multiple pages? How many didn't interact (bounced) and what's your opinion why? Next, how many registered (perhaps for a newsletter), entered the shopping cart and how many bought? The conversions from visitor to registrant, visitor to shopping cart and visitor to purchase are key to success, you want to make them go up.