Taking your first steps in e-commerce? building your first e-shop? We’ve been there many times with our clients, it’s never easy.
See our tips that will allow you to start your e-commerce adventure effectively!
- 7 tips to get started
- What do you really have to know about e-commerce?
- The e-commerce market consists of four main formats dedicated to creation of the structures of e-shops:
- Enough theory, time for our 7 tips for a good start!
- Choose a script that’s well-tested and well-supported.
- Check the availability of plugins / extensions that can enhance the functionality of your on-line shop.
- Carefully plan your Customer Journey Map.
- Integrate the systems that will improve your work in the future.
- Choose a platform that you actually need in your business.
- Don’t forget about Conversion Rate
- If you are not a programmer, do not pretend to be one 😊
7 tips to get started
What do you really have to know about e-commerce?
By now, the topic of the current reality of e-commerce has already been exhausted. However, we should ask ourselves a question: are we truly capable of effectively using this knowledge for our business goals? If you are here, reading this, then you most likely already have an on-line shop that you want to develop, or you are just a few steps before establishing one, and you are currently considering your first moves in the world of e-commerce.
The e-commerce market consists of four main formats dedicated to creation of the structures of e-shops:
Open-Source platforms – this is a very broad category that, thanks to easy access to the code, allows for free modification of the shop, thus making it possible to create unique user-oriented solutions or to integrate the shop with additional modules (e.g. storage modules). The most popular solution in this category is WordPress+WooCommerce. Currently, over 25% of all shops in the “entire Internet” use this particular plugin.
SaaS platforms (Software as a Service) – an easily implementable solution recommended for small and medium-sized e-shops that rely on standard solutions. Creating and developing a platform in this configuration is mostly limited to the use of modules provided by the developer and working with templates that can be modified only to a limited extent. While in case of Open-Source solutions, WooCommerce is the one that is used most frequently, Shopify holds the undisputed lead position in case of SaaS.
Dedicated platforms – they are tailored to the specific custom requirements of business. Dedicated platforms should be the next step of evolution when working in the e-commerce environment. The decision to implement a dedicated solution should be made while taking in account one’s business needs and, what’s probably even more important, on the basis of experience in working with Open-Source platforms. Awareness of one’s actual business needs combined with an experienced team of developers will make it possible to design and develop a platform that not only will meet all requirements of the shop owner but also address the needs and shopping habits of clients. You should keep in mind that aside from the costs related to developing and establishing a shop, there are also costs connected with running and maintaining an already existing shop. An intermediate solution between a dedicated platform and the use of an already existing product also exists – OXID eShop. OXID eShop – this German enterprise-class e-commerce solution is an advanced framework designed specifically for B2B cooperation. It offers high customisation of settings while also providing decent performance even in case of databases with millions of products.
Out-of-the-Box (OotB) Software – a shop script created by a software development company. It usually has a limited set of functions and is sold a finished “product”. When using OotB software, the user may encounter errors resulting from insufficient testing. Due to possible difficulties with enhancing its functionality, or due to lack of possibility of doing so in some cases, and becoming overly dependant on the creators of the script, OotB software is not exactly attractive and user-friendly.
Enough theory, time for our 7 tips for a good start!
Choose a script that’s well-tested and well-supported.
The shopping platform that you choose should guarantee stable growth for your business, which is why you should find out: how long it is present on the market, how stable its code is and whether it has been tested by specialists. Look up the opinions on the Internet – Sounds easy? And yet, we often forget about this very important step.
Thanks to a large base of ready-to-use modules you will be able to accelerate the growth of your shop and swiftly react to the needs of clients. All you have to is purchase, install and configure the modules of your choice.
Carefully plan your Customer Journey Map.
A customer journey map indicates which functions and interactions with external systems will be necessary in the future for the proper functioning of the shop, which will make it easier for you to choose the right engine.
The most common CJM consists of the following steps:
- The client views the product listing / category-limited listing.
- They choose a product from the list and go to its data tab (the subpage of the respective product).
- They add the a product to the cart. The result of the action “Add to cart”: The client gets redirected to the “Cart” subpage or alternatively – the client can get redirected directly to the “Checkout” subpag.
- The “Checkout” subpage contains a form with payment options, shipping data, the log-in / registration field.
- The last step is the “Thank You page” that informs the client that the processing of their order is in progress.
Most e-commerce platforms use basic Customer Journey Maps like the one shown above. As a matter fact, it became so popular that most users treat it as the most optimal shopping workflow. Depending on individual needs, different variations / modifications of this process are possible, e.g. ‘Ajax Add to Cart Button’ or ‘Checkout Wizard’ in several steps (separate screen for the payment step, separate screen for filling out the delivery data, etc.).
Integrate the systems that will improve your work in the future.
The most important thing to keep in mind when starting your e-shop is that the number of clients will keep on increasing over time, and the “to do” list will keep on getting longer as a result. Thanks to the automation of processes, not only you can improve the comfort of work but, more importantly, avoid errors commonly made during manual execution of tasks. It also enables high level of scalability (it doesn’t matter whether the system will be processing 10 or 1000 orders a day, everything will work with the same level of efficiency).
Examples of automation:
- The system connects to the database (API) of your providers on a daily basis to update the state of inventory. The sold-out products are automatically removed from the listings and replaced with new ones, that were just introduced.
- After order placement, payment service providers send out notifications that the payment was successful, the order status gets automatically updated to “Payment received”, and the system then prints out the required shipping labels.
- Clients who are interested in receiving the newsletter can be automatically added to the subscriber list of the mailing system (MailChimp, GetResponse, FreshMail or Sare). And they can opt out from the subscribing list with a single click. Sensitive data is stored in safety on the server of the newsletter service provider.
- The after sales service runs under a CRM system integrated with the on-line shop. The order history and the message box can viewed in one place.
Choose a platform that you actually need in your business.
There are currently two popular solutions dominating the e-commerce market: WooCommerce and Shopify. Before choosing one, it would be wise to learn the differences between them.
WooCommerce – with this platform you can quickly prepare and start your Internet-related activities, and facilitate the development of your on-line shop by implementing new functionalities and integrating it with external systems. Just keep in mind that modifying the code or adding new plugins without sufficient knowledge in the area of programming and without adequate support may produce unexpected and undesirable results. Your shop might end up functioning in a suboptimal manner, and rather than supporting your business, the platform might end up becoming its weakest spot.
- multi-level modification possibilities: access to the full code of the application (back-end / front-end). This allows for free modification of the code of the shop (via hooks, filters or API endpoints).
- good accessibility: The WooCommerce script is 100% free and open-source. Its popularity makes it easy to find help with configuration or installation of new modules.
- easy development of e-shops: due to high popularity of the script, the market is full of plugins which can provide the platform with additional functionalities. However, keep in mind that using too many plugins might cause the shop to run slowly, which in turn could have a negative effect on TTFB (Time to First Byte). In some cases, using a plugin is not even necessary, and all it takes is to add a few lines of code in the shops’ theme to achieve the desired result.
- support of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) – holding a high position in the Google search engine is one of the key factors affecting the sales of a web shop. WooCommerce is fully compatible with WordPress CMS. By configuring a WordPress SEO plugin (e.g. YOAST), you can make your shop even more ‘SEO ready’.
- compliance with international standards For all users who are planning to go global with their shops, Shopify can guarantee full compliance with international standards and integration under multi-level system configuration.
- intuitive administration panel All users who wish to launch and configure their shopping platform on their own can do this easily with the Shopify admin panel. However, everyone who decides to choose this solution should accept the fact that they won’t be able to perform any advanced customization of the shop.
Don’t forget about Conversion Rate
Conversion Rate (CR) is the percentage of users who perform a certain desired action, e.g. place an order. The average CR is usually 1% to 3% (meaning, among a group of 100 users, 1 to 3 users place an order in the shop). In order to increase the CR of your on-line shop, the following actions are recommended:
- Optimization of the page load speed (especially for mobile devices)
- Improved usability of the shop (better navigation tools, search engines and result filters)
- Higher quality of photos, more detailed descriptions
- Building trust with clients: display genuine product reviews made by users, use the so-called social proof widgets
- Optimization of Google AdWords / Facebook Pixel campaigns
- Use of ‘Live Chat’ widgets that will redirect the user to a live quick response customer support
- Monitoring the habits of users visiting the website (heatmap analysis, use of hotjar tracking code)
If you are not a programmer, do not pretend to be one 😊
Visit some message boards, read opinions, view some portfolios, and only then decide who should take care of your on-line shop.
About the article Author:
Techleader of createIT, working in the IT sector for over 14 years. Innovator, author, and owner of an e-shop that he has been continuously developing for over 10 years. Currently, with his team of over 20 developers, he supervises all kinds of e-commerce projects of varied structure, characteristics, and size: from simple on-line shops for retail clients to advanced B2B platforms with support of multiple shopping carts, multiple languages, and integration with external systems. His work also involves modifying and expanding the existing platforms with millions of products in their databases, platforms that support variable pricing (several variants of the same product), dropshipping modules, integration with storage systems, integration with courier delivery services, and the last but not least, the optimization of scripts. By participating in a multitude of projects, he had the opportunity to “test out” all kinds of platforms (open-source, SaaS – Cloud-Hosted eCommerce Platforms) and dedicated platforms.
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