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Whether you’re a small- or large-business owner, an artisan or the proprietor of a well-established brick-and-mortar shop, if you want to gain brand recognition and grow your revenue, it’s essential that you sell your products online. This is especially true during the current pandemic, when most people are shopping online and buying locally. According to Statistics Canada, 56 percent of Canadians want to support their local businesses. In fact, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020, in-person shopping has been limited several times because of lockdowns, motivating many Canadians to shop online. Statistics Canada tells us that eCommerce sales reached a record of $3.9 billion in May of 2020, representing a 99.3-percent increase over February of 2020 and a 111-percent increase over May of 2019. Currently, 80 percent of Canadians are shopping online. These figures will continue to climb, as experts estimate that the amount of money spent on online purchases in Canada will reach $108.1 billion in 2023 (compared with $98.1 billion in 2022 and $87.51 billion in 2021).

Are you still hesitant to open an online store? Here’s some information that might help you take the eCommerce plunge.

How to open an online store

On the technical side, you should be aware that you’ll need to use a virtual shop in order to put your business online and sell your products. To do this, you have two options:

  • Incorporate an eCommerce module in your existing website
  • Use a third-party platform

In the first case, if your website was created using WordPress, you can incorporate an eCommerce module like WooCommerce (the most popular and most complete) or PrestaShop (open source). These supplemental modules offer unlimited possibilities for customization, as well as a user experience that’s perfectly aligned and seamlessly integrated with your existing digital ecosystem.

When it comes to eCommerce platforms, you have an embarrassment of riches to choose from. Currently, the most flexible and comprehensive—as well as the most popular in the domain—is Shopify. Its main competitors are Magento (public domain), BigCommerce (specializing in SMBs), Wix Business (versatile and user-friendly), Squarespace (an attractive showcase for premium products) and Panier d’Achat (100-percent Quebec-based). Each solution presents certain advantages and disadvantages, so you’ll have to decide which one best corresponds to your needs and your budget. If you already have a website, the platform you choose will be linked to your current digital assets.

With regard to payment methods, the two most popular online payment solutions are PayPal and Stripe, which have very similar fees and features. You should know that, if you opt for an eCommerce platform like Shopify, it will come with its own payment solution. However, in some cases, you may be able to modify it to utilize the payment method of your choosing.

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How to sell online

To be successful, simply having an online shop isn’t enough. You must generate traffic to your store, reach your target customers, be well ranked in search engines, have a solid presence on social media, demonstrate the quality of your products, respond to consumer expectations so they’ll be motivated to shop on your merchant site, etc. In short, you must implement a whole host of good internet marketing and online sales practices. However, you should be aware that setting up eCommerce requires time and technical knowledge. Here are a few vital tips for designing an effective online store:

  • Create a simple site with a pleasant design that’s tailored to your particular clientele.
  • Reassure your users of your reliability and professionalism by including an About us page, by ensuring that your texts are free of spelling errors and by displaying your company name, logo, contact information, legal notices, General sales conditions, etc. clearly on every page, especially the Home page.
  • Facilitate interactions by implementing a live chat system or by prompting users to contact you through a clearly visible phone number or Call-to-Action button. You should also be proactive by addressing the most common questions and concerns in an FAQ section.
  • Arrange your products by category, simply and effectively, and use professional photos highlighting all the different aspects of your items.
  • Ensure a more fluid browsing experience by implementing a visible, efficient search engine and by displaying your current promotions on your Home page.
  • Simplify the account creation and purchasing processes and provide easy, direct access to the shopping cart and payment module in order to avoid losing customers while they’re trying to make a purchase.

Once your online store is active, you must monitor it constantly and implement various marketing tactics (discount coupons, newsletters, gift cards, etc.) to increase your conversion rates (the percentage of prospects that make a purchase).

Are you eager to embark on an online commerce adventure but you’re not sure where to start? Does it all seem too complicated or do you feel that you lack the necessary knowledge when it comes to marketing, indexing, design, etc.? Call on the experts at BJMédia! Their team of professionals specializing in eCommerce will help you find the best solution, in keeping with your needs, your products and your budget.

Sources: Statistics Canada and eMarketer.com

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