So, you’ve decided to tap into the growth of ecommerce, but you’re overwhelmed at what it takes to get the job done?
Use this quick checklist to make sure you’ve covered all your bases. Following this systematic approach ensures your business startup gets up and running smoothly, with the greatest chance of success.
1. Obtain Necessary Business Licenses
Depending on where you live, the products you’ll be selling, and various other factors, you may need a business license to legally operate an ecommerce business. We’re not attorneys or tax experts, so we can’t answer questions specifically about that for you – but we can tell you to check with your local and state governments. A good place to start is your Secretary of State’s office and the Small Business Administration (SBA).
2. Establish a Solid Technical Base for Your Ecommerce Website
In ecommerce, your website is everything, so that means taking time to research and investing in tools and technology that are not only quality but also easy for you to use. There are a number of platforms to choose from, like Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, etc.
No matter what you choose, you’ll need to be sure you have good hosting with built-in website security, a domain name, and support for a payment gateway that includes PCI compliance (since you’ll be conducting financial transactions). The good news is that today’s ecommerce platforms handle all of this for you – and usually include the domain name for free for a year.
If you decide to build your store on WordPress with WooCommerce, you’ll have more control over your hosting and site security, but you’ll also be responsible for handling it. You won’t have the monthly fee as you would with Shopify or a similar platform, though. What you choose really depends on your level of comfort with the technical side of things.
The technical base your site is built on plays a role in how easy it is for you to use, the user experience, search engine optimization, so that’s why it’s so important to get it right from the start.
3. Choose a Professional Design
The website design you choose will communicate more about your business than you may realize. Ecommerce platforms have themes you can use, and if you go the WordPress/WooCommerce route, you’ll have plenty of options, too. As long as the design is consistent across all pages, you’ll be a step ahead.
Look for a theme that’s optimized for conversions, specific to ecommerce. Customize it to match your brand, with your logo and colors.
4. Build Out Your Website’s Basic Content
Before you can launch your ecommerce store, your website needs to have some basic content:
- Home: This should be a brief overview of your store and what people can expect to find.
- About: This should cover who you are as a company. How did you get started? What’s your vision? Mission?
- Blog: This is an optional section, but gives you a place to add more content about your products and helps to bring in more traffic to your site.
- Contact Us: Give users an easy way to contact you – with a form on the site and email address
- Return Policy: What is your product return policy? Outline it here and link it in your footer and other places to make it easy for shoppers to reference.
You may also wish to add a FAQs section to help with customer service.
5. Build Out Your Product Listings
With the basics out of the way, it’s time to upload your product listings. This includes product categories, images, descriptions, etc. if you’re selling digital goods, you’ll also want to include the source files so they can be automatically emailed to the customer after purchase.
6. Setup Payment Processing
Most ecommerce platforms give you a few options for payment processors. A common choice is PayPal. If you use a third-party payment processor, your PCI compliance is covered. This is a crucial part of legal ecommerce operations and plays a big part in fraud detection and prevention.
7. Optimize Your Checkout Process
Though you likely won’t be able to get rid of cart abandonment altogether, you can certainly take steps to reduce it. Make the process as user-friendly as possible. It should be easy for customers to add products to their cart, and get the information they need to complete the purchase. Minimize the information they need to add. Don’t make customers sign up for an account to complete checkout.
8. Setup Your Inventory Management Solution
Many platforms include some kind of inventory management solution, but for those that don’t, you’ll want to invest in one. Regardless of what you use, it’s crucial to control your inventory. It prevents you from overselling products, losing sales to lack of stock, and overspending on inventory that isn’t likely to sell quickly.
9. Conduct Search Engine Optimization
Many ecommerce platforms have some basic SEO tools built-in to help you. You don’t have to be an expert to gain some traction, but it certainly helps if you study up on SEO. Make sure you have relevant keywords that people are searching for. Then, use those keywords in the page title, meta description, product URL, and ALT tags. For more information about ranking your site in the search engines, check out this post.
10. Set Up Google Analytics
It’s highly likely that your ecommerce platform will have some kind of analytics built-in, but installing Google Analytics (it’s free!) before you launch your store will give you access to more information. You can learn all kinds of things about your visitors, such as:
- The browser they’re using
- Their location
- The pages they visit
- Where they came to your website from
- How long they stay on your site
- And more…
11. Setup Email Notifications
You’ll want some kind of email marketing software to help you stay in touch with your customers. Even if you don’t encourage email sign up right away, you’ll still need a way to send automated emails for things like:
- Welcoming new customers
- Order confirmation emails
- Shipping updates
12. Build and Execute Your Marketing Plan
With your store ready to go, it’s time to build and execute a marketing plan. The old saying, “if you build it, they will come” simply isn’t true when it comes to websites. Know when, where, how, and why you’re going to market your website and its products. It’ll help bring it more profit later.
About the Author
Darren has 15+ years of marketing experience for retail, manufacturing, and internet corporations. Darren has an MBA in Internet Marketing and is the Co-Founder of Ecommerce CEO.