E-commerce has come a long way since its inception in the late 90s. Back then, only a few people could create and manage an online store due to the complexities (and money needed) to set one up. Today, however, the landscape has changed as anyone can set up a profitable e-commerce shop. Research shows that the industry is growing and the revenue from physical goods sold on e-commerce stores is estimated to surpass $740 billion by 2023.
To succeed, though, sellers have to make sure they get their e-commerce website development right—before launch day. After all, no-one likes losing valuable customers because of a half-baked and buggy store.
How can prospective e-commerce store owners ensure that their store launches with a bang?
7 E-commerce Website Development Factors to Get Right
The e-commerce web development process is no child’s play. It needs careful planning and execution to ensure a store runs smoothly (and profitably). Here are 7 crucial elements prospective e-commerce store owners need to get right if they are to get a piece of the e-commerce action.
Image suggestion – Something similar to the image below but with the 7 factors pointing to e-commerce website development.
1. Drawing Up a Business Plan
Just as with any business, the first step in developing an e-commerce store is to draw up a plan. A business plan helps ensure that the e-commerce web development and the business itself are developed efficiently. Some of the most important elements of the business plan include:
- Deciding on a niche. E-commerce store owners need to decide from the start what niche they will operate in. This also helps determine the products that will be sold on the store.
- Setting milestones. Milestones are important as they help keep both the web developers and the business owner on track.
One important reason why to start with a business plan is that niche and product selection plays an important role in determining site design and architecture.
2. Determining How Visitors Interact with the Website
Another important element needing attention before designing the e-commerce store is to determine what actions website visitors should take on the website. For example, are they required to sign a form? Or, should they make a reservation?
The actions that visitors take will influence the features that will be included in the e-commerce store. These are features that make it easy for site visitors to accomplish what is expected of them with no fuss.
3. Nailing the Information Architecture
Information architecture (IA) is the science of structuring content on a website. Its purpose is to classify content in a clear and easy way by arranging it according to how it relates to other pages on the website. Doing so will improve user experience (UX) as visitors will be able to find what they need with little effort.
IA helps with content planning and navigation. Missing the mark on this step will result in website visitors struggling to find their way around the store. As a result, many will drop off, leading to low conversion rates and, ultimately, sales. To ensure an optimum user experience:
Start with Users in Mind
Since IA is all about UX, the first step for an information architect is to research the ideal customers the store will be serving. Data such as what their problem is and what they’ll be looking for will help in building a customer profile. Understanding the customer profiles of an e-commerce store’s ideal buyers is essential in building a user flow that visitors to the website will most likely follow.
Design Site Hierarchy and Navigation
Now that the user flow is in place, the next step is to design the e-commerce store’s hierarchy and navigation. The most important factor of this point is to ensure that navigating between pages is easy, especially getting back to the main page. On the same note, the site search and related items features must be working perfectly as well.
Information architecture is a critical element in e-commerce website development and as such, e-commerce store owners should always invest time (and money) to ensure it’s done right.
4. Choosing an E-commerce Platform
With this solid foundation, it’s time to get to the practical aspect of e-commerce web development – creating the store online. To get an e-commerce store online, the first step business owners need to do is to settle for an e-commerce platform. One of the most trusted platforms that many e-commerce store owners rely on is BigCommerce. It’s no small wonder that oBundle’s client sold over $90 million on the platform in 2018 alone.
What makes BigCommerce such a powerful engine for e-commerce stores around the globe? Here are a few of its key features:
All-inclusive E-commerce Solution
In essence, using an all-inclusive e-commerce platform is like leasing a property. All users do is give the place a few touch-ups and move in with products. The property owner takes care of all the main essentials—the user just pays rent to proceed.
BigCommerce is a robust e-commerce platform that provides businesses with all the powerful tools needed to start and scale an e-commerce store. Examples include:
- Responsive templates. Highly responsive templates make it easy for customers to shop on the go.
- Powerful control panel. A core aspect of running an e-commerce store is order and inventory management. BigCommerce’s control panel allows users to easily manage everything from one location.
- Easy integration. BigCommerce easily integrates with other tools needed to run a business, like other payment gateways, for example.
- Multiple storefronts. For those who want to run different e-commerce stores, BigCommerce allows them to manage everything from the same login.
- Easy shipping. Shipping is a breeze as businesses can integrate the store with Shipping Easy and ShipperHQ.
- Powerful analytics. Keeping track of visitor’s behavior when they browse a website is important, more so for an e-commerce store. BigCommerce’s powerful analytics engine allows users to keep tabs of all important metrics to help optimize the customer experience and journey.
E-commerce Store Extension
One feature that BigCommerce users will enjoy is the ability to extend their store beyond the platform. Store owners can sync their inventory with Facebook, Pinterest, eBay, Amazon, and Square POS and process all their orders from their BigCommerce control panel.
This feature, known as multi-channel integration, is largely exclusive to BigCommerce users and is very instrumental in making sure store owners can promote and sell their products right where their customers are.
Security and Speed
In this age of data breaches, security has become more important than ever for e-commerce store owners. A poorly secured e-commerce store is a hacker’s paradise as they can easily harvest customer details such as credit card numbers. For this reason, opting for a platform like BigCommerce is a no-brainer because of the advanced security features it comes with.
Speed is another one of BigCommerce’s strong points. Research shows that conversions plummet with each second that a website takes to load, with optimum load times being 0–4 seconds. Thanks to the powerful servers used to host users’ e-commerce stores, BigCommerce customers enjoy fast load times on both desktop and mobile devices.
As with every business, growth is something e-commerce store owners look forward to. While scaling can prove to be a bear with most e-commerce platforms, BigCommerce allows stores to grow without any teething pains.
Thanks to the robust set of tools that come with the platform, users can easily increase the volume of the products they sell. A feature few e-commerce platforms can boast about. BigCommerce is all about catapulting its users into the big leagues, so those with big e-commerce dreams are better off starting their journey on this platform.
Best-in-class Cart Abandonment Feature
Cart abandonment is one fact of running an e-commerce store no-one can avoid. In fact, cart abandonment rates went as high as 76.9% in the 3rd quarter of 2018. However, having a good cart recovery system in place can help in alleviating the potential loss in revenue. Luckily, this is one area in which BigCommerce outshines the competition. By allowing users to automate the cart recovery process (by sending up to three cart recovery emails), e-commerce store owners can increase their revenue with little effort apart from the initial investment of setting up the system.
These, and more (like the point of sale feature for brick-and-mortar businesses), advantages make BigCommerce stand tall among its competitors. For e-commerce store owners, that can only mean one thing – more revenue.
5. Building an E-Commerce Store – Let Professionals Deal with It
With the proliferation of website builders, it has become easy for anyone to set up their e-commerce store in a matter of hours. However, when it comes to e-commerce website development, hand over the reins to professionals like oBundle.
Besides getting a professionally designed website, other reasons for employing a professional web development team include:
Just like any other business, an e-commerce store is a big investment. As such, those aspiring to be online entrepreneurs must be prepared to spend on expert web developers to build an aesthetically pleasing and profitable website. oBundle’s team is made up of former BigCommerce employees, making them experts in all things BigCommerce. These experts can be trusted to turn any BigCommerce-powered e-commerce store into a money-making machine.
Sure, anyone can build an e-commerce website. However, to build an e-commerce store that stands out and attracts customers, one needs a custom-built e-commerce store. Professional web developers help businesses build custom stores that help them sell more. Some examples of customization include:
- Conditional options
- Custom cart marketing tools
- Bulk order forms
- Wholesale customizations
- Easy to use payment processing
These custom-made features make light work of managing, cataloging, and updating massive product databases.
Another important reason to enlist the help of professional developers is that they understand conversion optimization. Conversion optimization, in e-commerce web development, is the art and science of designing websites in such a way that it converts more visitors into paying customers.
To ensure a website converts at its best, web developers conduct thorough web audits utilizing complicated tools. These check and ensure that every stage of the funnel is frictionless, allowing users to easily move on their customer journey without any deterrents. Audits include (but are not limited to) factors such as usability, page speed, navigation, and many other tests.
Content is the lifeblood of every website. It’s a critical aspect of e-commerce website development that needs to be handled with the utmost care. From product catalogs to product descriptions to images and blog content, these have to be incorporated into the overall website design. This is the point where information architecture and the actual e-commerce platform meet. To ensure a union that results in a great user experience for customers, a professional web development team is needed. Failure to do so could result in a complicated and confusing e-commerce store.
Due to the complicated nature of e-commerce web development, it is therefore imperative that prospective store owners don’t try and do it themselves. Web development teams like oBundle are a great investment in this regard. After all, when it comes to running a successful e-commerce store, it’s all in the details.
6. Testing the Website
One aspect of e-commerce web development that can’t be over-emphasized is testing. Before an e-commerce site can be launched, it must be tested. Nothing turns customers away faster than a broken site. With e-commerce, there’s usually only one chance to make a first impression – so it better count.
Every facet of the website needs to be tested, however, special attention should be given to:
The Checkout Process
Most transactions are aborted at checkout. To mitigate this, e-commerce store owners must ensure that the checkout process works by verifying that:
- All payment methods work
- Product details (including price and shipping) are clearly visible
- Discount and coupon codes work correctly
To check all this, store owners can get people to order different products and then request a refund. This way, it’s easy to test the platform from all angles.
Testing the overall functionality of an e-commerce store is also a critical procedure that can’t be overlooked. Here are some key details to be considered:
- Links and buttons. All links and buttons must be thoroughly tested to ensure they work and that they lead to the right pages.
- Content. Product descriptions, blog posts, and all written content should be checked for errors and plagiarism.
- Mobile responsiveness. This should be tested on all types of mobile devices to ensure that the website displays properly across all screen sizes.
- Browser compatibility. E-commerce store owners must make sure that their store is accessible on all browsers and that loads fast.
Once a site passes all these tests, it can then be successfully launched.
7. Launch the E-commerce Store with a Bang
No matter how much effort is put into e-commerce website development, it’s all pointless if the store is not visible. Some good ways of doing this include:
- Creating a landing page. A landing page can be designed and put up before the e-commerce site itself is live. It’s a great way to announce an upcoming store as well as to build an email list.
- Social media. Social media can help announce the launch of an e-commerce store. Brands need to build a strong following and engage with them to help get the word out about the e-commerce store’s launch.
- Throwing a launch party. Everyone loves a party. E-commerce stores can leverage this by throwing a launch party where they give away freebies or heavily discounted prices on products on launch day.
It’s unwise to silently launch an e-commerce store. Doing so won’t draw any attention or drive valuable traffic to the site. Instead, e-commerce store owners should invest in the launch as it is beneficial to the business.
E-commerce Web Development – It’s a Marathon
While there are so many get rich quick schemes being peddled around the internet, serious business people must know that e-commerce is not one of them. Yes, it is a profitable business model, but it requires prospective e-commerce store owners to be prepared to put in a lot of work. While this business model is a marathon, not a sprint, the rewards are well worth it.
For those who need help in designing and building a profitable e-commerce store, the team at oBundle is ready to discuss turning an idea into a profitable e-commerce business.