The Epic Ecommerce Website Launch Guide
This Epic Ecommerce Website Launch Guide will help you launch your Online Store Successfully the first time with plenty of essential ecommerce tips & resources.
The Marriage of Design and a Customer’s First Impression
You know that saying, “Never judge a book by it’s cover”? Forget IT!
This is the world wide web, so let me hit you with some hard facts;
According to web credibility research from Stanford, 75% of users admit to making judgments about a company’s credibility based on their website’s design and they do it in less than 50 milliseconds.
Oh, Snap! Do You still think the design of your Ecommerce site doesn’t matter?
Before jumping into creating an amazing first impression, we should talk about choosing an Ecommerce platform that’s right for you.
The first step in our Ecommerce website launch guide is selecting a great Ecommerce platform:
1. Determining Your Ecommerce Level ie: Entry, Small to Mid-Sized or Enterprise.
There are several different Ecommerce solutions available ranging from open source to enterprise level hosted solutions. This guide is going to get you where you need to be fairly quickly, because I’m only going to cover the best solutions based on our experience.
Entry Level up to Enterprise:
If you are a start-up business or small to mid-sized business selling online then your top two choices will be BigCommerce and Shopify.
Both BigCommerce and Shopify are “hosted solutions” meaning you have access to support when you need it and if you don’t think that’s important – think again! This also means that the cart and hosting will be updated and managed by the hosting provider. This is a huge burden that you don’t want to be responsible for.
Both Bigcommerce and Shopify provide users with more than enough features to set up and run a very professional online store. They allow you to create products, optimize them for search engines, manage inventory and accept a wide range of payment gateways for credit card transactions.
Both BigCommerce and Shopify run pretty much head-to-head for features, flexibility in customization and ease of use. One side note regarding BigCommerce; there has been a LOT of unrest lately over some pricing changes at BigCommerce where people sign on for $29.95 per month and due to their sales volume experience a dramatic price increase in hosting. In some cases upwards of 5000%.
Here are some recent comments about the BigCommerce price increase found on ShipStation:
Holly smokes I was just contacted today by big commerce and they said my rate is going up to $1780 per month compared to $199 now. And if my company grows slightly it could be $2200 a month.
You are actually lucky they even contacted you. I have not heard boo from Bigcommerce yet when I run the calculation my rate will be in the $1500 range but spike to approx 2000 during our peak months (Mar-June).
If you want an in-depth comparison of BigCommerce and Shopify, read this.
Enterprise or Uber Custom Ecommerce:
Enterprise Level Ecommerce can be defined as a well-established online retailer generating $1Million and more in online sales per year. In this case an Ecommerce Platform like Magento is for you.
Magento may also be right for you if you require a lot of custom coding or have a store with a custom online designer feature. This feature is becoming more and more popular across different Ecommerce niches and allows people to “build their own” product online. This is complex and no matter what a sales rep tells you, truly can’t be accomplished on BigCommerce or Shopify as of yet. The image below is a perfect example of this type of customization.
Now It’s Time To Design An Ecommerce Store That Converts!
Another fact, first impressions are 94% design related and you never get a second chance to make one.
What other ingredients factor in to your website’s conversion recipe?
- You have 0-8 seconds to make a compelling headline and landing page. After 8 seconds, the majority of visitors leave.
- Approximately 96% of visitors that come to your website are not ready to buy.
- The more landing pages you have, the more leads you are likely to get.
- Product videos can increase purchases of the product by 144%.
- A 1 second delay in your site speed can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.
Ecommerce website launch guide step 2: The Recipe for an Amazing First Impression:
1. Start With a Custom Design or Customize “Theme”.
It’s not wrong to start with a theme, in fact, with Platforms like BigCommerce and Shopify it’s necessary; meaning you have to start with a core theme and make customizations to create your brand’s personalized shopping experience. Your goal should be to make your site look and feel custom and not just another templated solution.
Key Design Elements to Pay Attention To for Ecommerce:
1. Your Logo – This is the first and most essential step in launching a successful online store. Why? Because it’s the cornerstone of your brand and a logo is THE graphic representation of your online business.
2. Simplicity – If you had any idea how many times I’ve heard, “I switched from my custom web design to a simple theme and my sales skyrocketed.” Custom doesn’t always mean good and good designs typically aren’t the most complex. In fact, the best designs provide simple and effective solutions to a problem. With Ecommerce the BIG problem is getting someone to buy, thus a good design is going to get someone to the product they want and through checkout as quickly and cleanly as possible.
3. Unique Value Proposition – A unique what? A unique value proposition is simply the ‘thing’ makes you different than your competition. What it truly means is; The experiences customers have with your products and services that are worth remembering and sharing the marketplace.
• 7 Proven Templates for Writing Value Propositions That Work
Do yourself a favor and make a short list of your favorite Ecommerce websites. Now. Take a look at those sites and I’ll bet you see some similarities in the navigational architecture, don’t you?
In 2013, the Baymard Institute conducted a survey of ecommerce sites, ranking sites for user experience on the home page and category pages. One of the survey’s findings was that shoppers expected the top level of a dropdown or flyout menu and any headings in that menu to be active links.
This is exactly why Enterprise Level online stores like Macy’s use labeled links to category landing pages. When a shopper clicks “Juniors,” that shopper gets the expected result, a juniors’ landing page.
Ensuring that your website is responsive and mobile friendly give you the advantage by delivering your website’s core content, features and business logic in the same manner across every device.
With 70% of mobile searching leading to an action in under an hour, ecommerce sites should have a strategic plan to conquer this market as well. If customers end up on an unresponsive site, 40% of them will go to a competitor site.
When you integrate good photography in your web design, especially if you have an e-commerce site, your images will sell your products for you. They champion your brand and inspire your customers to keep coming back to you. They will lend credibility, legitimacy and professionalism to your web presence. If you want your business to be taken seriously, take your photography seriously. And please, no more duck faces.
• How to Take Gorgeous Product Photos
• How to Take Great Product Photos for Your Online Store
8. Customized Landing Pages – When it comes to Ecommerce the devil is truly in the details and those details are the landing pages. There’s a reason why so many people start with a ‘template’ or ‘free theme’ and then quickly call a professional to customize their website.
Landing pages create the sales funnel; which is one of the most important design considerations for any ecommerce site. The funnel generally consists of a home page, a search results page (or browse/category page) filled with products, individual product pages, and the checkout process.
The point of the funnel is to usher shoppers from one part of the site to the next, closer to the point of completing the sale.
Stores that convert more definitely pay attention to their customers and it’s reflected in the design of their site.
Your home page is often the start of your sales funnel and is prime real estate to entice shoppers to buy from you — especially new customers. Oddly enough, the goal of the home page is to get people off of it quickly. I know that seems weird, but what you want to do is direct them to the product that they want and a great way to do this is by offering a deal.
Most ecommerce websites use a homepage carousel or image slider making it easy to create simple graphics that display your special offer. The example above hits on multiple levels for effective (call to actions) CTA’s. If the offer is a percentage off items in a certain category, make sure you link to that category right form the promo image so shoppers know exactly what they can get the discount on.
Portable Oxygen Solutions has a great example of a product landing page optimized to convert. These products are definitely not an impulse purchase and 99.9% of their customers require assistance with the purchase due to the nature of the product. Portable Oxygen Solutions does everything possible to not only present essential information above the fold, but takes every opportunity to encourage their customers to call; where lead conversion skyrocket for this client. You will also notice that they cover all of their bases to encourage trust in the sale through the use of ‘trust signals’ and purchase incentives such as free shipping and price match guarantee. This is a product landing page designed to convert.
9. Streamline Your Cart and Checkout – Over the years ‘speed’ has become such a significant factor in all things web related; from the speed of your website in general to how quickly someone can checkout and pay for a product. The design of cart and checkout pages are critical when it comes to abandoned carts and lost sales. Don’t give your customers any additional reasons to leave.
According to Statistia there are 14 main reasons why shoppers abandon their carts.
We’re going to look at a few factors that will eliminate multiple barriers on this list.
Checkout usability expert Christian Holst found 30% of users abandoned their cart when asked to register upfront.
Barrier 1 – The Checkout Process
The first step is to make checkout as hassle free as possible by adding guest checkout. Or even going so far as to creating a ‘one page, one step’ checkout like the one below.
It turns out people don’t like filling out a bunch of information to buy their products. Online purchases are entirely driven by ease of use. If you start thinking of ways to make the purchase experience simpler for your customers your sales are going to increase.
Another helpful tip: have your customers enter their shipping information before entering their billing information.
Barrier 2 – The Shipping Process
56% of shoppers said that being presented with unexpected costs is the reason they leave without completing their purchase.
Shipping – Shipping can make or break your business in multiple ways. Choose the wrong shipping partner and your customers may suffer a poor experience. Don’t plan out your shipping strategy and you could end up unprofitable.
Determining the shipping strategy that’s right for you is no easy task. In fact, it will be much easier to start by determining what type of shipping will be appealing to your customers.
The Number 1 Most Appealing Shipping Option is FREE Shipping, hands down.
Offering your customers free shipping is an absolute no brainer for increasing conversions and reducing shopping cart abandonment. However, as you might suspect, shipping is never free. Someone has to pay for it, right? Don’t worry you have a few options to help ease the pain.
- Increase product prices to cover costs for shipping (customer pays)
- You pay the full price of shipping out of your margins (you pay)
- Increase prices of products slightly to cover partial costs of shipping (you and your customer pays)
The second most appealing method is Flat Rate Shipping.
Choosing an up front shipping policy for your store will increase your conversions and get more sales. But, how do you do it, especially if your shipping cost varies dramatically for the products you are selling?
Cart 66 published a nice strategy for $5 dollar flat rate shipping:
Once you know the cost to ship your product, take $5.00 off that price and increase the price of your product by the difference. Here is an example, suppose you have a nice set of noise reduction headphones that you were planning to sell for $85.00 and you discovered the average shipping cost was $9.00. Assign $5.00 of that to the flat rate shipping and bump the price of your headphones up $4.00 to $89.00.
As many of you will find, shipping is a very hard thing to manage and master for your ecommerce store. Every shop is different and there is no “one-size-fits-all” shipping strategy. Many of our customer have very dynamic and complex shipping needs as you may too.
If you find yourself going beyond the constraints of free and flat rate shipping, then I highly recommend checking out a shipping management program like ShipperHQ.
According to Yahoo Finance;
“a 2014 survey of online shoppers,1 28% of respondents said they will abandon shopping carts if presented with unexpected shipping costs, making it critical for online businesses to provide customers with transparent, accurate pricing for their orders. However, due to constantly evolving carrier fees and a wide variance in shipping scenarios, proactively providing this information to customers requires businesses to determine shipping rules and rates in real-time or risk sacrificing margins.
“Since its release, ShipperHQ has had significant impact in the world of ecommerce shipping by providing merchants with the tools, information and customization they need to adequately account for all of the variables associated with fulfilling online orders.”
• How To Price Shipping and Handling Fees
• How the Shipping Cost Calculation Works in WordPress eStore
Barrier 3 – Trust and Security
Of consumers who dropped out of a purchase, 17% mentioned “concerns about payment security” as a reason.
In some surveys, as many as 61% of participants said they had decided not to purchase a product because it was missing a trust seal.
Ninety-two percent of consumers say they trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising, according to Nielsen.
Seventy-two percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, according to a study.
There are literally dozens of factors that play into whether or not a consumer will trust your site or not. In fact, going all the way back to the design of your website even has an enormous impact on potential customers.
Here are some visible trust factors that can easily double your online sales:
- Security Badges, certifications, and awards from recognized third parties.
- Clearly displayed direct contact details.
- Reputable payment options (if applicable).
- Authentic and real-time reviews.
ConversionIQ found in their studies applying McAfee Secure trustmark to ecommerce websites that new visitors responded positively to these added trust factors.
Another internet retailer measured a 3% lift in conversion rate for all traffic and a 12% lift in conversion rate for new visitors and another McAfee Secure test with a major off road parts supplier measured a 6% increase in average order value for all traffic and a 23% increase in average order value for new visitors.
4. Social – Maximizing Potential for Growth
We’ve all heard that social networking is important, but how important is it?
- 37% of consumers have recommended a business on Facebook, up from 32% in 2012
- visitors greeted by a video stay 2 minutes longer on a site and are 64% more likely to buy something
- Facebook, Vimeo and Youtube are the highest converting platforms
- The highest average order value is $66,75, reached by Polyvore
- 30% of twitter users gear up in holiday shopping mode before October
- 71% of online shoppers are swept into buying something based on social media advices
- 48% of consumers like a brand on Facebook because they want to benefit from their discounts and promotions
Social media is not only a part of the user experience it is a very strong indicator of how your store and product(s) are viewed by the consumer. Ecommerce is no different from brick-and-mortar commerce in that building trust is essential. Social media sharing activities provide clear evidence that your products are worthwhile.
Social media will be one of your leading channels for customer research, customer service, customer engagement and customer acquisition… it’s pretty freakin important.
• 6 Effective Ways to Integrate Social Media with Your E-Commerce Website
• The Secret Behind the Best Social Media Practices for your E-Commerce Site
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5. Email – A Great Way To Communicate
One last, but definitely not the least important opportunity for communicating and driving conversions to your Ecommerce store is email.
According to recent research and surveys:
- Email has an ROI of around 4,300% (according to the Direct Marketing Association)
- 80% of people say they receive marketing messages alongside their personal emails on a daily basis.
- 70% of people make use of coupons or discounts they learn about from email.
- 60% of people say that receiving special offers is the top reason they subscribe to an email list from a business.
So, if you have an ecommerce business but you haven’t adopted an email marketing program, then you’re leaving money on the table.
Here are a few quick tips to keep your email marketing from sucking:
1. Use a Recognizable ‘From Address’
The very first thing you should do is to make sure your customers know who in the hell is sending the email. Users have become increasingly skeptical of opening messages from unknown senders, due largely in part to the rise of viruses, malware and phishing attempts, so including a recognizable from address will ensure a significantly higher open rate right out of the gate.
2. Create an Engaging Subject Line
The second thing you need to do is make sure that your subject line is enticing, relevant and NOT spammy. Creating engaging subject lines that really motivate a response is critical.
If you’re looking for creative ways to improve your email subject line, check out tips from the pro’s over at Constant Contact.
3. Personalize Your Emails
One of the most effective ways to increase the open rate of your emails is to personalize your messages. In other words, create unique emails that contain the recipient’s name, geographic location or past order history. It seems intuitive, but this allows you to connect with your customer on a more personal level.
Why is this so important?
Experian research shows that personalized promotional mailings had a 29% higher open rate and 41 percent higher click rate. For triggered email campaigns, personalization resulted in double the transaction rates compared to non-personalized triggered emails.
Unique Open Rates for Emails with Personalized Subject Lines by Industry:
Diversify Your Content
“…the average time allocated to a newsletter after opening it was only 51 seconds. “Reading” is not even the right word, since participants fully read only 19% of newsletters. The predominant user behavior was scanning. Often, users didn’t even scan the entire newsletter: 35% of the time, participants only skimmed a small part of the newsletter or glanced at the content.”
• 7 Ecommerce Email Campaigns You Should Steal Today
• The Ultimate Guide To eCommerce Email Marketing
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You’re ready to take your first steps into launching your Ecommerce website by choosing an Eocmmerce platform that works for you and then making some customization to ensure conversions. Don’t forget; every business is an evolution of practice and perfection, but these tips and resources will help guide you to a successful Ecommerce launch.