Over the past decade, the retail landscape has begun to shift and move away from brick-and-mortar stores to that the world of online shopping or eCommerce. In fact, consumer buying statistics show that in 2021, eCommerce represented 19% of retail sales worldwide, and that number is projected to grow to 25% by 2026. E-commerce is not slowing down, and business owners and entrepreneurs must stay on top of trends in communication marketing to keep up.
Whether you already own a business that sells products or services online or is a new business owner trying to find your footing in this competitive landscape, several tools can help you maximize your exposure.
Your website represents the window into your brand, and first impressions are everything. Here, we will detail six important steps to consider to build a successful eCommerce website or optimize what you already have.
Nail Down Your Budget
Before you even get started with the build, you need to determine how much of your budget you can spend on it. Your eCommerce site is or will be a vital piece of your business, but with all other business-related costs that can eat into your total profits, documenting your upfront and monthly website cost is an essential first step.
Knowing your total spending will help you make decisions such as whether you can afford to hire a developer to do much of the work for you, if you are going to be doing a lot of the work on your own or a hybrid of the two. Freelance sites such as Fiverr or Upwork could help you find services like logos, fonts, and design at a lower cost than a full-service developer.
If you need assistance creating a budget, there are several online resources available to help. Regardless of where you land, starting with a strong budget will set you up for success when you are ready to build a successful eCommerce website.
Choose the Perfect Platform
Now that you have a firm grasp on your budget, the work can begin to build a successful eCommerce website. You may want to create a custom website, which will require expertise in both design and coding, or you can choose a more out-of-the-box hosting platform that can be tailored to suit your needs.
Online marketplaces like Etsy or Amazon are fast and easy to set up but offer limited customization. If customization is not a high priority for you or if you want to begin testing the launch of a product before moving to a full-scale website, marketplaces may be the perfect choice for you to get started.
If you choose to create your site on a hosted platform, there are several to choose from that are as easy as they are appealing. Here is a couple:
- WooCommerce – WooCommerce is the world’s most popular open-source eCommerce solution. The core platform is free, flexible, and amplified by a global community. The freedom of open-source means you retain full ownership of your store’s content and data forever.
- Shopify – Ideal for businesses that desire little configuration but high versatility, Shopify is an ideal platform. Getting started is quick and easy, with no technical skills required. Shopify is also mobile-friendly and provides access to marketing and SEO tools to maximize and optimize your reach.
- Squarespace – Offering out-of-the-box configurations, Squarespace is popular for its simple set-up and professional yet attractive results. Business owners can create an entire site in just a couple of hours. Squarespace also offers analytics to track your goals and measure your success.
3. Make Things Visually Appealing
With all the competition in the e-commerce marketplace, it can feel not easy to stand apart from the crowd. Knowing what to include and what not to include will ensure your prospective customers are left with an experience that is both easy to navigate and exciting.
Whether you are new to website creation or if you have had a website for years, conducting competitive research will give you an idea of where to start. What are some of the elements you like about their site? What do you not like?
Understanding how customers respond to certain colors will give you direction as to what best represents your products when considering color schemes. For example, black represents power, glamour, and elegance, whereas blue represents trust and dependability.
Break up the amount of text on your site with pictures or videos that help describe or sell your business or products. Creating a balance between what visitors need to read and what they can view or watch will ensure they do not stop scrolling too early.
Above all, keep things simple. A site that is too busy or cluttered will cause confusion and frustration.
Describe Your Products
Your product pages are where curiosity turns into conversion, so you will want to spend significant time on them while building your site. Here are a few aspects of your product pages to consider:
- Description – write a simple yet compelling product description that considers who your buyer is and what your product can do for them. Include applicable details such as measurements or materials but avoid long sentences and complex verbiage.
- Images – the pictures that showcase your products should be of the highest quality and show the product from multiple angles. Images that give the customer an accurate depiction of the product will ensure high engagement and satisfaction after purchase.
- Categories – grouping your products by categories will provide easy website organization and navigation. Within your categorized pages, add filters that will allow customers to drill down even further into the specific product they are looking for or that suits their needs.
Another important consideration in your product descriptions is search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is the keyword or phrase that helps customers find your page or products via web search. While we won’t go deep into SEO in this article, you can find information on how to maximize SEO in other articles within our blog.
Payment and Shipping
The payment options made available to your customers are a consideration you should not take lightly. Payments must feel simple as well as secure, or your customer may abandon the process.
One of the benefits of building your site on a hosted eCommerce platform or using a marketplace website is that they offer their own integrated payment options as a standard feature and customer support should a problem occur. If you aren’t using a hosted platform, the payment methods you will accept will determine the lift needed to integrate them, and whether they will be hosted on your site or customers will be directed outside of your site to complete payment.
When mapping out your shopping policy, you will want to think back to your overall budget. Decisions you make on the type of shipping to offer, whether free, flat rate, or variable, and whether you will be responsible for packing will impact your shipping carrier and the costs associated with each. Early on, it may be more fiscally responsible to limit your options or doing most of the shipping work yourself.
Test, Test, and Test Again
Once you have built your website before you publish, you need to test the functionality repeatedly to ensure all links and pages are working as intended and the user experience is as seamless as possible. Run tests on different browsers, as well as on mobile to ensure that the experience doesn’t suffer.
Enlisting the help of family or friends to test the pages for you will provide valuable feedback regarding the overall look, feel, and usability.
It is important to prioritize this step in building a successful eCommerce website, as it can mean the difference between visitors and visitors converting to customers.
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