Online shops are usually build from software packages – for example the rather good Woocommerce for WordPress which is free to use in its standard form. This is a well developed, mature e-commerce package that provides most of the standard features required for a straight-forward shop built in and a large range of add-ons to provide extra features (some at a modest cost).
E-commerce websites are often complicated and require a lot of thought and planning, then a lot of work to implement, then a lot of work to make successful. There are all the requirements of a normal website plus a whole heap more, many of which will be largely down to you to decide. Then there is the significant task of loading all your products onto the site, sorting out payment mechanisms and delivery (shipping) methods. This is a big project that will require a lot of effort from you and it will take time to get up and running.
Then when your web shop goes live the real work will start. Do not assume that setting up a web shop will automatically mean customers will just arrive at your site and purchase. It is not like that – a lot of marketing then needs to be done to carve your niche.
If you are thinking you would like an on-line shop or an e-commerce feature attached to your website then here is a checklist of things you will need to think about.
Product organisation – how are products categorised/grouped, what is the structure. Think about it from the customer perspective – how will they be trying to locate a specific product.
This is usually multi-level eg Men/Women/Children – then Coats/Tops/Trousers/etc – then Coats breaks down further etc etc
Product Title: Include brand, product name, serial number and any variation.
Descriptions: You will need 2 descriptions, a SHORT one and a FULL one which should be comprehensive (at least 2 good paragraphs). Unique, useful information is helpful in getting your site well ranked in the search engines.
Avoid the easy solution of copying your supplier or a competitor as this is going to prevent you getting anywhere in the search engines because others are already there.
- Large good quality photos preferably on clear or white background – professional quality photos sell, poor photos turn buyers off. You may need multiple photos of products if it is helpful to see other shots.
- Image file names should be descriptive eg blue-widget.jpg not images34567.jpg.
- Image files will need to all be optimised for use on the web in .jpg, .png. or gif format.
- Make sure you have the right to use them and will not be subject to copyright infringement.
Videos: if feasible include a video of something useful and relevant to the product.
Variable Product Attributes: does the product come in various sizes, quantities, colours, flavours …
Prices: Regular Price, Sale Price
Dimensions, Sizes, Weights: are these relevant to your customer and/or for shipping calculations?
SKU: Product Identity Number: Do you want to use a SKU – what basis?
Stock Control: Do you want to use stock control counts? If so what do you want to do with low stock or out of stock?
Featured Products: Products you want to promote more prominently, offers etc
COMBINED OR GROUPED PRODUCTS
Associated Products: Are products grouped together and sold as a single item. Can a customer build their own product from a range of options?
Cross Selling: If a customer buys product A, might they also be interested in products B and C – what products do you want to associate together
Up-selling: Promoting better (more profitable) versions of the current product
UK or INTERNATIONAL?
Are you operating just in the UK or internationally? Outside UK may add complications in terms of taxes, shipping and currencies.
In UK is VAT relevant?
- B2B – selling to business you may want prices shown excluding VAT,
- B2C – selling to end consumers you will want to show prices including VAT.
- Selling to both?
- Selling within EU?
- Selling outside EU?
Probably the most complicated part of the whole process.
- Options and Calculations?
- Weight and size calculations, flat rate
- Free above a given value?
- Local Delivery?
- Express delivery/normal delivery.
Keep it simple if you can and be as transparent as possible – surprise costs at the checkout are the number one reason why people do not follow through with a purchase.
INVOICES AND PACKING LISTS
This sort of feature maybe available as an optional extra
As a general rule you should use an online payment service provider for this as they deal with all the security requirements then.
- Online payment/BACs/Invoice/Cash on Delivery?
- Credit Card Processing – There will be charges for this depending on service provider and transaction volumes (Perhaps 3.4% +20p). There may also be an annual software licence charge for the gateway software.
- Online Service Providers are numerous and include Paypal, SagePay, Worldpay, NoChex, Amazon ….
Do you want people to set up an account with you so they get remembered or just buy anonymously?
DISCOUNT COUPONS/PROMOTIONAL CODES
Do you want to offer discount codes?
Statistically the Returns Policy is the most important feature of an ecommerce site.
A good Returns Policy helps establish Trust and allows customers to feel more comfortable about doing business with you if it is clear they can get their money back without fuss if they are unhappy.
Clear customer service policies are going to help you sell successfully.
Don’t use the T&C to hide information – no one reads them, so information customers should be aware of needs to be put in front of them. The aim is to sell products to a satisfied customer who’s expectations are managed – not to encourage dissatisfaction.
Proper trading Terms and Conditions are vital and there are a number of legal requirements.
Do you want a reviews system included – Positive reviews help sales significantly.
Just because you have a website it does not mean people can find it and will buy from you. A lot of ongoing marketing is likely to be required.
Do you want some sort marketing email integration so you can email your customers? MAILCHIMP is a popular online service. Regular contact with people who have bought your products is going to sell more products especially if there are offers or something new to introduce them to.
Effective use of Social Media will help your marketing reach. Encourage people to follow you and regularly publish interesting content on suitable Social Media channels.
Facebook is probably the best place to concentrate for shops targeting end consumers. Content must not be Sales based, it needs to be more subtle. Publishing interesting content and getting a dialogue going is the key.
PPC PAY PER CLICK ADVERTISING
Can be very effective, it definitely puts you in front of people in the Search Engines especially in the early days before you have built up a following but it can be very expensive. Google Adwords and Facebook advertising are popular channels.
SEO and OTHER CONTENT
Firstly make sure your products are set-up properly for SEO. Basically this means doing your research about what people are likely to be searching for, then using the right keywords in the product titles and providing lots of useful information about the products (not just copied from another site).
You are looking to provide more useful information than your average online shop. The reason for this is 2 fold:
- It adds interest for visitors and shows them you are more than just a shop.
- The search engines are always on the look-out for original, useful and new content. Posting regular updates on a website and blog providing news, comment, helpful information, hints, tips, guidance etc is key to a good search engine ranking.
You might also like to:
- See a pdf version of this Ecommerce Checklist you can download.
- See my articles on Legal Issues for Websites.
- Read more advice on SEO for ecommerce websites and online shops.
We aim to be friendly and informative, providing all the support and guidance you need to steer you clearly and effectively through the web design process and ensure that you end up with a great website.
If you need help with your website please feel free to give me a ring. Regards
Michael Spencer, Web Designer and WordPress Specialist.
firstname.lastname@example.org – 01263 722058
Epsilis Website Designers – Mundesley, Norwich, Norfolk and Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire