10 Steps to Building a Profitable Ecommerce Site
Posted Under: e-commerce
All online merchants want their ecommerce sites to be successful; they want their sites to set the cash registers jingling and get their businesses booming. But as they say, there is a slip between the cup and the lip, so you can wish for a profitable ecommerce site, but that doesn’t mean you will get one easily. The profitability of a site is determined right from the time it’s being built. From site conceptualization to deployment, all stakeholders, must make profitability-oriented decisions.
We can take a look at this decision making through a series of ten steps that is a prerequisite for building an ecommerce site that is conversion friendly and becomes a revenue generating Godzilla for the online merchant.
Step 1: Make a Detailed Project Brief
You must be very clear about the kind of product you want to sell, the features that your website must have and how you want it to look. There are plenty of people who put the complete onus of conceptualizing their websites in the hands of their developers. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but as the owner of the site, it’s your job to have a clear idea of what you want. So, clearly define the purpose and objectives of the site and get some idea of the kind of visuals and functionalities you want to see on your site.
Step 2: Pick the Right Developers
This is a crucial step that has bearing on how your ecommerce site is built. As somebody who wants an effective ecommerce site, you can’t compromise on the quality of the people who you entrust to breathe life into your project. Work with only the reputed names in the industry. In order to do that, do some research, approach a few companies, talk to the clients who have already worked with these companies, and make an informed decision so that you pick right developers who can handle your project with all the confidence that comes from having a successful track record of building profitable ecommerce sites.
(Tip: While taking a looking at the work they a company has done, if possible, check where their ecommerce websites stand as far as profitability is concerned.)
Step 3: Pick the Perfect Ecommerce Platform
This is a crucial step. There are plenty of ecommerce platforms that you can choose from including Zen Cart, OpenCart, Magento, WordPress, and osCommerce. So, how do you pick the platform that suits your needs and requirements best? The correct answer is, allow the developer to pick the right platform for you! The best developers will conduct a project feasibility study, and then go about choosing a platform that offers all the features that will help your site generate the maximum profits quickest. While making your choice, make sure that you choose a trusted solution preferred by the best names in the industry.
While choosing an ecommerce platform make sure that it is secure, has a large collection of themes and extensions on offer, and offers a comprehensive list of sales and marketing features that will help you earn high ROI from your site.
Once, you pick the platform, pick the right theme that best represents the products and/or services that you want to sell.
(Tip: Make sure to go through the various sites built on different platforms to get a clearer idea of the features and functionalities that the platform brings to the table.)
Step 4: Get Inspiration from Successful Sites
If you want a profitable site, you must get some inspiration from some of the successful sites in your niche. Find out who are the top performing websites in your niche and emulate them. Don’t copy them, but find out how their website is able to capture the imagination of their audience. Once you get an idea of what they are doing right, get an idea of what they are doing wrong. Find out the weak links in their website with respect to their design or functionality and make sure that your site improves upon them. Experienced developers will have no problems in conducting a competitor analysis of a website from the design and development perspective and integrate their learning into your own site.
(Tip: Draw inspiration from websites that are selling the same products that you will be selling.)
Step 5: Focus on the Website’s UX
On the World Wide Web, nothing sells better than User Experience. In your ecommerce website’s case the UX is synonymous with the shopping experience it provides users. So, make sure that the people in charge of your project give primary importance to the user experience of your site. The idea is to think like the website’s potential visitors and make sure that the website conforms to their expectations. For example, if you think your visitors will be looking for a list of featured products on the home page, make sure you have them there; if you think shoppers will like multiple payment options, make sure that they get that too, and so on.
(Tip: You aren’t building the website for yourself, but for your shoppers; designing and developing keeping their point of view in mind will ensure its profitability.)
Step 6: Improve Product Images and Descriptions
These are two critical aspects of ecommerce sites that mustn’t be ignored. Make sure that the product images on your site are high resolution images and can be zoomed in and zoomed out. Also make sure that you are able to provide multiple pictures of your product taken from all angles. The reason for this is simple. Your customers will make up their minds whether to buy a product or not purely by taking a look at its pictures and description. A product’s description must be detailed and offer clear information about product functionality and benefits.
Clear product images and descriptions go a long way in improving the credibility of the site, which in turn improves its profitability.
(Tip: If you have the budget, hire a professional photographer to click product pictures.)
Step 7: Don’t Forget Product Videos and Reviews
Nothing beats using product videos for getting the attention of potential customers. A well-made product video showcasing the benefits of the product or the usefulness of the product is a great way to sell it. It’s not necessary that you have a video for all your products; having videos for featured products can be a start and as you go along, you can start creating and embedding more products videos on your site.
Something else that you shouldn’t forget is having product reviews on the product pages. These reviews are proof that people have actually used these products. This will enhance their trust factor, which will persuade people to buy them.
(Tip: Market your videos to market your website; reviews can also be leveraged to improve website credibility and awareness.)
Step 8: Make the Site Social Media Friendly
Leverage the infinite potential of social media to market your site. Integrate it with social media plugins to make sure that people can comment on your products through social media, share links to product pages and do a whole lot more. The idea is to improve your ecommerce site’s social proof and virality. Social proof increases when people find that the friends on their network have already visited your ecommerce site and bought products from it. Virality increases when people start sharing the links to your products with their friends on social media.
(Tip: Two social media networks you must target are Facebook and Twitter; you will find that nearly all of your target audience is using these networks.)
Step 9: Implement One Page Checkout
This is an offshoot of our usability step. What you are doing with one page checkouts is actually making sure that the checkout process simpler for your target shoppers. You must have come across sites that have a multi-page checkout process and wondered why they couldn’t think of making the checkout process a whole lot simpler and shorter. Well, one page checkout helps you do just that. It has all the information about billing, shipping, delivery options, payment options etc. all at one place. This makes shopping infinitely more convenient, a fact appreciated by your shoppers.
(Tip: Adopt a minimalist approach for designing your check out page; this will ensure only the most necessary elements are used in the design process. This will ensure a better understanding of the checkout process.)
Step 10: Keep Improving
In spite of following all the steps given above, and then some more, there might be a chance that your website doesn’t offer the returns that you are looking for. Your expectations from it might be too high and just maybe, the steps explained above may not deliver the profits that you hoped to achieve in your niche. This is not to say that you mustn’t follow these steps, instead you should keep tweaking them. Also, make sure that you keep improving your site, even after it goes live. If you think a certain feature is interfering with website usability, modify it or change it. You also need to keep monitoring results to make sure that the site is coming good on your expectations.
There is absolutely no doubt that if you follow the ten steps given here, you’ll have on your hands on a potentially profitable ecommerce site. Remember, you are as much responsible for building a successful site as your design and development team. All of you need to work together to build an effective website. A free flow of ideas, collaboration and a constant eye on profits will ensure the development of a very successful ecommerce site.