So far in this series on how to create a successful e-commerce web site for your business, we’ve looked at how to plan your site and appoint the right service provider, how to create an excellent catalogue and other content, and the importance of receiving training.
1. The importance of trust
If you’re asking people to give you their money online – where they can’t see or hear you, or touch or smell the merchandise – you need to give them lots of reasons to trust you.
Professional design is one way to build trust: it will help to ensure that wherever they are on your site and whatever they are doing, your customers feel secure that they know what’s going on, what is required of them and what they can expect from you. This is especially important on your shopping cart and payment pages.
Before your site goes live, ask a couple of trusted friends and family members to test the checkout process for you – and be sure to watch and ask questions while they do so. Where do they hesitate? What makes them feel comfortable or uncomfortable? You may need to adjust your design or add some explanations to increase trust.
2. Make it easy to pay
Once people have decided to buy something from your site, the last thing you want to do is put obstacles in their way – and yet this is exactly what many sites do.
The main thing that makes it easy for your customers to pay is offering a wide selection of payment methods. This includes credit cards, debit cards, Paypal, direct bank transfers and mobile payments.
The good news is that you don’t have to do all this yourself: It’s the job of your payment services provider. Whichever payment services provider you choose, check that they offer the widest possible range of payment options. It’s also a good idea to ask how often they add new payment options as these become available.
Also make sure you’re not making it too difficult for your customers by making them fill out too many forms. From a security point of view it’s often a good idea to ask them to register – but then keep the forms short, and definitely never ask for the same information twice. Ask your web developer to guide you through this element of designing your site experience.
3. Make it easy to get paid
Making it easy for your customers to pay is one thing — getting that money into your own bank account is another. If you have your own merchant account with your bank, this should be no hassle: Payments should go directly into your own bank account.
Related: Make Money On The Internet
If you’re too small to qualify for a merchant account, you may want to find a payment services provider that offers a payment collection service for small businesses. PayGate has a product specifically geared to start-up businesses, that allows you to get up and running within 48 hours of approval.
Whichever payment service you choose, be sure to ask exactly how your money will move from their account to yours: Will it happen automatically, or will you have to initiate a transfer yourself? Is there a waiting period?
4. Consider the real costs
Many people choose their checkout and payment method based solely on the immediate costs – but beware of hidden costs that might come up later.
For example, there are some e-commerce hosting services that allow you to set up your site for free – but then either the site will be very difficult to change later, or they will charge you high fees. You will need to weigh up for yourself whether saving on the one-off cost of hiring a web developer is worth paying a percentage of all your sales on top of processing fees and a basic monthly cost.
What happens when your site starts turning over a few thousand rands a month, or tens of thousands? That extra couple of percentage points could start to make a real difference.
The lesson is: Do your sums before you start, and be realistic about how your business is likely to grow.
If you get payments right, on top of paying proper attention to overall strategy, content and site maintenance, and if you choose your partners and suppliers carefully, you have every chance of succeeding in your e-commerce venture.