Setting up an online shop is a great way to increase brand awareness and revenue. However, getting a website up and running can be a little overwhelming, as there are several things to think about: promotion, design, functionality, to name but a few. Thankfully, there are a few easy steps you can follow to get your first ever eCommerce site underway…
1. Be clear about what your site is for
If you’re setting up a website for eCommerce, it’s because you want to sell things online. It sounds obvious — and it is obvious — but a surprising amount of eCommerce sites lose sight of this purpose.
The confusion likely stems from the fact that some really big businesses, like Mars, Coca-Cola and Pepsico, have websites which are by no means sales-orientated. Rather, their sites are reference points, an online presence and a place to get information “from the horse’s mouth”, as it were.
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The biggest mistake you could possibly make when setting up your WordPress site for eCommerce would be to emulate these types of websites. Sure, Mars, Coca-Cola and Pepsico are extremely successful companies. Sure, they have great websites. Sure, they are extremely good at marketing. However, their websites are not for eCommerce. You can’t buy Coca-Cola from the Coca-Cola website; that’s not what it’s for. Its purpose is different from the purpose of your site and, as such, your site should be completely different.
2. First impressions count!
Now it’s time to talk about the layout of your site. This is vital because it will be what makes your site the sales machine that it should be. Nice colours and a good logo are important, but if your site isn’t laid out properly, these other aspects will be next to useless.
The first thing to consider about your layout is what you show “above the fold”. In other words, what will be the first thing people clicking onto your site will see before they scroll? This is an important question to ask yourself, because most visitors will have made up their mind about your site in those crucial first nanoseconds.
So what should you show them above the fold?
3. Dummy proofing: calls to action, buy buttons and a simple menu
Does your site sell your product anyway? It should, and it will if you put the right things above the fold. To start, you need a “buy button”. This doesn’t have to be shiny and red (though that wouldn’t hurt) but it does have to be obvious. Don’t make your visitors search for it. Put it somewhere clear and make sure it sells your product in one imperative sentence:
“Order now for the best wedding services in Birmingham!”
“Click here to claim your FREE SEO review!”
“Buy two pizzas and get the third one FREE!”
How exactly you make that pitch is up to you, but keep it simple and keep it above the fold. A great looking well laid-out buy button is the quickest way to make a sale.
But don’t stop there. Make sure you have a “call to action” on every page of your site. In other words, make sure there is some kind of sales pitch on every page. Don’t ever let your visitors be more than one click away from the sales page!
Added to all this, make sure that your site has a great-looking, fast-loading menu that matches your visitors’ expectations. When customers are searching for your product on Google, what words are they using? Be sure you match those words exactly for every product you sell and for each product category.
The ultimate aim of this three-pronged approach is a dummy-proof website. You want a site so easy to use that your customers can buy your product in their sleep. Don’t make visitors work too hard because, the fact is, they won’t.
4. Do you really know what you’re doing?
Be honest, be modest and ask yourself: “Do I really know how to build a website from scratch?” Even with WordPress, building a website isn’t easy. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Even with the best equipment in the world, building your own shop on the high street is hard. The same is true of online shops.
There’s no shame in asking for advice. In fact, there’s no shame in getting somebody to do the whole thing for you. So long as you have a basic idea of what you want and how much you’re willing to pay, there are many people out there who know how to setup a WordPress website to exact specifications.
5. Your site is a big deal. Let people know
You know that your site is awesome, you know that your product is great and you know that your business is the best of its kind. Still, does anyone else know this? If you’re new to eCommerce, the answer — unfortunately — is going to be a resounding “no”.
Get your name out there any way you can. Set up relevant social media channels for your site and take it seriously. Facebook isn’t all cat pictures and memes; it’s where people are. A Facebook post is a digital billboard and a well-timed, well-worded Tweet can become an international phenomenon. Combine social media with some solid SEO and your site will be climbing the Google rankings in no time.
6. Times change… and your site should too
If you want to feel good about your business, head over to the Wayback Machine and take a look at how some of the biggest businesses in the world looked when they first set up shop online.
To put it bluntly, they looked horrific. Bulky boxes with Comic Sans font and low resolution GIFs doing their three-frame dance all over the place. That was the internet of 1996 and it was hideous. Heck, even sites from 2010 and 2013 look a bit odd now. Thankfully, the Internet grew out of that awkward phase. Websites look much better in 2016, right?
Well, sure… For now. But who’s to say that 2016 sites won’t look a bit lacklustre come 2018? Customers expect ever-faster loading speeds. Customers expect website features that might have been revolutionary two years ago. Customers expect your site to change. So make sure that it does.
Tim Cameron-Kitchen is the owner of Exposure Ninja, the UK’s leading digital marketing agency. Through his business (and with the help of a team of people who know exactly how to setup a WordPress website for eCommerce) Tim helps companies across the world build, improve and promote their eCommerce sites.