A Step by Step Guide to Launching an E-commerce Website
There is no doubt that e-commerce is the future of retail and service based business in particular, but it’s also a fact that a lot of people already know. This essentially makes online business an extremely competitive field.
However, the online market is ever demanding and as long as you take the necessary steps to launch your e-commerce site with a well-devised strategy and some planning, reaching success is only a matter of time. To guide your resources and efforts in the right direction, take a look at the following steps to launching a successful e-commerce website.
Find the Right Product
At the end of the day, nothing is more important than what you choose to sell, so you need to choose well. The last thing you would want is to end up making significant investments in a product or service, only to realize later that it was the wrong business for you to begin with.
By that time, you will probably be associated with the product that failed and all your future efforts will have to go through that bad rep. All of this will come on top of the economic losses you will suffer for having to restructure your entire online business. To avoid this, make sure that whatever you choose to sell follows most of the criterions that are mentioned below:
- The product should have global/national demand, depending on whether you decide to go international or stay domestic
- Low profit margins are par for the course in a competitive market, but make sure that you are not taking a loss on each sale
- You should have some knowledge about the products that you are selling and preferably, some interest in them as well
- Check established e-commerce sites like Amazon and eBay to get some idea of the products that are gaining in popularity right now
- Make sure that you can find a manufacturer who can keep up with increasing demands of the product
Find a Matching Domain Name
Purchasing a domain name may seem like something small, but it isn’t, not really. The idea is to find a name that matches what you are selling or what your idea about the site is, but that can be difficult, especially since most names have already been taken.
Aside from that, the name should be well thought out because that’s essentially what people will always associate your business with. Make it appealing specifically to your target audience and easy to remember.
Keep in mind that .com is what you are looking for, although it will likely cost you more and you will have a hard time finding a name that matches all of your criteria and has not been taken up yet. Even then, it’s better than going with .org or something similar.
Choose a CMS Platform
You can of course opt for a separate WordPress hosting service like Bluehost or HostGator if you want to start small and gain some experience before moving on to bigger things, but you won’t need that for a full blown e-commerce website because commercial content management systems like WooCommerce, Magento, BigCommerce or Shopify usually have hosting included automatically in all their packages.
As far as choosing the right e-commerce platform is concerned, it largely depends on your specific needs and your technical knowledge in regard to developing a website. For example, Magento is not for you unless you know at least the basics of coding, but if you do know how to use it, the customizability is virtually limitless.
On the other hand, BigCommerce doesn’t charge any transaction fees, has an excellent tech support and just about anyone can set up a business site with the help of the Setup Wizard, but it may not be the most suitable option for multi-vendor online stores.
Shopify is another platform that’s rated pretty high on the list, but they do have a bit too many micro-transactions going on and it would cost you more if you don’t choose their in-house payment gateway. Most other CMS platforms allow popular payment gateways like PayPal and SecurePay without any additional charge.
Take Care of Your Legal Paperwork
It is recommended that you hire legal help if you need to because you will have to take care of all possible legal paperwork to ensure that no part of the business is in conflict with any of the state laws that govern e-commerce.
At the very least, you will need to get a vendor’s license and register your business in the state from where you will be operating. There might be additional requirements as well from the revenue department and the Secretary of State, depending on the state concerned.
As soon as you have taken care of the steps mentioned so far, get your site live on the web. It doesn’t really have to have full product listings on it yet; all it needs is a Home page and an About Us page to get started. Not only will it put you on the map and gain you some recognition with your manufacturers and suppliers, it will also help immensely to get started with the SEO back link generations.
Of course, you will need to start upgrading your website from the very first day that you launch it, but don’t wait too long to go live.
Invest in Marketing
Now that your site is live and you are gradually working towards completing the product list and improving the all-around interface, it’s time to put some extra effort into marketing.
Ideally, one should start with the marketing even before the site goes live, but now is when you are supposed to step on it.
Check out the following methods.
- Social Media Marketing on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
- Blogging and guest posting
- Podcast ads
- Devise a proper SEO strategy with the help of Google Analytics
- Don’t ignore email marketing
- Get your products reviewed by influencers on social media sites such as YouTube
- Use tools such as PitchBox and HARO to reach out to the media and maximize your marketing efforts
Concentrate on Improving Sales Conversions
Even when your marketing efforts are spot on, it isn’t unlikely to see a large number of customers abandoning their e-carts after filling it with the intended product/products.
This can be frustrating at times, especially since you may feel like you cannot do much else to help the situation. The good news is that you can improve the scenario with the help of exit intent technology like OptinMonster, which provides your customers with on-the- spot offers based on their behavior patterns to stop them from leaving the site without actually completing the purchase.
Even the customers that leave are retargeted to make sure that it wasn’t their last visit to the website. If you have done everything mentioned so far, your site is most likely already up and running. Do not worry if you don’t see any significant sales for a while because that’s to be expected in most cases. It takes time to generate enough relevant traffic to see significant sales numbers.
Don’t let up on the promotional efforts at any point and keep improving your website’s interface to facilitate browsing, searching and checking out processes. It’s okay if you want to start small, but make it comprehensive nonetheless.