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Oftentimes, our “first experiences” are awkward and full of doubt. The good news is, you don’t have to feel unsure when launching your first e-commerce website. Besides, it can cost you a lot of money if your e-commerce website is not properly planned and executed. And we certainly don’t want that.
Here are top 10 things you need to consider when launching your first e-com website:
1. Choose a reliable hosting platform
Treat your web hosting as your store lease. If this business is purely an online business, then yes, this will be your lease. If you already have a brick-and-mortar store and decided to sell online, then think of it as an extra location. To be honest, sometimes your web hosting (along with the regular web maintenance – security, updates, etc) will cost you the same amount as a store lease would be. And this is normal. In the hosting world, you do get what you pay for. Unfortunately, a cheap hosting package will get you a cheap service. You will need to ensure your hosting provider has a quick response time for any of your tech quesitons in the future, as well as that they have the capacity to provide fast and secure servers. Keep in mind, that most hosting companies have flexible plans, so you can always upgrade as your online store grows.
2. Think of your sales cycle from A to B
What will happen after your customers click that “purchase” button? How will this affect your internal infrastructure?
- Which e-commerce merchant will you be using? (PayPal is the easiest option, but you will need to create a Pro account to ensure you can handle multiple transactions)
- Who will receive your “order confirmation” email? What happens next? Would it be your accountant who will then enter the sale into their accounting software and then forward the order to your warehouse?
- What about your warehouse crew? Do they have the capacity to access emails, login to the website, and execute the order?
3. What about accounting?
Sometimes accountants prefer to have e-commerce websites integrated with QuickBooks or other accounting software they are using. This will require additional development/integration costs (and perhaps monthly costs), however, this could be a good time saver for your team. Speak to your web development team about the options. This usually also could be done at a later date, if your budget doesn’t allow for the integration from the get go.
4. Taxes and additional charges
Think of any taxes and additional duties you will have to charge your customers. GST? PST? Liqueur tax? This will be required when your shopping cart is configured.
5. Shipping your orders
- Do you have a carrier you are using at this moment (Canada Post? FedEx?)
- Shipping policies/times (This should be added to the shipping policies page, so your customers know when to expect the goodies)
- Will you offer free shipping, a flat rate fee or based on the purchase amount?
- Return policy – will you offer free returns or no returns at all? Add all of this information to manage customer expectations + satisfaction.
6. Content + photography
Needless to say (but I will still say it), photography will play a huge role in how customers interact with your website. Depending on the product, provide as many photos as possible. For apparel e-commerce websites, you would usually want to include zoomed in pictures of fabric and stitches – any other photos that will provide a real-life shopping experience (or rather as close to it as possible).
7. Website management post-launch
Now, the fun part – website management. Once the site is live, who will be managing it? From adding new SKUs to adjusting inventory. Make sure to plan a few hours a month to keep your website fresh and up-to-date.
8. Marketing your website
Actually, I lied. This is the fun part – marketing your new e-commerce website! A few things to consider: sales vs branding. If you are launching a completely new business, your customers do not know about, prepare yourself for a lot of work that will evolve around branding, and not necessarily sales. I know, it sounds counter intuitive, since you are launching the site to sell your products online. However, customers have many choices online, and they are still getting used to (in Canada for sure!) to the actual concept of “online shopping.” So the trust factor will be huge, and branding is exactly that – your reputation, so people can trust you. With that, branding doesn’t happen overnight, so you will need to be patient.
A few marketing tactics you will definitely want to try:
- Customer reviews (Have your existing customers to review your products. Word of mouth marketing is still #1 tool in your marketing toolkit.)
- Email marketing (Talk to your customers, make sure they are happy with the product, invite them to exclusive sales/events, etc – build a relationship with your customers.)
- Social Media (Brand visibility and brand reach will directly account for the number of sales you will see in your end-of-month report.)
- Customer service (Yes, customer service is part of your marketing! Think how you will handle customer emails, when they have quesitons about your product? Will you chat with them online or will there be a support email they can reach out to? Ensure to respond within a few hours ideally.)
- SEO (Any new website must consider search engine optimization, and especially e-commerce. Make sure to optimize your product description, as well as create fresh content on a regular basis, so your customers can find you on the web.)
- Promo codes (Give your customers something to remember you by. Online shoppers love their deals, that the truth. )
9. Language + currency
Where are you shipping your products? Is it within Canada only or to the USA as well or to Europe? If you are shipping to multiple countries, you may want to consider multiple currencies processing, however this may complicate your accounting/billing processes. This configuration requires additional super-powers, but as one of our web developers Atma would say – “anything is possible.” As with anything in life – think if you need it first. You may be ok with one “universal” currency as your default to start with, and upgrade your systems as you get going.
One thing you can’t overlook for sure, is tracking your sales. Especially on the early stages, you want to make sure you know where your sales are coming from. Is it from social media or email marketing? As usual, know the numbers, so you can improve them. Advanced e-commerce integration is usually an additional feature you can request your development team to set you up with. Ask for options.
Phew, that’s a long list, isn’t it? And this is just the tip of the e-commerce iceberg. Don’t get easily side tracked though. Focus on priorities – what’s important for your business today? Cover your foundation, and all the other “good to have” features can be added at a later date. Make your first experience memorable, and profitable.
Got questions about your e-commerce website? Give us a shout or stop by our agency downtown Vancouver, we always have chocolate.