It’s surprising that many business owners think that an e-commerce website development cost is a capital cost that added burden to their business rather than an investment. Many web design software packages available online are so easy to use that business owners think that they can design their own site or they tend to choose the vendor that can offer the lowest development cost possible. This is a mistake.
You need a long-term partner that can support your business, rather than low-cost vendors. We have seen a lot of clients come to us to “rescue” their e-commerce website after their e-commerce website get screwed up by their previous developer and lost thousands and thousands of dollars.
A good e-commerce development partner will approach your e-commerce projects not only for what you want your website to look and behave. Every aspect of your business should be taken into account to ensure your website does not just serves as a transaction tool, but also as an automated marketing and sales funnel that could increase your business sales and profits in the long run and how robust it is to weather the setbacks any business inevitably encounters.
Setting up an e-commerce website is one of the most complex operation as it involved a lot of third parties’ coordinations, rules and conditions, and dynamic actions from the customers itself. Getting your website up and running is not the end, it is just the beginning! Online shopping should be a smooth and easy experience for your potential customers, or else they are likely to abandon the cart before checkout.
To make your life simple, we’ve created a high-level checklist of all aspects of creating an e-commerce website that every business owners should know before venture into their e-commerce businesses. Ignore and omit any at your own cost!
Checklist I: Before Setting Up Your E-commerce Business
1) Write A Business Plan
Sounds daunting, we know. But real businesses have business plans, and your e-commerce is a business. One of the reasons business fail is that business owner fails to plan. Your business plan lays it all. You should identify your target market, your products differentiation or unique selling proposition through writing your business plan. If a business plan sounds like a big project to you, try to use this lean canvas tool instead. It serves the same purpose.
2) A Marketing Plan
This is the big one. The most effective marketing plan usually evolves and grows over your business’s life — it’s certainly not a “create it once and for all” kind of thing.Creating your marketing plan at this stage gives you an initial idea on any additional features needed for your website not only in the now, but also in the short and long run. However, you can start small if needed. This will also help you communicate clearly what you need with your developer prior to the start of development.
During your site’s early days you’ll mostly need these basics: web analytics, search engine optimization, blogs and social media sharing, and email newsletter subscription to generate potential shopper’s lead and keep existing customer in the loop of promotion campaign and new product launch.
3) Vendor sourcing
Are you confident the cost of the products you selling aren’t going to skyrocket three months from now? It is always best to have more than one wholesale source, otherwise, you could be in trouble.
Other than products sourcing, you’ll need to appoint an agency to design logo, collaterals, packaging etc for your e-commerce branding. Aside from that, high-quality product photos and product explainer videos boost sales, engage a professional photographer to take photos of the products or collate them from vendor sources.
4) Good domain name
A good domain name represents your business and branding. It should be short and memorable and easily typed. A good domain name affects your search engine ranking, so if you want to be found by the keyword “wedding”, it’s a good idea to fit “wedding into your domain name.
If your target market is just the local market, you may want to consider country level based domain name such as xxx.co.uk, xxx.com.my, xxx.com.sg etc. These domain name usually required proper business registration and slightly more expensive.
Do prepare a few domain name variation list in advance just in case the domain name you want is already taken during domain registration.
5) Web Hosting Server
You might be tempted to go for the cheapest hosting vendor in order to save cost. However, a cheap hosting vendor might not be robust enough to support your website visitor flow or web traffics. Make sure you invest in high-quality hosting server so that your website can load quickly. Quick loading webpages help to retain potential customers and boost up your website search engine ranking as well.
You might want to ensure your hosting company provides versioning control and regular auto backup functions. Also, do check whether your hosting provider offers 24/7 live chat service and technical support as these will save your day if you or your team member accidentally deleted some stuff from the server or any server technical glitch occurs!
.aligncenter Here are a few of the best hosting providers that are capable for a robust server and provide good and priority support: Siteground, Bluehost, InMotion or Rackspace. Some hosting provider such as Siteground even offers free domain name if you sign up their hosting package.
6) Payment System
Do you prefer to have the credit card payment charged at your site or at a payment gateway merchant such as PayPal or Stripe? If you would like your site to handle the payment transaction then you will need to secure your site, otherwise, it is always better to use the established payment gateway. These payment gateway systems usually charge a percentage of each transaction plus a small fixed amount.
You might also want to check whether your web developer able to provide the payment gateway for your local banks transfer if your target customers actually prefer using local banks transfer service. Setting up a local bank merchant account typically more pricey than using PayPal or Stripe. Banks typically charge a setup fee, a monthly fee, and a percentage of each transaction.
Different payment gateway has different difficulties level in integrating them into your website, so do check with your developer about the cost and consequences of using them.
Make sure your payment gateway option is also optimized for mobile payment as research shown that 30% of mobile shoppers abandon their checkout if they experience any confusion on mobile payment.
7) Shipping or Delivery Rate Structure
Before you get your first order, you’ll need to decide on your shipping structure, such as how much you’ll charge for express and standard delivery, or to offer free shipping over certain purchase levels to attract customers.
You might also want to research on different shipping vendors to decide on your shipping charges. You will have to sit and work out which courier agency is best for you based on reviews and costs. Be sure to check with your web agency if you would like to integrate shipment tracking system of a specific carrier.
8) Accounting and Invoicing system
Okay, this part isn’t sexy — but you’ll get a big headache without it. Even before your first dollar of profit, you’ll need to track a long list of expenses. Once you start making sales, your accounting program allows you to answer the most important question: am I making money? Is this revenue or net profit?
There are plenty of accounting system out there such as QuickBooks and Wave Accounting. At a certain stage of your business, you may want to consider integrating the accounting system into your e-commerce site for auto transaction updates, especially when there are hundreds and thousands of daily transaction running through your e-commerce site.
Some accounting system only supports certain countries currency and tax system so may not be suitable for you. Your country might also have it own set of accounting rules that you’ll need to apply in your accounting system so be sure to have this check out as well.
9) Quality and Effective Web Content
Create a list of product categories to offer for your e-commerce website. You may also want to create an inventory list of categorized products that you will offer on your website launch.
Other than that, professional design landing pages can enhance the user experience, coupled with attracting sales headline, engaging and attracting product descriptions, high-quality product photos, and good quality explainer videos to attract your buyers. Surely, you won’t want your potential customers to turn away because of an ugly website or broken descriptions that make them wonder your site credibility. You may also want to consider hire a copywriter to write your website sales content and product descriptions.
Create a sitemap so you’ll have an idea what content you should get prepared on hand before engaging a web agency. It’ll also help you to identify clearer functionality and required web pages for your website. Below are some of the webpages you should include in your e-commerce website.
- Landing page/sales page
- Product categories and description
- Contact page
- Support pages such as FAQs, delivery info, and return policy
- Media or press page
10) Your Ecommerce Business Branding
Choosing the right theme and graphics for your site is very important. Different colour scheme attracts differents consumers, so be sure you know your target customers. If your favourite colour is pink, it’s very tempting to make blue your primary colour. But if you’re an organic food retailer targeting a health-conscious group, this would be a mistake, and you would usually be better off going with green.
This is something to keep in mind because you definitely don’t want your own personal preferences to dilute your sales and business potential over time. Check out this page for tips on picking website colour scheme. The same goes for your logo and other collateral design branding.
11) Choose A Web Agency
Make sure your web agency are capable of supporting your business needs.
You might have a simple e-commerce business or a complex one that requires different purchase level such as wholesale, membership, bulk purchase, different shipping conditions, different payment structure such as deposit or installment payment and etc. Some business owner may actually run retail and e-commerce shop simultaneously that they required POS integration, inventory and the barcode tracking, or staff management and etc.
Prior starting engaging any developers, be sure that you already identify any special functionality, conditions, limitation or promotional needs for your e-commerce business and communicate clearly with your developer. This will help greatly in your business goal and budget alignment.
Last but not least, you may want to check with your developer which e-commerce software they are using for your e-commerce website. Once your website is up and running for a while, changing your e-commerce platform is like changing plane in the middle of the air. Keep in mind that there’s no “best” e-commerce software, you should choose a software that’s capable of delivering your business needs.
Did you find our e-commerce pre-setup checklist helpful for you? Share on Twitter or Facebook by using the super-easy share buttons on the left now!
Stay tuned for our Part II of E-commerce site’s complete checklist - Design and Development of your E-commerce website.