Whether you are setting up an online store for the first time or are in the process of switching platforms, there are some common aspects you should think about.
If you are starting from scratch, you will probably have to spend some time figuring out the various points below. If you switch to a new platform, it is a good idea to review both the technical and practical aspects of the store again, to ensure that you do not bring old mistakes with you to the new platform.
It is equally important to think about what actually worked in the old shop! It is easy to think that "This works so well that it is probably standard in a modern online store". That is not a given. You probably have some some great features in the existing store that is not necessarily found out of the box in the new solution.
If you haven't decided on a platform yet, I have written a detailed guide on how to choose here.
Part 1: Practical tips for setting up a new online store
The first thing you should do is plan well. Start with strategy and what will make the online store unique or different. To make a good technical implementation, you must know what kind of store you want to set up.
1. Define your target group and niche
- Identify who you want to reach with your online store
Define your target group in detail. When you know who you're talking to, it's easier to find topics and ways of speaking that appeals to your target group.
- Choose a niche or specialization
It will make it easier to differentiate yourself from the competition. Expertise is the best (actually, the only valid) way to differentiate yourself.
- Conduct market research to understand the needs, wants and preferences of your target audience
This should be done both digitally and in analogue. Collect data and talk to customers.
2. Create a convincing online store experience
- Design a user-friendly and intuitive online store layout
...which makes it easy for customers to find and buy products.
- Remove friction in the customer journey
Less friction means faster paths to purchase and fewer abandoned shopping carts.
- Optimize product descriptions and images
Next to the purely technical aspects of taking care of image sizes and formats, the images should be A/B tested. The devil is in the details. The texts should also be designed in a way that gives customers what they need immediately, and tempts them to buy.
3. Develop an effective marketing plan
- Identify effective marketing channels
The target group often has specific channels on which they move. Examples can be LinkedIn, e-mail or blog posts.
- Use SEO (search engine optimization)
This is to increase the visibility of your online store in search engines and attract organic traffic. Read how to find the right keywords for your business here.
- Consider collaboration
…with other online stores, bloggers or influencers to build backlinks, increase brand exposure and topic authority, and to reach more potential customers.
4. Plan how you will work with the online store every day
- How will you work with product data?
Should the products be updated frequently? How much automation do you need? Who will possibly be responsible and what access do they need?
- Order processing and logistics
How are you going to ensure that the customer is updated on order status and tracking, and not least ensure that the path from order to received product goes as smoothly as possible?
- How should customer service work with the online store?
What will you do when(not if) something goes wrong? How do you create a cracking customer experience after the purchase has been completed?
Part 2: Technical tips for setting up a new online store
In this section, we focus on some important technical aspects of setting up a new online store. We give you three tips that will help you ensure a successful launch.
1. Optimize the website for speed and performance
Slow loading times can lead to a poor user experience, which again leads to lost sales.
- Minimize image sizes
Go through all the images you want in the online store, and make sure they do not exceed the recommended sizes.
- Use caching
If you do not have a CDN (Content Delivery Network) such as Cloudflare, I recommend getting it right away. It will help both with loading times in general, and with coping with traffic peaks in important times of year such as Black Week.
- Choose a reliable hosting service
Many platforms offer hosting built into the price. Depending on the size of the online store, it may still be a good idea to consider custom hosting from an agency that knows exactly what you need.
- Test your online store's performance regularly and implement a good security strategy
Setting up automated tests can be tricky without a programmer, but several platforms have cloud-based hosting. This means that they are responsible for uptime, which can be both good and bad. Good because they depend on their services to work, bad because they probably won't respond very quickly if it crashes. Large online stores are better served by having an agency taking care of uptime and performance.
2. Protect customers' personal information and payment information with SSL certificates and other security protocols.
- Update the online store platform and any additional modules regularly to close security holes
If you use an agency: ask what procedures they have for security updates. Some updates will not concern your technical setup and can safely wait for a while, while others are critical for the online store to be safe to shop in.
- Perform regular backups of your online store to ensure you can recover data in case of problems
Most platforms support this, but check regularly to be safe. Even if the online store is located with large providers such as AWS or Azure, you should also have local copies in case something goes down with them.
3. Customize the online store according to your brand
- Use the customization options on the platform to reflect your brand identity in the online store
Ready-made solutions such as Shopify etc. has great tools for this, but you're tied to the template you've chosen. If this is not enough for youable toyou hire a frontend designer who can make changes to the code, but we recommend tochoose a platform where you can set up the store exactly as you (and your customers) want.
- Choose colors, fonts and visuals that match yours brand and appeals to the target audience
This may seem like a pretty obvious tip, but many people end up using specific fonts and graphic elements "because that's what was available in the template." If you want a comprehensive and branded website, hire a designer.
- Add custom elements such as logo, banner, and promotional images to create a unique online store experience
Another "obvious" tip, but here too a designer will ensure that you have just the right amount of branding elements to be clear about who you are, but at the same time not overwhelm the customers.
Thomas is CCO in Frontkom. His background is from the agency industry with more than 20 years as manager and senior advisor within eCommerce. Thomas is an expert at building complex customer journeys for online stores. He writes about eCommerce, customer club, integrations and how to succeed with your online store.