The E-Commerce Column

5 Non-Commerce Features Every E-Commerce Website Will Need for Long Term Success

Marketing features should be in e-commerce solutions

If you’ve been in the e-commerce industry for even a few minutes, you’ve already become acquainted with the basic necessities that every online store needs.  You already know about things like catalog and order management, product landing pages, a shopping cart, and of course a checkout.  Unfortunately, putting those together alone won’t make any online store successful.  You can spend 5 minutes on any e-commerce media or blog site and you’ll realize that there’s all kinds of other things that your website will need to achieve your ultimate goals. 

The key here is to not have to involve countless hours of developer and designer time to make these things happen.  E-Commerce isn’t just selling products anymore.  In this open ocean of competition, you need to get yourself found, then grab and capture the attention of your prospective customers, and finally resell to them and their network over time.  The ways you make this happen traditionally haven’t had anything to do with e-commerce.  These were things that only big companies do.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  These marketing and content features should and do have everything to do with e-commerce.

Woman Blogging

Have A Really Good Blog

Okay, okay… You might be thinking that this is so obvious that we shouldn’t be mentioning it, but is it really?  How many stores have you researched that didn’t have one?  Any that you discovered on your own most likely has been using a blog as part of their online marketing toolbox.  Whether short term or long term, they used the blog to help get their company more visibility.  Eventually, this led you to finding them.  The blogs you write will continue to raise the footprint of the site, increase awareness of your brand, position you as a thought leader, raise your SEO rankings, and build trust with your customers.  You’ll find that having a really good and frequent blog strategy will become a cornerstone contributor to your success.

Landing Pages

When you think of landing pages, they’re not the pages you create for anything to actually land on.  You can put your horse shoes away now.  We’re talking about pages that your inbound marketing efforts might result in visits from prospective customers.  You might have great social media and content marketing campaigns being executed, but they can’t all have your leads landing on your product and home pages.  This is a very quick way to lose the interest of your leads.  You need a page (or pages) created specifically for each inbound marketing campaign that helps to sell and/or reinforce the messaging that your campaigns used to get the lead for you in the first place.

David Poindexter, CEO, nvisionative“For serious commerce sites, targeted landing pages that tie into social marketing campaigns are absolutely crucial for success, and the Hotcakes E-Commerce CMS allows you to do that very quickly and easily.”

David Poindexter
CEO, nvisionative

Let’s not forget integration here too…  If you’re using tools like Marketo, Eloqua, HubSpot, or anything else, you need a way to be able to ensure that they’re integrated seamlessly and effectively.  E-Commerce features alone don’t help you do that.

Gated and Exclusive Content

While talking to David about landing pages, he also brought up gated content.  These two things are somewhat related, depending on your marketing strategy and we couldn’t agree more to the importance of mentioning both here.  A landing page usually has a call to action that leads you to another area of the site.  When you’re dealing with gated content, oftentimes the goal is simply to have your lead fill in some information, in exchange for a white paper, e-book, evaluation, or some other kind of instant “reward.”  That being said, if you feel that landing pages and gated content are the same thing, you’re not wrong.

When you think about exclusive content, the world is open to you.  Imagine having an area on your site that wasn’t available to the general public, but only becomes accessible once your purchase something in the store.  For some stores, this is their very business model.  This is something that you’d need core features to be able to implement.  This includes security and user management, robust page and content management, and tie-ins to your purchasing process.

In order to gate content, you need to be able to create landing pages and/or downloadable materials that are protected.  After all, what good does it do to have gated content if people can just use a search engine to get it from you? If you think people won’t try that (and even repost direct links to it), you’re wrong.  In addition to the gated content and materials itself, you’ll need a way to gather the required information first.  We’ll discuss that next…

Example of an Online Form

Forms, Forms, and More Forms

If you’re gating content, then you’ll need a way to accept information from the leads on your site.  A form is the way you do this.  However, your store is different than a lot of other stores out there.  You need a way to create that form.  You need to be able to determine which bits of information you’re asking for, what’s required, what’s optional, and what happens when that information is submitted.  Sure, you can have a developer build this for you, but why should it come to that?  You should be able to just do it.

Gated content isn’t the only place and way you’ll want to use forms either.  You’re going to probably want to make it easy for customers to contact you by way of a contact form.  You might want to hire people directly from you site.  You’ll need a way for résumés to be submitted.  Maybe you’re wanting to run a contest.  A form is how your contestants will submit their entry.  If your product is delivered electronically, maybe you need a way to allow for trial usage.  The ways you’ll think of to take advantage of and benefit from forms is endless.

Tools to be put into the toolbox

Plugin Support

We’ve discussed some very pointed items here already that help with marketing to, nurturing, and selling to your inbound visitors.  What about the never-ending list of other things you might want or need to do in the future?  What about the moment when your marketing agency asks you to put together a survey on your site?  What happens when you find that you absolutely must keep using your old, unsupported, or custom ERP and you still need to implement a store locator on your website that integrates with the ERP?  Your toolbox may not have that specific tool in it yet, but would that tool fit if you needed it?

Your business and your store is unique.  You have your own recipe of success and your path to get here will only be inspired by others – it won’t be the same.  You’ll need a clear way to implement those ground-breaking ideas that you know will lead you to breaking every goal you set for the year.  A plugin system of some kind is the best way to make this happen. 

When there’s a plugin system available, you can keep using your preferred e-commerce solution while still being able to implement something completely custom or seemingly exclusive from selling online.  Now, not only will you be able to have someone build the thing you need, but that special thing might already exist in a marketplace of some kind. 

About the Author

Will StrohlWill Strohl

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