If the 2014 holiday shopping season showed us anything, it's that people are shopping online more and standing in long lines at stores for mediocre sales less. Though the actual numbers have yet to be released, it's tough to ignore the predictions and the trends of the past few years. If your company has been considering launching an ecommerce initiative, there is planning that must be to considered.
There have been many ecommerce trends in recent years and many predictions for 2015, particularly in mobile commerce, and shoppers are more price conscious and savvy than in years prior. Add to that the high-profile data breaches at retailers and you find more consumers shopping with brands they feel they can trust rather than with well-established online stores. If your brick-and-mortar retail store is looking to launch their online store this year, it's important the planning starts now. You already have your local customers' trust, but with a 24/7 online store you're speaking to the world economy (whether you're shipping worldwide or not).
TIMING IS CRUCIAL
The timing of a launch is crucial or you risk missing out on holiday sales. If you aren't already selling online, it takes time to build search rankings and social media following. In order to be viable during the holiday shopping season, a new store should be launched no later than August of the same year. That means start planning your site in February or March because the production shouldn't start later than May. Certainly, earlier is better because the longer your site is out there the more opportunity you have to build your search ranking and social media following.
TRUST IS EVERYTHING
WHAT'S THE PLAN?
If you already operate a "traditional" brick-and-mortar shop, you probably already know what you're selling. Selling online, however, is different than selling in a store. When a customer walks into your store, they can look at and touch the item or items they are interested in. When you sell something online, you need to have as much detail about your product available as possible. There are many customers who are information sponges and need a great deal of information (or have fast access to someone who can provide it) before they make a purchase. At a minimum, for every product you should have:
- A short summary of the product's description (see the next item on this list)
- A detailed product description (at least a couple paragraphs)
- Keywords specific to the product
- The listing price of the product for your Web site
- Dimensions (length, width, and height) and weight (for shipping purposes)
- Product category
All of this information can be stored in a spreadsheet. Most modern content management/ecommerce systems can import product information from Excel. Most importantly, a product description should be crafted specifically for your site. Many people are tempted to copy and paste a product description from a competitor site. Google has become skilled at spotting this plagiarism and will penalize your content for not being original. You can use the manufacturer description as a starting point, but make sure you customize it for your business.
There's plenty more that goes into planning an ecommerce site, but businesses should pay particular attention to their SSL certificate (you have to have one for checkout or you don't really have an online store), credit card processing/merchant service (your current merchant account may not allow for online payments or support an merchant gateway service such as Authorize.Net), applicable sales tax requirements, and planned shipping methods. Have an idea of your budget going into the planning stage because that will help determine the right platform (Joomla is much less expensive than Magento, but Magento offers a more customizable shopper experience).
Contact us if you're interested in learning more about ecommerce and creating a project plan to launch your online store.