When you are ready to take the risk and finally enter today’s world of eCommerce, pause for a moment before you take that leap. Step back from the edge of the unexplored virtual market and ponder whether you have considered each and every detail of your future project. This quick recap may save you from future disappointment and will help to make your preflight check a less stressful.
Below you will find a list of essential points every merchant should take into account before starting a profitable and easy-to-maintain eCommerce store.
1. Choose a product
First, you should figure out what are you going to sell. We advise you choose a product or a group of products many customers are willing to buy. This is a kind of guarantee of good conversion rates. And don’t forget to find the wholesale market where you can buy the product for less than your customers are prepared to pay for it.
The product is a very important point, as it greatly influences your website’s look and features. Clearly indicate the purpose of your eCommerce site. And when you’re designing your site, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you want just an online store, or also a blogging platform?
- Will you offer things for free?
- What kind of products do you want to sell—shippable, physical items or downloadable assets? (Or both?)
- Do you want customers to leave reviews?
- Will you accept payment information and store it yourself or use a third-party payment service? (You’ll have to think about things like SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificates and PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance while making this decision.
Once these decisions are made, you need to pick out the platform that suits your level of expertise, is reliable, and is easy to maintain.
2. Choose a platform
There are so many eCommerce platforms out there today that it’s easy to get confused. Will you use an existing shopping cart/software such as PrestaShop, OpenCart, Shopify, BigCommerce, etc. or will you incorporate your own using an alternative like Magento or something completely custom?
Choosing the right eCommerce platform or shopping cart can be crucial, so, have a look at their comparative features before proceeding any further. Here are a couple of useful links with all the necessary information.
- Best Ecommerce Platforms and Shopping Cart Software Comparison Chart
- How to Choose the Best Ecommerce Platform for SEO
3. Choose a domain name
Have you already chosen it? If not, just follow the links at the end of this paragraph; they will take you to the best sites where you can check domain names. Here is an approximate list of what other merchants consider when they choose a domain name provider:
- Competitive price.
- Free WHOIS protection for some period of time.
- Domain API (allows users to search for, register, renew, and delete domain names programmatically)
- Clean UI, maybe designed for admins to manage multiple domains.
- Fast and simple domain management screens.
- Responsive and informed support.
- Real-time DNS (Domain Name System) propagation support.
- 1-click activation of Google Apps.
- The simplicity of sub-accounts creation and extending administrative control to third parties.
- Great process and status updates on domain transfers.
Sites to search for your domain name:
4. Don’t forget about the hosting!
A quality web host is essential for website owners. While free hosting is technically available out there in the wild, you’ll find that you get limited bandwidth, generic domain names, and other distressing shortcomings.
When it comes to hosting your eCommerce site, you don’t want to mess with sub-par servers and unexpected downtime at the most important times. Can you imagine dealing with those issues in the middle of a Black Friday sale? It’s just not worth it. With a quality web host (like Flywheel!), that offers optimized eCommerce hosting, you can achieve world-class performance on every site and scale to millions of visitors.
Once you’ve got the technical details in place, it’s time to talk about the most appealing part of your eCommerce site: the design.
5. Think about the website design
Nobody will argue that an appealing layout is a key factor for a successful eCommerce website. In fact, there are two ways of getting a design for your site. You may choose to go to a design agency and order a custom project, or use an eCommerce template from a reputable provider like TemplateMonster or TemplateMela for instance. TemplateMonster offers quality templates for all popular eCommerce platforms (WooCommerce, PrestaShop, OpenCart, Magento, Shopify, and others). Moreover, whatever eCommerce platform you use for your site, they will give you a great choice of templates, so you can definitely find a perfect fit for your business. (There are thousands of quality WooCommerce themes, for example.)
In our opinion, the second way, with templates, is cheaper and easier. You don’t buy a pig in a poke, you see how your web store will look and perform before paying any money. Besides that, eCommerce templates from trustworthy companies are highly customizable and come with a wide selection of features essential for a quick start. That means that your store will become absolutely unique after you upload your own content, play with colors, fine-tune sliders, and make all the other changes you wish. Finally, reputable companies provide customers with a free, 24-hour customer service.
6. Make sure it’s responsive
A lot of purchases are being made on the go, so your store should be usable and look good on any screen size. “Responsiveness” means that the site will automatically adjust its size according to the screen size of the device on which it is displayed. Don’t you think that utmost comfort and freedom are the essence of eCommerce sites? And if you value your buyers’ time, respect their habits and preferences and don’t forget to make your site responsive. We’re positive a responsive eCommerce design will pay off.
7. Have well-designed navigation
You need to have a list of your products broken down into categories and subcategories to allow easy navigation, quick search, and good usability. Amazon is a great example of such a navigation model. The so-called breadcrumbs are also useful, as customers always know where they are at any given moment and how to skip to one of the previous pages in an instant.
8. Write product descriptions and take HD photos
Unlike a visit to a street store, the buyer can’t touch the product you offer. That’s why it’s highly recommended to supply each item with a brief, straight-to-the-point description and multiple quality photos, as well as videos if needed. Such exhaustive information helps the customer make a positive decision without the necessity of physical contact with the object.
9. Include customer testimonials, product ratings, and comments
It’s important for some buyers to know what other people think about any product or service they are going to purchase. It’s normal for them to be more willing to buy products with higher ratings. But that’s not all, because even negative feedback is useful for your store. It highlights drawbacks and weaknesses which you might not be aware of, which provides you the opportunity to improve and cater to your client’ requests. The conclusion is simple: leave some space for customers’ testimonials, product ratings, and comments in your store design. Here’s a great example from Zappos customer reviews.
10. Think about your buy buttons and shopping cart
Buy buttons should be noticeable, good-looking, and touch-friendly. The shopping cart should be located where customers expect to see it and should indicate how many products are already there. Simplify the checkout process as much as possible. Don’t make the buyers click more than a few times to buy the product they wish, otherwise your cart abandonment rate risks being rather high.
11. Know what forms of payment you’ll accept
Try to include all most popular payment options like PayPal, MasterCard, Visa, and others. And don’t forget about currency exchange, if you are going to trade worldwide.
12. Provide contact information
Make sure that your telephone number, newsletter subscription form, and support chat work correctly and are placed at the proper place on the page. If your company is not large, you can involve your friends and relatives in the testing process.
13. Know how to handle delivery
You need to have a special facility to manage orders on your site and, of course, once goods are ordered, ensure prompt shipment and delivery. The customers should have the ability to view their order status at all times. Adequate packing that is acceptable to the customer and saves the product from damage is also important, otherwise you will end up with lots of unsatisfied clients and their negative feedback to top it.
14. Think about your refund policy
Describe in detail how the customers can return the product they bought and get their money back, in case the item doesn’t fit or doesn’t operate correctly. This will increase trust in your products and convince the most cautious of customers of your willingness to be helpful.
15. Comply with PCI standards
Keep in mind that you should handle customers’ personal information carefully and protect it. Lots of people are reluctant to reveal their personal information to unknown merchants until they give certain personal data protection guarantees. It is necessary that the link to the PCI system of your site should be present somewhere within the footer menu, for instance.
This checklist is not exhaustive, but it does contain quite a lot of valuable information and links. Use them to your benefit. We wish your new or rebranded store to be profitable and run uninterruptedly 24/7, rain or shine.
What do you think every new eCommerce owner should think about before taking their site live? What have been your biggest hurdles with an eCommerce site? Share your thoughts in the comments below!