This blog was taken from http://blog.intuit.co.uk/4375/business-on-a-budget-e-commerce/
The latest in our money-saving series covers how to manage everything from e-commerce to emails without breaking the bank.
1. Take the time to find the right deal
Shopping around for deals can help when you first set up the e-commerce side to your business. Amazon, for example, offers what they call storefronts or web stores to businesses, and these are fully integrated into Amazon’s own marketplace.
Another familiar name offering a similar service is eBay. Both of these are around £10 per month and easy to use – they can be good places to start, although both eBay and Amazon make their crusts from trading fees, so factor these into your budget.
It’s also worth setting up some or all of the merchant services offered by Pay Pal , which will help you run the selling side of your online business quickly and cheaply. Another option to consider is Shopify, which offers users stylish storefronts.
Once you’ve established your business, it might be worth weighing up the costs and looking at (the possibly cheaper) option of selling to customers directly.
2. Make an impression with pictures
If you are looking at customising an online storefront or building a website, using the right images will help build up a good impression with visitors. The best places to start are websites which offer images that are royalty-free. Well-regarded sources include iStock, Getty Images and Pix Mac, along with Photo Dune.
It might also be worth brushing up on your advance searching methods on image-sharing sites like Flickr. Looking out for photographs you can use commercially means there’s the possibility of finding real bargains using this option.
3. Optimise your website for Google
Google’s search engine is used for a massive 9 out of 10 searches, so it is important your business presence online is as visible in search results as it can be. You can start by looking at optimising your Google rankings with the Google Webmaster tools.
These tools will show you how the search engine ranks the company website, and you’ll also discover the number of people who have come across your site via search results, then clicked on the link they have found.
Another very useful application is the Google Keyword Tracker, which will help you keep track of web searches for specific phrases and/or keywords. If you opt for 2 or 3 words in your terms, this could help your conversion rates.
Lastly from the Google stable is Google Analytics, which is a comprehensive tool to generate stats about the visitors to your website. Aggregated data could be used for sales and conversion tracking, and can help you monitor site engagement.
If you’re looking for a more basic stats application, then Clicky has free trials available, so you see real- time monitoring of your website traffic.
4. Capturing user data
Capturing the right user data is vital when it comes to building a customer base online and informing existing and potential customers about any new products or services. If you use online forms on your site, it will be easy to both capture and store your user data.
Simple forms can be created by using Wufoo, which will automatically create a user database when you have designed a form, and it will also help you understand and access the user data that’s created.
Alternative options include Unbounce and Optimizely, which are a good match if you don’t have a great deal of technical knowledge. They offer the option to tweak or modify your landing pages and generate comparisons between these pages.
5. Website usability
Once you’ve designed and uploaded a website, this isn’t the end of the story. You need to discover how your customers and general website visitors are using the website, and look out for any problems. It’s important you always look for ways of improving the customer experience, and you can do this with applications such as Whatusersdo or Usertesting.
If you want to track your users’ mouse movements, then Clicktale and Mouseflow are good tools to have, and you could find their features like heatmaps useful. A heatmap is a visual that illustrates where web visitors click and/or scroll on a site.
6. Encourage repeat custom
There are numerous ways you can keep your customers coming back, including regular email newsletters. These are a good way of keeping people informed of any special offers or exclusive deals you have running. After capturing user data you could use a service like Mail Chimp, an all-in-one service that lets you design and then deliver newsletters by email.