What Do You Need To Start An E-commerce Business: A Checklist

bcwebwise ecommerceIt is time to get online and create a cost effective sales channel, after all consumers are researching your products online and reading peer recommendations. It just makes sense to get online and enable the target customers to buy your product with a click of the mouse. So just what do you need to start an Ecommerce business. We have tried to simplify it for you here:

1. Choose a Ecommerce System/ Shopping Cart Platform:

Foremost, you need to select a technology platform for the Ecommerce to run on. You may not understand the nitty gritties of this, but an online research on the subject, reviews and recommendations will help. If you can speak to a successful Ecommerce business and get their recommendation, even better.

We highly reccomend using the Magento e-commerce system. . Magento is extremely scalable, open source, easy to use and quickly becoming the most popular shopping cart system around.

You may also want to explore being available on other popular online stores and weigh the options of your exclusive store plus being present on other online shopping networks such as: India Times Shop, Rediff Shopping, Ebay, Flipkart, etc.

2. Domain Name Registration and Web Hosting

You need to plan and book a domain name for your ecommerce site and get this registered. If you are starting a serious e-commerce business, start with the right web host to ensure that your website will be fast and reliable. The data centre that will provide you with the servers for hosting your website should be able to provide you with 24/7 support. The data centre should also have the necessary firewalls and security in place.

3. Product List/Catalogue

Identify list of products that you want to sell online. Research on products or information related to your products that are currently searched by the target customers will help in finalizing the product list. Check if competing products are currently sold online and if yes, look for information on how they are currently being sold, and how has the online sales of these products been, how are they being promoted, what is right and not about the ecommerce for these products.

4. Product Images

Having your products shown clearly on your website is extremely important to the overall look of the site as well as the conversion rate of the site. It might cost a bit more than you expect to have professional photos of your products taken it can really separate the websites that get sales from those that do not. Whether it is a fashion garment or an OTC drug, seeing the product image gives consumer’s confidence to click the buy button.

5. Product Titles & Descriptions

Appropriate titles and descriptions for your products is necessary. Copy should inform plus do the selling. Attention to doing this for each product in your catalogue is a must, as this can make or break your sale. Also from a search engine view point, this descriptive information will help in optimization of the pages for search engines helping in the product being found when someone is searching for it.

Do a competitive search of other successful ecommerce sites to study how they do it.

6. Shipping Account

When someone buys something, you have to send it to them. Make sure that you sign up for a reliable delivery service such as Fedex or DHL.

7. Packing/ Shipping Products

How you will pack the products for delivery, labeling, etc. also need to be looked into and should be the starting point. Work out the logistics and if that is not in place no matter what you do with your e-shop, it is bound to fail.

8. Security (SSL)

Your website is going to need an SSL certificate to encrypt credit card transactions. All modern web browsers will warn users that they are about to enter a site that does not follow necessary security protocols, in other words it is unlikely the customer is going to proceed visiting your page.

9. Helpline Number – Preferably Toll Free and 24/7

A toll free phone number for your customers to call if they have a problem. A 24/7 online chat system will also help.

10. Newsletter Management System

Your customer list will need to be sent regular emails relating to their transaction plus to promote other related products, seasonal/festive offers etc.

11. Establish Ecommerce Policies

Your ecommerce store should include a policies section that covers all of your policies for shipping costs, returns, exchanges and customer service inquiries. A frequently asked questions section can be implemented based on the email questions you receive most often through your toll-free number or through your customer service email. In the end, this can save time and money and also help in closing a sale online.

12. Ecommerce Team

Managing your online presence is an important task that should have dedicated staff, just as you would have for your brick and mortar store. In addition to processing orders, the website needs to be continually updated with new product offerings and inventory status of available stock. Customer service inquiries should be handled promptly and customers should be kept in the loop about the status of their order. This staff can also handle the marketing of your ecommerce site.

13. Payment Options

When the planning of ecommerce is done, simultaneously one needs to select the payment gateway that will be used. How are you geographically targeting your audience can help to address this. Ideally prefer the gateway that supports most of currency.

14. Getting Verisign

Vulnerability and Malware scan is a must on the website. Ideally go with a Verisign trusted seal, it also gives consumer confidence to see this seal on your e-commerce pages and the final transaction pages.

15. Integration with third-party software

Normally all ecommerce product section is integrated with POS or some ERP system that is used to also manage the offline sales. While designing ecommerce sections it is important to be clear about the modules from the ERP system that need to be integrated with the online database. Further how this database (particularly for product stocks) will be updated and in what frequency needs to be defined.

16. Explore Enabling Shopping On Mobile Phones

Where and when is your customer likely to look for you? If your target audience is on the go, and in India we all know that just about everyone carries a phone today, it may be wise to build a mobile friendly shopping site. Today’s digital consumer expects a seamless, personalized, online shopping experience via whatever device they choose.

17. Increasing Your Site’s accessibility

You may want to explore the option of building separate sites, or building just one site that Is device friendly by opting for a responsive design. Read more about it in our previous post. http://blog.bcwebwise.com/2012/04/19/responsive-design/

18. Market Your Site & Driving Sales

Finally, it would take investment in online marketing to create awareness about your e-store and drive the footfalls. Explore SEO, plus PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns, network advertising, etc.

To finally convert the visitors to buyers, ensure that the online shopping experience is visually appealing, is seamless and smooth, friendly and usability driven at every step. So do dry runs of the page designs and flows with User-testing before you finalize the wireframe, design and the flow of the pages.

So get ready to do some real business online!

Does Your Website Open On IPads & Mobile Phones? Do You Need Responsive Design

Two weeks back one of our clients was in complete dismay that the site we created for him did not open on his iPad. It took a while for us to make him understand that his entire site was built on Flash. He has not released the last installment of our payments. And the work ahead on promoting his brand is all stalled as he grapples with the fact that we will have to build another version for his site to open in hand held devices.

So, well yes, the big question: Do you need a website that will open in just about any device that one can access the Internet on?

But the bigger question: Do you need to make that extra investment in getting a responsive design for your website.

What Is Responsive Design

Its been doing the rounds on the web for a while, but for the uninitiated, here’s a quick note on it: Responsive design is a design that can adapt itself to any device. So based on the screen size of the device, as well as the technology on which it operates, this site will degrade gracefully.

Responsive design is built using languages such as HTML, HTML5, CSS3 and jQuery, and does not use Flash at all.

Smashing Magazine Responsive Design On Desktop

Smashing Magazine Responsive Design On Desktop

Smashingmagazine.com on iPad

Smashingmagazine.com on iPad

smashingmagazine.com on mobile phones

smashingmagazine.com on mobile phones

How Is Responsive Design Different from Web Design

Web design has been led by desktops and laptops that run on platforms that allow Flash. Second, there is fair standardization on screen resolutions (or sizes) and designs are done based on standard resolutions or to adapt to standard resolutions.

Responsive design takes it a step further. Foremost, it eliminates Flash! So Adobe does have some work to do here, and while they are, there are different languages that work to help your site adapt to any device. Our own website is built on part-responsive design. It adapts to tablets and the web, and smart phones. But we do have another mobile version too that addresses the lower end versions of the phone.

BC Web Wise on A Desktop

 

Do You Need Responsive Design?

This is a big question. The answer really lies in the profile of your target audience and their own usage habits of accessing Internet, are they likely to access it on-the-go, or are they sitting at homes and offices when they are likely to access your information. Second, what is the value per customer, and how large is your customer base. So if you are a B2C organization, a typical fast moving consumer goods company for instance, it is likely that a larger audience is on desk and laptops.

bcwebwise.com fluid design on iPad

bcwebwise.com on smartphones

But if you are a financial services company with a B2B product and your TG is the white collared high profile jet-set executive he wants quick information on-the-go and is likely to be on tablets and definitely using the smart phone.

Want to know know how many of your existing audience attempts to access you from any handheld device? Check your Google Analytics. In the left-side menu, click on `Audience’. Browse the operating system and devices used by visitors to find your site. (Source: http://designmodo.com/responsive-design-business/#ixzz1sTELYrni )

How Interactive & Engaging Does Your Site Need To Be?

There is a reason that there are so many Flash developers out there, and while many may want to write them off today, fact is that the levels of interactivity and engagement that Flash can provide is still unmatched because more people today know how Flash works than those who can work on other languages. (Online gaming for instance is dominated by Flash.) If your audience base is largely on the desk and laptops, you may consider not opting for a Responsive Design, but not without the risk of losing the influential lot who may try to access you on-the-go. So have a version of your engagement program specifically built for the handheld devices.

But if your customer is on-the-go, or if your sales force is on-the-go and needs to share info, present your entire product line and service information on the move, then responsive design may be the answer.

For example our website uses Flash, but is programmed not to display the Flash part of the site on an iPad that does not support Flash. The resolution of the site is fluid, and adapts to various screen sizes automatically.

Note: If you are building a Flash site, then there should be alternative text based content so that when a user opens it on an iPad there is graceful degradation of the website.

What You Should Know When Making A Site for Handheld Devices

Excluding iOS (Operating Software for Apple Devices), there are also other OS for tablets like Blackberry (Playbook), Android with various versioning, etc. These tablets come in various sizes and based on these sizes come various resolutions. In such kind of scenarios there should be rigorous testing on various resolutions when your site is getting built.

One Size Fits All vis-a-vis Multiple Versions of your site

A good responsive design is more expensive than traditional Flash, that is, if you are expecting high end animation and transitions that are close to the experience that Flash animation can provide. But a basic website built on an HTML will be the least expensive.

It would be foolhardy to blindly opt for a Responsive Design and limit interactivity you can achieve on desk tops. Equally it would be fool hardy to blindly opt for multiple version of your website that is suited for various devices. A good approach would be to get multiple cost solutions and to clearly understand the design limitations as well as potential of each.

Online Consumer Behaviour – Content Planning for Different Digital Touch Points

Consumers behave differently at different digital touch points. The reason why they visit a brand website, and why they follow a brand on twitter can be very different. Planning content by clearly understanding the visitor’s mindset at different digital touch points can help to establish a meaningful connect with them and fostering a long term relationship. Here’s a quick guide to the Internet user’s digital media psyche:

Online Consumer Behaviour

Users on different digital touch points consume content in each for different reasons

The Website Visitor
Is proactively seeking info in your brand domain

  • This visitor has landed on the website primarily when searching for content or seeing a relevant recommendation or post that links to your website, or has come to the website knowing the url (may be a repeat visitor).
  • Is seeking immediate answers if the visitor has come from a search engine, or is curious to know more about you if the visit is not via a search engine. Repeat visitors come for a specific purpose of information seeking or engagement (such as dabbling with an online app or engaging in a forum).
  • Can engage further in the website if her query is addressed and there is relevant and/or engaging content.
Facebook Logo

Users on Facebook Chance Upon Updates

The Facebook Visitor
It Is The Brand That Is proactively reaching out to this user

  • The consumers here are hanging out to check latest updates from friends, family and acquaintances.
  • Chances upon brand updates, comments and likes if relevant, shares when compelling. Sharing happens when the content is Fun/ Informative / Relevant to immediate circle
  • Clicks to know more, visits the URL when relevancy or engagement is meaningful and there is a ‘need’ for such further engagement
Blog Sites

Blog Readers Want Expert Opinion

The Blog Reader
Is proactively seeking an informed opinion of another consumer or expert

  • Reads up a post when she is searching for information, and/or has subscribed to a favorite blogger’s feeds
  • Prefers a second opinion and usually would scan 2-3 blogs before deciding whose opinion is best suited.
  • Would usually scan blog comments before deciding / making the final choice.
  • Is usually someone to whom word-of-mouth or recommendations counts the most.
Forums

Forum Users Seek Peer Opinion

The Forum Subscriber
This user wants mass opinion, what peers have to say.

  • Usually visits a forum via search, may frequent thereafter
  • Possibly wants to ask a question, get opinions.
  • Reads discussions by others
  • May get answers or make an opinion/choice even without posting a query
Twitter

Twitter Users Follow For Updates

The Twitter Follower
Is proactively following to be updated in the subject

  • Twitter has many inactive, and equal number of hyper active tweeple and the occassional users.
  • There are some who are on twitter with a specific agenda: Save time by following people whose tweets give quick relevant updated information
  • Tweeple usually follow more than one area of interest
  • Reaching them is not always easy due to the rapid updates in tweets

However, visibility on twitter can be enhanced by following trending topics, being crisp and juicy, getting the right people to follow you with relevant hashtags, and targeting the right follows.

Linkedin

Linkedin Users Seek Career Advancement

The LinkedIn User
This consumer is seeking ONLY career or business advancement

  • The LinkedIn user is very specifically looking at making a career advancement, getting deals, networking, improving visibility
  • Will join groups that will give relevant networking opportunities or content that will better their career in some way.
Youtube Logo

Youtube Visitors Seek Visual Info/Demos

The Youtube Visitor
Wants entertainment, visual explanations, demos, how to’s

  • Users watching videos online are likely to have opted for video content when searching for related information
  • Or has been forwarded the link
  • Or is specifically seeking video content directly on Youtube for visual relay of similar information that has been read, unless it is entertainment related.
Search Engines

Audience Is Searching For Domain-related Info

The Search User
Proactively seeking your domain information

  • Is specifically seeking information
  • Tries out 2-3 links or more on first search results
  • Finds different combinations of keywords to refine searches till she gets a satisfactory answer
  • Is likely to spend more time searching for the right information, than done on looking up that information!
  • Is also likely to explore related information and content
Mobile Search

Mobile Search Users Are In A Hurry

Search Users On Mobile
Is in a hurry!

The context of searching on the mobile phone is usually on the go, urgent and also a matter of convenience.

Mobile & Tablet Users
On the move, wants quick info, utility tools & engaging apps

  • More savvy users, and the ones with smart phones use the mobile phone for everything: FB, Twitter, Search, Email, etc.
  • Such users also install and play around with applications that are useful, fun or relevant.
  • The tablet owners, smaller in number, but a significant group and an influential audience does all of the above on tablets.

If you plan to use multiple channels on the web to disseminate your brand information, then customizing or fine tuning your content by understanding the customer mindset in each of these channels can help in the forming of long term engagement and loyalty, as well as recall. And remember less is more!