It’s time to stop winging it and instead start outlining your ecommerce business for the year ahead.
Whether you’re a novice or veteran ecommerce entrepreneur, there is always an opportunity for improvement. If you want to be sure that your fledgling business has what it takes to succeed in 2021, check out our checklist below of the best practices and must-dos for online retailers.
With these ideas, you’ll be looking 20 years ahead in no time!
1. Choose an Ecommerce Platform
As a business owner, you need to keep up with the latest technologies and trends. With ecommerce being the fastest growing industry in the world, it’s important that you choose a platform that will be able to adjust to changing trends and consumer habits.
2. Pick a Domain Name
A domain name is important because it is the web address for your business. It will be used to direct people to your website. You should have a domain address that matches your name and/or your brand and makes sense with what you’re selling.
If you’re looking into a platform like Shopify, hosting is already part of the package. Other platforms like WordPress and Magento require you to find a host and install the software yourself.
Alternatively, some hosts offer managed hosting so you don’t have to deal with too much of the technical side of things, like installation, setup, and updates.
3. Find a Reliable Web Host
If you want to grow your business, you need to choose a hosting solution that will allow you to add and scale as your business grows. A reliable web host will ensure that your website is always up, and is able to provide the number of server resources required for your ecommerce site.
If you’re going the shared hosting route, make sure you go with a host that can scale with you, instead of shutting down your site when you exceed their bandwidth or other technical limitations.
4. Make Sure Your Website is Secure
There are many things you can do to ensure your website is safe from hackers and other cyber threats. The first step is to make sure that you have the latest security software or plugins on your ecommerce site.
You should also consider getting an SSL certificate that will extend your secure connection through the entire checkout process. Most web hosts offer this for free now and installing these is as easy as logging into your control panel and clicking “enable.”
If you’re using WordPress, you might consider additional security (like WordFence) to help monitor your site. Most hosts have their own security, but a lot of cheaper shared hosting doesn’t include this extra layer of security.
5. Choose a Content Management System (CMS)
A content management system, or CMS, is used to manage all the content on your website.
There are several different options available to help you decide which one is the best fit for your business. Some of the most popular ecommerce CMS solutions include WordPress, Shopify, Hubspot, and more.
You can make do with Shopify’s option for a blog. But when it comes to content, WordPress is the most flexible, customizable option. Platforms like Hubspot are also great for content management and offer detailed analytics on your site traffic and leads.
6. Sign Up with a Payment Processing Company
As your ecommerce business grows, you may want to expand your payment processing options.
Other services, like MoonClerk, are designed to handle subscriptions and recurring purchases a bit more fluidly than PayPal.
7. Integrate Your Inventory Management
If you do not already have a system in place for managing inventory, you should make sure that you do. Inventory management systems allow you to track the number of items in your inventory and what time of the day they were sold.
Platforms like Shopify and WordPress have plugins that allow you to integrate with inventory management software like Quickbooks and other platforms.
Shopify is better known for its point-of-sale integrations, so it might be a better solution for brick-and-mortar shops doubling in e-commerce.
8. Make Your Website User-Friendly
If you want to keep your customers coming back, you need to make sure they can find what they are looking for on your website.
Ecommerce websites should be designed in a way that is user-friendly and easy to navigate. Make sure that every page on your website has the same style and layout so that visitors will naturally know where to find the information they are seeking.
Most importantly, make it easy to checkout! A seamless checkout process wraps up the customer’s experience nicely. Make sure they don’t ditch the cart at the last minute due to an unnecessarily complicated checkout process.
9. Include Standard Website Pages
If you want your site to be a complete package, then you should include standard website pages within your site. These contain essential pages such as the About Us page, the Services page, and the Contact page. Include links on each of these pages so that customers can easily find who they are looking for.
We’ll start with the obvious one: good product pages!
Product pages are the bread and butter of the customer shopping experience. You want to make sure they have all the information they need to make an informed decision.
This means including all the product details, not just a description. Include weight, dimensions, material, volume, and anything else someone might need to know before they purchase it.
You might also include a comment or FAQ section that allows people to allow questions. As the questions roll in, you can gradually add the most-asked questions to your product description and copy that over to any other platforms you’ll sell on.
Landing pages are used to promote specific products, services and offers. Promoting your best deals is an effective way to get people to visit your ecommerce site.
These pages should feature your flagship products and packages. They’ll also probably need the most work! Hire a good copywriter and make sure they’re set up to convert before you start running ads to them. You don’t want to skimp out here.
Providing the best customer service is critical to your success. If a customer has a question or concern, they should be able to find answers on your website. Make sure you have easily accessible support pages with the latest contact information and relevant FAQs.
Include a contact form or a link to your ticketing system, as well as other ways to contact you, like phone, chat, or via social media, in case they can’t find an answer and need additional assistance.
10. Write Your Legal and Policy Pages
I know, this sounds like an awful lot of fun. But this is one of the most important parts of your site, especially when it comes to pages that are more relevant to the customer, like shipping and returns policies.
These are a must-have, whether you write them or you get someone else to write them. Shopify has a policy generator to use as a base for your own policies if you want to go the DIY route. (Eventually, you’ll want to hire a pro, though!)
Here are some pages you’ll want to include:
This is the place to include anything they wouldn’t want to find out later.
This page is a biggie for anyone running Google Analytics to collect demographics data from customers. One of the requirements for enabling these analytics is that you let people know what kind of information you’re collecting, who you’re sharing it with, and what you’re using it for.
Shipping and Returns Policy
In this section, you’ll want to include your shipping policies and cost information, as well as how long customers have to return items.
Make sure you’re very clear about situations where you don’t accept returns. In the age of Amazon, customers expect an easy, hassle-free return experience, without extra charges. The last thing you want is an already angry customer who you then have to tell you can’t take it back.
Make sure to also include manufacturer information, if your returns are handled through the manufacturer or third-party distributor. Include contact information or a link where customers can submit a ticket for support.
11. Start Your Blog
Blogs are what drive a lot of your search traffic and give you a bank of content to share on social media and sites like Pinterest.
They give you another outlet to reach your target audience, and there are platforms that will make it easy for you to set up a blog without any knowledge of coding or design.
Ecommerce platforms like Shopify also have a CMS, but lots of people choose to host their blog on WordPress, separately from their online store. WordPress offers a lot more flexibility when it comes to content management and design.
12. Put Your Contact Information Everywhere
Customers shouldn’t have to go digging for contact information.
Make it easy for people to get in touch with you. Put your contact info (or at least a link to your contact page) in your header and footer menus and on any sidebars.
Include a noticeable pop-up chat that includes links to your support pages. You can add a chat pop-up for Facebook messenger or use a service like Drift that you can conveniently access from both web browsers and mobile devices.
Include your physical address in the footer and on your contact page. Especially if you have a brick-and-mortar location, you’ll want an easy-to-find address for SEO purposes as well.
13. Write a Marketing Plan
This is a crucial step. A marketing plan shows how you’re going to spend your time, money and energy to drive more traffic to your ecommerce site. Here are a couple of ways you might plan things out:
The first option involves writing it down as a written document that you’ll share with other people in the company. This way, it’s completely transparent and they can see exactly what you’re doing.
The second option is to create a set of goals for yourself and track them in a marketing spreadsheet. Either way, it’s important to set some measurable goals that you can check in on and adjust as needed.
You should also make sure that you have the resources necessary to achieve these goals. That might mean hiring someone or bringing someone else on board to help with marketing efforts.
14. Optimize for the Search Engines
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a crucial part of the marketing efforts of any online business. If you have a brick-and-mortar shop, this starts with local SEO and getting established with local listings.
Content on your blog and major website pages will play a big part in how you rank, but there are also other factors like backlinks, site performance, and other metrics.
SEO is a long-term game. It’s not something you’ll see results from overnight, and you shouldn’t expect to see results for anywhere from six months to a year (unless you’re in a low-competition niche, where things are a little more volatile).
Summary and Takeaways
If you’re in the ecommerce business, you should be ready to take your business to a whole new level. Don’t hesitate or put it off. Take advantage of all these tips and hints right away.
The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll start seeing results and moving quickly towards your goals.
And if you’ve already launched as a brick-and-mortar business, you’ve already ahead of the game!
You have a base of loyal customers who can help you grow and an idea of what goes into marketing your business. Ecommerce is just another channel to help your business thrive in today’s highly connected world.
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