AUG 22 2013

Thinking About Opening A Web Shop? A Guide For Your Checklist Before You Start

Tips For Website Owners

I will open a web shop and I’ll be finally rich. Some would say. They might just get rich but it is far not as simple as it seems. There must be a lot of things prepared and thought through before one would actually start to create the shop or hire a web designer. There are a lot of factors and bits and pieces for an internet shop to be successful. Or even functional. I would like to point out just some of the basic things you need to consider to add to your checklist.

 1. Products

I guess you have some of those, otherwise you would not want a shop, right? (No, than you are at the wrong place. Come back when you’ve got some.) Your products need to be attractively presented.

Product Title

Avoid duplicates. Make the name of the product which is also normally the title of your product detail page very specific to the product. If the variations are listed as separate products include a reference to it in the title. Red, small, for men etc.

Product Descriptions

Once again you will need two sets of descriptions. The short description that will appear on a listing page and most of the times this same text will show up in the search engines result pages when someone would search for something you sell. This should be just 1-2 sentences and specific to the individual product. “Red Shoes” is not enough, that’s too generic. Think of something about 150 character long give or take.

The long description will appear on the product detail page. This can and should be longer describing well and in detail the individual product. This is the place for your sales pitch also. Give it all you got. Try to avoid having the exact same text for different products.

Product Images

Meaning good photos or illustrations if it’s not photographable, and if possible more than just one. If your products have color variations you will need to show that too. Or at least show the right color or the pattern that they have. Nobody wants returns for unexpected color or size. Internet shoppers expect to receive the exact product they ordered. Mistakes from mispresenting your product could be very pricy on the long run. The competition is very strong and a couple of bad reviews can chase away your customers very easily. You will generally need a small picture for a product listing page and bigger one(s) for the product detail page. The small picture can be a smaller version of the detail photo but if it’s possible you can add a different view of the product that will make it more recognizable in a smaller size.

One more tip on the product photos. Name the image files with meaningful titles and don’t forget to fill in the alt tags with the appropriate product name (+) variation. This will help you with your search result position later. Tell your webmaster to pay special attention to this if you are not creating your own shop.

Product Categories

If you have more than just a handful products it is a good idea to organize them into logical categories. Your shop will be a lot easier to use for the customer and easier for you to administer. Give the categories good titles and description kind of the same way as I described for the products although most of the time the short description alone will do but if you think you can give more info that’s even better.

Stock

Most of the available e-commerce systems will allow you to count the stock. This is a good thing if you don’t want to manually put items out of stock every time you run out of them but the system will do it for you if you keep your stock up to date of course. This can avoid selling something you don’t have and deal with refunds or keeping your customer waiting until you restock.

2. The Shop’s Name

If you have a well known real shop, you should probably just go with that but if not it’s a good idea to give your shop a name that’s well related to the range of your products. Same goes for your domain. If you sell stuff only within one country it’s a good to use the specific suffix like .ch for Switzerland to help with geo positioning your site.

3. Shop Design

Keep your web shop’s design related to your products. There are thousands of free or paid templates available on the internet. If you are not creating something original and decide to choose a ready made template choose something simple, well structured one that will be easy to use for your customers. If you sell cat stuff don’t use a business style design or the other way around.

shipping from online shop

photo from sxc.hu

4. Shipping

When you sell a product you will need to deliver it somehow to the buyer. You can offer various options but you have to be well prepared for each scenario. If you offer UPS but you deliver with DHL, some customers may be unhappy. Find the right way that’s the fastest possible at a cost the customer is ready pay or if you offer free shipping at a cost you are willing to pay.

Shipping Cost Calculation

There are a variety of ways how you can calculate the cost of the shipping for your customers. Price per item, per weight, price calculated on the total purchase value, free shipping over certain price etc. Just make sure it’s reliably working and it’s clearly stated and calculated in the total your customer pays at checkout. Oops, I forgot to charge you for the delivery will not work.

5. Payments

I don’t have to mention how important this is. You can offer whatever suits you and is accepted and well trusted by your target customers. You will need to make sure that all online payments are being done securely. Also that your customers sensitive data like credit card details etc. is handled securely. If you don’t find a better solution you can use options like bank transfer or using some of the online payment systems like Paypal or similar. They are not for free so you will have to somehow calculate it in the price or add a surcharge to the total.

Currencies

Offering your products in different currencies is cool but do you really need it. If you don’t try to avoid it. The currency rates are always changing. You can set your own conversion rate but how often you will do that? When you miss to change it will you not loose on the conversion, or will you not become too expensive an unattractive for a while? You can also use some online conversion services with some extra percentage to keep your prices up to date following the fluctuation but this will result in prices in the other currency like 23.76. How attractive is that instead of 23.99 or some similar, familiar format. Of you can price each of your products differently for different countries. Then what? I will change the currency to the one that comes cheaper. So if you don’t have to, don’t use it.

online payment

Photo from sxc.hu

6. Product Ratings

Decide if you want to allow site visitors to vote, rate or comment on products. I think it’s generally a good idea. Most available e-commerce systems come with this option with the possibility to moderate. So if somebody writes something unfavorable you can just delete it and leave the praising ones. Comments will create additional text on your site increasing the number of keywords that can be useful when appearing in search results. Ratings or votes can be turned into so called snippets that can also bring extra attention to your link in the search pages. Imagine that your product will also show 5 stars on a google page when the others not. The eye just goes right there. You’ve seen those around for sure.

7. About Your Shop

To build up trust with your customers you will need an about page that will describe your business well. Time for your marketing skills.

8. Privacy Statement

Your customers rightfully have the need to know how their personal data is being handled. Write it down honestly what you do with them if you want to avoid some lawsuits later for disclosing some client info they didn’t agree to. In the EU you also have to deal with the “cookie law”, which is in my opinion a bunch of cr*p but what can we do.

9. Trade Marks and Copyright

Be careful with using other company logos, images, text etc. Make sure you have permission for all the borrowed material. You can get in serious trouble if you ignore this.

10. Terms And Conditions

You have to have a well written page describing your terms and conditions for shopping on your site. No under 18, state it. Only ship to Middle Earth, state it. Describe your terms on shipping, the payment methods, disclaimers, warranty and return conditions, everything that can save you from a law suite. Make your customer accept these conditions before closing the sale. The same goes for the privacy statement. If you let customers purchase without accepting these they can come back later and claim crazy things from you.

11. Promotion

I left it for the last even this is the most important part. Your success is depending on the promotion you put in. If nobody finds you, nobody will buy from you. I will write some tips on promoting your shop in a later article. Please do check back.

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