sales design

Getting into eCommerce

Posted by Dennis Brockhurst


If you have decided that you will do business over the Internet, how do you judge the success of your business? 

Traditionally, when you start a company, you begin with a business plan that has growth expectations based on estimated criteria such as the value of your Marketing and the success of your Sales people.  This is a globally accepted process that has stood the test of time.  If you don’t see the growth expectations that you estimated in your business plan, you can increase the value of your marketing and/or the size of your sales force to improve your growth.  That just leaves you with the usual business risk of managing your ROI (Return Of Investment).

However, is this process the same with eCommerce business?  In a way, it is because there is still the investment you are making in your eCommerce website and you are still looking for a return on what you have invested.  However, the variables that you can play with become less clear.  What marketing are you putting into that part of your business and what sales people are you using?  These are the two parameters that you would look to adjust when there is a failure to perform.

There is a common mistake that many people make when they decide to get into eCommerce.  They evaluate the cost of an eCommerce website as if it were a capital expense and ask the necessary questions, “Is it within my budget?”  “Can I get it cheaper?”  Therein lies their first mistake.  Entering into eCommerce is not the same as purchasing a product; it is an investment into a new business venture.  In many ways, it is the same as a retailer deciding to open another shop on the High Street in another town. 

Another common mistake is to assume that the eCommerce website will bring the business in for you.  Yes, there are capital expenses that have to be considered when you enter into that business venture, but there are also revenue expenses that go along with it which are often forgotten. 

Go back to the scenario of the retailer opening another shop.  He could not do that without employing staff that are paid out of his revenue budget.  It is only when you take all of these costs into account, that you are ready to judge the success of your eCommerce business.


When it comes to judging the success of your eCommerce website, the first thing that you need to evaluate is the marketing that you have been putting into the business.  For the retailer, that could be as simple as the shop sign, an advert in the local paper and a leaflet through the doors of the local people.

That process is not as simple for eCommerce.  The shop sign is effectively the home page of your website, which nobody will see unless they are directed to it and you don’t have a locality for your leaflet drop.  There is a whole new set of rules that you need to encounter in eCommerce.

Social Media

In a way, this can be symbolic of the neighbourhood that historically you would have leafleted.  But it doesn’t act the same way.  With a leaflet drop, a piece of paper/card with your logo, description and pricing would have landed on the doormat.  This would have been picked up and binned in one fell swoop of the hand and in the process, it would have been briefly looked at to see if there was an interest in its content.

If you had planned your leaflet drop carefully, you would have had it delivered when the people were at home and at a time when there was nothing else to be picked up that could dilute your marketing message.  Social media systems do not operate that way. 

The people who receive your message may not even see it because their Facebook News Feed is being continually being filled with messages from the people they know, like and have befriended.  With the messages that are filling up their News Feeds, other than pictures, a column inch is generally perceived as too much information and therefore ignored.   Furthermore, people who are determined to push their products are prone to being tagged as, “I don’t want to see this.” And therefore never shown again.

Because the Facebook News Feed moves at such a speed, there is no reason why you should not consistently put out 3 messages a day, being careful not to discourage people with repetitive statements.  There are people who successfully give out vastly more than that.

Twitter, is not the same as Facebook; it has a far faster news feed which is limited to 140 characters per tweet.  It can be argued that, in some way, it fulfils the same function of giving information to people but it is not necessarily a replacement for Facebook.  Very many people have both Twitter and Facebook accounts for a reason.

Because the Twitter feed is much faster than Facebook, and the mobile phone has a much smaller screen, it is not wrong to be sending out 6 tweets a day.  I did see one person who was tweeting every 5 minutes.  I un-followed him very quickly, as I assume would most people.

In general, Facebook is a more personal messaging system than Twitter and therefore the style you use for your marketing should have a different approach.  However, with Social Media systems, the aim of marketing is to get people to your website so that you can present them with the details that are important to them.

This marketing approach is becoming essential for companies partly because it affects the positioning of your website on the search engines and also it can be effective at drawing people to your website.

However, it is important that you focus your marketing accurately to your intended audience.  If your business is hairdressing this is definitely the right place for you.  If your business is seeking a more professional clientele, the emerging engines that you should start to look at are LinkedIn and Google+.

Whichever audience you are seeking for your business, if you are not marketing, you are not letting people know that you are there.  If they are ignorant of your existence, they are not going to be your customers and that fault lies entirely at your feet. 

Yes! You can advertise with Google Ad words and other things, and all of these bring their own benefits and their additional costs. 


It is fair to say that eCommerce is effectively a contactless sales process and so the assumption is that sales people are not required.  Whilst this is true, it is not the whole answer to the question.  The old sales adage that people buy from people is not negated by eCommerce.

You will, I am sure, be well aware that if anything goes wrong, you want a person to talk to; you will look for someone who can help solve the problem for you.  When things fail to work as seamlessly as expected, eCommerce businesses that do not provide this facility for their customers lose business.  Customers do not want to spend time resolving your problems.  They are, in most cases, ready to walk away in frustration and shop somewhere else.

Your eCommerce website should give you the information you need to know if this is happening.  Look to see what percentage of your customers bail out at the check out.  How often have your personally purchased something from your own eCommerce website?  This truly is the best way to discover the experience your customers go through when they buy from you.

The winners in this marketplace are inevitably those who understand the different budgets they can use to run their business; building their website from the capital budget and running their website from their revenue budget.  It is only when you fully appreciate the costs of both having and running an eCommerce business that you can start to effectively judge the success of your business.