Today, thousands of people who are looking to launch e-commerce sites do it without doing basic preparation. What happens next is that they realize a tad too late that they’re missing some essential elements to run a successful e-store. Whether they don’t optimize for search engines, or the thought of investing into a PPC (Pay Per Click) campaign never crossed their minds. Once they do realize they need these things, their budgets might not be able to handle it because they’re already planned for something else. And there’s no shortage of e-commerce websites, I can assure you of that. The competition is fierce and if you don’t jump in prepared, there’s no way your business is going to lift off.
For this reason, it’s important to have a checklist of things that your website needs before you even start thinking about launching.
Choose a Good Domain Name
Ideally, you want your domain name to reflect your niche and your brand at the same time. When you try to register a domain name, chances are you’ll find your first few options already taken, which makes things more complicated. Still, you need to find an alternative, and it’s best if it’s really short and memorable, as well as easy to type in. Anything that can be easily misspelled should be avoided, and the same goes for any words that are hard to pronounce (voice search is the future).
Another reason why you should work on your domain name is that your URL is going to affect your search engine rankings. So if you’re selling swimwear, you’ll probably want to fit that into your URL together with the brand name, so that someone who searches for swimwear can easily find your website.
Choosing the right platform for your e-commerce website is essential to your success. Whether you want the ease of use, a hosted solution, or a really high level of security, different platforms will offer different pros and cons. Shopify is a great solution for small stores since it’s extremely easy to set-up a store, it’s fairly fast and has safe payment gateways. There are also hundreds of different templates to choose from for your landing page, so you can customize the looks easily.
The other option is Magento, which is usually a better choice for larger retailers, as well as for creating the top of the line e-commerce websites. It offers multiple languages and currencies, all the stuff you might need as a really large e-commerce store.
Decide on a Shipping Strategy
It’s not the best idea to change your shipping policies too much while running a store, so you should have a plan set up before launching. Are you going to charge for standard shipping and how much? And how much are you going to charge for rapid delivery?
Consult your business plan and see what will work best for you. People love free shipping and even though it’s going to lose you some money, you will build a bigger and stronger customer base. Can your product prices take the hit? If not, put a price tag on standard shipping and you’ll get fewer conversions but will save some money on it.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is your gateway to getting more traffic to your e-commerce website. It’s the single best way for getting customers to your website (after which you’ll still have to convert them), even though it takes some time for the results to kick in. Many of the SEO elements start with web design, which is why experts like Webdel Sydney recommend optimizing for SEO during the development phase.
You can also plan to spend some money on PPC later on, depending on your SEO results. PPC will get you instant traffic to your website, but you’ll have to pay for each person that comes to your website this way, so it’s a costlier option.
Consider a Soft Launch
A soft launch is a testing phase for the website to check if everything’s working as intended. You generally don’t want people to know about it, except for the ones that are going to be testing it. You’ll get a few weeks (or a month) to gather the feedback and see how the website behaves, and adjust before going live officially. You never know what can go wrong, and the last thing you want is your website to have bumps on the road in the first few weeks since the launch.
Set Up a Merchant Account
Anyone who wants to accept credit card payments on the internet must have a merchant account. It’s basically an account with a financial institution that lets you accept credit card numbers and get payments through that institution – for a fee, of course. Most banks will charge the set-up fee, a monthly fee for “account maintenance” (What exactly needs to be maintained there? Beats me), and a percentage for each transaction that goes through. This can get quite pricey, so make sure you choose an account that will best work for your business.
Launching e-commerce website is a big thing and shouldn’t be rushed into. Even if you’re looking to be a really small store in a particular niche – you’ll still want to do a lot of testing and consider carefully your moves. There’s no denying that shopping on the web has only increased during the past 10 years, but that also means there are more competitors out there and that it gets harder and harder to stand out. Try to be original without risking too much, that’s usually the best way to get ahead of the curve in the e-commerce world.