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19 Terms to Know Before Launching Your Ecommerce Business

Even if you have a great brand, there’s a lot to consider before you start your ecommerce business. Not only do you need a terrific virtual storefront, you also need to know how to help people find it and make purchases. Here’s a primer on some of the ecommerce lingo you’ll want to know.

Ecommerce business infographic
Source: Adobe Stock

1. SEO

Let’s start with an important one. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s whatever you do to make your site found by search engines, especially Google. If you understand how to measure SEO and know the steps to boost your visibility, you can keep your website from winding up on page 32 on Google.

2. SERP

This stands for Search Engine Results Page. Think of the page that shows up when you search something on Google or Bing. Your goal is to be at the top of the SERP since it’s the cheapest way to get more visibility from internet users. Website owners will typically increase efforts on SEO to improve rankings on a SERP.

3. UI and UX

User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) are two areas where you don’t want to cut corners. Online shoppers are just as demanding as those who favor brick-and-mortar retail. If someone wanders into a store on Main Street and finds it difficult to find anything or is standing in the checkout line for too long, they won’t return.

The same thing happens in the ecommerce business world. Customers will abandon their online shopping carts due to hard-to-use user interfaces and slow page load times. Look at a website like ring.com to see how thoughtful UI and UX can make even complex purchases straightforward easy.

4. Keywords

These are the words and phrases that define your content. When people use a search engine to find something, the words they enter in the search bar are keywords. You need to include keywords on your site pages to match popular search terms related to your products.

5. Keyword Ranking

This measures how your site stacks up for targeted keywords against your competition. Basically, it lets you know how often your website is found when the most popular keywords are employed. The higher you rank, the more visitors you should have.

When you’re new, you’ll want to rank with keywords more established competitors aren’t using. It’s better to rank highly with distinct keywords than being relegated to page eight because of a popular one. You can use popular sites like Moz’s Keyword Explorer to find out where those opportunities are.

6. Keyword Stuffing

If someone who tells you to jam your site with as many keywords as possible, you’ll know you have met someone who is not an ecommerce business expert. First, it’s just unethical. More importantly, it’s an old trick that doesn’t work anymore. Google protects its position as the leading search engine by rooting out sites that use this practice. After all, nobody wants to search for lawnmowers and find a site that has a few lawnmowers but uses the word lawnmower all over the lawnmower site. What kind of customer is going to make their way through that?

7. Bounce Rate

Sure, people are finding your site. But how many are quickly moving on after they find you? You want your bounce rate to be low. Sticky sites deliver results. If people are leaving, it might indicate that your UI or UX is less-than-stellar. Or your keywords have produced search results that were not valuable to the people who landed on your site.

The bottom line? Keep tweaking your site if your bounce rate is high.

8. Conversion Rate

Unlike the bounce rate, you want this one to be high because it’s measuring how many visitors turn into buyers of your products. Does your site prompt action? Does it entice people who land on it and encourage them to go through with an online purchase?

If your conversion rate is low, it’s time to figure out how you can do more to compel people to make purchases. Perhaps you can include an enticing offer or discount to incentivize customers to make a purchase.

9. Cart Abandonment Rate

This measures the number of times people load their shopping carts and then decide to ditch it. Pay close attention, because you can’t have people bailing after they get close to making a purchase. AddThis has free ecommerce tools to help you keep this rate low and convince your customers to buy now.

10. 301 Redirect

When you move a URL — and sometimes you will — you don’t want people getting a 404 Error because they landed on a page that doesn’t exist. A 301 redirect sends them from an old address to a new one without making them do any additional legwork. Ideally, you’ll change your URLs very infrequently, but this is an important tool to use when necessary.

11. Drop Shipping

In this type of shipping, the online merchant doesn’t actually keep the product it sells in a warehouse or distribution center. Instead, the store partners with a wholesale supplier, and when a purchase is made, the shipping address is passed on to the supplier who ships the product directly to the customer.

Many nascent brands do this when they start an online venture because it lets them avoid the expense of carrying a lot of inventory. Others have turned dropshipping into a very effective, long-term model.

Women selling items from her ecommerce business.
Source: Shutterstock

12. Upsell

If you have multiple products, how do you sell more of them or get visitors to purchase more  expensive ones? You build upsell into your site. Suggest products that are frequently bought together, display a higher-priced product next to a less expensive one, or create bundles that are enticing. Iron & Resin is a company that pairs accessories with larger ticket purchases and combines products into collections that shoppers will find appealing.

13. Mcommerce

How many people do you see staring at their phone every day? Almost everyone, right? And how many people do you run into on the street who are staring at a laptop? Mobile phones have transformed our daily lives, including our shopping habits.

Today, nearly 45% of all online purchases are made on smart phones, and that number is expected to rise to almost 54% by 2021, according to the Statistics Portal.

So, what’s mcommerce? It means making sure your online store is mobile-friendly — assume that people who can’t complete a purchase on their phones will not look you up later when they’re in front of their computers.

14. Gateway

This is your payment platform. It’s a big deal since you obviously need to get paid. Your payment gateway processes online payments and transfers data from the user to you. A good one is fast and prevents errors.  

15. Path Length and Time Lag

These are several reports you can access through Google Analytics. Path length lets you know how many interactions with the site a visitor had before becoming a customer. Time lag breaks it into days — how many days from their first visit until a purchase. When both are short, life is good.

16. Cart-to-Detail Rate

This is another Google Analytics metric. It measures the number of products added to a cart versus the number of product views. It’s better if people are adding products quickly rather than poring over many different products before making a selection.

The thing you don’t want your ecommerce business website doing is making people think too much. Indecision can lead to no-decision and inaction.

17. Evergreen Content

In a few years or even a few months the information in the list you’re reading right now will need to be reviewed and updated. Without proper planning, much of the information on your site can grow stale, too. The stuff that doesn’t? That’s evergreen content. Try to have as much of it as possible so your site is interesting and you’re not constantly forced to update.

18. Online Marketplace

If you’re selling directly to customers on your own site, you have an ecommerce business. But that’s not the only way to make money online. Many companies have greater success selling through the major online marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, or Jet.

Perhaps the most common scenario is a company that sells on its own store and also through the online marketplaces. A platform like Amazon, for instance, is too important to ignore for most organizations.  

Man running ecommerce business.
Source: Adobe Stock

19. Drive

Okay, so this isn’t an ecommerce term. But to be successful, you’re going to need it. The world of ecommerce business is always evolving and the companies that perform well are always working to keep up with it.

It’s an exciting time to be an online business owner. Throughout history, it has never been as possible to reach an audience as vast as the one that shops online. If you’re leaping into this world, the possibilities are endless.


Dean Gemmell is a writer at eZCom Software, which was founded in 2000. The company focuses on traditional electronic data interchange (EDI) for the retail sector. Today, they handle order management of all kinds, including ecommerce.

Last modified:  July 15th, 2019