Here in #TheLab we often get asked what clients need to do before deciding to build a new eCommerce website in order to make sure that you are fully equipped to make it your best site to date. If you follow these 3 simple steps when planning your website it will become a fool-proof site that will allow not only fantastic User Experience but also make your site stand out from your competitors.

Audience

The first thing to consider is your site’s audience. Who are you targeting? If you are an eCommerce store you should really identify your ‘buyer personas’. Doing this will help you understand what your buyers want/expect when they come to your website and you can then tailor your website functionality and key landing pages to meet those expectations.

Researching other sites in your sector will also help shape your new site.  Seeing what’s already out there is a great way to get a feel for current trends.  Find the top 5 competitor sites at your level and do some analysis to see what you like about their sites and what you could do better.

You can also ‘cherry pick’ the best bits of functionality, navigation and design to incorporate into your design brief (after putting your own stamp on them of course!)

Ambition

It’s important to set clear goals for your new eCommerce website. Setting clear goals will help you to decide how much time and budget you’ll need to make it work.

If you want your eCommerce website to be a success it’s likely that you’ll need to invest a significant amount of time and/or money to get your new site as good as, or better than your main competitors.  Time spent researching at this stage is time well spent. Building a website is a bit like building a house – if you get the foundations right you’ll have a solid base from which to expand in future.

Key things you’ll need to decide include:

  • Which platform/CMS to use
    This will largely depend on your budget, the size of your stock inventory, required design, functionality and any integrations with other systems.
  • Backend systems
    Do you need to integrate your stock control, POS or existing customer database? Can you handle the extra orders, packaging and deliveries if your website takes off?
  • Design and branding
    Can you simply tweak a pre-designed theme with your colours and logo? If you’re looking for something bespoke or design-driven it’s likely that you’ll need specialist help so factor that in.
  • Unique selling points
    What makes your site different from the others in your sector? If you’re giving users something they can’t get elsewhere, that’s a big plus.
  • People
    Do you have the required people and design/technical skills in-house. If so that’s great as it will really help keep costs down. If not you’ll need some outside help, so factor that in. Once the site is up and running who will maintain it?
  • Search Engine Optimisation
    Take our word for it, it’s much easier to get this right at the start than to fix a site that’s had its URL structure, metadata and canonical tags badly implemented.
  • Online marketing
    This includes things like AdWords, Product Listing Ads and Social Media Campaigns. These can be done post launch, but having a think about it now will help with placement and content of your key landing pages.
  • Analytics and Conversion Tracking
    Make sure you get this in place as soon as your site goes live. The data you receive will help you identify website problems and pain points that need attention in the short term.


Achievable?

It’s time for a reality check.  Getting an eCommerce website up and running takes time, commitment, budget and know-how. It’s not something you can tackle half-heartedly (at least not if you want it to succeed). Here are our top tips:

  • Don’t underestimate the level of commitment required. If you want to succeed you’ll need to put in the effort. Getting your website live is just the start, so make sure you’re ready for the long haul.
  • Do your research and make sure you have a realistic budget in place for what you want to achieve. Allow a contingency for unforeseen costs.
  • It will probably take a bit longer than you think. Having a clear website brief and sticking to it really helps things stay on track. Changing plans halfway through will inevitably cause delays
  • Unless you have experience and technical know-how in-house it’s likely that you’ll need some help to get your site off the ground. A reputable agency will be able to advise on budgets and timescales for what you want to achieve. Before commissioning an agency ask for references from existing clients and talk to them to get a feel for what the agency is like to work with.


Anymore?

If you have any questions or queries about building your own eCommerce website or want my opinion please do not hesitate to get in touch, as the Web Developer I would like to think that I can answer any or all of your questions.