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How to Price E-Commerce Websites

Many small business owners say they want to do e-commerce.

Of course they do! The prospect of boosting sales around the clock and offering products to people from around the world is very enticing.

And it’s easy for you to get caught up in this excitement too. As their web developer, you’d love to be able to brag about your website client who boosted business by 50% by working with you!

But how are you supposed to charge for an e-commerce website on SiteSwan? This article will hopefully give you an idea of what to expect when working with an e-commerce customer.

Keep in mind as you read through this: for most businesses, e-commerce is often a struggle and requires a lot of work, time and money to really get it off the ground (everything from photography to extra staff to managing sales to marketing the site require money). It’s almost like starting a whole new business. It’s always good to warn clients that e-commerce is not the fast-lane to boosting sales, but assuming you’ve made it past this point with your client, you can read on…

Products

The number one thing that any business owner has to figure out about doing e-commerce is “what’s the product list?” Sounds simple, but some products just aren’t ideal for selling online, either because inventory is usually low or because the product is too large/difficult to ship, or because the product is perishable (like food). To effectively manage an e-commerce site with your customer, our suggestion is to limit your customer to 20 items or less to start. Perhaps recommend to your client that they should start with their best selling items, or the ones that are easiest to pack & ship, and have the fewest number of variables (size, color, etc.)

Speaking of variables, it’s important that right from the beginning, you get your customer to understand the difference between Product Variables, and Products. For example, do they want to list a T-shirt that has a color variable (choose color) or do they want Red T-Shirts to be listed separately from Blue T-Shirts? Knowing all of this upfront is very important.

Images

For every product, you need an image. And not just any image, but a good quality, professional-grade image. Buyers need to be wowed by how the item looks online, and if all they see are poorly-lit selfies, it’s going to look amateur and will not win any sales. Also: it’s best practice to make all of the images match in style / background / setting.

Prices

When putting your products online, sometimes it’s difficult to price them the same way they are priced in-store because of all of the online competition. The business owner has to come up with a good plan for how to stay competitive online but to also not to alienate their core clientele, the people who shop in-store.

Shipping

Every physical goods item has to be shipped. That means you need boxes, padding for the inside of the boxes, you need to select the shipping vendor(s) you want to work with (FedEx, UPS, USPS) and develop a systematic approach for printing out the labels, filling the boxes, and scheduling for pick up or drop off with the carrier. Not to mention, make sure that you don’t lose too much of your margin on the shipping cost. It’s tough to balance out a reasonable shipping cost while also making sure you don’t lose money. Also you need to figure out if you’re going to charge shipping based on the weight or price, or have a flat per-item shipping cost.

Taxes

Depending on what the products are and what state they are being shipped from plays a roll in how or if you charge taxes on products sold online. Encourage your client to consult with their accountant before making a decision here.

Payment Processor

In order for people to pay online, you need to have a relationship with a company who actually handles the payment processing of the credit cards and debit cards. We recommend stripe.com for this because it’s a relatively fast setup and their rates are highly competitive.

Return Policy & Customer Service

More and more, online buyers are looking for a reliable, dependable online vendor. By law, every e-commerce website needs an easy-to-find Return / Refund Policy on the website, and buyers want to know that if they have trouble, you’re easy to get a hold of. This may require that the business owner sets up a specific phone number or email address purely devoted to online order questions / concerns. The more responsive they are with answers, the easier it will be for people to trust them and make a purchase.

Human Resources

Shipping out products does take a bit of time. The business owner has to have a system in place for getting products out on a timely basis, and may need to have one or more employees focus on this, and it can’t (or shouldn’t) distract from day-to-day activities in the store.

So How Much Do You Charge?

A typical small business will likely ask you to help / consult with them on many, if not all, of these items. On top of that, you still have to help the client add their items to their e-commerce store on your site (which thankfully is very easy with SiteSwan, but nonetheless will take time, because it can be tedious and repetitive) so you have to make sure you’re pricing your services correctly. Because of this, we recommend charging your clients a MINIMUM of $1,500 extra to get the site setup & launched (which is a bargain, by the way). Making them put some extra skin in the game should also help make sure that they’re more responsive to pitching in and doing their part to get the site launched faster. If a business owner balks at an additional $1,500, then that probably means they weren’t too serious about an e-commerce venture anyway. And you can remind them that they could always add that on later, anyway.

You might want to start EVERY e-commerce conversation by telling the customer what you generally need to charge for e-commerce to see if it scares them off of proceeding. You should also set clear boundaries for your clients so they know exactly what they can and cannot expect you to do for them as time goes on. E-commerce sites are sometimes more work than they are worth, as you get requests from the customer to help you with discount coupon codes, sales promotions, refunds, and other hidden headaches. And don’t be shy about reminding the client that just because they have an e-commerce store, doesn’t mean they’re going to get sales! For some businesses, e-commerce can be more of a distraction than anything else.

If you’ve informed your customer of the costs, set their expectations, and planned a roadmap out for yourself on how to take on the project, then hopefully your e-commerce project will be successful and profitable.

Add Off-Site Links to Site Navigation

Your site navigation is one of the very few things that stays constant from one page of your site to the next. It’s a visually reliable reference point for the user – something they can always come back to if they feel lost, want to see what’s next, or want to backtrack. It also serves as a sort of guide or roadmap of how to experience the website.

Usually, all or most of your site’s pages are listed on the navigation. But now, in addition to site pages, you can also add off-site links.

Why?

Sometimes your clients will need to direct users to an off-site URL to complete a particular task. Perhaps it’s a separate Member Login site or a link to their Etsy store, or a separate blog, or anything else they might want to link to (rather than embed in their site).

And since the navigation appears on every page of the site, the ability to accommodate off-site links allows you much more flexibility to guide site visitors through the website.

So how does it work?

Look for the new “Add Off-Site Link” right underneath the “Add New Page” button on your sites’  “Pages” tab. Enter the name of the link and the URL, and you’re all set!

Make Any Site an E-Commerce Site with our Shoprocket Integration

At SiteSwan, we’re all about making things quick and easy for you. The folks at Shoprocket happen to agree with that sentiment as well.

Everyone wants to sell something online, right? We all love the idea of people logging onto our site to purchase something while at home in our pajamas.

But building an e-commerce store is extremely difficult, tricky, time consuming, and expensive. That is, until now.

Enter Shoprocket. Based out of London, Shoprocket is tearing it up here in the States by offering a super simple solution to selling stuff online at an extremely affordable pricepoint. Just create an account, load up your products, setup some general business rules, and the next thing you know, the cash register is ringing.

We loved their simplicity so much, we created a SiteSwan integration just for them. ♥

Here’s How the Integration Works

Create a Shoprocket account. Find your Shoprocket Company ID. Copy it.

Go into your SiteSwan site, choose the “Sell” post type. Paste the Company ID. Click Post. Done!

Get all the details in our support article on E-Commerce Integration with Shoprocket

You can put your Shoprocket-powered e-commerce store on any page of any SiteSwan site. You can even have different pages of your site devoted to different categories. For example, you could have a “Hats” page of your site, and only feature the hats you have for sale. Then you can create a new page called “T-Shirts” and only feature–you guessed it–the t-shirts you have for sale. Couldn’t be easier.

SiteSwan Resellers: you now have a brand new tool in your web design toolbox. If a small business owner asks you about selling stuff online, you can confidently refer them to Shoprocket…or, if you want to get really creative, inquire with them about their white label solution so you can rebrand the Shoprocket experience as your own.

Either way, go to Shoprocket now to create a store to test out this awesome integration.

 

The Trouble with Big Business Digital Marketing Vendors

The percentage of small businesses that do not have a website remains steady at around 45% (cited here), but it’s not because salespeople aren’t trying.

As a company that has conjured up 6 different brand names over the past 14 years, we’ve got a LOT of domain names registered with multiple different domain registrars. And all too often, we neglect to purchase Privacy Protection on some of the domain names, and as a result, we get tons of aggressive phone calls, persistent emails, and persuasive – sometimes scary snail mail at our office. All of this marketing and promotion is pointed our way because the data collectors who must be looking at new domain name registrations are automatically assuming we’re a small business owner who needs their service.

“Need help building your new website?” (Nope, we’re actually a website builder ourselves, thanks.) “Secure your site and get better search results with an SSL.” (Nah, we’ve got that built into our platform at no cost.) “Get your site listed on 100s of search engines all across the globe.” (Ummm, Google & Yahoo/Bing make up like 97% of all search engine searches performed in the U.S. and it took all of 15 seconds to submit the site to them. C’mon!)

Then come the Reputation Management pushers, the Social Media Management pushers, the Review Site pushers, the SEO / SEM pushers, and others. These salespeople are calling up small businesses using terms like “you’re not visible on Google” and “you have negative reviews that need attention” and other scare tactics that are the border of utter and complete misrepresentation.

These overzealous salespeople are often under pressure from managers at large corporations who only care about growing their month-over-month so that their shareholers will leave them alone. And as a result, small business owners are getting used, abused, and annoyed (if not sold, which happens all too much), which muddies the waters and makes it far more difficult for honest marketing professionals who truly want to see the small business owner succeed.

Some SiteSwan resellers have told me that they start the conversation off with small business owners now by identifying themselves by name AND location, to get off on the right foot, and making it abundantly clear that they’re not one of these sell-whatever-we-have-to-anyone fast-talkers who are looking to scam them out of a few hundred bucks from the other side of the country. If a small business owner can mentally put you on the map, and you sound like you’re local, and you’re sincere, for crying out loud, you might just get their attention–not because you’re a stellar salesperson, but because you actually seem to care.

And when you get that client signed up, tell them they can give YOUR phone number to any of those big business digital marketing vendors…so you can offer them a job selling websites for you and actually sleep at night!

What Every Small Business Needs for Effective Local Marketing

Small businesses, in general, have limited budgets. And, generally speaking, most small business owners have clients who are almost all within a very short driving (or walking) distance from them. Since they’re not likely to get customers from far away, their options for marketing their business are fewer than the larger businesses you see advertising on TV.

A typical small business needs a local marketing presence and the tools to manage the message it sends to its local customers. What’s the right mix of marketing tools for them?

Recently I read a great article in the style of a back-and-forth conversation between two local marketing gurus. And in it, they discussed the “Essential Digital Marketing Bundle” and thoroughly exhausted the subject of what a typical business owner should be investing in for their digital marketing.

To no one’s surprise, the VERY FIRST thing they agreed that every small business owner needs, regardless of its size, location, reach, or current client base, is a website. They concluded that a beautiful, mobile-optimized website is central to any business’s digital experience. And that’s just what SiteSwan resellers are offering to their customers.

This goes back to something I often discuss with our resellers and the small business owners in my network: The Marketing Wheel. Think of a wheel with a hub and spokes. The spokes are the different kinds of marketing a business might do – like print advertising, email marketing, social media, etc. There are many different spokes on the wheel. But the website is not one of them. The website is the hub of the wheel – it’s what connects all of the different spokes together.

Also in the article (link above) the pros talk about the average monthly cost of a website being around $80 for the small business owner. This is a small price to pay to have a formidable hub of the marketing wheel. When SiteSwan resellers are at work – they’re not just selling websites…they’re setting up centralized digital marketing hubs that are necessary to make the small business marketing wheels turn!

Enhance Coupons by Adding Images, Colors, and More

Coupons are the lifeblood for many small businesses. According to a report by Inmar, 2.9 billion coupons were redeemed in the U.S. in 2013. For many shoppers, buying decisions are influenced by money-saving coupons that they find on small business websites.

SiteSwan has always allowed you to post coupons, complete with expiration dates, terms & conditions, and some really cool printing functionality. Now, we’ve added a bunch of new features including color controls and the ability to add an image to the coupon to spice it up. In addition, we’ve improved the printing experience and made the coupons just look a heck of a lot better.

Also, if your small business client has some pre-designed coupons that they run in print, or distribute elsewhere, you can easily put those onto the site by embedding them into the Coupon post to capitalize on the expiration date & printing functionality built into the system.

Now you and your clients are in total control of coupon designs…go tell your customers to start creating new, great-looking coupons today!