While physical stores still account for the vast majority of global consumer purchases, all signs point to ecommerce eventually taking over the trade. But apart from making sure that you have a solid system in place, with reliable products and sellers – you also need to ensure you take all the necessary steps pre-launch.
This article discusses what you should do before launching your ecommerce store, detailing 8 basic steps you need to take before introducing your brand.
The Numbers: Why you should take your business online
For anyone who’s spent a significant amount of time online, it’s pretty obvious how having a successful online presence can boost a business. But to have a quantitative look at it, here are some numbers to chew on:
- It is estimated that there are over 4.3 billion internet users globally—more than half of the total world population.
- Google averages 40,000 searches every second—or a massive 1.2 trillion searches globally per year.
- In 2018, ecommerce sales totaled $2.84 billion – a number that’s expected to rise to $3.45 billion in 2019.
- 55% of consumers will search for online reviews and recommendations before deciding on a purchase. 47% of those will visit a website, 26% will visit a physical store, while 23% will talk with friends and family.
- By 2020, the number of online shoppers is expected to reach 2 billion.
- It is estimated by the year 2040, 95% of all purchases will be through ecommerce.
If you’ve indulged in the convenience of online shopping, it’s easy to believe how it can be the future of retail. But keep in mind that just because that seems to be the most likely outcome, doesn’t mean you should just jump on the bandwagon.
The Set-Up: 8 Steps To Do Before Launching Your Ecommerce Brand
Step 1: Test and triple check your website’s performance
This first step is crucial because it covers a number of elements in your website. In this highly-competitive age of ecommerce, people won’t hesitate to move to the next site if, for example, your site takes more than a few seconds to load. They also won’t hesitate to abandon their carts if they find the checkout process more complicated than their liking.
Here are the basic things you need to check (and triple check):
- Spelling and grammar – You want your ecommerce brand to come off as professional as can be, so avoiding rudimentary errors in spelling and grammar is a must. Thankfully, tools like Grammarly can me the job that much easier – quickly pointing out errors without manually needing to comb through every little space.
- Customize your domain - Speaking of professionalism, you can’t have something like www.store.wordpress.com. Make sure you purchase your own domain to turn it into something like www.mystore.com. Domain registrars like Namecheap and Hover have made it easy and relatively inexpensive to purchase your own professional-looking domain.
- Set up your shop email – This is a two-part process. First, you’ll want to set up email forwarding so that when customers send an email to your store, you can also get it in your personal email. Typically, email hosting is separate from ecommerce platforms, so you’ll need to use services like Google Apps for Business to be able to reply using your domain-specific email. Then, once that’s set up, you’ll want to have an email helpdesk. This ensures that your customers get the support they need.
- Install only the essential apps – It’s easy to want to have every known feature on your website, but if you’re just starting out, it’s best to stick to the basics. This could be your fulfillment service partner, an inventory management tool, and social sharing apps. Sticking to the essentials is important as having too much can slow down your website.
- Edit homepage meta title and description – You’ll need to ensure that these two are updated so that potential customers can find you when they conduct searches. The title needs to be your actual store name so it can be clearly identified by both Google and potential customers. As well, it’s best if your 160-character is kept neat, so your description doesn’t end with an ellipsis.
- Optimize images – This greatly helps your site’s loading speed. You can use tools like ImageOptim and ShortPixel to trim your images’ sizes while maintaining optimum quality.
- About us – This adds credibility to any website, which is essentially if you’re just launching your ecommerce brand. This also gives you the opportunity to engage customers with your brand story – a great start to cultivating relationships.
- Contact us – You want all possible lines of communication to be open. You might not be able to provide features like live chat from the get-go, but you need to make it clear how customers can reach you.
- FAQ – Having a comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions page takes a lot of elementary questions out of the equation. So you’ll need to spend ample time making sure you cover all the bases.
- Shipping, returns, and refund policy – Customers have grown to become spoiled when it comes to shipping, so you’ll want to make it clear when they can expect their products. The same goes for returns and refunds. These information can be what makes or breaks a purchase.
- Track inventory – One of the fastest ways to lose credibility is to sell a product that’s already out of stock. If you’re using Shopify, make sure to enter the correct digits and double check them to avoid issues.
- Tax rates – While platforms like Shopify have default tax rates in place based on the area you’re selling from, it’s still best to consult professionals to avoid issues from arising once you go live.
- Product weights – This is important to avoid shipping-related errors. You don’t want to lose business just because shipping rates have been incorrectly calculated due to incorrect product weights.
*Payments and checkout
- Payment gateways integration – You’re going to want to have all the popular payment methods available. Platforms like Shopify has a list of all the major payment gateways used around the world, and instructions on how to integrate them. Tip: find out which methods your target customers use – this will allow you to be efficient in this regard.
- Cart page – Make sure to customize the information fields your customers need to fill, so that you only require the necessary information. Overly complex checkout processes is one of the leading causes of cart abandonment, so make yours as simple as possible.
Step 2: Back up!
Whatever platform you’re using – be it WordPress, WooCommerce, or even your own ecommerce app – make sure to back it up regularly. Yes, this might be standard practice for any website, but it’s exponentially more critical to ecommerce websites.
For WordPress sites, tools like BackupBuddy and VaultPress are good backup options.
Step 3: Create a pre-launch marketing checklist
Once you’re sure that your website’s functioning perfectly, the next phase is having a pre-launch strategy in place. A simple ecommerce marketing checklist could like this:
- Work on your messaging – You can start with identifying what your target customers’ needs are and how your store can address them. You’ll also want to make sure that they understand the value of what you’re offering – this is where the right messaging can help greatly.
- Create and curate images – You’re going to need to publish content to prime your customers for your launch. Of course, you’ll need to start with image creation and curation. Identifying your brand message can help you choose which types of images you’ll be needing. You can use tools like Canva to easily create attractive images for every platform.
- Pre-launch landing page – This is a great way to gauge customer interest. You can even set this up while still ironing out some of the kinks of the full website. You can use this to steadily inform customers, offer prizes, generate leads, and create anticipation.
- Collaborate with influencers – This allows you to tap into a ready-made audience. You just need to make sure that you work with the influencers whose following fit those of your target. It’s a great way to stir up interest, especially if you’re a brand that few people have heard of before.
Step 4: Understand your audience
Speaking of your target, it’s important to fully understand who they are – or if they even exist at all. According to CBInsights, 42% of startups fail because there wasn’t a market for what they were offering. But it’s important to note that there are a plethora of other things that come with understanding your audience. Achieving this will also enable you to come up with the right marketing messages, and aligning a brand story / persona that resonates.
Apart from collaborating with influencers, you need to create your own social media campaign to announce your launch. This would also be a great way to lead your audience to your landing pages, and other promotional assets. For this, you can use a combination of different platforms and different content formats like Stories, blog posts, attractive images, and promos to power the hype for your launch.
Make sure that your social posts have consistent messaging in them, so that you can build on your ecommerce brand recall. It’ll also help if you have an understanding of the best times to post.
Step 6: Have a site monitoring system in place
Because you’re just starting out, you can use Google Analytics as your initial monitoring system. You’ll just need to insert a brief code into your website, and reconfigure ecommerce tracking, as well as establish your sales goals. This will allow you to monitor basic elements like site traffic and conversions.
Step 7: Plan the announcement
One of the simplest and most effective ways to announce is with a site-wide discount straight out of the gate. You can also incorporate this in your partnerships with influencers, as well as in your social media pre-launch campaign. If you’ve taken the time to build your audience prior to the launch, this will greatly help in spreading the word about your new ecommerce brand.
Step 8: Launch week!
Be shameless, let everyone know (including all your friends and family) on every channel possible that you’re about to launch and when. Post on all your business and personal social accounts to spread the word as much as you can. You’ll want all the traction using all the resources you can get during launch week. You can even up the ante with additional giveaways, and collaborate with like-minded companies to bolster your reach.
Bonus tip: Create an affiliate program and a customer referral program
This is a great alternative to spending on advertising, particularly in the competitive field of ecommerce. To attract the top affiliate marketers, your program needs to offer healthy payout and attractive terms. One way to do this is by offering a weekly payout as opposed to a monthly one. Because affiliate marketers will need to initially invest their own money to promote your products, you’ll need to make the payouts as frequent as viably possible.
Meanwhile, you also need to make sure that your customer referral program is enticing enough for them to share a coupon code or referral link with their peers. This is particularly effective for products with massive margins, as you can offer more attractive freebies and promos. Just keep in mind to make it as simple as possible for your customers to partake in the program.
Launching an ecommerce brand is a very tedious process – one where you not only have to ensure that there’s a market for the products you’re selling, but that the entire system is working flawlessly. You’re also going to have to make sure that you have a comprehensive customer support system as part of your ecommerce strategy, as you want to build relationships with each and every customer you make.
What’s your favorite ecommerce brand? How can you incorporate their best traits into your own? Let us know in the comments below. We also have other articles, you should definitely checkout what we have about the best facebook marketing courses