Launching an e-shop can be a tricky business. We’ve done it a good few times, and we’ve learned a bunch of things along the way. So that you don’t have to learn them the hard way, we thought we’d share our takeaways. And if you’ve done this yourself, we’d love to hear some of your insights in return too.
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Because running an e-shop is, in general, more demanding than running a static website, you have to make sure that you go for hosting that can effectively handle all of your e-shop’s requirements. A dedicated virtual server from an established provider would, we think, always be the way to go. You get a stable server, support when you need it, and you don’t have to share the resources with any other websites.
Look out especially for advanced caching techniques or make use of a CDN. We had good experience with Kinsta, as they combine a very good support (chat) and built-in caching on the server. Read more about the different aspects of caching with WooCommerce.
Go for a domain name that’s recognizable, not too long, and easy to remember. This might get quite challenging if you’re aiming to go international and handle multilingual sites. Be sure to think about this one long and hard, and get creative. A good old brainstorm can go a long way, so get your team involved – you never know, a colleague of yours might have just the right amount of wit and flair for words to come up with something brilliant. Keep in mind that you should keep your name consistent across all your channels, including social media.
Often, that can mean that what you initially wanted to go for is out of the question because it’s already taken. In that case, play around with the domain suffix – like itch.io or visual.ly – or add “get” for app websites – like getliner.com or getpocket.com.
You probably know that without people coming over to your website, you might as well just scrap the whole thing. Yes, you guessed it – getting people on your e-shop might also not be easy to start with. That’s why you have to think your marketing strategy through, think about how you’re going to advertise, and which channels you can use to help you out. Think big when it comes to all the different marketing efforts that you can apply. Consider creating your own content that will support your venture and get people on board. Encourage word of mouth. And make use of social media as much as you can.
There are tons of great resources on marketing out there – here we would advise to you just one very important thing: get in touch with your customers as much as possible! Via email, chat, or phone. The more you know your customers, how they found you, what their expectations are, the better you can target your marketing.
Put yourself in your end users’ shoes and imagine how they’d like the e-shop to look and work so that they feel like it’s impossible to leave the site without buying what they came for – or maybe even what they didn’t come for. Focus on functionality and navigation. Ask yourself whether the entire customer experience is smooth and pleasant, whether your customers know where to click and when, and whether they know where to look for the product they want as well as for answer to any questions they might have.
Pay attention to the quality (and consistency) of your product photos (yes, the age old saying that “a picture can say a thousand words” applies to e-shops tenfold!), and make sure the design of your e-shop actually screams your brand’s name.
Make sure the site is mobile friendly and the search and the sorting and filtering functionalities are spot on so that your customers can find the right products faster and more efficiently. Describe your products well, including their technical aspects and details like measurements and weight. Avoid cliches, too much jargon, and sentences that are too wordy and long.
Always apply best practices and be analytical and critical. Test your outcomes and base your subsequent decisions on the results – don’t justify doing something based just on the fact that you “like it that way”. That’s never a good enough reason. Guide your customers well and make their entire checkout experience – from filling their shopping cart to reviewing their finished order – as simple and as intuitive as you can.
Define your KPIs and decide what you want to track. Spend a good amount of time on A/B testing. A/B test your calls to action, play around with different versions of your text content (things like product titles, descriptions, all that jazz), test your images and even entire layouts. A/B testing helps you figure out what needs to be adjusted and whether your adjustments are working in your favor, so make use of it s much as you can. An interesting tool to check out is for example Unbounce.
Get your newsletter strategy down. Think in advance about how you’re going to gather contacts and which CRM tool you’re going to use. Decide on the design and the frequency of your e-mail campaigns. And again, don’t forget to A/B test!
Pay a lot of attention to SEO as well. Don’t forget that it can’t be a one off thing – think of it more like an ongoing process. Read up on SEO or hire an SEO expert to help you out here. Make sure your keyword game is on point so that your e-shop and your products are as easy to find online as they possibly can be.
Work out where you’re going to ship to. Are you going local or international? If you don’t already have an established customer base, we’d recommend starting small and then branching out. If you already know where your customers are from, that’s the decision made for you right there, but take into account the shipping costs and do your maths.
Once you know where you’ll be shipping to, move onto the actual shipping arrangements. Figure out who will be handling the packaging, the shipping, and the logistics. Let’s also not forget that if you stockpile products, you’ll need a place to store them.
And of course there are partners that can help you with that. In Europe, for example, Sendcloud offers a great platform that manages the whole shipping with different logistics companies, including sending out parcel tracking codes to your customers.
Once you have customers that want to spend money on your products, you need to turn them into actual paying customers, i.e. you have to put valid payment options into place. Have a think about the different payment options that are out there and figure out which ones make sense for you to use. Then set up payment gateways – like PayPal or Stripe. Recently, AmazonPay has become an interesting solution to investigate.
Be sure to stay on top of the local legal requirements in the particular countries you’re branching out to. Remember – not every country’s laws are the same. Don’t skimp on this one either so that you don’t get caught out by an unexpected surprise later on. We did a lot of projects in European and namely German markets, where privacy laws are usually stricter and require usually customization of open source to fully comply. Also have a look at how GDPR is affecting the WordPress WooCommerce usage.
Security is another aspect you should pay a lot of attention to. Protect your e-shop against hackers and other mishaps as well as you can. As we already mentioned, choose a reliable hosting. Switch to HTTPS, protect the directories and files from being reachable, use security plugins, and keep everything regularly updated. This is probably not news to you, but just in case – always make regular backups as well! Note that Google’s Chrome browser will warn users about all websites without basic encryption (SSL/HTTPS) from beginning of July 2018.
Last but definitely not least, you have to make sure that your customers know how to reach you, if they need help. Have an FAQ section hosted on the site or use Zendesk to handle customer queries. It might sound obvious, but beside great automation through software – the human factor of your business and interaction with your customers can be the deciding factor if they will become loyal customers.
We hope you’ll find those tips and tricks of ours helpful when thinking about your next e-shop adventure.
Do you have an idea brewing for an awesome e-shop? Answer the most crucial questions about your new business in our “Idea Check Up”.
We will consult you about how you could launch your new e-shop. And, of course, we can jump into action and get your MVP rolling fast!
Article edited by Daniela Patterson
Visuals created by Boris Turek & Denis Simonenko