With so many shops forced into lockdown, going online is a necessity rather than a pick. On the other hand, not every e-store will bring a financial return, and even fewer of them will survive the post-quarantine reshuffle of the retail scene. Even though there are many quick options for going online (and omnichannel, once the stores are allowed to reopen in the future), we strongly advise carefully considering your every step before laying a firm foundation for your future success. Some of your competitors won’t survive the crisis, thus the ones who make the correct choices today will have more room to grow.
Creating an online store is like building a house. It all starts with a well-prepared plan and a strong foundation. Lay them right and you’ll be able to build high. Preparation might take some valuable time, but the effort will surely payback. The same applies to an e-store. If you still have long-term plans for your business - invest in the solution you’ll be in no need to scrap in a few months.
We share some essential tips on how to transform your unscheduled move to e-commerce into a lasting success.
#1 Choose reliable & scalable solution
Perhaps you’re bombarded with zillions of messages from web agencies, claiming they can help you build an online store in 24 hours (or even less). Some of them are indeed capable and reliable businesses, though some are not. Choose wisely: most probably you won’t let an untrustworthy contractor build your bricks and mortar store. Would you?
Your second important decision to make is picking the platform. There are a dozen or so popular platforms, such as PrestaShop. Each of them has slightly different characteristics that allow, or vice versa, limit the possibility to customize the store to your needs. As well as integrating it with third-party services. We strongly suggest you discuss different options with an experienced e-commerce expert. In some cases, you might be perfectly fine with the off-the-shelf product, though occasionally a custom-built solution may be the right option to choose.
#2 Self-hosted or hosted?
Another issue to have in mind, is the fact that some platforms are self-hosted while others - such as PrestaShop, are not. Thus, you might need to take care of the hosting service. As a rule of thumb, the more comprehensive and scalable solutions are hosted, which give you more control of your business and more independence from platform providers.
Here are some tips on how to choose a good hosting service provider:
- Performance. If your site loads slower than in half a second - you are losing visitors and customers.
- Pricing. Renewal fees should be listed out. Otherwise, you might end up paying 3x more next year.
- Support & Add-ons. 24/7 customer chat – emails and ticket systems are fine. But a live chat provides better chances of getting your problems fixed faster.
#3 Payment and shipment modules
Many new online stores make the same mistake. They provide customers with limited payment options and disregard the fact that different countries have different preferences. Miss them, and the customers will abandon their carts without completing their purchases. In the beginning, you may not feel short of options, but while your business grows you will surely encounter that up to 20% of customers leave just because the payment solution didn’t suit them well. If you wish to enhance your client base - provide customers with the opportunity to pay using money transfer, using payment solution providers such as PayPal or Klarna, bitcoins, consumer credit or micro lease such as Viabill integrations. Bear in mind that occasionally your customers will also require a refund.
The same applies to delivery, warehousing and order fulfilment. Perhaps, in the beginning, you can handle the limited amount of parcels yourself, however, with the number of orders growing, your e-store will need integrations with several service providers. Delivery is a vital part of the whole e-commerce process. Although the merchant often has limited influence on it after the order leaves the warehouse, the customer does not split the responsibility between the merchant and the delivery service provider. Thus make no mistake here.
#4 SEO friendly e-store
SEO isn’t only about choosing the right keywords in the Google console. It is extremely beneficial to rank higher in the search results, and the right snippets embedded in the right places of code make the difference.
Why is SEO so important? Well, 93% of all internet activity starts with a search. That means you'll have a tough time running an online store if users can't discover it on Google. With some free e-commerce platforms, you'll have a hard time optimizing your search appearance or correctly measuring the results. Here are some of the factors that play a crucial role in how well your e-commerce store ranks:
- Independent Navigation Links
- Independent Page Titles
- Independent Page URLs
- Independent Meta Descriptions
- Independent Image ALT Tags
- Independent H1 Headings
- Canonical URLs
- Integrated Blogging Platform
- Social Sharing buttons
- Auto XML Sitemap
- Use of own Domain Name
- Your fixed IP address
- 301 redirects
- Robots Noindex Capabilities
Unfortunately, many business owners aren't aware of these limitations until long after having invested significant time to upload countless product images, descriptions, and stock information.
#5 the importance of Omnichannel
Let’s be frank: pure e-commerce time is over the same way, as of pure bricks-and-mortar retail. Regardless of your size and scope, as soon as life gets normalized, we’ll be talking of one or another sort of omnichannel retail again. Put it another way - it is an E2E shopping experience that matters. Understand your clients' journey across different channels and being able to handle their requests wherever needed, and whatever it takes, is important. Your store will need to be integrated with various digital tools, and coordinated with proper offline processes. We bet, a 24-hour or 20 EUR per month solution may not be able to cope with that sort of an issue.
Many, e-commerce related technologies became indistinguishable from competing offerings over time. But there are so many ways you can use technology to stand out from the competition.
From ASOS’s video feature on product pages, to showcase apparel worn on real human models, to using your iPhone to get the perfect fit for dress shirts on MTailor. From applications empowering your in-store attendants to ingenious fulfilment solutions that allow complete sales in one store, but deliver the product to customers home from the other. These kinds of improvements require heavy customization, thus correct architecture and precisely defined business processes maximize the chance you’re able to develop your solution in small iterations. Without starting over and over again.
#6 The responsive design is a must
In the age of mobile devices, every merchant should take care of the mobile-friendly e-store. Albeit, we’re barred from leaving home now, more than half of the customers prefer making purchases on-the-go. By the end of the day, there are far more mobile devices than PC’s, and that won’t change.
Unfortunately, a lot of website owners can’t boast of having an appropriately optimized responsive design, thereby losing countless prospective clients. Though mobile optimization can be rather expensive, with professional help it will pay for itself fast. The enormous potential to increase sales volume is there!
It may not be easy, but it’s worth the effort!
The importance of high quality, technologically sound, safe, reliable, and scalable e-store is essential. With the above tips, you can make a flying start to better position yourself in the market and industry, once the turmoil will inevitably settle down.
Our strongest suggestion is to invest in a high-quality e-store, not the cheapest one. With a well-functioning structure, it’ll help you scale-up your business and reap the benefits of the move to digital realms. Reach out to us for professional help. We produced quite a few success stories for businesses around the world. And we can’t see why yours shouldn’t be next.