So you too have been bitten by the ‘online business’ bug?
Believe it or not, more and more businesses have started having a strong online presence in addition to their physical business presence too. The possibility of selling the goods and services online is an exciting one, as it saves time, energy and possibly cost too. A potential global market opens up to you and probably sky is the limit for the business to grow.
An efficient e-commerce website is the linchpin here, paving way to all your success (or unfortunately, even failures). How are you to build a great e-commerce website? By having a look at the following checklist!
Naming your business: What’s in the name? Well, in the e-commerce world, everything. Deciding upon the business/brand name is probably one of the toughest decisions that you have to take as a business owner. That is because the name that appeals to you may or may not be available as a domain name to register your website. Often people approach this issue with the opposite end of finding the available domain names and then finalizing the brand name! Ensure that there is no pre-existing similar product with the same name. For that to happen, research your competition.You’ll need to research your competition thoroughly so you know exactly what you’re up against.
Creating a logo: A great logo can help your brand stay etched in the public mind for a long long time. A well made logo gives your brand a visual identity and it can be used effectively in branding exercises. So as soon as you have a brand name, it is time to get a logo made.
- Domain and hosting: As mentioned earlier, finding a great domain name is often a difficult task. Make sure that the domain is easy to remember and still has your brand name somewhere in it. Additionally, purchasing only a domain is never sufficient, you need somebody somewhere to host it, that is, store on some server. Before launching the e-commerce website, ensure that the site has a good domain name and you have made a contract with some hosting mechanism.
- SSL certificate: Your customers are certainly not going to like it if their private information is stolen from your website and then misused. Any computer potentially between you and the server can see credit card numbers, passwords and other such sensitive information unless it is encrypted with SSL certificate. When an SSL certificate is used, the information becomes unreadable to everyone except for the server you are sending the information to.
Registering Business: It can be a one-person company or a LLP, but registering your business is extremely important. As any transaction potentially done through an e-commerce site involves real people and real money, it comes under the purview of law and having a registered business is a basic legal requirement. So if your business plan is ready, now would be a good time to register it before going ahead and doing anything else.
Payment gateway: It is one of the must-haves for an e-commerce website. Essentially, it is a tool that allows the merchant to securely accept credit or debit cards and other forms of internet based money transactions through your website. There are multiple options available for setting up a payment gateway and choosing the right fit often determines how easy the transactions become for your customers and ultimately, how successful your online store becomes.
Shipping: Something that contributes to the happiness of customers. You need to figure out how do you want your products to be delivered and need to ensure that the shipping network is robust enough to meet your business demands.
E-commerce application/ website: Now we come to the most important part of building an online identity for your business. You need to have an efficient website or mobile app made for your business. A great website or app needs to have the following:
- Amazing Store Design: The first impression is often the last one and your online store can certainly gain or lose customers based on the look and feel of your site. So ensure it is great.
- List of products: Kind of obvious, isn’t it? Ensure that you list all your products.
- Proper categorization of the products: It is essential as customers often find their way based on product categories. Chaos in this department will lead to the potential customer not finding what he wants even though it will be present on the site, listed somewhere else. Result: loss of business.
- Other additional attributes/ variations: Liking a design of a product and wanting it in some other colour or size is a common customer behaviour. So do list the variety you have to offer to your customers. If something in comes in 8 sizes or 24 colours, say so on the site.
- Product details: Ever wondered why do e-commerce sites write so much of content for any product? By providing as much product detail and information as possible,you decrease the chance of returned items and increase the likelihood of satisfied customers. Hence it is advisable to provide detailed description of the product, its making, price, code, etc
- Search and Filter: Normally, people come to e-commerce websites with a specific product in mind. People usually do not like to wander aimlessly page after page. It’is thus important to provide search and filter mechanism to easily find the products they are looking for.
- Customer reviews: People often make big purchase decisions after talking to a few people and listening to their experiences. In today’s globally connected world, the customer reviews serve this purpose.Additionally, it also provides transparency, builds credibility and makes customer believe in the brand.
- A powerful shopping cart: The design of your shopping cart has to be simple and functional, so that the user does not face any confusion while shopping. Many shopping carts also include cross-sells at the checkout point- for ex. Some may add ‘suggestions for you’ or ‘customers also bought’ tabs in order to entice the customer to keep shopping. Integrate that in an intelligent manner though so that it helps the customer to stay longer on the site.
- Simple Check out: Once the consumer is done with picking whatever he wants, the process to check out should be simple enough. Having numerous clicks, diverting from one page to another and filling lengthy forms etc should be avoided. Overcomplicating the checkout process often results in the user abandoning the shopping process.
- Return/Exchange Information: Inspite of taking all the care in the world, there are going to be instances of the user wanting to exchange or return the items. Please write the exchange/return policy in clear terms to avoid further clashes.
- Extending the store with other plugins: Once the online store is ready, it should also feature other necessary pages like ‘about’ or ‘contact’. Install necessary plugins for that purpose.
- Responsive Design: It is an approach which makes web pages render well on a variety of devices and window or screen sizes. As more and more people around us access internet via their smartphones, having a responsive design is absolutely necessary.
- Social Media links: You not only need to have a strong social media presence in order to be in touch with your customers, but also link those social media handles on your site. It improves your approachability in the customer’s mind, no doubt. But it is also important for link building and improving your ranking in the online searches.
Phone numbers and online chats: These two are necessary along with social media handles. That is because they facilitate a real time conversation between you and your customer. Twitter or FB message is great, but phone and online chats connect you instantly. If your business is reachable for every doubt, question or suggestion that a customer may have, it goes a long way in creating good customer relations.
Enhanced security for the website: You may think that only the big-shot companies get their websites hacked, but websites are compromised all the time. Yours could be the next one and all the sensitive information you have could be accessed. There are ways to secure your website from a possible hacking threat. It is strongly recommended that you apply them.
Optimized performance of the site: Gone are the days when a webpage would take 20 minutes to load and people would patiently wait. Today, nobody wants to wait too long for the page to load, they would rather abandon the site. You need to ensure that your site performs with reasonable speed. The content should load quickly, the transition from page to page should be easy and the whole shopping experience has to be seamless.
Deals, offers, free shippings etc: Every online merchant is faced with this questions- should you offer deals and when and how? If used correctly, they help you grow more loyal audience. However if used haphazardly, you will end up burning your fingers and become unprofitable. Do study and include this in your business plan.
Preparing to launch: Finally, before your launch, you’ll want to run your newly built storefront through an online application. This online application will show you errors on your site and SEO so that you can correct any issues before launch.
- SEO: It is a process of ensuring that the website performs well in organic search (appears in top positions after searched) and make necessary inclusions for this to happen. This increases the credibility of your website, drives more traffic to it and will take your business to the next level. Google webmaster services is one of the best options that you can entertain for SEO. You can do this yourself or take help of the professionals who are experts in effective SEO.
Setting up Google analytics for the online store: In a physical store, you can observe and talk to the customer, understanding them in more detail. An online store may keep you blind to the user details. The analytics services provide you information about your site, your visitors and where they came from. All this information can be used to find new customers and increase conversions.
Armed with these useful points, take that leap of faith and launch your e-commerce website!