With more than 206 million predicted shoppers spending money online this year, there’s never been a better time to start an e-commerce business. Starting an e-commerce business and selling products online, sounds easy, but just like anything in life, it takes work in order to reach a stable and consistent income. Creating an online store is an exciting step forward for any business. It can sound like a daunting task. According to the State of Small Business in America Report, “only 25% of small businesses said they have websites with eCommerce functionality – in fact, 58% earn less than 10% of their sales from online purchases.” Here is a checklist to consider when deciding to open up an e-commerce store.
eCommerce Setup Tips
- Pick your Business name, domain and main keywords together.
Before securing anything, Research your Business Name, Domain, and Keywords together. You may have a killer idea for a name or already have an idea of a target audience, but these 3 things go hand in hand when starting an e-commerce business. I know it is already hard enough to get the products ready, the pictures done, the price just right. But at the end of the day, if the customer can’t find you they will not buy from you. 90% of all e-commerce startups have great products at many times even better pricing than that of a larger site, but they fail to optimize their site, so a potential client has to go to page 200 or more just to see your company in the search engines. I don’t know about you, but I never go past page 2 or 3 when I look for something, and even then, there is not guarantee that I will actually click on your site if I have to spend a lot of time just to get there. By researching and picking all 3 of these together, you already have stepped way above your competitors and ensured that your e-commerce business starts on the right foot. Determining your basic needs and wants is the first step in the process. It’s always a good idea to look at websites selling similar products to see what features and pages they have, and document what you’re hoping to achieve. It’s important to keep in mind that, like everything in life, the more you want, the longer it will take to build, and the more it’s going to cost. Study and learn from your competition. Yes you want to be unique but there is no need to reinvent the wheel in all aspects of running your business. Competitors will show you a lot of what works and what does not in the field of products you want to offer.
- Functionality is more important than how good it looks.
Of course you want this site to be an extension of you. You want your customers to see you in the website and all the hard work you put into it. The truth is, (as hard as it is for me to say to all our clients), is that appearance is not the most important thing to consider when opening an e-commerce site. How the site functions and how easy is it for the customer to look for things on your site, Is the most important thing to a customer once the potential customer comes to your site.
Look at E-bay, the largest of all the e-commerce site by far, totaling $8.95 billion US dollars in 2015 alone. Yes that is a B as in Boy, Brains, and Billion. The site is plain ugly. An eyesore from the start. Nothing cosmetically pleasing about it whatsoever. Yet their framework and functionality is second to none. It is easy to find products and sort these products just like the customer wants. I could go on and on listing many other mega sites that follow the same philosophy, but do I really have to. I think the point is made.
You’ll need to enter categories, products and a wealth of other data to successfully build your catalog, and create an effective store. You may also benefit from tweaks to various features, such as your site search, the feature that helps shoppers find products within your website, or search filters, the options that appear in category and search results pages within your site that help customers whittle down the results by attributes like size, color, material and brand.
eCommerce Setup Tip (continued)
- Make the site responsive-
What is responsive, It means that your site looks the way you want and can be seen on any devise that has access to the web. Your site may be easy to use on a desktop computer, but if it is not able to be seen on a tablet, smartphone, or iPhone, you will lose business and loyal customers. The site needs to be able to function on any device with any size screen. Keep this also in mind when designing logos, images, or other cosmetics for your website. Ensure the site is cross-device and cross-browser tested.
Ensure your site runs quickly, with effective use of caching and content delivery networks where applicable. Page response times is critical not only to customers but to search engines as well. Amazon announced once that for every 100ms in load time there was a 1% decrease in sales. In regards to rankings, in 2010 Google began using site speed as a ranking factor in their search algorithm.
- A Picture is worth 1,000 words, but it still needs tagging.
Include a nicely designed logo. Make sure the site works on all browsers and devices. Promotional graphics and links on the homepage. Use as many images as you can. At least 3 per page and at least 3 per product. There is over a 400% increase in sales using 3 images than only using one, so please make the time to add this. Do not make the images above 7s dpi or too large of files. This will slow down the response time of each web page and you will lose sales because the page fails to load properly. As much as the image itself helps the sale when the client is viewing it, it is proper tagging that allows the images to be searchable in the search engines.
- You are still a legal entity, don’t ignore that
You’ve got several options when it comes to your business structure:
Partnership (if you have a business partner)
LLC (Limited Liability Corperation)
If you don’t choose a business structure like a corporation or LLC, you’ll automatically be considered a sole proprietor (or partnership) by the IRS. However, operating as a sole proprietor, your personal assets are at risk. If your company is ever sued, the court can seize your personal assets if your business doesn’t have enough to cover its debts. Both the corporation and LLC separate you and your assets from the business, and provide other tax benefits.
You can register on your own by filling out the appropriate business structure paperwork from the IRS yourself, or you can hire a business filing company to do it for you. A lawyer is another option, but that’s often overkill for the average small business owner’s needs. You’ll need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) to open a business bank account and file your business taxes next April. Your EIN is a bit like your business’ social security number: it’s a unique number that identifies your business and helps you file important paperwork. Every business needs one, whether you’ll have employees or not. Operating an eCommerce business does not exclude you from needing certain business licenses and permits based on the products you are selling.. Check with your city, county, and state to see what sorts of sales tax licenses or home business licenses you need, and get those approved before you start operating.
eCommerce Setup Tips (continued)
- Push the Sale and yourself.
Start Marketing Early
Even if you’re not up and running, it’s a good idea to set up social media profiles and writing content for your blog now so that you’re not starting from scratch Day 1. Have the email signup form show up on every page. Make sure you have:
- A link to your Career page
- A link to Legal information
- A link to your Contact Page
- A link to the FAQ page
- Links to your social pages
- Links to return and exchange policies
- Links to supplier information pages
- Sharing buttons
Make the checkout button large and in an obvious location. Include a prominent search box for reaching product listings, with suggestive or predictive search, if possible. Remember that some customers will be arriving from search engines and won’t land on your home page, so every page should include consistent and clear navigation and breadcrumbs. Make the contact and support information clear on each page.
UPSELL. UPSELL! UPSELL!! Make sure you have recommendations similar to the product the person is looking at.
Provide an area where customers can enter a ‘coupon code’ to get a discount. You may be using this tactic in your marketing. To reduce risk of customers disappearing off to try find a coupon code elsewhere, considering naming this box ‘gift certificate code’ instead of ‘coupon / voucher code’.
Offer free shipping – this is a great way to boost conversions.
Offer same-day shipping. Some shoppers will go for it – particularly those desperate for the item and, as such, will be willing to pay a premium for it. This is a great way to boost order profitability.
eCommerce Setup Tips (continued)
- Ecommerce Product Page: – Below is a checklist for your product page(s)
- Customer reviews and ratings for each ecommerce product
- Related product links to upsell
- Selling points, like free shipping or a clock with a discount if they buy now
- Provide product images with zoom-in functionality
- Multiple product images and angles (360 degree views)
- Item information and specs
- A field to change purchase quantities
- A creative description that relates to the product uses
- Include an optimized product title
- An add-to-cart button on each product page
- Pricing information with potential sales or discounts
- The availability of each product to show scarcity and push people to buy
- Shipping and tax calculations on the product pages
- Materials used, dimensions, colors, weight, washing instructions
- Available sizes and a sizing guide if needed
- A comments section so people can discuss the ecommerce product
- A sorting and filter option for customer reviews
- An Add to Wish List button on each product page
- Videos to display how the product works
- A currency converter if needed
- A live chat option that shows the support team what the customer is looking at
- The product codes for people who might use this for reference later
- Stats on each product such as shares, views, sales and people who placed it on their Wish List
- Social share buttons for each ecommerce product
- Deals for people who purchase multiple related items together
- Use professional-grade pictures and videos
- An area to sign up for notifications when a product becomes available
- Make sure the product pages load up just as fast as your homepage
- Explain unique features and what makes your product stand out from competitors
- Include keywords on each Ecommerce product page to improve search engine rankings
- Minimize clutter so the purchase process doesn’t look intimidating
eCommerce Setup Tips (continued)
- Be a social butterfly – Bottom line, Search engines now measure social media and links to your site to improve rankings. If you are not on social media, you will not get into the top 100 in your category, it’s that simple. When using social media:
- Use your page link
- Stable consistent posting – whether it is 3 times a day or just one, you need to have continuous postings or you will be forgotten next week.
- Use auto posting services or software’s if you are too busy.
- Use pictures, videos or images. Or you will be overlooked.
- Use Hashtags.
- Analyze and do not be afraid to change your structure or business philosophy.
Every business must contantly make adjustments to conform to market changes. This is also true in the internet world and ecommerce. Look at Kodak. They owned over 75% of the picture film overall sales. They smoked the competition. They also refused to tap into digital images, by making cameras or lenses for mobile devises because it would hurt their film sales. Where are they today. Don’t become another bankrupt business, Learn to adjust.
eCommerce Setup Tips (final)
- Set up !!!!!SECURE!!!!! Payment processing.
Paypal, Google Wallet, Apple Pay, Chase… Use a 3rd party processing service. There is very little trust in the ecommerce world thanks to so many internet thief’s and identity fraud cases. Put yourself in your client’s shoes. Use only legit, highly ranked and financially solid payment services. Their trust in them will add value and trust to your site.
- Test and speed up your Site
When setup is complete, it is now time to review the buying experience on your site. Purchase an item to get familiar with the shopping cart, checkout and confirmation process. On the internal side, learn how you will be notified when orders are made, how to fulfill or ship orders, and how funds are transferred to your business bank account. You will now need to takle steps to optimize your site. this means faster load times and less customers leaving because it is taking too long.