In part two of this three-part series I wanted to talk to you about Shopping Carts. Being able to sell to your clients in a way they want to purchase is a great strategy for your business. Selling online is a challenge for some, and it shouldn’t be. There are lots of options, including an online-manual approach. There is always the option to do nothing at all. I want to look at reasons why you may want to offer this option to your clients and how it might help your business as well as talk a little about the different options available.
Related Article: Tech-Talk Part 1 – What You Need to Know – Websites
Why Offer Online Purchasing?
E-commerce allows your clients to purchase from anywhere with options.
Business online is increasing by 20% per year with some 2013 statistics predicting over 1 billion annual online purchases globally1. There is a global trend to purchasing online. I believe that this is a result of increased access and the growth mobile technology, as well as the shear amount of time we spend online. We are using this time to do as much of our chores as possible, like research and purchase a needed item or service. This is not industry dependant. We are seeing online purchases for all business types and all product offerings, from very small, to very large. If your clients are online and they have this need, you are doing them, and your business, a disservice by not offering this option for payment.
Recently I found a business that could not only not accept online purchases, they were unable to purchase online. The challenge for their business was 2 fold, they could only purchase items and services for their business from places that accepted cash or cheques and they could only accept payment in this same format. My clients ask for many different ways to pay;. e-transfers from their bank account to mine (my favourite payment), credit card (the most popular) and PayPal. Strangely, I stopped offering cash or cheque about 4 years ago and no-one has complained (except that first business owner I mentioned). Initially I did not have a merchant account so I could not take credit cards, and that was not an issue since PayPal had a great support for this. I used Constant Contact to manage my communications with clients but this was manual as well. If a purchase came in via email or through an in-person meeting, I would have to add people to different lists to ensure they got the information that they had purchased. There was no automatic communications, no information delivery, no easy way to follow up, and no way to track the connection between my purchases and my communications. It was very separate and time consuming, but it was what I could manage at the beginning of my business.
What is the Business Benefit?
When I started using online purchasing I still sent a manual invoice from PayPal to my clients for payment. I did not have a shopping cart and I did not feel initially I needed it. Eventually handling multiple purchases automatically became the goal. I liked the sound of the possibility of getting up in the morning and seeing a payment in my inbox from someone I had never met. I knew this was not possible with a manual system and this is why I opted to go to a full online shopping cart. Here were my top reasons for implementing a shopping cart versus taking online payments through PayPal.
- The shopping cart is integrated with my communications system.
- I can create auotresponders that delivered services, products, inquiries, scheduling calendars, files, etc. once or over multiple contacts.
- When people purchased, the data of the purchase is captured by the shopping cart for review.
- I can manage all my clients differently and offer them things specific to their needs based on how they purchased in the past.
- I could integrate my merchant account and accept credit cards without having to manage the privacy of my clients’ financial information.
- I could sell from my website, from stage, at events, in person, or over the phone.
- I can easily deliver my ezine (newsletter).
- I can send notices and invitations to special groups of people.
- Most virtual assistants have skills for managing shopping carts so I could easily offload the work.
What are the Options?
The most important thing to understand is what your use is right now and what you are planning for the use of your shopping cart in the future. You need to be able to evaluate the shopping cart based on how you will use it. Transferring between carts is possible, but what I have heard and experienced is that you will lose between 30 and 50% of your list when you make this transfer. I lost close to 50% of my followers and clients in my switch from Constant Contact (a communications only application) and 1ShoppingCart.com (a full online shopping cart). Privacy policies are strict and to be compliant the best shopping carts require an opt-in for new imported lists as a verification. Even if people love you, they may not opt-in to continue as an active name on your list. This means you cannot contact them via your shopping cart.
Not every shopping cart is the same. There are many global shopping carts that will not integrate with Canadian Banks online. Here is a list of what I was looking for in a shopping cart.
- Both text and HTML mailing features that look great and are highly functional
- Easy template creation and use
- Integration with Canadian merchant accounts
- Support recurring payments
- Able to attach a file for mass delivery
- Put a product on sale without having to create new product profile
- Quick uptake on understanding how to use it (none are easy, but some are harder than others)
- Low cost of initial investment
Other services you may need.
- M-Commerce (Sales done through a mobile device)
- Autoresponses based on calendar dates and not sign up dates
- Up-sell features at checkout
A shopping cart is a monthly investment in the operations of your company, on top of merchant and banking fees. This expense for my company is ~$120 / month. How much income do you have to be making before you invest in this and when is the right time? I would recommend that you make this investment as soon as you know your company is going to need it for its future growth and you are already pushing out online communications and taking online payments.