Online store launch: a foolproof checklist

Finally. You entered the homestretch. You have your domain name registered, your products are being produced in “for sale” samples, and you have so many exciting ideas to try in your very own and special online store! Certainly, being enthusiastic about your project is the part of the success. Setting up a store is only a matter of a few hours or days, depending on how big you play. But wait: your store is perfect for your standards, but are you sure about your future customers? You already know exactly how your homepage should look, you know how people will find it? If your hands are itchy to start getting orders, do you know how quickly they will be delivered? In other words, the last 10% of your work here can take up to 90% of the time you have spent on it. Below, you will find steps that will abolish the worst mistakes and make your online store launch a decision you will cherish later.

Arranging your store to sell

Know your competitors better than you know yourself. You are an expert when it comes to your product. You know how you will sell it, but before you start, pay the closest attention to the sellers that are already working on your market. Try to understand their soft spots and think of what you can do better than a fellow seller with the same or similar product. Maybe you can ship cheaper? Or provide better deals? Also, it is useful to learn some successful patterns that are already implemented and work just fine. It is safer to start with the backup of experience and trusted techniques. But don’t worry, you will get space and time for experiments later.

Create a business plan. Once you know who you are working with and against, it is time for planning. Even if yoг can’t predict how the things will be going, it will be much easier for you to mark your business development on a path you created yourself. Set your goals for the nearest and far future, write down the features you want to have later and set time limits. You will be able to track your success and know when something went wrong. Don’t be scared off by the officialty of “business plan”, it is a document you write for your personal use.

Define your KPI to ensure the things are going well. To extend your monitoring abilities, take care about performance indicators before the store launch. Depending on what type of products you sell and how anticipated your store is, you can track certain indicators that can be used for Marketing and Sales strategies later. For example:

  1. Conversion rate and cart abandonment rate, which can tell about your overall success;
  2. Monthly sales and average order size, which can tell you about your customer’s purchasing power;
  3. Site traffic and its sources, which can show you the most popular sales channels;
  4. Time spent on site, unique and returning visitors will provide you with the insights what pages may need some improvement.

Write selling product descriptions. No matter if you sell a unique or mass-produced items, the offer itself doesn’t mean anything yet. You should persuade your customers to buy here and now, from you. That means, no copy pasting the characteristics into the description box. Your customers don’t have a chance to touch and see your product, and it’s your job to metaphorically hand it over to them via text paragraph. Here is how:

  • Imagine your ideal buyer and think what are their needs, and address descriptions to them.
  • Turn the features into benefits, that can solve particular problems.
  • Sell the solution to that particular problem, not the product.
  • Avoid praising your product. Of course you think it is great, why would you offer something unworthy to your customers?
  • Get creative and provide live and domestic examples of your product usage.
  • Use words that describe taste and touch to give your customers sensual experience.
  • Provide social proof, because people love opinions. It can be a quotation from a customer review, or the results of poll or research.

Think through your order fulfilment. Shipping organization is a tricky challenge for a new ecommerce business. You should ship fast and cheap and still earn money. It is highly doubtful that you have your own warehouse the moment you start a business, that is why you have lots of points to consider: packaging, inventory management, shipping carriers, and shipping costs for your customers. It sounds overwhelming when you don’t have complete understanding of the system yet or there are no employees to control it for you. In this case, many brands that are too small to maintain a warehouse, opt for drop shipping. Your job will be only to promote and sell products, and then forward your orders to the manufacturer or a shipping company, and they will take care of it till the delivery day. But if you want to go big with your shipping, you might love using extension that adds multiple shipping carriers within the same shipping method.

Optimizing your store

Research the keywords. This is the first step you can take towards Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short. Imagine yourself in your customers shoes once again and think, what would you put into the search bar to buy what you sell? The search for the right keywords will help Google or any other search engine to understand what your site is about and what exactly you sell, and what demographics you aim. These words should be smoothly integrated into your site structure and content. You shouldn’t underestimate the power SEO has over your findability, especially when you are the new player on the market. Customers tend to avoid new places to shop and stick to the ones they are used to, and it can be hard to conquer their trust. But massive promotion in the search results can catch attention and visitors, and your content, design and products should do the rest. To track their activity, start with setting up a Google Analytics Account.

Make your content search engine friendly. You may write thousands of words for every page of your store but none of them will be suitable or relevant for search engines. But which content is considered relevant? First of all, remember that it is not search engines who read your texts, but your customers. They are not interested in a pile of keywords, they need to see full characteristics, prices, usage, shipping terms and any other information that can be useful for their purchase decision. There are a few tips on how make your content SEO-optimized without making it poor.

  1. Invest effort into longer descriptions. A paragraph of only a few sentences can be recognized as low quality content by search engines.
  2. Avoid page duplicates if you have different versions of the same product. t it happens if you have the same product in a few sizes or color options. What you should do is to direct search engine robots to the one page by tagging it “canonical” in the HTML header of the page.
  3. Clean duplicate URLs from categories. This issue of a few pages with the same content can also be fixed with rel-canonical tag.

Optimize your images. There are certain criteria that your product pics should meet. It is nice when there are plenty of them, they are unique, clear and of high definition. That sounds realizable. But at the same time, all of your pictures should be optimized for the web, preferably without quality loss. Pictures should weigh less, because customers are impatient and can’t wait for your page to load more than a few seconds. For that purpose, you can compress your images manually with any application that has such a feature, but if you have a catalog of at least a few hundred products, it can last for eternity. However, there are solutions like Image Magick, that resizes your pictures automatically and preserves their quality. Here is the list of SEO features that are available in Magento 2.

Get familiar with your customers

Launch a landing page. You can gain customers even before you open sales. A landing page is a doorstep where you can welcome potential customers and offer them to come by later. On a landing page, you can showcase your products or tease your customers with amazing stuff that is yet to come. Here, you can start building your initial audience by collecting their emails. In exchange for interest to your brand and personal information, you can offer discounts and promo codes. You can have an audience that is interested in your brand by the store opening.

Mark your presence in social networks. Registering your brand on biggest social networks is the easiest and cheapest promotion you can get. Hardly any company today doesn’t have Twitter, Instagram or a Facebook page, where customers and fans can ask you questions, leave their reviews or just learn about you and your products in a different way. Social networking can positively influence you brand image, spread awareness and make your audience feel connected to you. The choice of networks is up to you: some of them will work better than others, depending on what you sell, which content you post and who are your subscribers. There are no limits or rules on how you should handle your posts, but there is a recommendations:

  1. Use the same or almost the same name for all social media accounts. People who want to find you elsewhere should be able to do so, knowing only your brand name.
  2. Register only those accounts that you will use, develop and check regularly. Then you won’t disappoint one’s expectations and waste someone’s trust and time.

Get ready with a newsletter. Social media accounts are not enough to sustain a connection with your customers. Since the day one, you should build your email marketing database, work on growing it bigger. Of course it is impossible to manage that on your own and come with with creative emails every day. Your helpers here are email marketing software and a content plan, ideally for weeks ahead. Besides getting creative, you should prepare email templates for different occasions like welcome emails, birthday emails, and shopping cart abandonment emails. To make sure your SMTP is configured properly and your emails always reach your customer inbox, you can use tools like Custom SMTP Configuration.

Time to start selling! We mentioned only a few essential points that are proven to be useful for those who are new to ecommerce. Otherwise, your pre-launch activities are only limited only by your time, budget and imagination. Have a great store launch!

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