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Back to basics: E-commerce 101

By ShopifyPlus

Buying and selling products have always been simple. Retailers stock products, a buyer picks it up and pays for their purchase. Over time, open marketplaces turned into shops dotting our streets and sprawling suburban malls. The process was essentially the same: pick a product, pay for it, take it with you. The customer experience was, for all intents and purposes, relatively easy. 

Commerce and all players involved have adapted overtime to keep up with demands, technologies, and evolving buyer behaviours. Buying has never felt more democratised and specialised in consumer needs. 

Before planning for the future, do a gut-check on how solid your foundation is. Go back to the beginning and ask a few crucial questions:

  • What are the guiding principles for retailers? 
  • What are the most important tools retailers need to run their business? 

Here, we give you a little insight into how solid checkout foundations, customer experience, and automation, will help solidify your business’ base to grow for – and with – the future. 

Solid checkout foundations

At the bare minimum, your e-commerce store needs to provide a way for customers to check out efficiently. The faster the experience, with less friction, the more likely your customers will complete their checkout, and return for a second purchase. Think of a smooth checkout experience as the ultimate goal in commerce. 

A smooth checkout experience involves addressing the top reasons why shoppers abandon their carts:

Reasons for abandonments during checkout

Strategies to address these reasons fall into two key buckets: optimising for speed and conversion and customising your checkout experience. Here are a few ways to further amplify your checkout experience:

Conversion and speed

  • Combat a “long and complicated checkout process” by offering accelerated checkout methods like Shop Pay, Apple Pay, and Google Pay.
  • Automate promotions to save shoppers from having to remember discount codes
  • Use a reliable payment gateway your customers can trust
  • Dynamic checkout buttons allow customers to buy right from the product page with one-tap accelerated checkout in their preferred payment method. 


  • The number one reason shoppers abandon their carts is due to surprising extra costs. If your customers might need to pay duties, let them know ahead of time by using a third-party app to estimate the cost of duties for an order at checkout.
  • Establish trust with your customers by adding a security badge to your online store so they know their information is kept safe.
  • Boost customer trust by extending your brand throughout your checkout. Entering the checkout experience should feel like the rest of the website. 
  • Be transparent with your store’s policies and make it easier for customers to find them on your online store
  • If you sell to an international customer base, make sure they can browse and checkout in their local currency

Create a memorable online customer experience

Customer service has never felt more important than now and will have lasting effects on brand loyalty. 

There are a lot of things brands can do in lieu of an in-store experience with a friendly store associate to make buying online efficient and memorable.

  • Make product discovery faster and easier with product recommendations and product reviews. Product recommendations and reviews can help empower your customers and round out their purchasing experience with information.

  • Let shoppers visualise your products from the comfort of their own home. Enhanced image technologies allow your buyer to visualise what a product looks like on their person or in their home without having to step foot outside.

Your customer support team as part of the customer experience 

Sometimes buyers still need a customer service representative to help them out. Ramp up more customer support by studying engagement rates of each channel to see how your customers prefer to be contacted. Install a live chat button like Facebook Messenger or Drift on your website so shoppers have easy access to you if they have any questions. 

Customer service reps are only as great as the training that gets them there, so don’t skimp on building and equipping your team properly. Invest in a training program that empowers your customer service team. Keep them up-to-date with FAQs and queries to strengthen their knowledge base.

E-commerce automation

E-commerce automation is one big way to help to simplify the complexities and demands of a business. It can help reduce labour-intensive tasks and instead increase efficiencies that strengthen how the business operates. 

Automating everyday tasks can eliminate hours of manual labour required from your staff and reroutes that energy into creative or innovative endeavours for your team.

What can you automate?

E-commerce automation touches all areas of the business from inventory to fraud.

  • Inventory management: E-commerce automation helps with management of your inventory, whether that’s notifying suppliers through alerts when stock is low, or unpublishing out of stock items and republishing when a fresh delivery arrives.
  • Customer experience: With e-commerce automation, you can identify and track customer behaviour by tagging conditions like order types, order value, specific product purchases, and more.
  • Fraud prevention: E-commerce automation can be configured to notify your own security or fraud-prevention specialists for a hands-on review, which can save you money.

While commerce practices have evolved to include extraordinary and innovative ways of shopping, like through a smart mirror, in a video, or on a live stream, all those foundational aspects of buying still exist, too. Creating a strong checkout experience, customer support system, and automating your tasks all fundamentally strengthen your foundation in these unprecedented times.

About ShopifyPlus: We simplify the complex with commerce technology that’s both powerful and easy to use. We make the tools you need to evolve, scale, and thrive. We give you the freedom to experiment and expand your brand in game-changing ways.

You know retail, we know tech. We’re Shopify Plus

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