ecommerce website design

Planning your first e-commerce website? 5 things you need to know.

Naturally, there are more than 5 things you need to know about your new e-commerce website, but this post will get you started thinking in the right direction. With the never-ending options in the website design space, e-commerce might feel even more overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. Like anything new, it will take time to feel comfortable with this topic, and like with anything new you want to avoid mistakes. You and I know that’s impossible. Open mind, fresh thinking and keeping it cool is going to be your mantra on this e-commerce journey. Let’s roll!

1. Understand your target market shifts

Sure, you already know your customers. If you’ve been running your business for a while, and now just expanding into e-commerce, then you are already familiar with your buyer’s behaviour, and you know exactly how to talk to your audience so they pay attention. Depending on what you are selling, most likely, your new e-commerce website will open new opportunities for you. Perhaps, it will allow you to tap into new geographic markets, as well as niche markets you couldn’t afford to target to in the past. Rethink your target audience.

2. Redefine your marketing plan

Now look at your marketing plan and see what changes you can make there. How can you reach your new markets within the same marketing plan? Most likely you’ve already gotten great results from your existing marketing – focus on how you can have your marketing expand and compliment this new direction with e-commerce. With a few strategic tweaks you will save your marketing budget, eliminating the need to overhaul your entire marketing approach. Remember, there’s no need to re-invent the wheel, the purpose of your marketing channels will change, but the foundation of what you do doesn’t have to.

With so many things to keep in mind, doesn’t it feel good to have this burden taken off your shoulders?

Here’s what I mean:

For instance. If you’ve been using Pinterest as a marketing tool in the past, most likely the purpose was search engine optimization and branding. It’s a great tool to get your brand visible and gain some links from the platform for SEO. Since you were not selling anything online, there’s no immediate result from marketing through Pinterest. Until now that is. Now with your e-commerce website, the purpose of this platform will be different. You can actually drive traffic to the site and get real results (sales) right away.

With that in mind, ask yourself what was my biggest marketing achievement in the last 12 months, and how can it support your new e-commerce website. This will get you started at the highest point of your marketing game.

3. Choose the right e-commerce platform

Ok. This, of course, is by far the most important question du jour, but we can’t get to it without knowing the 2 points above. Once you know the target audience and your marketing plan, now you will have a better idea on the scope of your e-commerce store. From what type of product you will be selling and how it will be different from your brick and mortar store, to how big your targeted market is. These point will define also how big your e-commerce website should be.

Building a robust e-commerce website takes time and a lot of effort. It’s a big investment, too. Make sure you don’t waste your marketing budget, putting your money into something you are not going to use right away. At the same time, don’t cheap out on the platform, as this may cause you some pain in the future. This is what I mean – there are many various e-commerce platforms out there, but we will speak of the two platforms [Magento and WooCommerce] we work with (plus they makeup of a big chunk of the e-commerce / shopping cart market, so..)

e-commerce platforms comparison - web design


Ask yourself the following questions to start your decision process: 

a. How many SKUs will your carry in your e-store? 

If your store is going to have under 100 SKUs WooCommerce may be a good platform for you. It has all of the essentials that an e-commerce website will need (promo codes, upsells, intuitive catalogue layout and a convenient checkout option). It doesn’t have a sleek backend product management system in place like Magento does, so if you have more than 100 SKUs or know that your store has a great potential to expand, then you want to look into Magento, a more robust e-commerce platform. This will save so much time on managing your inventory in the future, and you will be glad you paid extra during the development stage.

b. How fast will your e-store expand?

Do you have a proven business model, that will be able to survive the online world? If you are not sure if your store will take off, and this is a completely a new territory for you, then you may want to test the waters with WooCommerce first before you invest in Magento. WooCommerce is an excellent starting point if you want to sell online. There are also various subscription-based e-commerce platforms that will even offer your a store out of the box – a template-based website, that is ready to go, so you can start selling your product online. Keep in mind that in this case you don’t technically own your website, but with WooCommerce you do. A great tool to test the market, while having full control of the platform.

Remember, there are many things to consider when choosing a platform, but the two points above will outweigh any other question you may have. Choosing a merchant, and payment gateway or shipping options are e-commerce fundamentals that are available with most platforms out of the gate, or could be achieved with additional development as you go. One thing you can’t easily change is the scale – how big you go and how fast you want to do it (within your current capacity and within your current business focus/revenue stream). Once you are clear on this, then you can worry about the nitty gritty.

4. Your site 2.0 – shopping experience redefined

Now, the moment of truth – no matter what platform you choose, most likely you will want to change and upgrade it within the first 2 years of selling online. Especially if this is your first e-commerce website. Think of it as buying your first home. You, most likely are not going to live there for the rest of your life, but you still want to get into the market to test the waters.

The first year of your e-commerce journey is going to be filled with testing, trying and testing again. Year two will be the year where you will want to implement all the learnings from year one. Your SEO will start kicking in, and your traffic will be growing (especially if this is a completely new website), now you will have a better idea on how your customers shop online, and what they need. Plan for continuous improvement. This is useful to know at the initial stage of building your website. Oftentimes, wanting to make it just right and perfect sucks the money out of that marketing budget, and this is exactly where as mentioned above you may overpay for things you don’t need.

For instance, if your website is new and doesn’t have much traffic coming in on a regular basis, you may want to put your marketing efforts into SEO and not into analyzing your shopper’s path through the site. While extremely important, this is not your priority just yet, as you need to stay focused on bringing people to the website first. Once you have a decent volume of shoppers flowing to your e-commerce website, then you will move to the second stage of analyzing user behaviour and shopping cart abandonment rate.

Stay focused on what’s critical for your business’s future growth. 

5. Have a plan for managing your website

This one gets somehow overlooked all the time. It’s exciting getting the website up and start promoting it. And then it hits you – who is going to stay on top of data entry? If everything goes as planned you will be busy moving inventory through the site, and that means staying on top of your data entry. Put some systems in place from the get-go. Prepare tutorials and manuals for the team on how to enter inventory, how to optimize products for search engine optimization and how to update inventory count on the fly. Include key stakeholders in training sessions with your website development company, for a smooth transition when your website is ready to be launched.

marketing tips

E-commerce space is exciting and promising, especially in Canada. We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg, and there’re so many opportunities to be seen in the next little while. Get ahead of your competition – get your e-commerce website dream a reality sooner rather than later. Still got lots of questions? Give us a call – happy to chat e-commerce or marketing in general. Or stop by our Creative Greenhouse (we are located on Robson Street in Vancouver)… we always have chocolate.