In the US, the online home furnishing market now exceeds $60 billion, making eCommerce the preferred way to buy. But businesses like yours that have been around for decades have seen in-store revenues changing. Especially as new and enormous online competitors enter the scene. It’s becoming clearer every day that you need to put more focus on eCommerce. But you just don’t know where to start or what you expect. Like every great journey learning how to start eCommerce is simply about taking those first few steps in the right direction. Are you wondering how to start eCommerce when you know nothing about it? This beginner’s guide will help you get started.
1. Define the Customer Journey
Want to know how to start eCommerce? Before you begin running ads or investing in content, get really clear on who your target customers are and what the typical online buying journey looks like. Technology can seem very impersonal. But when you incorporate what you know about your customers (data) into your strategy, you have the amazing ability to connect on a more meaningful level. To begin:
- Write out who your target customer is. Think about income, common job, age, challenges, goals, interests, where they shop and more.
- Understand the sales cycle. How long does it normally take from the point someone first visits your website until they become a customer? When do they often buy again? Collect this data to better understand how your current methods are working, when to reach out to customers and how best to communicate with them
- Understand how your customers move through this journey? Do they start on Facebook, then go to a product page, add to cart…? What can you do to streamline this process to increase conversions?
Since you’re just figuring out how to start eCommerce, research competitors to see how they’re doing these things. But also start collecting data immediately so you can understand how your customers may differ. Continue to hone your strategy from there.
People today have absolutely no patience for a clumsy checkout system. Any bumps along the way can lead to an abandoned cart. So one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is to put all of your initial attention into optimizing checkout. Then work your way out from there.
Optimizing Checkout A-Z:
- Make it a no-brainer to find exactly what they’re looking for and add it to the cart
- Be very upfront about shipping costs so no surprises. One of the top reasons people abandon carts is because they weren’t expecting the large delivery charge.
- If you offer free delivery for carts over a certain amount, promote this prominently on your site to encourage more spending.
- Be very upfront about payment options. If you’re set up to take payments online or have special financing offers available, be clear upfront so no surprises. If it is Buy Online Pick Up in Store, make sure customer expectations are set early.
- Optimize design so a visitor never has to think twice about how to go to their cart, how to choose a color and how to complete the purchase.
- Make it easy to go back to add something new to the cart without losing progress even if they’ve already entered shipping and payment information.
- Make sure everything is itemized. It’s clear how much is the tax, delivery fee, etc.
- Make it easy to remove items from the cart or change quantities. Making it difficult won’t increase revenues. It only increases the chance they’ll abandon the cart altogether.
- Integrate the in-store checkout experience with online
- Make it simple and easy-to-use from start to finish
- Clearly state estimated delivery time frame at the beginning so customer are reassured that they will get their purchase quickly
- Make scheduling all deliveries easy and reliable. Integrate your delivery schedule into your site to offer self-service scheduling.
- Offer to assist with an online chat option that can answer common questions automatically or connect a person with a representative during business hours
Once you have your checkout optimized, you’re ready to tackle other areas of your strategy like how people get to your checkout.
3. Optimize Product Descriptions
Make product descriptions thorough and well-organized so that most customers feel that their questions are answered. Run some testing on different layouts to see which one increases your conversion rate.
When writing descriptions, it’s important to remember that you’re creating them for both people and the search engines that help people find them. If you’re working with a website partner that provides the manufacturer-supplied product descriptions or romance language, build on that information. And don’t forget to optimize! Apply current SEO best practices to the page like:
- Researching keyword phrases people commonly search for related to the item
- Creating unique descriptions for each page
- Utilizing H1 and H2 title tags to help search engines understand what’s important
- Applying schema markups, a special programming language that helps search engines better understand what different sections mean
- Alt titles for images
- Local language that helps search engines know that you’re a local business
Customers today expect to not only be able to see descriptions of items. They expect 360 visualizations that help them understand what the piece looks like from all angles. Don’t just tell the customer that their items come in coffee, lilac, espresso and passion red. Show them the sofa, end table, or armoire in the cover specified. You can accomplish that with digital product draping.
4. Show More Products Online
You have finite room to showcase furniture in your physical store. This may be a good thing in the store setting as too much selection can create decision paralysis. But as long as you use intuitive filters to aid customers in narrowing selections, the more options the better online. We’ve discussed this endless aisle concept in a previous blog. You know they’re finding infinite options online elsewhere if not on your site.
Work with your suppliers to increase your online inventory. Keep communication lines open with them to quickly update your site if they stop producing a piece or introduce a new line. Explore drop shipping options with reliable wholesalers. Connect your website to your RMS and even EDI provider to make your supply chain seamless.
Learning how to start eCommerce on your site can explode your revenues and money-making potential. All the while you, your family, and your employees are learning and honing the valuable skills that now define the online marketplace. This sets everyone up for success now and into the future.
5. Be Strategic with Pricing Setup
One of the biggest challenges for home furnishings retailers is getting pricing from the manufacturers. Yes, you want to increase your priced online inventory, but you’ll crash and burn if you try to do everything at once. It’s very manual and requires a lot of time. We suggest to start with private collections, clearance items, or pricing your bestsellers to get your customers used to eCommerce on your website. You can build out from there.
Not all eCommerce is created equal. Customers make eCommerce work and if they don’t know you’re doing eCommerce or don’t know how it works on your website, it will fail.
Educating customers is going to be very important for any furniture or home goods store trying to emerge into eCommerce. Next, let’s look at some strategies to help both new and existing customers find your site and learn what you have to offer.
6. Upsell Customers with eCommerce Personalization
In the store, your salesperson asks questions and engages a customer to help them find what they’re looking for, including complementing pieces. This happens online too. Help your customers more thoroughly and sell more at the same time through automation.
Make it easy to go back and add more to the cart. Gather data about the visit to personalize the customer’s experience. With modern automation, you can track which pages a person visited on your site, even if you don’t yet know their name. Then show them custom suggestions.
“You might also like X, Y and Z.“
“People who bought this, also bought that.“
If this sounds a lot like what Amazon already does, you’re right. Big retailers like Amazon and Wayfair do this because it works. And as long as you use the information you collect to be helpful rather than feeling like a stalker, you and your customers win. In fact, an Accenture study found that 86% of people know that you’re tracking them. 49% say they’re very receptive to this tracking if you use the data to provide a more personalized experience. 64% say they prefer to shop on a site that offers them more personalized assistance.
This is how to start eCommerce momentum that begins to take on a life of its own very quickly, increasing your customer lifetime value exponentially.
7. Retarget Abandoned Carts
What’s your abandon cart rate? If you dabble into eCommerce and don’t know, you could be missing out on one of the greatest opportunities in the eComm. When a person puts something into their cart, they really, really want it (or need it). If they leave the cart, then something happened.
Sometimes that something has to do with the checkout experience: unexpected shipping costs, a slow site or trouble entering their payment information. Other times it’s purely that they got distracted. What could have possibly distracted them on the Internet? Hmmm?
They’re shopping at work and their boss walked by. They were just about to hit pay when their smartphone went dead. They just got a Facebook notification that their friend just uploaded her vacation pics. And just like that, they’re gone.
Whatever the reason, you have a second chance and the odds are ever in your favor if you use automation to recapture these leads.
Around 69% of shoppers abandon their carts across industries. 40% of abandoned cart emails get opened. 21% of recipients will click back to their cart if you send them an email. Applying cart abandonment and similar automation increase the conversion rates of those who use them by as much as 50%.
8. Retarget Website Visitors
You don’t even have to know who a person is to retarget them. Use Facebook’s or Google’s retargeting ads to send a friendly reminder to someone who visited your site. You’ve probably seen these ads. You were looking at a funny T-shirt on some crazy t-shirt site just to pass the time. Now, that T-shirt is stalking you around the Internet. You see it on news sites, blog sites and more. Some people find it a little creepy. But many people do click on these ads.
An Adobe study found that people are 400X more likely to click a retargeting ad than they are to click a regular ad. Retargeting casual visitors can increase revenues by getting people back onto your site.
9. Send the Right Email at the Right Time
Automated emails help you send your customers and potential customers emails at the perfect time to make a sale. 86% of people prefer email communication from businesses, but only when you have their permission to send emails. Gather emails for a permission-based email list then send emails to:
- Welcome them to your store. Offer them a nice discount to get them to make their first purchase. Over 70% of people open welcome emails making this the most opened form of email in email marketing. Are you leveraging its power?
- Keep people informed about new product lines that might interest them. At a more advanced level, you can use segmentation software to further customize these emails. Segmented emails are more relevant to customers so they have a 14% higher open rate and a 100% higher click-through rate.
- Send special offers related to holidays or the recipients birthday
This just scratches the surface but is a great place to start as you learn how to start eCommerce for your furniture store.
10. Leverage Social Media to Reach New Customers
Build out your business profile on Facebook. Start sharing helpful content from your website as well as tools, quizzes, videos, and more that your customers will find helpful.
Shopping in one of the top 10 reasons people say they’re on Facebook. Use this knowledge and create social media friendly ads that your potential customers will love. This not only helps you make quick sales; it builds a sustainable organic social media presence over time.
11. Keep Your Site Up-to-Date
“Keepin‘ up with the Jones“ isn’t just something you do with cars, houses, and furniture. Keep an eye on what the competitors are doing and adapt your website to continually meet customer expectations. If you’re just now diving into how to start eCommerce, this might seem daunting. But once you get your new and improved eCommerce site running, it’s mostly simple maintenance as long as you don’t let yourself fall too far behind.
How to Start an eCommerce Site and Win
Start by defining who your customers are and what kind of journey they follow to become your customers. Prioritize the checkout process because this is where so many fail. Create amazing, unique product descriptions that people and search engines love. Employ automation to re-capture lost opportunities and reach people at the perfect time. Find out how we can help you figure out how to start eCommerce for furniture stores and win with your customers.