Starting an online store can be a daunting task. There is so much to consider when creating your first eCommerce website. Spend a few minutes reading our 4 part eCommerce website checklist so that your new online store can out perform your competitors.
The very first thing you will need to do is pick a product to sell. You can sell anything, but to be successful you need to pick a product niche and run with it. You will always find more success if you sell products related to something you are passionate about. For example if you love to surf, you have a huge range of products you could sell online. From the surfboards themselves to wetsuits, wax, leg ropes and fins just to name a few.
Once you have chosen a product niche you’ll need to figure out how to get the products to sell in your online store. Are you planning on making the products yourself, or will you source a supplier who can create the products for you. Take some time here to do research on your competition, find out how they are sourcing their products and how you can either beat them on price or quality. Make sure the product you decide to sell has enough of a profit margin to cover all of your costs and allow you to make a living.
You will need to find out who your potential customers are and what their shopping habits are. Hop onto google and start looking around at the sites ranking for the products you want to sell. If you know people who already use the products you are planning to sell on your online store, ask them about what features they like and dislike and how the products could be better. By knowing your customers pain points you will be able to offer a product that better services their needs.
Some products have certain laws surrounding them when it comes to selling online. For example you are not allowed to ship organic material like fruits and vegetables to many states in Australia due to bio security laws. Other products like alcohol require you to put an age verification on your eCommerce website before customers can enter. Researching laws surrounding your online store is a very important step. If you do the wrong thing it could potentially cost you a lot of money in legal fees.
The last thing you will need to do is decide on the polices for your eCommerce website. How long will customers have to return a product to you and how can they do this? Will you only post your products within Australia or can people from overseas also buy from your online store? How much will you charge for postage? All of these questions should be answered in an easy to read and understand policy. The last thing you want to do is get caught out by not being clear about what your customers can and cant do.
Your online store is just like a traditional store down the road, think of the website domain name as the address. If customers are going to visit you they need to know where you are. Make your domain name as easy to remember as possible, avoid using weird spelling for words and keep it short. The other part of getting your eCommerce store online is having a good host. Hosting is where all of your website files are stored and then shown to the customer. Don’t go for the cheapest hosting you can find, make sure that the host has servers located in Australia and the are fast. Long loading times will quickly drive your customers away and cost you sales.
If you are unsure about how to manage your web hosting, talk with your website design company and ask if they can manage these systems for you.
You need to figure out how your customers are able to contact you. You could have a phone number shown on the site, a contact form that they can use to ask questions or an online chat system. Whichever way you decide to go make sure to clearly state the hours of operation for these services so that customers know when you are able to respond to them.
Once you get up and running you are going to need a place to store all of your inventory. When you are just starting out a suitable place might be shelves in your garage. You could also look into hiring an industrial shed if the size or quantity of your inventory is larger. No matter what you decide on make sure to have a good system in place so that you are able to easily find products and package them for postage. The more time you put into your inventory management system at the start, the easier it will be to scale your eCommerce website in the future.
If you don’t have the space or desire to hold and manage your own stock, look into partnering with a supplier who offers drop shipping. Drop shipping essentially makes you a reseller of a product. The customer makes the purchase on your online store and you send the order to the supplier for package and posting. Drop shipping is a good alternative to managing your own stock but comes with its own unique set of challenges.
If you do decide to go down this path take a good amount of time to research your suppliers and make sure they are able to deliver on your customers expectations.
It is important to keep your business and personal bank accounts seperate. Make sure to create a new business bank account to manage all of your business related payments. When it comes to tax time your accountant will thank you.
Payment gateways allow customers to purchase products using a credit card from your online store. They link directly to your business bank account and are the easiest way to get started with taking payments online. Some of the most popular payment gateway merchants are PayPal and Stripe. Keep in mind that both of these merchants take a small percentage charge on every transaction.
The last part of setting up your eCommerce website is deciding how to price all of your products. You have to account for the cost to buy the product, shipping and marketing costs to figure out the actual cost of each product. Once you know how much each product is costing you, try to aim for a 50% profit margin. This will give you enough money from each purchase to pay for your products, shipping costs and promotional expenses. Pricing is fluid and you will need to be constantly adjusting it to match your competition and demand for your products.
The website design of your online store sets the tone for your entire business. It is important to make sure that your eCommerce store not only looks good, but works well and loads fast. Make sure everything is easy to find for your customers and the checkout process is as painless as possible. Highlight the features that make you stand out from your competitors. Speak with your eCommerce web designer and make sure that the entire design of your online store is focused on maximising sales.
When you are looking for a web design company to create your eCommerce website, be sure to have a list of all the features you want for your online store. Pick a good eCommerce CMS so that you are able to edit the products and make changes yourself without having to contact the web designer every time. During the development phase check how your online store looks on a mobile phone. More and more people are doing all of their online shopping on a mobile device and it is essential that your eCommerce website works on these devices.
Think of the products shown on your online store like products on the shelf in the grocery store. You need to provide as much information as possible to the customer so that they can make an informed decision on if the product is right for them. Add high quality images, information about size, weight and any other information they would need to know.
It is no longer an option to not have an SSL certificate installed on your eCommerce website. SSL certificates encrypt data being transferred on your website when a customer makes a purchase. This protects your customers sensitive information like their address and credit card information from hackers.
Once you turn on your eCommerce website you need to figure out how to get customers to visit. One of the most important elements of getting customers to your online store is Search Engine Optimisation. SEO is the process of optimising your website to show up on the first page of google for specific keywords related to your products. Another great option for quick traffic is Pay Per Click advertising. PPC ads allow you to pay to have your online store show up at the top of google for specific keywords. You will be charged every time someone clicks on the ad and visits your website. Both options should be explored, SEO is a much slower, longer process whereas PPC can give you instant traffic when you first start out.
Recording all the traffic on your eCommerce website and showing it in a dashboard is a great way to figure out how your online store is performing. Using a system like Google Analytics allows you to see how long customers are spending on your website, what links they are clicking and which products they are looking at. When you have this information you can work on improving your store to maximise sales.
Before your customer buys something for you they will have a bunch of questions to ask. The more you can answer with a Frequently Asked Questions page or section on the product page, the more likely it is that you can make a sale. Another good way to handle FAQ’s is with a chat system that you can talk directly to the customer.
There are multiple ways for customers to pay you on your eCommerce website. Credit cards, PayPal, direct bank transfers and paying cash in person at the time of pick up. You need to choose how you want customers to pay for your products and set up those systems. Some payment methods have fees associated with them so be sure to check on what its going to cost to have these systems in place.
Sending products overseas can be an extremely costly and difficult task. If you do plan to sell your products to other countries be sure to figure out how much it is going to cost you in shipping, import fees and any restrictions that country might have.
At some point you are going to deal with a complaint. It is important to have a plan in place to deal with any issues that arise. How will you handle returns, faulty products and incorrect items. Having a good plan in place will allow you to approach any issue with the confidence that you solve the problem.
By following this eCommerce checklist you will be ahead of your competition when you start out.