Congratulations, you’re on the right path! Moving to etailing is definitely where retailers need to be right now. You’ve done all your market research and you know your niche. But, what next? What do you actually need to know when you move a physical store online? How to transform that bland webpage into a friendly and fun online store? Here are the five transitional steps you’ll need to take to succeed as an online seller.
Integrating your products with your CMS
First of all, the technical bit. Unless you’re a developer (lucky you), you will need to host your online store on a CMS (content management system) that is easy to maintain. Your CMS choice will depend on the size of your store (the number of pages and products) so it’s important that you start mapping out the scale of your online store as soon as possible.
- You have to dogmatic and plan out all your product categories in advance. Use visual aids, online tools, spreadsheets, whatever you need to get the job done. (Here are some different ways you can map out your ecommerce store).
- Plan for the future. Even if you start with a small online store, try to picture where there will be growth as categories expand.
- Take into account your keywords and your audience. You must reflect your users’ language and emulate their online shopping habits to be successful. You can change your own systems in order to sell better, but you won’t be able to change how customers search online. Use keyword research tools and Google Trends to survey the market and get a feel for how people are searching for your products. Don’t just rely on your bricks and mortar knowledge – seek more.
- What options have you got? There are loads of platforms out there to choose from, it’s all about finding one that suits you. In a rush? Set up an online store fast with a customisable CMS, or go for a scalable option with open-source Magento
- Product insertion into a CMS always takes longer than expected so always plan ahead.
Mapping out your digital brand
Yes, you can get a logo for five dollars on sites like Fiverr, but is that really how you want to manage your store’s digital brand? Your audience will make a lot of assumptions and judgements based on the look and feel of your brand.
- Branded signage, a clean shop floor, relaxing music, friendly staff in nice uniforms – all these first impressions will be made by your online store instead.
- Make sure there’s an obvious connection between the types of products you sell and the way that your brand looks.
- Brand colour harmony is crucial – get professional input on the colours you are choosing. Don’t forget accessibility considerations when choosing colour; you need to design a site that can be easily used by everyone
Conducting technical & SEO audits
Sometimes a soft launch approach for a new online store is preferred as it allows SEOs and developers to do their magic. (They will do things like crawl the site and all its URLs to check for any indexing or duplicate copy issues).
- In order to rank, you will need to make sure that you store is built in an SEO-friendly environment. Many CMSs handle a lot of this for you, but you will have to have extra checks and audits too.
- Factor SEO into the web build early on and get expert advice on the decisions you make. SEO will have a huge impact on your store’s success, so don’t take it lightly.
- Get familiar with web reporting functions so that you’re ready for the information you are going to have post-launch. You need to get very friendly with your analytics (or data team). They will be your best friends in the first few months as you adjust anything in your store that isn’t working so well.
Planning your big launch
Web builds and projects like these do tend to run over time, but that doesn’t mean that you can get sloppy with your launch plan. So many web builds run out of steam towards the end, but it’s an absolute top priority to have a proper launch plan. Whether it’s a tiered launch, or a big bang opening; make sure you’ve got the capacity to deal with the onslaught of web traffic and a solid promotional plan.
- Test server response times and make sure the website can cope with live contact with web users.
- Plan out your social media strategy for the big day. It’s probably best to pre-write a lot of the content so you aren’t up writing posts till three am the day before. Don’t underestimate the volume of posts you are going to need during the first few days.
- Online PR is your friend – this is the moment to cultivate relationships with bloggers and other publishers in order to get your products and store featured. Speak to people around you in the business community to see if they can help.
- What if something doesn’t work? What if the server crashes? Are your Twitter cards whitelisted yet? (Check your Twitter validation here with your URL). Plan for all eventualities.
Mapping out your content calendar
Content is your big weapon in the online selling world. When promoting your store online, you need to prioritise writing the right sort of content, not just creating scattergun copy. You will need to plan out a proper seasonal editorial calendar.
- Tie in your content with seasonal promotions. Seasonal selling is massive in some ecommerce niches and if you aren’t prepared, you might miss out on important leads and revenue.
- You might need to hire external copywriters to help you implement your content plan.
- Balance ‘sales’ copy with content that is entirely focused on helping the user and solving their problems. Don’t make it all about you – make it about them.
Did we forget to cover a crucial step? Tell us what other things retailers need to do when moving to an online store below in the comments.
Patrick Foster, ecommerce entrepreneur, coach & writer.