10 questions you need to ask yourself before you commit to e-commerce website

Are you considering selling online? Then start with this post. It covers the practical aspects of online selling – order fulfillment, shipping, integration with other systems, marketing your store and more, to help you see the effort and cost involved and make an educated decision.

Since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown, online sales went through the roof. In North America online sales for primarily store-based retailers increased by 43% between March 22 – April 4, 2020! And, according to PayPal CEO, online sales in Canada increased by 67%.

It’s a great time to go online!

One of the challenges online store owners had to face was to persuade people to shop online instead of brick-and-mortar stores. (Have you ever tried to change your partner’s habits? Tough job.) Well, COVID-19 has certainly helped eliminate this challenge. People turned to the Internet to buy anything they could, from the comfort and safety of their home. Online shopping has become a convenience they are not going to give up any soon.

Online will likely become a preferred choice of shopping for more people even after the social distancing measures are lifted. This may become a significant stream of revenue for traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

Things to consider before investing into an online store

The following are the essential questions you won’t find online that will help you plan and budget for your e-commerce website. We discuss them with all our e-commerce clients to help them realistically see all the elements that need to be taken care of in order to run a profitable online store.

01 What type of products do you have – simple or variable?  
A simple product is a necklace that comes in one style, one size, and one price.
A variable product is a t-shirt that comes in different sizes, many colors, and various prices.

02 How many SKUs will you have?
An e-commerce system requires a unique SKU number for every product (and variation). Some systems are built to handle small to medium amount of SKUs; others are build to handle large inventory.

03 What is your estimated volume of sales?
It may be tough to estimate what your sales will be if you are only starting your business, but it is vital to guesstimate. And, it’s better to plan for more than for less. You don’t want to be in a situation when you run out of stock, cannot handle orders due to lack of personnel, or orders are taking too long to ship because you ran out of the packaging.

04 Will you be fulfilling the orders yourselves, or will you need a fulfillment center?
If you plan to fulfill the orders in-house, you want to make sure that you have enough help to do the work.

You may choose to use the services of a logistics company that does e-commerce fulfillment to warehouse your products, fulfill and ship your orders. In this case, you may need to integrate the website with their internal systems to synch inventory, orders etc. This is super important because it will affect what e-commerce system you should use (and, of course, costs).

05 How will you package and ship your products? What will be the shipping cost?
If you sell perishable goods or food, watch out for the costs of packaging and shipping. You need to deliver these products fast and fresh, which will increase your shipping costs. Alternatively,  you may limit your service area and deliver yourself.

If you sell non-perishable goods, you have more options. Most businesses will set up an account with a shipping carrier such as Canada Post, UPS, and integrate it with their website.

06 Will you offer free shipping?
You can choose to offer free shipping with minimum order value.

07 How will you process payments?
Standard payment gateways are PayPal, Stripe, Square and most e-commerce systems support them. Expect to pay 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction for most. You will have to set up your merchant account with these in order to integrate it with your website.

08 Will you offer deals, discounts, or loyalty programs?
Buy One Get One X% off, free gift with first purchase, refer a friend and receive a discount, sign up for a newsletter and get a discount, collect points and redeem… These are all offerings that will help you increase your customer base and sales. Think about what you will want to use and prepare accordingly.

09 Upselling and cross selling
Your sales will increase significantly if you display additional, complementary products at a product level page. For example, when shopping for a shower enclosure, we were offered the shower basin (the same size as the enclosure) and shower walls (again, the same size as the enclosure).

10 How will you promote your online store?
“If you build it, they will come” simply does not work in real life. On top of managing your online store and fulfilling orders, you will need to invest time and effort to promote it. Make sure that your online store is optimized for search engines. Every page, every product and image should be appropriately described using your keywords. This will set you on the right track to achieve good positions in organic search results, and help achieve great results with other digital marketing strategies such as social media, paid ads, email marketing and more.

Having an online store requires planning and work but can be highly profitable. It will allow you to reach more people than will ever set foot into your brick-and-mortar store.

What makes a difference in e-commerce websites?

Professional photography.
People don’t have a chance to touch and see your products and rely on images. Good images will enhance the professional look of your website, while poor images will bring the professional look, and with that your trust-worthiness down. Use large images of products, if possible, from many angles and details.

Detailed product descriptions.
People do not have the opportunity to touch your products and ask questions. But, they have time to do proper research. Offer lots of relevant information, specifications, product manuals so they feel comfortable shopping with you.

Transparecy and simple language.
Write your Return and Shipping policies in plain English. People will appreciate that they can easily understand your terms and before they purchase.

Customer Reviews.
Star reviews and testimonials have a significant impact on decision making. Do not worry about having a few bad reviews if genuinely good ones overpower them. You can’t please everyone.

Email capture forms.
Capturing email addresses and consent from shoppers will allow you send promotional emails and bring shoppers back to your store.

Overwhelmed? Excited? Whatever it is, we are here to help you along the way. Let’s talk about your project.

Who We Are

ADWebcom is a creative design agency based in Georgetown, Ontario.
We provide high-quality website and graphic design services and practical web strategies to help you succeed in the online world.