What non-technical ecommerce merchants must understand

Many of the factors affecting the running of an ecommerce website can be outsourced. Things like design and development, fulfillment, search engine optimization, and even accounting can be out-sourced. But there are some things that will improve your business if you have a basic understanding of how things work, even if you do hire contractors to do them for you.

First, be aware that not all web browsers behave the same. Things often work differently in Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome and Apple Safari. Test your website on each of these browsers. To complicate this further, computers all have different screen resolutions. Just because your website looks the way you want it to on your screen, does not mean that it will look that way on every visitor’s screen. Be sure to look at your website on a variety of computers with a variety of screen resolutions.

Content Management Systems, or CMS are what allows you to separate content from your web page so that you can update what is being displayed, without having to create a new design. Ecommerce shopping carts are a type of CMS – you input information about each product you are going to sell including photos, descriptions, prices, and categories, without designing a new page for each product. This is critical – it might work to have a hard coded page if you have one or two products, but if you have several hundred, this is impractical.

A CMS solves this problem by storing content in a database and using page templates. When it needs to render a page for a shopper, it grabs the proper product specification from the database and places that specification into a template. The combined content and template are rendered and you have a dynamically created web page. If you need to change product information, you only need to make a single change to the database.

Marketing is a key factor in making your website successful. You can have a beautiful website, properly coded so that search engines can easily find it, with great images and the best prices on the web – but if no one has ever heard of you, you won’t make a single sale. This requires marketing, and it is not your web designer’s responsibility. That responsibility ultimately relies on you. You can of course out-source the technical aspects, but the core message must come from the merchant themselves.

By far the best way to market your website is with word-of-mouth. Put a widget on your site that everyone will want to use (preferably over and over again and email it to all their friends). Create a video that is entertaining as well as informative and get it on YouTube. Reach out to your customers with social networking sites like Facebook. The more people that you can get to link to and to visit your site, the higher your position will be in the search engines. When a merchant understands this, and makes marketing a priority rather than something else to be out-sourced, sales will often improve.