So you’re ready to launch your online store soon, but you want to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. We handle a lot of these launches and migrations, and have come up with this checklist to help you make sure you’ve covered all the bases.
Make Sure Your Data Is In Place
You would be surprised at how many stores will get a good portion of the way through the launch process without having products on the site. Does your store have your products entered into the system and properly categorized into categories? If not, take a little time to make sure that you have that in place. It will also help you get a feel for the system if you’re not already familiar with it.
Do you have any information pages on your site? You should, and here’s why it’s important. Even if you aren’t ready to be worrying about Search Engine Optimization and driving additional traffic to your site in the very beginning, you probably want to tell a little bit of your story. Your business is something to be proud of, and your site is a great place to tell the world about it. An “About Us” page is almost standard for websites these days, and people do actually read them. It’s important for establishing trust and professionalism for your brand.
Customers and Orders
If you are starting a brand new business online for the first time, this may apply only partly to you. Many businesses, however, go online after a period of doing business in person either via brick-and-mortar storefronts or face-to-face sales to consumers directly. If you’ve already got a customer base and other types of records that you’d like to have in one central place, it’s a good idea to migrate that date into your new system.
Many times this can be as easy as a properly formatted spreadsheet file, while in other cases you may wish to get some help from a team with experience in doing data conversions. Whichever situation you find yourself in, you’ll be glad you got all the data in one place when you need it.
Shipping and Restrictions
Your business may ship all over the world, but that still means you will want to come up with some shipping settings and restrictions. Some stores only ship to their local areas, particularly if they carry perishable goods. Others will only ship to carriers in North America, or have different rates and availability for shipping methods depending on the destination.
Maybe your business offers free shipping with a coupon or over a certain total – but does that hold true with every location on the planet? If you are planning to only ship to US addresses, does that include overseas territories and military bases? Shipping is a hard problem, but thankfully a lot of people have already solved most of the truly difficult parts. It’s best to start with a few simple rules in place and expand your shipping settings as you need to.
If you’re an already established business, you probably already have a way to take credit and debit card payments. If so, it’s always a good idea to check and make sure that your platform works with the Payment Gateway that you have an existing relationship with. Sometimes this will not be the case, particularly if you use an unusual payment provider. In cases like this it can be a good idea to check with your platform and find out what they recommend, as they often have good suggestions.
If you’re just starting out, you will likely want something simple but flexible to start off with before determining what your business’ specific needs are. Many people choose to set up two or three simple methods, for example PayPal and a credit card processor. For many small to medium sized businesses, this may be all that is needed indefinitely. Spend some time looking at your options and deciding, however. It can be important to every aspect of your site’s daily functioning.
One of the two certainties in the world, according to some. If there’s any part of this process you don’t want to make any large mistakes in, it is of course setting up taxes. Every major ecommerce platform has the systems in place to make this a little bit easier for you, and in some cases even partner with apps that automate large amounts of the process so that you don’t have to worry about incorrectly creating a setting somewhere important.
If you already have a platform in mind, and you haven’t set up taxes yet, we definitely recommend you discuss this with your platform so that they can walk you through the usual risks and pitfalls. They often have a lot of experience with this, and sometimes have good suggestions you might not have otherwise considered.
Everybody loves a bargain! If you’re running sales, you want to feature that prominently on your homepage. Setting up deals like “buy one, get one” or bulk discounts is a great way to carry over your existing policies if you are starting from an established business. If you’re brand-new, it’s a great way to entice customers to make additional purchases.
There are also coupon codes to consider. Coupons are so versatile that they’re used in all kinds of ways. Sending them out as part of your email marketing campaign is one popular use. You could also have ones that you give out to special groups, like members of a forum for enthusiasts of your type of product, or organizations you want to support and develop a relationship with. Versatile and powerful, making sure you’ve got your coupons ready for launch is a great idea.
You’d be surprised how often people will launch their site, but forget to add the necessary contact information to the page. This is an important part of establishing trust and seeming professional. It can make a difference in other ways, as well. Say a customer is ordering something from you in Georgia and they want the product quickly, so they take a look and see that your store is located in Alaska. This tells them that if they want to get the product as fast as possible, they’d better spring for a premium type of shipping rather than simply choosing standard shipping and hoping for the best.
Adding clickable phone numbers, full address, and email contact information in the footer is a part of your design that you don’t want to neglect. If anything goes wrong with an order, customers want to know that they will have a way to reach you to resolve these issues. Help ease their concerns in advance by making this information available to them from the beginning.
Reminders and Notifications
When your customer places an order with your site, there are a number of things you want to have happen from this. First, you want your customer to be notified that their order is received. You will, of course, want to notify them with shipping and tracking information once their parcel is on its way. Then, of course, there’s the other side of this you want to consider which is notifying you and your team that an order has come in so that you can get it processed and out the door as quickly as possible.
Most ecommerce systems have the capability to do this built in to their platforms, but it’s always a good idea to place a few test orders to make sure that everything is working the way you know it should be.
Connecting to the Rest Of Your Online Presence
If your business has a Facebook page, or a Twitter or Instagram account, you will definitely want to make sure that everything is connected. That way your outreach to your customers will send them to your store, and you can encourage them to like and follow you on social media, expanding your reach.
Additionally, if you also sell your products on eBay or through Amazon Marketplace, the right platform will help you integrate all of these sales channels allowing you to keep track of everything from a central location. If you need help with these integrations, you can talk to your ecommerce platform or talk to our team of dedicated professionals – we’re always happy to help!
Make Sure Your Apps Are Connected
If you are moving from another platform, or if you’ve been doing your business online manually, there’s a good chance that you’ve already got a few apps that you rely on to make things run smoothly. Getting these integrated into your new site will be very helpful, to say the least!
It’s a good idea to check out your platform’s app integrations to see if you can easily include the apps you already use in your new site’s functions. Usually, this is fairly simple or only involves a few steps. In some cases, it can require design help to make a few minor adjustments.
Check Your Design
Make sure that all the elements are lining up in more than one browser. Check it on some mobile devices, as well, to make sure everything is behaving properly. Can you navigate categories properly in all of them?
Be sure to check your text, as well. Any typos or errors can make people have second thoughts about your site. If you are concerned about this, you can call in some experts to check everything over and make sure there are no problems with grammar or spelling.
We’ve covered the importance of user-generated content before. Content is what makes your site popular with search engines and leads new people to discover your site for the first time. It’s an essential part of having a modern online business. If you don’t have time to make content yourself, consider hiring a professional team to create some for you.
Set Up Users
If you’re a one-person operation, you’re already set. If you’ve got a team working with you, however, you’ll want to set up a login for each of them. This way you can see who has made what changes, and be able to set permissions so that your salesperson doesn’t accidentally alter your homepage!
Having these in place before you launch will save you a lot of headaches later, when you’re up and running and have a lot on your plate already.
Test your site! Check out the design, place a few test orders. Create a real product for $1 and purchase it using a card, to make sure that everything is actually working at every step of the way. Make sure your payment gateway is set to “live” and not “test” – the last thing you want is to be shipping people orders only to realize that you haven’t actually been getting paid!
Launch time! Let your friends and family know. Reach out on your business’ social media accounts, and consider offering a limited-time Grand Opening coupon or discount. Get that traffic coming to your online store, and then sit back and rest for a little while. You’re going to be busy for the foreseeable future, so this might be your last chance to take pride in your accomplishments for a while. And remember, you can always reach out to your platform or a team of designers and developers if you run into trouble.