Have an idea? Chances are you’ll first search for what’s being done online, almost on a reflex. But as more information becomes available, the probability for more false information to be circulated or circulated without context increases. E-commerce myths at large, and platform specific myths such as those related to WooCommerce, too are quite common. While some myths seek to glorify a platform, a process, a strategy or an idea, others play on existing weaknesses to hype them up. Some fact, some fiction.
In this blog post, we list down some common things you might hear about setting up your online store and try and bust those myths; about the platform, about business processes, about how your store should look or about marketing your products. Everyone has an opinion, it seems, so let’s weigh in on some of them.
1. The ‘Free’ Myth
Yes, installing both WordPress and WooCommerce is free but setting up an online store is not always cost-less. At the beginning, you can get by with a bouquet of free options such as free themes such as Storefront or Astra, lite versions of plugins for payment, shipping and other functions. But this will hardly help in the long-run. The only advantage of an online store is you can do the trial run for free, whereas you have to pay rent from day one when selling offline. Even then, you have to still pay some amount for hosting your site.
To make your store fully functional, (the ability to offer multiple payment options, deposit plans, or shipping plans, for instance), you may have to install paid plugins, as the free ones will likely offer limited features. Then there are the usual business functions of supply change management, inventory, packaging, and shipping too. Not to forget charges for things like an SSL certificate. Yes, they will give you value and help you sell, scale and do more. But there is not such thing as a free lunch, even on the internet.
Total initial annual costs can be around $500 too for stores that sell a few products, going up to several thousand dollars for stores that sell unlimited products. Big stores also have recurring monthly costs.
2. The ‘Equality’ Myth
We want to believe this, but nothing, not even the internet is really equal. E-commerce platforms are no different. Whether your website is hosted or self-hosted, free or paid for, your hosting company, the platform you pick based on the product you are selling, even your geography – everything matters when it comes to defining your success. This is over and above your actual product, its quality, pricing, competition and more.
If this was the early 2000s and not-in-America, you might have had the edge. Now, everyone is everywhere, and your work is cut out for you. You must research thoroughly on the several e-commerce platforms you can use to open your online store, the marketplaces you can sell your products on, which website works for which product and in which region. Pick and choose carefully.
Structure & Layout
1. The ‘Three-click Rule’ Myth
Most articles will tell you that the perfect online store interface is one which takes your customer to the checkout page in three clicks. This unwritten web navigation advise suggests that whatever your user wants to find, they should be able to do so in no more than three mouse clicks.
While it is good to have a quick site, with an easy layout, this number seems to be something of a myth. Your goal should be to take your customer closer to the end goal, i.e., making the purchase, but it does not have to be three clicks. It could be two, or four and in fact some studies even show that clicks as high as 12 and 25 will keep the customer more engaged. Keep the customer engaged at every point, and do not treat your store as a drive-thru.
2. The ‘Pictures & Personalization are secondary’ Myth
At a time when there is so much unique content out there, the onus is on you as a store owner to make the experience of shopping online as different as possible, yet, as close to the offline experience as possible. The first step is to get your photos in shape.
Customers are more likely to trust a store with real pictures, than one filled with stock images. Take some time, or pay someone, but make sure your pictures show what the product is, and do it well.
The second is personalization, most commonly achieved through product recommendation systems. Like a friendly librarian tells you of the new, good and yet obscure book based on your reading interests, or your local boutique store owner tells you of the next trend, your online store too should be able to understand the customer and help them out. It’s tricky to get it right immediately, but it must be on your goal. Just a fancy display won’t work.
3.The ‘Guest Checkout’ Myth
Would you rather have a large family that has your back, or a constant stream of guests who come and go as they please? Your answer should also solve the myth of the guest checkout. Guest checkout means allowing your customer to make a purchase without them having to register. While this does make it easier for them to checkout, it reduces the chances of you creating a loyal customer base and a community. However, you should not have a lengthy customer registration process either, as it s among the top reasons for cart abandonment, accounting for around 10% of total abandonment.
The best solution is to make the registration process easy, asking for nothing more than an email, and the first and last names. You can also automatically register them as guests, and give them the option of returning to fill other details and complete their profiles later. But always try and get them to engage and interact, take a vacation, if you will, with your store.
Alternatively, you can look at how some of the bigger e-stores have designed their checkout pages and take inspiration.
4. The ‘Minimum On-Page Content’ Myth
Customers don’t like to scroll endlessly, but they want all the necessary information at first glance. While crisper pages will benefit your interface, you have to make sure to not chop off too much. 88% of customers characterize product details to be extremely important.
So, product details, a short description, price and even testimonials; these are some essential points you must cover. For instance, if it’s a shoe, then size, material of shoe, brand if applicable, what kind of sole it has, price etc, should be covered. You may choose to, however, ignore details like the process with which they were made or where the materials were procured from (unless it adds value to the customer, such as bragging about a fair trade practice).
5. The ‘Endless Customization’ Myth
Yes, WooCommerce or any other e-commerce is easy to customize according to your tastes and your business, but no matter how much money you pour, you might not get everything the way you want it. Yes, plugins will help solve several problems, but some interfaces may cost too much to set up, or some elements will slow your site down or make it longer to load.
The point is, that even though you can choose theme and mode of payment, size of picture, the registration form details and other things, there is going to be a limit. You will have to keep this in mind as your embark on your e-commerce journey.
1. The ‘Data is Everything’ Myth
Yes, it helps to know as much as possible, but what after you have all the data? Don’t spend energy and resources in collecting data if you don’t know what to do with it. For instance, you have asked customers to register. This allows you to send them regular newsletters, offer, discounts and other correspondence. So collect data only in so far as it helps you further a business motive (ethical, we should add).
2. The ‘Lowest Price’ Myth
This is probably true for businesses across the spectrum. The myth that the cheapest horse is first through the finish line is not true. While it may give you an edge in the short run, sooner or later customers are going to look past your prices if your quality, customer service and other aspects are not in place. If word of mouth is the best form of publicity, then there is nothing worse than negative word of mouth.
3. The ‘Will keep Inventory Management for later’ Myth
This is especially true for small businesses or self-employed professionals who are starting out. Inventory is as essential in online as in offline. Sure, you don’t have to display all your products, but co-ordinating last-minute between supplier and shipping company can be a task. And as you grow, make sure to start investing in an inventory management software solution. The thumb rule should be, if you needed a book for it before, chances are you’ll need a software for it too.
1. The ‘Online Sales Are Enough’ Myth
E-commerce is often presented as some sort of a montage, where you are rolling in money in your first year. Chances are, like any form of self-employment, creative or otherwise, the initial stages are rocky. Revenue is uncertain, there are teething issues in your processes, there is instability all over. Make sure you have the capital to help you through these times too, and don’t expect magical numbers to start showing immediately.
Along the same lines, businesses should seriously gear up for a future where omni-channel experiences will be norm, not the trend. Sales, service, experience – they will also be part of this expansion of the idea of e-commerce.
2. The ‘WooCommerce is for Small Sites’ Myth
Unless you aim to be the next Amazon, Alibaba or Etsy, you can continue using WordPress and WooCommerce even after the traffic and number of orders scale up. As long as it doesn’t convert to a marketplace, you should be good. Yes, you will have to invest more in refining your store, employing teams to take care of the backend etc, but for the first few years at least, while you go from small to medium scale, feel free to use the same platform.
3. The ‘Revenue is the only Metric’ Myth
When it comes to measuring how your business is faring, you have to be careful. Good revenue cannot be the only metric, while it would be folly to measure everything. Spike in traffic on your website in a particular without the necessary sales, does not tell you what went right. So ignore it and return to see what your did in the previous month, and how much paid off. Look at all channels, marketing, business, product, returning user-base, to determine how well you are doing online.
There is a crowd on the internet, and the only way you can stand out from the clutter is to ensure you are seen and heard among the millions. Marketing has become as important an aspect of business as any other. And it’s not easy, given that the tech we now rely on is ever-changing, so that what worked today might not work tomorrow. Yet, there are some fundamentals you should take note of, and the myths surrounding them, to draft a clean strategy.
1. The ‘Marketing Off-Site Only’ Myth
When one thinks of marketing, one only tends to think of ads or creating social media pages. But that’s not enough. As a business, your on-site marketing strategy is as important as any other. On-site marketing includes everything from crisp, polished product descriptions, good photographs, call-to-action indicators, prompts for customer service, showing product reviews, popups offering discounts and others.
2. The ‘Basic Customer Segmentation is enough’ Myth
Customer segmentation is the demographic you are targeting your product to. It starts with segmenting customer based on age, gender, and sometimes interests, hobbies, the place they stay, the industries they work in and more. However, as your business begins to get established, you have to apply business-specific parameters such as those who repeatedly abandon carts, those who buy one product-type repeatedly, those who prefer card payments versus those who pay often by cash and other metrics and analytics of user-behavior. Remember, collect this sort of data only after you have a strategy on how you are going to use it. But make sure to have one in place.
3. The ‘Be there, everywhere’ Myth
A sort of corollary to the first point under Marketing, this is about the myth that you have to be on every social media platform out there. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Vimeo and what not. The truth is that managing social media can be quite resource-heavy, so you might want to pick and choose the right platform and then work towards doing your best on it. For instance, if you are a photography studio, Instagram and Pinterest may work very well for you. Facebook, may be may be not. Twitter on the other hand seems rather unnecessary.
If you dig a little, there is tons of research available on the demographics of each platform, the number of users, the types of posts shared most and more. Make use of it when designing your strategy. For instance, Gen Z does not spend on much products they find on Facebook, 11.8%, compared to Millennials at 29.39%, Gen X at 34.21% and Baby Boomers at 24.56%, according to BigCommerce.
The other reason to not depend too much on social media is because social media likes are often not a measure of actual sales. It helps to build your brand in the long-run, but if it’s not contributing to revenue, rethink it.
4. The ‘All Commercial Email is Spam’ Myth
And lastly, newsletters. The now-traditional way of marketing seems to have got a bad rep because of the ‘Spam’ folder and email scammers. But while we are not living in a spam-free world, and one out of ever five emails lands in the inbox, not all hope is lost.
If you create campaigns that are neat in design, sent prudently at intervals to your customers and add value to their inbox, they will be appreciated. Whether it is giving discounts, a sneak-peak into new product launches, or other information, emails can still work well. It’s something you have to work upon, but not ignore it.
So, what did we learn today? The internet creates infinite opportunities, and there are infinite ways to go right and wrong. Stick to the basics, but don’t believe everything they say. And good luck with all that selling!