Article number four in our series on Ecommerce websites, and a good time check things are in order. Commissioning an Ecommerce website is a big investment, before taking another step, read this and avoid the pitfalls!
1. Choose the right Ecommerce platform
I’ve probably mentioned in previous articles that Halogen recommend Magento for most Ecommerce startup businesses. Magento offers a high level of functionality as standard and is easily scalable.
As you can imagine we’ve encountered many Ecommerce solutions, choosing the right platform can mean the difference between success and failure. At best choosing the wrong Ecommerce platform will be frustrating and not provide the functionality you need, at worst it will close you down.
Now, you’re probably asking how do I choose the right platform? Firstly, establish what functionality you need for both the visitor and admin. For example, do you need to sell related products? In which case put this on your list for visitors. If you need to manage finance then stick it on your admin list. It’s always a good idea to get online and look at websites that are selling similar products to yours. This will help you determine which solution is right for you.
To help here is a list of functionality offered by Magento, by no means exhaustive but you get the idea. Think usability, think customer and think admin. Oh, and think ahead!
- Related products, up-sells and cross-sells
- Promotional pricing and offers
- Pricing rules for customer groups, time period, products, and categories
- Recently viewed / compare
- New items widget
- Send to a friend
- Wish lists
- Filtering products in categories and search results
- Category landing pages
- Product comparisons
- Product search
- Recently viewed products
- Product listing in grid or list format
- Multiple images per product
- Product gallery with zoom feature
- Flat rate shipping
- Free shipping
- Order tracking
- Related products
- Stock availability
- Multi-tier pricing upsell
- Product option selection
- Grouped products view
- Add to wish list
- Send to a friend with email
- Share on Facebook, Pinterest and so on
- Administration roles
- Multiple languages / currencies
- Batch import and export of products
- Content Management System for static pages
- Tax rates
- Simple, configurable (e.g. size, color, etc.)
- Downloadable/digital products with samples
- Unlimited product attributes
- Inventory management
- Automatic image resizing
- Moderated reviews
- Customer sorting
- RSS feed for low inventory alerts
Checkout, Payment and Shipping
- One-page checkout
- Guest checkout
- SSL security support for orders on both frontend
- Saved shopping cart
- Gift messages
- Shopping cart with tax and shipping
- Saved credit card
- Integration with multiple payment gateways such as Paypal
- Shipping integration with label printing
Search Engine Optimization
- Search engine friendly
- XML Site Map
- Search engine friendly URL’s
- URL rewrites give full control of URL’s
- Meta-information for products, categories and content pages
- Auto-generated site map for display on site
- Auto-generated popular search terms page
- Google Content API for shopping
- Contact form
- Create and edit orders
- Customer accounts
- Order history
- Order tracking
- Password reset
- Update emails
- Transactional emails
Aside from functionality you also need to assess ongoing costs, future development and risk. Make sure your website is scalable – is it easy to update and build in more functionality further down the line! Ask about on going costs, hosting? License fees and so on. Finally, make sure you know who is hosting your site and insist on getting a back up of the application on launch, with regular database backups.
There are really two or three Ecommerce solutions to choose from. Your web developers will more than likely be offering a bespoke solution, a hosted solution such as shopify.com or an open source installation such as Magento or WooCommerce. There are pros and cons to each and you really need to do your homework to make sure you get exactly what you need.
2. Build in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) from the outset
Make no mistake, SEO is crucial to the success of your online business. Research suggests 85-90% of traffic comes from Search Engines for most successful online businesses.
Your first job is to find a company capable of delivering a successful SEO campaign. This may come from a specialist SEO company or your website designers. Do your research though, ask for case studies and remember what’s at stake. Do SEO right and you’ll reap the benefits of good quality, targeted traffic to your website. Do it wrong and you’ll find it a long, long haul to get on the right side of Google again. Good SEO should see you steadily gaining rankings over a period of 6 to 12 months. Many companies try to cheat Google and find any success is short lived. In fact in October 2013 Google released the Penguin update which saw many top ranking sites fall from the top.
Speak to SEO agencies, be suspicious of anyone offering a guarantee or secret formula to propel you to the top. Look for transparency and a good track record of achieving and maintaining results for their clients. Here’s what they should be focusing on;
- Quality content – This comes in the form of blog, articles and so on. Establish yourself as an authority on your particular subject. Write good quality articles that offer advice and share updates. Your writing should encourage people to share your content on social media.
- Product and page optimisation – Clean coding is the the order of the day, making sure your <h1> tags are in fact headings, meta tags are correctly used and descriptive and unique content is used for your products. Things like user reviews will introduce natural and unique content.
- Back links – Yup, still important BUT more important than ever that this is done right. Back links must be relevant and from quality websites with good Page Rank. This takes time and is often where SEO companies slip up. Poor quality links will destroy rankings and your business.
3. Check your suppliers
At this stage it is important to check your suppliers are still on board. In most cases some time has elapsed between you speaking to your suppliers and sourcing a web developer. Speak to them, check contracts are in order and delivery times are still achievable.