When starting up your ecommerce website, it can be a daunting prospect, I have a complied a simple guide on important things to consider. It is not a complete list, but does highlight the essential.
- Choose your ecommerce platform
Getting the right ecommerce platform is essential, get the wrong one it can turn into a disaster. Make a list of the most important features that your ecommerce platform needs to have, for example, customer accounts, live order tracking, option to have multiple sites. Once you have this list you can start to look at the ecommerce platforms available and choose the one that is right for you.
There are tonnes of platforms available, some a paid for, some are paid for monthly and others are free (the free options do come with risks, mainly, no support).
I have found the following platforms work very well.
- Actinic Ecommerce
- Interspire Shopping Cart
- Big Commerce
- Magento (free)
- Get the right hosting
Getting the right hosting package is really important when setting up your ecommerce website, as the wrong hosting package or wrong provider that have serious implications on your business. I would recommend looking around at different providers and reading reviews.
Here are some important points to consider
- Does the hosting package come with support
- Is it phone support or just email (phone and email is better)
- What is the bandwidth, and if you go over, how much will they charge you.
- Does the package allow for databases (most ecommerce platforms require MySQL databases)
- Does the hosting package come with applications pre-installed such as WordPress
- Clear & Logical Navigation
Your navigation system/flow can make or break your site, if user’s can’t find what they are looking for they (in most cases) will leave your site. Before even going live with your site, map out the structure for example what are going to be your top categories and sub categories.
- Your Design
Having a really good ecommerce website design can really help your sales/conversions, here are some points to consider when designing your ecommerce website.
- Make sure that your contact information is clearly visible
- The shopping cart and checkout links are normally placed at the top right of the screen (as studies have shown that this is where the user expects to see it)
- Have clear call to actions on the homepage
- Featured products, best sellers and new products are good to use on the homepage to promote click throughs
- Using customer confidence logos such as ‘Safe Buy’ can help to improve user confidence
- PCI Compliance
The major credit card issuers created PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance standards to protect personal information and ensure security when transactions are processed using a payment card. All members of the payment card industry (financial institutions, credit card companies and merchants) must comply with these standards if they want to accept credit cards. Failure to meet compliance standards can result in fines from credit card companies and banks and even the loss of the ability to process credit cards.
This is incredibly important to consider when starting your ecommerce store, you need to make sure that you maintain a secure network, secure card holder data etc, for more information see this guide
- Security & Payments
I would recommend considering using a Payment Service Provider such as Sage Pay for taking credit card payments on your website as the benefits include streamlined payment process, immediate authorisation.
You may also want to consider having an SSL (security certificate) on your site as this will help the security of the site and also improve customer confidence.
- Search Engine Optimisation & Social Media Marketing
Every ecommerce website needs to optimised for search engines so that your potential customers can find you, employing an SEO expert is the best option, but you can do it yourself if you have the time to spare.
- The Product Page
Arguably the most important page on an ecommerce website, key points to remember are having a clear add to cart button (not hidden at the bottom of the page), I normally recommend having a large image of the product on the left and the buying information (price and add to cart) to the right. You will also want to include all of the relevant information about the product on the product page as you would not want the user to navigate away; information such as delivery details should be included.
- The Checkout
Another very important area of an ecommerce website, a lot of ecommerce stores use the one page checkout, so the user doesn’t have to go through multiple pages, including a progress indicator is a must as well as security symbols to increase customer confidence. Finally, I always prefer is signing up for an account is not mandatory to continue with the purchase, I would recommend always including the checkout as a guest option.
- Keeping in touch with your customers
Congrats! Once you have the sale you will want to keep in touch with your customers and invite them back to the store, a great way to do this is with email marketing, sending regular email newsletters to remind your customers about your products/services. Important point to remember is to include in the checkout an opt in / opt out for your newsletter sign up.
I hope the information above is helpful to those who are starting out in the world of ecommerce.