eCommerce — Serve Your Customers Online
Whether you’re a local business with a limited eCommerce presence or a brick-and-mortar product-based company that had predominantly focused on an in-person store experience, there are a range of platforms out there to help you drive sales online. Below are digital commerce platforms and strategies worth consideration.
Facebook and Instagram
The social nature of Facebook and Instagram allows you to create an online shopping experience for your existing customers while also being discovered by new customers. When paired with information sharing (posting), engagement, and promotional capabilities, Facebook and Instagram should definitely be part of your eCommerce toolkit if you’re a product-based B2C business.
In May 2020, Facebook rolled out Facebook Shops, which they’ve promised to make widely available over the following months. Facebook Shops is definitely something worth looking into and setting up if you are a B2C business interested in selling online. Here’s what Facebook is saying about Facebook Shops —
Facebook Shops make it easy for businesses to set up a single online store for customers to access on both Facebook and Instagram. Creating a Facebook Shop is free and simple. Businesses can choose the products they want to feature from their catalog and then customize the look and feel of their shop with a cover image and accent colors that showcase their brand. This means any seller, no matter their size or budget, can bring their business online and connect with customers wherever and whenever it’s convenient for them.
People can find Facebook Shops on a business’ Facebook Page or Instagram profile, or discover them through stories or ads. From there, you can browse the full collection, save products you’re interested in and place an order — either on the business’ website or without leaving the app if the business has enabled checkout in the US.
We’re also investing in features across our apps like Instagram Shop, live shopping and more that will be integrated with Facebook Shops to help customers discover products they’re interested in and make purchasing easier.
While you don’t need a website to utilize Facebook Shops, Facebook is also working with popular online shopping platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, and others to help businesses build and grow their Facebook Shops. For example, businesses currently using Shopify to sell online can utilize a plugin that enables the export of their Shopify product catalog to Facebook Shops and Instagram. Plugin installation and setup generally takes a few hours.
While not as large as Facebook and Instagram in terms of active users, 93% of Pinterest users use the platform to plan their purchases, making it a platform worthy of consideration especially if your products are visual and appealing to female customers.
Google shopping actions
Google has over 1 billion users across all of their platforms. Almost half of product searches begin on Google, and 84% of respondents use Google 3+ times a day or more often.* So getting your business in front of people on Google is a no-brainer, and thanks to Google’s Shopping Actions tools, businesses are able to acquire and convert customers across Google’s surfaces — including Search, Shopping, Assistant, Images, and soon, YouTube. Shopping Actions is commission-based, so businesses only pay when a sale is made. Commissions taken by Google on items sold through Shopping Actions range from 5-15% depending on the product category.
Google Actions provides sales, customer, and return support, while the merchant handles fulfillment. The Google-backed guarantee adds credibility to your business when new customers consider purchasing. Customers can buy confidently, knowing Google is there to help if they don’t get what they are expecting, their order is late, or they have issues getting a refund. Google also provides its merchants access to data about customers, enabling you to send follow up marketing and grow customer loyalty. This isn’t the case with alternatives like Amazon.
Online marketplaces (ex: Amazon, eBay, Etsy)
Unlike social media platforms, where the intent is centered around community and connection, and Pinterest, which largely thrives on visual discovery, online marketplaces are directly tied to purchase intent, and they bring millions of shoppers (sort of like a physical shopping center). Amazon is where the other half of product searches typically begin (when not on Google). However, the tradeoff to selling on Amazon and popular marketplaces is the inability to retarget customers off the platform, lack of customization related to the experience and visual design of your online storefront. Amazon charges merchants $0.99 per item sold or $39.99/month regardless of the number of items sold, plus a referral percentage per sale based on product category — generally a percentage or two higher than Google charges.
Shoppable landing pages
With platforms like Mailchimp, you can start selling your products without an eCommerce website. However you’ll need to be sure to direct customers to your shoppable landing pages to make purchases via email marketing, social media, and/or digital advertising campaigns.
Unlike Amazon, which provides immediate exposure but is an aggregated seller marketplace, Shopify allows businesses to build and manage a unique, standalone online store (eCommerce website). If you’re seeking more control over your branding, management, and customer relationship and fulfillment process AND can dedicate resources to marketing to drive people to your online store, Shopify might be the best bet. Basic commerce website platforms like Shopify also generally will include other benefits, such as integration with online marketplaces and social media (including plug-ins for Google Shopping and Facebook Shops), abandoned cart emails, and insightful analytics.
Online food ordering services
With fees typically between 15-30% for popular online ordering and delivery services like GrubHub and UberEats, it’s worth exploring alternatives. While the specific solution that makes most sense for your business will depend on your current situation, below are leading online ordering systems to consider, many of which are waiving the first month or two of fees:
- Gloria Food
- The Ordering.app
- Skip the Commission
It’s important to note that the platforms above are not an exhaustive list, nor should they be considered mutually exclusive to each other. You may start with eCommerce on social and then layer in another platform for further reach and capabilities. Assess your needs, your customer needs, and leverage data to guide your strategies.
Loyalty programs and promotions
Most consumers (57%) say that businesses that offer special deals, coupons, or promo codes for returning customers stand out from the competition. *
Three-quarters of consumers say that having reviews either gives the business a competitive advantage (36%) or is expected (40%). However, only 7% have been asked to write a review of a local business even though 89% are willing to do so if they had a positive experience and were asked. *
Remember that comments and engagement on social media platforms can also serve as informal reviews, so interacting with your community there is important. Business accounts on Facebook and Google My Business also include reviews, so monitor those closely. Platforms like Yelp are also worth looking into.
Leverage your best-selling or popular product or content
If you have a commerce platform with the ability to rotate content, place your top-selling product next to product that’s newer or not as strong. Leverage suggested products features and key placements like your homepage, hero images, and the top of product results or upper third of the page to pair your popular content or product with ones that could use a bit more visibility. For social this means planning your posts so that popular product is featured alongside content you want to promote, ideally either within the same visual or as part of the same post.
Create and distribute content to communicate relevant information about your business or products. Make your products or services available online via ecommerce platforms and tactics. And utilize digital marketing solutions like search engine optimization, social media, paid media advertising, and email marketing to reach and connect with customers and our local community.