12-Point E-commerce Checklist For Brick-and-Mortar Retailers Who Want An Online Store
When you hire a professional to build your e-commerce website, the developer becomes responsible for a large portion of the work. While you won’t be required to get involved with the physical work of building or coding, there is still a fair amount of work that you will need to do. That is why we have created this e-commerce checklist.
Your website designer/developer will need you to provide clear direction and details about your business. All too often, clients want to “just get something up” in a hurry. We have found that clients who understand the importance of building a strong foundation for their online store are more likely to be successful.
We have compiled this 12 point e-commerce checklist, It should give you a good idea of what decisions you will need to make. This list does not include every single thing, but it does cover the big issues. You are not expected to know everything that there is to know about websites. That’s why you hire an experienced developer. If there are concepts that you don’t understand or options that are unclear, ask your developer for guidance.
Note: this e-commerce checklist assumes that you are an established, brick-and-mortar business with a website, even if that website does not yet support online sales.
E-commerce Checklist for Business Owners
Research Payment Gateways
When you make a sale in your physical, brick-and-mortar business, you contract with a service that processes, verifies and accepts or declines credit card transactions. With an online store, you need a similar service. However, this service will be for online sales. Choose a company that charges reasonable transaction fees (typically around 2.9%). Your existing card processor may be able to offer this service.
Define Shipping Options
Shipping and fulfillment is another crucial and complex issue to address when setting up your online store. Choosing a shipping partner is step one. UPS, USPS and FedEx are three of the most popular options. You also need to work out packaging and presentation. Set up a reliable and consistent formula for packing and protecting your products. Will you have boxes custom printed with your logo? Include a coupon with every package? Offer free shipping? International shipping? Flat rate shipping? How will you charge for tracking and insurance?
Plan Your Shipping Area
Where will pack and ship your product? Define a specific area for packing and shipping all outgoing packages. Leave enough room to store boxes and other packing materials, and a flat surface to work on. Who will be responsible for this particular task? Will you have an online store manager? Will you need to hire more staff?
Define Return and Exchange Policies
Nobody wants to encourage returns, but they are a part of doing business. A good website will minimize disappointment by providing accurate descriptions and multiple product images. Yet even with the most comprehensive information, there will still be returns. Your return policy should be clear, concise and easy to find. What time limits will you impose? Will you offer exchange, credit or cash? Will you charge a restocking fee?
What about Sales Tax?
When you run a brick-and-mortar store, your transactions occur within your local sales tax jurisdiction. When you run an online store, your transactions can occur anywhere. Sales tax rates and laws vary between states, and even between counties. We suggest that you speak with your tax professional before setting up your online store to ensure that you are in compliance.
Decide on an E-commerce Pricing Strategy
If you’re selling the same products online as you do in your physical location, will you price them the same? Will you up-charge based on the additional packing and shipping costs associated with an online sale? Maybe you’ll charge less for price-sensitive items because comparative shopping is easier online. There is no right or wrong answer here. You’ll come up with the best answer for your business by considering the products you are selling, the people you are selling to, and your competition.
Arrange Product Photography
High quality images are vital to a positive online shopping experience, and consistency is key. Just as you want every page of your website to have a similar look and feel, all your images should have a similar look. At a minimum, all product images should have the same color background. Ideally you’ll also have multiple images for each product, taken from different angles and from a variety of distances. Before the first product shoot begins, your website developer will need to tell you what resolution the final images will need to be. (Unless you have experience with product photography, we suggest hiring a professional photographer to stage your photos.)
Write Product Descriptions
Product descriptions serve as both advertising message and sales person. Detailed descriptions for each and every product will help your customer make a purchasing decision. Describe as much as you can without being flowery or verbose. Your descriptions must be unique to your site: never copy content from other websites and don’t use the manufacturer’s description either. (Google will penalize you for this.)
It is important to note that in addition to helping your potential customers understand your products, good descriptions will help your site get found. Search engines cannot see images, so the descriptions you write for your products will be what Google uses to match search queries with your products.
Develop Content for Static Pages
In addition to catalog pages for your online store, your website should also have a number of static pages. The focus of your product pages (online catalog) should be on selling. Static content pages should be focused on information and providing value to customers. These pages provide SEO (search engine optimization) benefits and can help sell more product by engaging customers. Static pages can include customer stories and case studies. Consider adding a blog, too, which can contain industry news and tips, as well as a resource section with care and use information.
Set Up Off-Site Marketing
Before the site is launched, set up social media profiles and a bulk email account. If you are going to have a blog on your website, we recommend having at least half a dozen posts written when the site launches. We also recommend having another dozen that can be published over the first few weeks. Try to get on a regular schedule for writing blog posts. Having a handful of posts ready to go may take some of the pressure off.
Develop a Procedure for Providing Outstanding Customer Service
Customers expect prompt answers to questions and orders to be processed in a timely fashion. Store owners should be prepared to check email multiple times every day. If you want return customers, you will need to be highly responsive.
The physical world and the online worlds are merging, especially in the retail marketplace. With an online store, brick-and-mortar retailers can very quickly expand their pool of potential customers. While this is a fantastic opportunity, it should not be rushed into. Business owners should consider the work that is required to set up, run and maintain this important new part of your business.