Starting an Ecommerce Store? Look over This Checklist to Plan Your Steps Properly
According to Statista, by 2021 ecommerce sales will hit $4.5 trillion and more than 2.14 billion people will have purchased products and services online. It’s high time to build your own ecommerce store as the online retail market is only primed to keep growing.
However, it can be quite difficult to know exactly how to launch an ecommerce business that will do well enough to bring income. There is so much information out there, so making it’s necessary to prioritize your resources in order to start a successful ecommerce store.
Use this checklist to plan the various factors that go into an online store launch and further growth.
Plan your project wisely
Building begins with reflecting on the information and ideas you have and what your goals are before you can start writing code and designing your ecommerce store.
By planning your project carefully you can have a clearer picture of the business strategy, products, metrics, expenses, and sales projections. But where do you begin? We’re here to help — just follow these steps to get started:
- Define the target market
The starting point when planning to build an ecommerce store is defining your target market or audience. You should be well aware of your potential customers so that you can design your website to encourage them to purchase what you are offering.
First of all, develop buyer personas that represent your target customers. Begin with demographics: define their age, gender, location, and other characteristics. Then analyze their behavior patterns, core drives, and goals. What should motivate them to buy your products? What are their biggest challenges? This type of clarity will help you plan your website design and structure and will be useful for the marketing campaign.
- Study your competitors
If you are entering a new market, competitive research should be a top priority for your business. There is a lot to be learned from sellers who have years of experience in the niche. Your rival companies have already successfully established their websites and figured out what works and what doesn’t.
Take some time to study other online shops and take a look at the products they are selling. Compile as much information as possible about their marketing strategies, technical solutions, and the way their business operates.
Then look at your ecommerce business from outside and ask yourself if you can compete in this niche. Are you able to compete with more affordable prices or with better quality? Can you advertise your products better? If there is no way your retail business can compete with them, your ecommerce store will be a waste of money and time. Competitive research is one of the key steps in building an online store. Your finding will push your forward in the direction you need to go with more confidence and an understanding of what’s possible.
- Select the platform
Choosing the right ecommerce platform is the first important step when starting an ecommerce store. With the help of ecommerce platforms, it’s easier than ever to create an online store and start selling products on the Internet. An ecommerce platform is a software application that allows merchants to manage their online sales operations.
Ensure you conduct the research in advance because switching ecommerce platforms can be frustrating, time-consuming, and expensive. There are many platforms to select from. The most popular are Magento, Shopify, and WooCommerce.
To determine the best ecommerce platform, you need to evaluate the functionalities of various platforms to find one that meets your business requirements. To simplify the whole process, here’s a list of must-have features you need to look for:
- ERP and CRM database compatibility and integration
- Technical support
- SEO friendliness
- Payment options
- Marketing tools
- Out-of-the-box responsive themes
Our company specializes in Magento ecommerce store development because Magento is regarded as one of the best solutions to build a successful ecommerce store. Built exactly with ecommerce needs in mind, Magento offers simple layered navigation, marketing tools, advanced search, categorized products, multi-currency payment systems, a content management system, and more.
- Decide on the locations you want to sell in
After you have chosen an ecommerce platform, you then have to decide where you want to sell your products. You can develop::
- a single store running in one location and one language.
- a store with multiple languages and different domain names. For example, marimeko.com and marimekko.com/us.
- a store with multiple languages and the same domain name.
The requirements for stores with multiple languages would differ from a simple ecommerce website running in one language.
- Choose a unique and secure domain name
Want to sell online and build brand awareness? Selecting a relevant domain name is crucial. This is your web address as well as an essential marketing tool. Ideally you’ll get your business name as your domain name, but if it’s not available (unfortunately it happens quite often), choose a URL that relates to your retail business and is:
1) unique, memorable, and catchy
2) includes targeted keywords
3) short and easy to read and spell
Furthermore, make sure that application protocol passing data from a web server to a browser is secure. This is especially significant as ecommerce stores accept financial transactions and require customers to log in to enter their personal data.
With HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol), data is not encoded and can be easily intercepted by third parties to steal information (like credit card information and passwords) being transmitted between the two systems.
This can be addressed by applying a secure version called HTTPS ( "s" stands for secure). HTTPS involves the use of an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate which helps to create a secure encoded connection between the web server and the web browser.
Ecommerce website development
This is the stage where you hire a development company and design agency to put your strategic plan into action. A professionally-developed ecommerce store is capable of attracting customer attention and driving conversions. We’re going to give you some advice on how to build an ecommerce Magento store as we have extensive experience working with the platform.
No matter if you sell products (e.g. clothes, furniture, or electronic devices) or services (e.g. food and beverage services) between businesses (B2B) or directly to consumers (B2C), Magento is a smart solution that suits all types of businesses from small businesses to large enterprises.
- Magento platform version
The first step is to identify which version you are going to use for your Magento ecommerce store development. Basically, there are two types of Magento editions — Enterprise and Community.
The Community Edition is a good choice for your ecommerce business if your store has no more than 200,000 – 400,000 SKUs (Stock Keeping Units) and only sells within one country in local currency.
The Enterprise Edition is a good choice for your ecommerce business if your store has more than 400,000 SKUs, requires to have advanced marketing and promotion functionality, sells worldwide using multiple currencies and languages, and accepts various forms of payment. Check out our blog post to figure out which edition covers your business requirements and goals better.
Needless to say, website design is a representation of your business. A professionally designed website should be user-friendly, mobile-optimized, and engaging.
Two design possibilities are available for your Magento Store:
- Ready-made templates
- Custom templates
Ready-made theme design
Magento offers merchants a wide variety of Magento themes to choose from. These readymade themes were made by other professional designers who upload them online to be used by merchants. You can buy, modify, and use templates for your own store.
The cost on the Magento marketplace for readymade themes starts at $0 and can be as high as $450. Using readymade themes won’t set your online store apart from the rest of ecommerce businesses as they are used by many merchants already; however, it will help you to save money and build an ecommerce website in the blink of an eye.
Custom theme design
Another option is to apply a custom-made design to your ecommerce store. All features, including custom layouts and scrolling animations, are unique and solely designed to your business needs. Furthermore, a custom-designed website is SEO-friendly. This increases your store’s chances of ranking at the top of Google searches.
However, it requires longer development time and costs more. Generally, a Magento custom website design will cost you a pretty penny depending on the complexity of customization.
After the release of Google’s mobile algorithm update in 2017, implementing a responsive design has become a crucial aspect to reach potential customers. Websites that are optimized for mobile viewing will rank higher than websites that aren’t.
Magento is mobile-friendly as it enables you to develop a mobile website without any difficulty and provide the best mobile experience to customers. Magento Mobile offers smooth storefront integration that is handled on different devices (including iPhones, iPads, and Androids).
After you have chosen the design, the next thing you should do is determine the number of products to be featured in the store and the category they will be divided into. There are six common product types in Magento :
1) Simple: A simple product is a physical item with a single SKU without any particular selectable modifications like color or size. Simple products can be shipped anywhere. Examples: toys, books.
2) Configurable: Configurable products are products that have multiple choices associated with it like color, size, or material. This type of category is generally used for clothing. For instance, a t-shirt that comes in three colors (red, yellow, and green) and three sizes (small, medium, large) is a configurable product.
3) Grouped: This product type enables you to sell products as a kit in your Magento store. If you, for example, sell pieces of furniture, your customers will be able to specify how many armchairs, beds, and wardrobes to buy. Your customer can either add to their shopping cart one bed or a whole set (armchairs, chairs, wardrobes, etc).
4) Bundled: With bundled products, you can also sell products in a package. However, contrary to grouped products, your customer cannot skip any of its items as bundled products cannot be sold separately. For example, you can allow customers to purchase all three items together for a special price (camera lens + a camera case + memory card + a camera).
5) Downloadable: A downloadable product is usually a digital file, like eBooks or MP3. For this kind of product, you upload one or more files to the server and then fix the price and product description. After that, Magento generates a secure, encoded link that is personalized to each customer making a purchase.
6) Virtual: Virtual products don’t have a physical presence, and are usually used for such things as services, memberships, and subscriptions.
- Payments and shipping
Make sure you plan your payment and shipping methods during your Magento ecommerce store development process.
Payment solutions should be secure and safe as customers value their personal information and don’t want it to be exposed. PayPal, Credit card, Bank transfer, Cash on delivery (COD), Purchase order, and Authorize.net are the most popular default payment options available on Magento. If you don’t find any of your payment options, then it’s not a big deal as you can smoothly integrate payment gateways in your Magento store.
Make sure shipping systems have the necessary APIs to calculate the time and cost which will be shown to your customers on the checkout. Free shipping, flat rate, and dynamic rates are the main shipping methods available on Magento.
Magento is already integrated with shipping providers such as FedEx, USPS, DHL, and UPS. Furthermore, you can select other shipping software and easily connect with the Magento store.
- Integrations of other features and functionalities
There may be some special features and functionalities that you may want your business website to have. Magento can be integrated with a variety of third-party systems like CRM (customer relationship management), PIM (product information management), ERP (enterprise resource planning), POS (point of sale), and CMS (content management system) depending upon the requirements of your business.
However, it’s better to identify in advance what systems are necessary for your online store operations since integration with any other third party system can be complicated and time-consuming.
- Hosting services
Last but not least is the choice of the right hosting service for your ecommerce store. Here are the various types of hosting providers you can choose for your Magento store:
Shared hosting enables multiple websites to use a single server. Shared hosting is by far the cheapest and most economical option for your business needs. Nevertheless, each customer has a limit on the total amount of server resources that can negatively affect the performance of your own website.
VPS (virtual private service) hosting allows you to share your hosting space on a physical server with other websites. However, you will have your own set of computing resources like RAM (random access memory), HDD (hard disk drive) space, and CPU (central processing unit).
Dedicated hosting gives you the option of having your own physical server. This is more flexible than shared or VPS hosting as companies have complete control over the server, including its function and optimization.
Cloud hosting gives you access to a huge network of virtual servers working together. A cloud-based service is hosted on the vendor’s servers and accessed through a web browser. It offers a virtual memory facility that can be expanded or reduced depending on your storage and infrastructure demands.
Marketing your ecommerce store
Once you have built your ecommerce store, the next thing to do is invest in marketing. Here are a few of the most typical ecommerce marketing strategies:
- Content marketing
70% of your audience wants to learn about your products through content, not advertising. Ecommerce content marketing is defined as content created and shared for your store with the goal of eventually converting users to paying customers.
Content marketing is a strategy that provides relevant content to potential customers without asking anything in return. Rather than imposing products or services, content marketing seeks to provide customers with valuable content aimed to entertain, educate, or inform.
- Social marketing
Social marketing can be a great way to boost brand awareness while driving traffic back to your ecommerce store. There are many social media networks out there, but the ones you’ll find the most value in are Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. These are image-driven platforms, allowing you to display your products along with how it’s commonly used.
Magento is an out-of-the-box CMS solution geared exclusively to ecommerce that gives you many options for how to manage your entire social media strategy.
- Influencer marketing
Influencer marketing has been used to build some very successful ecommerce stores. 92% of customers trust influencers more than an advertisement or traditional celebrity endorsement. If you’re not aware of this recent marketing strategy, influencer marketing is the process of reaching out to popular accounts on social media and having them recommend your products or services to an audience that trusts their opinion.
An influencer is usually a person who has a large number of followers on social media (usually Instagram) because of the content that they post. If you can get an influencer to promote your products, that can lead to a significant boost in sales.
How to Start an Online Ecommerce Store: The Bottom Line
Wherever your ecommerce dreams take you, a sound plan provides solid footing. Hopefully, these insights have helped you to understand how to build a successful ecommerce store.
Hiring an experienced and credible Magento development company will help you not only create a high-performing ecommerce store but also keep it updated with the latest functionalities and extensions. We at Elogic Commerce are happy to help you meet this goal at every step of the way.