Have you stumbled across the Close Friends feature on Facebook? It appears as an alert as you log in to your Facebook profiles. A very welcome feature indeed considering large networks of friends one gathers over time. With friends of friends, work acquaintances, random people, far off relations, absolutely unknown people and all of their status updates filling up your wall, Facebook as a true friends’ network was not serving at its optimal best. A chance to see only posts from significant few who matter the most is a welcome change.
So here’s what the Close Friends Feature does. It suggests and allows you to star the select few friends whose updates you want to know about the most. What’s even better, these friends will not know you tagged them, so this is a little secret between you and Facebook’s backend program.
You can change and alter this list whenever you want. Everytime you open the Facebook page you can select the Close Friends option and see only news feeds from them. Essentially Facebook has taken its `lists’ feature and taken it a step further making it simple and quick for users to follow who they want to the most and minimizing the clutter.
What does this mean to posts made on Brand Pages ? Currently the wall posts made by brands on their brand pages go into the news feeds of the fans that have `Liked’ them just as the status updates of those in the friends networks of their fans appear. Once the Facebook user opts for the Close Friends option however, they will see only the posts made by these close friends! In other words the status updates or wall posts made by brands are likely to never get seen at all by Facebook members because they can only select `Friends’ or `People’ and not pages or groups that they follow!
So time for Facebook to introduce a ‘Pages I Follow’ listing, that will enable users to also track the brand posts they would like to see. This will not only be user friendly, but will really help to give better visibility of brand posts to serious fans.
It is time to get online and create a cost effective sales channel, after all consumers are researching your products online and reading peer recommendations. It just makes sense to get online and enable the target customers to buy your product with a click of the mouse. So just what do you need to start an Ecommerce business. We have tried to simplify it for you here:
1. Choose a Ecommerce System/ Shopping Cart Platform:
Foremost, you need to select a technology platform for the Ecommerce to run on. You may not understand the nitty gritties of this, but an online research on the subject, reviews and recommendations will help. If you can speak to a successful Ecommerce business and get their recommendation, even better.
We highly reccomend using the Magento e-commerce system. . Magento is extremely scalable, open source, easy to use and quickly becoming the most popular shopping cart system around.
You may also want to explore being available on other popular online stores and weigh the options of your exclusive store plus being present on other online shopping networks such as: India Times Shop, Rediff Shopping, Ebay, Flipkart, etc.
2. Domain Name Registration and Web Hosting
You need to plan and book a domain name for your ecommerce site and get this registered. If you are starting a serious e-commerce business, start with the right web host to ensure that your website will be fast and reliable. The data centre that will provide you with the servers for hosting your website should be able to provide you with 24/7 support. The data centre should also have the necessary firewalls and security in place.
3. Product List/Catalogue
Identify list of products that you want to sell online. Research on products or information related to your products that are currently searched by the target customers will help in finalizing the product list. Check if competing products are currently sold online and if yes, look for information on how they are currently being sold, and how has the online sales of these products been, how are they being promoted, what is right and not about the ecommerce for these products.
4. Product Images
Having your products shown clearly on your website is extremely important to the overall look of the site as well as the conversion rate of the site. It might cost a bit more than you expect to have professional photos of your products taken it can really separate the websites that get sales from those that do not. Whether it is a fashion garment or an OTC drug, seeing the product image gives consumer’s confidence to click the buy button.
5. Product Titles & Descriptions
Appropriate titles and descriptions for your products is necessary. Copy should inform plus do the selling. Attention to doing this for each product in your catalogue is a must, as this can make or break your sale. Also from a search engine view point, this descriptive information will help in optimization of the pages for search engines helping in the product being found when someone is searching for it.
Do a competitive search of other successful ecommerce sites to study how they do it.
6. Shipping Account
When someone buys something, you have to send it to them. Make sure that you sign up for a reliable delivery service such as Fedex or DHL.
7. Packing/ Shipping Products
How you will pack the products for delivery, labeling, etc. also need to be looked into and should be the starting point. Work out the logistics and if that is not in place no matter what you do with your e-shop, it is bound to fail.
8. Security (SSL)
Your website is going to need an SSL certificate to encrypt credit card transactions. All modern web browsers will warn users that they are about to enter a site that does not follow necessary security protocols, in other words it is unlikely the customer is going to proceed visiting your page.
9. Helpline Number – Preferably Toll Free and 24/7
A toll free phone number for your customers to call if they have a problem. A 24/7 online chat system will also help.
10. Newsletter Management System
Your customer list will need to be sent regular emails relating to their transaction plus to promote other related products, seasonal/festive offers etc.
11. Establish Ecommerce Policies
Your ecommerce store should include a policies section that covers all of your policies for shipping costs, returns, exchanges and customer service inquiries. A frequently asked questions section can be implemented based on the email questions you receive most often through your toll-free number or through your customer service email. In the end, this can save time and money and also help in closing a sale online.
12. Ecommerce Team
Managing your online presence is an important task that should have dedicated staff, just as you would have for your brick and mortar store. In addition to processing orders, the website needs to be continually updated with new product offerings and inventory status of available stock. Customer service inquiries should be handled promptly and customers should be kept in the loop about the status of their order. This staff can also handle the marketing of your ecommerce site.
13. Payment Options
When the planning of ecommerce is done, simultaneously one needs to select the payment gateway that will be used. How are you geographically targeting your audience can help to address this. Ideally prefer the gateway that supports most of currency.
14. Getting Verisign
Vulnerability and Malware scan is a must on the website. Ideally go with a Verisign trusted seal, it also gives consumer confidence to see this seal on your e-commerce pages and the final transaction pages.
15. Integration with third-party software
Normally all ecommerce product section is integrated with POS or some ERP system that is used to also manage the offline sales. While designing ecommerce sections it is important to be clear about the modules from the ERP system that need to be integrated with the online database. Further how this database (particularly for product stocks) will be updated and in what frequency needs to be defined.
16. Explore Enabling Shopping On Mobile Phones
Where and when is your customer likely to look for you? If your target audience is on the go, and in India we all know that just about everyone carries a phone today, it may be wise to build a mobile friendly shopping site. Today’s digital consumer expects a seamless, personalized, online shopping experience via whatever device they choose.
17. Increasing Your Site’s accessibility
You may want to explore the option of building separate sites, or building just one site that Is device friendly by opting for a responsive design. Read more about it in our previous post. http://blog.bcwebwise.com/2012/04/19/responsive-design/
18. Market Your Site & Driving Sales
Finally, it would take investment in online marketing to create awareness about your e-store and drive the footfalls. Explore SEO, plus PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns, network advertising, etc.
To finally convert the visitors to buyers, ensure that the online shopping experience is visually appealing, is seamless and smooth, friendly and usability driven at every step. So do dry runs of the page designs and flows with User-testing before you finalize the wireframe, design and the flow of the pages.
So get ready to do some real business online!