How to create a successful online store
I will start by saying that I’m a Shopify platform designer and web development specialist. I have been a part of and have analyzed numerous eCommerce stores from the beginning through to completion, so I can confidently say, I am an expert in eCommerce design. This experience allows me to create a better picture of this complex and competitive sector. I have witnessed the growth and fall of online stores, which I will share in this article.
I will start by listing what I believe are the most common mistakes and suggestions to eliminate these mistakes. This article also offers tips and solutions to creating a successful online store.
The most common mistakes
Website Design Overkill
An eCommerce startup is when an online store is in its early stages. In this stage, you create a plan to build and market your products to the targeted customers. However, the standard business practices can kill your online store at an early stage. Introducing new products involves many assumptions of what people need or want, when, and how they want the product. These assumptions are dangerous and can lead to business failure, especially when the owner fails to communicate with target consumers by doing market research.
Website design overkill involves overloading your website with too much information, which can confuse customers. To have a successful online store, you don’t need to overload it with unnecessary features. You need to do what your clients need. The rest is EXTRA and can even be harmful to the user experience if not well thought.
The cost of creating an online store can change drastically based on the functions and design of the website. For instance, using a banner with a specific design might appear simple and easy to make, but it takes hours and more money to design. The banner might make your website bulky, and it would take too much time to load, which is frustrating to your clients.As a result, you spend a considerable amount of money for a banner that doesn’t translate into a more efficient website design. Therefore, always ask yourself if what you are doing will help to increase the efficiency of the website, and be ready to be flexible with your ideas.
The last strong suggestion is that you should control yourself if you are a perfectionist. There is a fine line between adjusting your design and doing things that are not even noticeable from the 99.9% of the users, try to keep your instincts from correcting everything. A few unneeded adjustments to your website will not make a huge difference to your visitors, but it can to your bank account!
I say that only because I’ve seen shops spending literally hundreds of hours of work on adjusting irrelevant things (only noticeable from the store owner) and leaving behind important things that were impacting the user experience. So the best way to avoid that is to create a priority task list, always act on the most important things first, and ask the honest opinion of people around you and your target customers.
It is also crucial to note that using short and boring content doesn’t make your website better. Learn to balance the content, images, and links on your website.
Using a cheap and poor quality website
In the previous paragraph, we explained how to not overkill your website and only do what is needed, but this doesn’t mean that you have to have a low-quality product.
Your website store is similar to a physical store. If it is not attractive, easy to find, clean, tidy, and with the right design, people will be discouraged from coming in and buy something. So it is important that you never underestimate the importance of design, and remember that an online client is way more delicate than a physical one, because it only takes a click for them to leave your shop.
The user experience of website design is paramount in an online store. It is the same as building a house. If the foundations are not made properly, the house will always have problems, and it will end up with you spending EXTRA money trying to fix problems resulting from the original poor design.
It is tempting, especially at the beginning, to hire someone for $10/h, but almost always this converts on spending twice, later on, on fixing bugs and issues.
I’ve had many clients who previously had this issue before working with me, it can be a very costly and time consuming issue when we have to spend time recorrecting issues like this. Always look for a reliable expert with considerable experience.
Not listening to the others (Dismissing Feedback)
Failing to speak to prospective customers almost always has one guaranteed outcome, business failure. Consequently, it is important that as a store owner, you listen to the opinions of target clients and experts. For example, if you sell anti-aging beauty products, you know that you will have to communicate with people of a certain age who will possibly use your products.
Don’t dismiss ideas or fail to reach out to others when developing an online store. Discuss it with others, especially if these people are more experienced than you are and implement the strategies that would work for your store.
Settling on your comfort zone
You have a website running, maybe even a successful online store, WOW you made it! Now what? Just sit and enjoy what you did?
Not really, unfortunately, you are swimming with sharks, and sharks don’t sleep. You always need to stay alert of what is happening around you, how your website performs, and if there is anything you can do to improve it. The moment that you sit and stop doing this, it will be the beginning of the end.
Failing to invest in Marketing
This is one issue I have noticed with many people investing in online stores.
Let’s be clear, NO MARKETING NO CLIENTS. Yes, without marketing of any kind, you will have a really hard time selling your products. Even if you have an innovative idea and no competitors at all, people will not magically know about your existence. You need to let them know; you need Marketing.
Marketing is not something that you do for a few months; it must be something that continues and evolves constantly. The more your business goes well, the more you invest in marketing.
Marketing can be done in a lot of different ways. Some clever people even accomplished extraordinary results pushing their online store to be extremely successful without paying for anything, but still, you need a plan.
Steps to follow to create a successful online store
Step 1: The MVP
When you start an eCommerce, you simply don’t know what will work and what will not, you can assume something, copy from your competitors, imagine what your clients want, but you will never be 100% sure that those assumptions are correct. The only way to know it is to have your website live, with the minimum features to make it usable.
This is called MVP or minimum valuable product, and it entails having your website up and running ASAP and with just the minimum essentials to go online. This means no fancy animation, no extra functions, or pixel detail designs. Spend the minimum to have something usable and start getting real data from your users. You can ask for feedback, collect and analyze customers’ shopping behaviours inside the website. This way you have an incredible quantity of data that will help you decide your next steps.
Step 2: Learn and apply
Now you have a database of information, and you can see where to take action. Will you do it all together with a huge task list? The answer is NO.
Small steps that follows an investigation and feedback to see if what you did was effective or not. You only proceed to the next round of steps when the previous works well.
This methodology in project management is called “Agile,” and as the term suggests, to be agile means changing direction by always adopting what is really needed. If you start a huge task list, you may find out later on that some things you assumed on that list are wrong, and that you need to go back and modify some of your steps. However, going back at this point means redesigning a huge portion of the website, spend more money and resources.
That’s why it is better to work on small “burst” of tasks always followed by a verification process that can validate what is done, or send it back for some more modifications. This means no waste of money and time, and most of all, you only do what your clients need.
Some tools to get that information are:
Step 3: Keep the attention as it was your first week online
It is really important that you keep your website up-to-date. It becomes easy to get blinded by the incomes of a successful online store, but remember that nothing is perfect, and your competitors may be working harder to overtake your business. Therefore, it is important to be alert, always improve, and test your new website designs.
Also, it is essential to conduct monthly market and competitor research. Conducting regular research will help you keep abreast of all your competitors.
You need to keep an eye on your SEO especially your Keyword ranking. This is the only way you have to see how your presence online is going, and if you have any competitor that is investing resources on SEO.
The steps for that are the following
- Check out all the keywords you are targeting, if you did an SEO strategy you must already have that list. If you didn’t have any SEO strategy yet you can find the most used keyword on your Google Webmaster console. Check out this article
- Insert the keyword list on a Rack Checker tool, I personally use this one Se Rank and I have to say that is the best one out there for it ́s price range.
- Monitoring: always check how is the ranking of your keywords, with “Se Rank” you can see as well who are the competitors that you have for each keyword. Always try to improve your content and text, in order to grow constantly. Here an article about how to improve your SEO.
I strongly believe that having an online store is an amazing business, and I will probably open one in the future. I’m also aware of the difficulty and the low percentage of successful online stores. So, don’t start with strange fantasies, and keep your feet on the ground. Keep your expenses as low as possible, and try to spend on what will make your store successful. It all sounds obvious when you hear it like this, but I can assure you it is really easy to forget.
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