12 Things You Need to do Before Launching an Online Store
Even though in essence building an online store isn’t a big deal, literally growing an e-commerce business from scratch is quite the opposite. You will have to deal with a large list of considerations, planning, learning and developing a brand from nothing.
It may sound easy and approachable at first glance, but trust me when I say that it isn’t. Don’t worry though because we have the solution for you.
Just to avoid headaches and future trouble you need to place the preparation process under the spotlight. This is what we aim to do in today’s article as well.
Here are some tips you need to check out before actually launching your online shop into the vast web.
1. Choose the Right Niche
To put it simple, this step is the one that determines the future success of your store! Believe me when I say that E-commerce can be a tough business to approach if you are in the wrong niche.
What is the right niche though? There’s no general answer for this question. However, we tend to believe that the right niche for you correlated with your expertise in that niche and the passion towards that industry.
A good niche in our book is one that:
- Is a rising trend and will be here years from now
- Is a niche that isn’t big, but not so small that you can’t profit from it
Passion plays an important role in this step because if there’s passion, there’s certainly great drive involved. This means there are more chances for you to work in that niche on the long run.
“Go one feet wide and 1 mile deep” – This is a quote that says you need to start in a small niche, but approach every possible aspect so that you will become an expert and therefore an authority on that segment.
In simple words, this means you will generate more sales and make more steps towards building a better brand name.
2. Check out Competition and Trends
You may be driven by extreme passion or you can even be passionless, however, competition still plays an important role in your store’s future.
If it’s a rising trend, then is a good idea to start a business in that industry. If the competition however is extremely tough, make sure you acknowledge that before diving in.
3. Write Down a Detailed Business Plan
When people hear about business plans, they usually think it has to be a formal plan that needs to follow some formal procedures.
The truth however is that this plan plays the role of keeping you motivated and focused towards your goal. This plan will keep thinks crystal clear and will help you engage with each task in a more precise manner.
We like using a tool like PowerPoint just to lay down our business plan (it’s also good to have slides for better idea organizing).
Make sure your business plan includes the following:
- A summary of your project
- Detailed business description
- Your company mission
- Competition analysis
- Marketing strategies and planning
- Detailing the development procedure
- Financial planning
4. Create a Thorough Sketch
Before creating something you need to imagine it and after that put it on paper. This works exactly the same when you vision your online store, just grab a piece of paper and a pen and start drawing.
Nobody says it has to be a piece of art, however make sure you include all the details for each element you want to have in your site. Create different sketches for the checkout page, the user profile, the product page etc. and structure it the way that favors a great user experience.
Check out the most popular e-commerce sites in your niche and learn from them. I’m not saying you have to copy them, but get inspiration and try to replicate those elements of success onto your paper.
5. Build the Branding Foundation
This part is the key to successful long-term business. In fact, branding refers to means for people to reach your business. On top of that, branding is also the shaping image of your business in their heads.
On short, if you do well with branding, then people will love your online store otherwise you will not like it.
Here are the steps you need to make in order to improve the branding of your online store.
Find a Domain Name – The domain name is where people find your business, usually people love the .com extension because they offer trust and .com stands for commercial. However, you can also go with other extensions, but we highly recommend you to use this for your business.
Register Social Media Profiles – make sure you register all the social accounts in advance so that nobody else gets them. This means Twitter, Google+, Facebook page, Pinterest, LinkedIn etc.
Also, make sure you use the same name on all of the accounts and profiles so people can find you easier on their favorite social platform.
6. Build an Email Subscriber List
When you are finally at the point of launching your store you need the greatest possible exposure. In order to obtain a great coverage, we recommend you to diversify the traffic sources, but definitely include email marketing.
It has been proven numerous times that email marketing is the right way to reach and engage with your audience.
7. Choose the Right Ecommerce Platform
An Ecommerce platform can drastically change the way you manage your entire business. It’s the pillar that holds your activities in one place and helps you generate more sales.
Still, if you don’t use the proper Ecommerce platform for your business all of these can go to vain.
Create a checklist of features that you want from an Ecommerce platform. If you are more technological oriented, then we recommend using Magento or WooCommerce. If you don’t want to struggle with tech, hosting and preparation, then we highly recommend Shopify.
Check out our article about finding the right platform for your store.
8. Pick the Right Hosting Solution for Your Store
Web hosting plays an important role for your online store. This can affect the user experience and as a result your search engine positioning and ultimately the product sales.
Make sure to select a hosting provider that supports the platform that powers your Ecommerce solution. On top of that, make sure you have enough disk space, bandwidth and resources to support your buyers.
Our favorite solution is BlueHost, a complete web hosting solution that offers great support and scalability. On top of that has an uptime of 99.99%.
If your online store will have a global audience, then we recommend you to consider a CDN solution. (a Content Delivery Network that serves content from serves near your customers to avoid lagging.)
Our favorite solution is MaxCDN, a popular CDN that is reliable, fast and available in multiple packages.
9. Buy an SSL Certificate
SSL or Security Socket Layer is a protocol designed to protect sensitive information such as transactions and passwords. As a store owner you need to have an SSL associated with your domain name because you will be processing passwords and you will deal with sensitive information every day.
SSL certificates offer different warranty and some are available for multiple domains. Check out some offers from SSL.com to see what I mean.
10. Set up the Payment Options that Fit Your Business
There’s been plenty of times when people decided to abandon the shopping cart just because they didn’t liked the payment options.
If it’s possible we recommend you to include as many payment options because this will give the buyer more trust and will increase the user experience.
The reason why you need to set this up before is because these things require a deep understanding. (involving financial and time investment)
Tip: Make sure you display the available payment options in badges in the product page or the store footer section. (buyers look for this stuff all the time)
11. Review Shipping Options
Shipping plays an important role in your e-commerce business. Please make sure you keep your promises and treat delivery time with absolute priority.
Test out the shipping process even before launching your store because vendors usually stumble upon difficulties with delivery and in some cases, they can’t even manage to deliver to some regions.
Another important aspect is the product condition. Make sure the packaging supports your product and keeps it safe even on a rough journey.
This is a huge issue that can turn your business to dust if it’s not treated right. Even one unsatisfied customer can generate you plenty of trouble, so treat this with extreme care.
12. Test Out Each Feature on the Site Yourself
Put yourself in the customer’s boots and go through each product and page element in your site. This way you will build a deeper understanding of the needs your visitors have.
If everything seems alright and you don’t see any flaws, then you are good to go! The only thing you need to do now is to publish your website and start welcoming people through email campaigns, social engagement and PPC.