Alright, so you have decided to take your idea of an Online Shop to the market, Good! Here’s what you should have already done.
Think through every step and work on the finer aspects of your plan, build a business strategy, do a SWOT analysis (don’t ask me what that is, you should know already, if you don’t then just google 😉 , identify competition and analyze their business, their operations and their numbers. Then ask yourself if you should STILL do it.
Assuming you have chalked out a good business plan and are all set to get things going, your first task is to identify and sign-up with the key stakeholders, whether they are partners, vendors, staff, service providers,… whoever you need to bring your shop to life. You don’t have to get them all on-board, but you need to identify them, talk to them and prepare them for when they need to get in.
One of the key stakeholders at this point are the people who will put your online shop together. They could be your partners or vendors, but make sure you have the right people. You can read more about hiring the right team here.
What you need to look for when your hiring a IT Software Team or Vendor
So, now that you have a good team who can build your shop, here are some key aspects to keep in mind while designing your shop
- This is like your shop window. It can be a make-or-break in more ways than one. You need to get things absolutely right, Visual Appeal, Organized Layout without clutter, Quick Links to important information, and most importantly Showcase Products that customers are most interested in buying.
- Make your customer recognize your site by just looking at it and not reading the logo. With most of the eCommerce shops being just a list of products thrown onto the homepage, I feel this should be a primary focus / instruction for the UI Designer.
- Your customer needs to get to the product of interest as quickly as possible, i.e. with a maximum of 2~3 clicks.
- A good architecture should not only fulfill your current needs but also consider the future enhancements and the scope to scale as your customer base grows.
- A flexible architecture that would help you integrate your shop with the numerous online services from social media integration to payment gateways and more would take the shop a long way.
- Always consider options to let others integrate to your platform quickly and easily, whether it is your vendors or partners or affiliates, at some point or the other you would want some integration to get them onto your platform. APIs are key here.
- Choose a development environment that is popular in the market. Going for something exotic could become a pain to maintain, specially with the availability of the right resources are a problem these days.
- The environment you choose has to be cost effective, secure and reliable. The first you should already know is required for you to competitive in the current market, the security aspect has to be analysed and taken care of, most environments are not secure by default and steps have to be put in to make them secure. Reliability is a key issue as some environments are more stable than others.
- Personally I’m comfortable with the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) stack, its open source, can scale, has to be made secure (that can be achieved) and is reliable.
- Hosting environments are a dim-a-dozen. Identify the right one. Apart from the usual costing, configuration and bandwidth package. Its important that you look at the support options. When things go wrong, you need quick response to get things sorted out.
- Look for servers that cater to the region that your shop is most likely to service. It now does make sense to have a server located closer to the geographic location of your biggest market. If your traffic is spread across the world, then look for a service provider who can give you the options to choose mirrors across the world. One such service provider would be aws – amazon web service
- With could service offered by a number of players, it makes sense to start with a package just enough for you and scale the environment as you go.
- Payment gateways operate in many different ways. Consider the options that the gateway provides for integration – you could process the transaction details on your site and then trigger the payment through the gateway (requires https and you need to make sure that your site is secure and complies with all security tests) or let the payment gateway handle the complete transaction without you having to collect card or account information on your site.
- Choose the payment gateway and the package based on your transaction volume, both in terms of number of transactions and the average amount per transaction.
- Look at what are the payment options your customer gets, i.e. payment through Credit Cards, Debit Cards, Net Banking (which banks are tied up), Wallets.
- There is only one way to find out if your online shop is doing well, and that’s with analytics. With proper analytics in place, you will have a continuous feedback mechanism that tells you everything from who are your customers, where are they coming from and where are they heading, when are they visiting and when are they leaving, what is turning them on and what is turning them off.
- With analytics tracking in place, you also need somebody to make sense of the data that it generates. Make sure you have a good analytics expert or partner who can look at things from a business perspective.
- Don’t even think of going live without analytics!
- The basics for good customer relations, you need to help your customer to navigate, choose products, buy, pay and help them track their products till delivery. Once delivered, you need to ensure that the customer is satisfied and if they are not, how do they return or get a refund? You need to engage with them to get them on your side.
- From the day you launch your shop, make sure that there is somebody at the end of a line waiting to take customer calls. You will need to help any customer who has any trouble using your platform. Without support in-place the customers feel let-down instantly.
- Although a call-in support is definitely a must have, support need not be only call based, you could also engage the customers through online chat, email, forms or SMS.
Each of these taken care, you must be able to build a good platform to then take it to the next logical step of actually rolling out your shop to the market.
In my further posts, I will talk about the other aspects that need to fall-in-place.
Until then, get that shop in order and get it online!