In my time at the nation’s leading ecommerce provider, I worked with thousands of online businesses and there were a few key elements that fueled their business’ growth from day one. In my experience, business owners run on coffee, and ecommerce stores run on this kind of fuel:
1. Great Domain Name
Every online business needs a great domain name! Your domain name should be related to your business, but also relatable to people who know nothing about your business. This means choosing a name that’s logical and approachable for outsiders. For this reason, your domain name shouldn’t use industry slang or abbreviations if possible. It should be intuitive and easy to spell so that when people hear or see it, they’ll remember it and can use it to find your website later on.
This sounds obvious, I think it’s a good reminder – make sure that the domain name you want is available. If it isn’t you can try to purchase it from its current owner but that can get pricey and is often messy. Instead, just find a domain name that’s available and snatch it up before someone else does.
Pro tip: Before choosing your domain name, brainstorm some possible options and then run a mini focus group to gain feedback on which domain name people prefer. If there’s no clear winner, go ahead and buy all of them. You can always have alternate domain names redirect back to your main site and then put those to use later on. Worst case scenario – you waste a few bucks for a year or however long you choose to buy the names for and then you just let them go when they’re up for renewal.
2. Ecommerce Hosting Platform
Ecommerce platforms are not all created equal! Different providers have vastly different design functionality, storefront options, levels of support, available add-ons, pricing structures, etc. Really do your research before moving forward! Examine the nuts and bolts that make them different and find out what you’ll actually be paying each month (some of them have hidden fees or upcharges for additional features). Then, once you have a short list of platforms that meet your criteria and budget, read reviews online and ask colleagues what they’ve heard about them. This should help give you the first-hand perspective that you need to make the right choice.
Pro tip: Do a free trial of any platform your considering and pay attention to not only the functionality but also how you’re treated as a customer. This is essentially the dating phase of finding an ecommerce platform to marry, so they should all have their best foot forward and treat you like gold.
3. Credit Card Processing
No online store can be successful these days without accepting credit cards, which means that you’ll need to be set up for credit card processing. Getting approved for a merchant account and setting up a payment gateway can take time, so don’t wait until you’re ready to launch your store to start working on this.
Pro tip: Understand that if you have bad credit or you’re selling items with a high risk of fraud, you may have to make certain concessions to be approved for credit card processing. This might take the form of delayed compensation from credit card transactions, having a rolling reserve balance withheld, or paying higher fees for processing (just to name a few), so be aware of these possibilities before you get started so that you’re not taken off guard later on. Remember that these types of restrictions don’t mean that you’re a bad person or that your merchant provider doesn’t trust you – they’re just looking at aggregate data to minimize their own risk.
4. Online Marketing
Most online stores don’t get started with an eager audience ready to beat down their virtual doors to buy things, which means that you have to do something to get noticed and attract consumers. Running online marketing is something that you should be doing from day one to give your ecommerce store the best chance to succeed in your industry. Many online store owners want to wait until their store has gained some traction before spending any money on online advertising, shopping feeds, or search engine optimization but without utilizing these channels right away, that traction may never come. Like the old business adage says, “You have to spend money to make money!”
Pro tip: Look for a digital marketing company that offers tiered services so that you can start small while your budget is lower and then upgrade later on when your cash flow has improved. This will let you establish a relationship right away with a marketing services provider and then maintain that as your business grows.
Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Business Blogging and Web Copywriting. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and son and enjoys cooking, watching sports, and spending time together as a family. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about current marketing trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!