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An Entrepreneur's Guide to Winning at E-Commerce From smart design to security to increasing sales and more, here's a rundown of the elements an e-commerce site needs to succeed.


Over the last several years, businesses of all sizes and in many different industries have realized that e-commerce is a critical component to success in this new era of business. Just last year, global e-commerce sales grew by nearly 17 percent compared to the previous year. During that period, e-commerce accounted for approximately 20 percent of all retail sales worldwide1. That represents a massive opportunity.

"If we think about traditional retail settings, the steps to increase revenue were to expand geographically with more locations," says Scott Jones, a Senior Ecommerce Growth Coach with BigCommerce. The Texas-based e-commerce powerhouse helps businesses build their online stores, optimize them for search, create marketing, and much more. "Today, you can become a global company almost instantly by selling online with far less initial investment and potentially higher return on your investment."

There's little doubt that selling online is the present as well as the future of commerce. If your business is looking to grow, you'll need a strong e-commerce strategy. Here, Jones helps lay the groundwork for what entrepreneurs need to know about optimizing their sites for sales.

First, look at your competitors. Then design.
When Jones works with client merchants, he recommends looking at the sites of their competitors before determining how to design their own site. He suggests making a list of three to five top competitors, search for their sites, and begin scrolling, clicking, and navigating through each site. Take note of what you like, dislike, and what's missing.

"This helps us identify the key features the merchant wants to offer their customers on their storefront," he says. "We then define the commonalities among the buying experience from within their industry. It also allows us to find gaps between them and determine how we can differentiate their brand, while making the buying experience familiar and frictionless."

A massive e-commerce platform, BigCommerce has users with companies in almost every industry. Entrepreneurs can start by looking at some of BigCommerce's case studies and the customer examples page to see how merchants have built their online businesses.

Once a business owner is ready to start plotting out their own site layout, BigCommerce's Theme Marketplace can do the heavy lifting of the storefront design. "If your needs as a business are not too complex, our native functionality is all very intuitive and meets the requirements of many small to medium businesses," Jones says. Entrepreneurs can access the platform's extensive knowledge base full of videos and documentation with step-by-step guides or get one-on-one training with a coach that can walk merchants through what's needed to launch their online store .

Be strategic about sales.
Having your e-commerce site is a momentous step. But getting your products in front of customers is critical. As such, Jones recommends listing products on multiple channels like Amazon, Walmart, Google Shopping, TikTok and Facebook in addition to your own site. BigCommerce has native integrations and partnerships to list on these channels and many others .

"The majority of shoppers begin their shopping on these marketplaces," Jones says. "If you aren't meeting the customer where they are already looking, you're missing out on a large chunk of potential sales. And if you sell your own brand, listing on these channels can help increase brand awareness and trust."

When it comes to closing the sale on your own site, Jones says businesses should focus on answering the three W's (who, what, why) and then make the navigation process from top level to checkout as frictionless as possible. "If someone lands on your site for the first time, how are you going to convince them to buy from you over Amazon or your competitors that have more market share," Jones asks. "You must sell them your brand by telling them who you are, what you can offer them, and why they should buy it from you. And you should strive to do this on every page within 10 seconds of them landing there."

Jones stresses that intuitive category navigation is key to making the shopping and checkout process frictionless. "Always have more than three products per category and try to never have more than two levels of subcategories," he says. "Each click a user makes reduces their likelihood of completing the checkout exponentially." He also suggests including value propositions (such as free shipping, made in the U.S., organic, vegan and cruelty free, etc.) on every page of your site.

Don't neglect your blog.
Don't have a blog on your site? You should. Jones says a blog is an effective way to create keyword-rich content that can help your site rank for search engine results pages that your product and category pages won't rank highly on. To this point, BigCommerce has a blog built-in on every store.

"If I was selling water filters, I might write a blog called 'The 3 different types of water filters for your kitchen' to rank for a search engine result page for 'Different Types of Water Filters for kitchens,' he explains. "The main thing is figuring out how to do this on a regular basis and who will create/write the content for your business."

Make security a priority.
These days, every website should have something called an SSL certificate, which essentially authenticates a site's identity. It helps secure your site while also builds trust with visitors to your storefront. BigCommerce gives you a free SSL certificate by default so you never have to worry about your site being unsafe.

Additionally, Jones recommends enabling reCAPTCHA (a service that protects against fraud and other abuse) on forms and checkout pages to keep bots from attacking your site. In other words, it helps protect you from losing money to fraudulent orders placed by bots online. BigCommerce allows you to enable reCAPTCHA at a click of a button for both your checkout and contact forms on your site.

Simplify checkout and shipping.
The last thing a successful merchant wants is a customer to abandon items in their shopping cart because shipping was too expensive or the checkout process was too difficult. If a merchant doesn't offer free shipping, Jones recommends having real-time quotes from multiple carriers directly on the checkout page. Customers appreciate the option and merchants, of course, want to make sure they get enough funds from the customer to cover the cost of shipping.

One way to make checking out faster is by offering multiple digital wallets on your site. BigCommerce, for example, makes connecting PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Amazon Pay, and others as simple as a click of a button. "The majority of people shop on mobile devices now and entering in addresses, credit card info, and other order information is time consuming and harder to do on a mobile device," Jones says. "Digital wallets auto populate that info, reducing the checkout time in half and increasing your odds of converting that user to a customer."

Once you've made the sale, the next step is keeping customers happy and coming back. One way to accomplish that is by offering shipment tracking. Jones says BigCommerce offers quick and easy shipment tracking options for merchants to incorporate on their site. "Tracking builds more trust in customers and has been proven to increase customer retention," he says.

Visit BigCommerce's Growth Hub to learn more e-commerce strategies and how BigCommerce can help your business succeed online.

1 From Statista