So you've decided to open an online store!
You already have a WordPress site that has been out there and you want to add eCommerce or you have a nifty idea you think you can turn into a profitable online endeavor. Congratulations! Now, let's not make the mistake of not having the basics prepared and planned in advance!
It isn't difficult to add eCom to WordPress with WooCommerce. But before we even get to the point of talking about all the options of eCom'ing your WordPress site, we first have to get the foundation, business, policies and products end of the plan in place to know what solution would work best for you.
Business Basics Before Adding eCommerce to Your WordPress Site
Some of these issues may seem like common sense, but the truth be told, I get inquiries every single day from those contemplating a new eCommerce venture who when I ask about these issues I can tell we haven't solidified our core plan.
- Make sure your product or service is über niche. Sites selling bunches of unrelated items or products that are not topically related in some way will be all the much harder to market online. Putting up a "me too" site where the online market has been saturated is a waste of your time and money unless you have a different angle or idea. The best ideas are born from hobbies, interests and passions where the eStore owner saw an opportunity because no one else was catering to that specific niche (or they knew for a fact that with hard work and dedication they could do it better!). Don't underestimate the power of niche!
- Research your competition. Do a search at your favorite search engine for a handful of 2-3 word keyword phrases you believe your target market will use to find your new eStore. Then make note of the hundreds of thousands or millions of pages already online doing the same. Either get "nichier" to try and minimize your competition or plan on being a rabidly aggressive marketer which will cost you both in $$ and time. Look at what your competitors are already doing successfully (again, see if there is an opening to do something better) and how you can integrate those concepts in a unique or different way.
- Create your pricing profile. Can you be competitive and still make a profit when all is said and done? You need to include all your costs to get to your bottom line. SSL, Hosting, Platform, Domain, Email, Themes, Plugins, Extensions, Modules Add-ons, Monthly Fees, Payment Gateways, Credit Card Processing Fees, Advertising, Inventory, Packaging Supplies, etc.)
- Create your shipping program. What carriers will you offer? Will you be shipping based on weight and location or will flat rate work for you? Or is shipping formula based on type of product? What about a handling fee? Shipping should not be a profit center and needs to be reasonable. The perception of overly high shipping fees in one of the top reasons customers abandon their shopping carts. Will you be shipping globally? You will then need to know what customs paperwork and policies will need to be considered.
- Create your return policy. This needs to be clear, detailed and practical so that if you do experience returns, your customers can easily find what you need them to do and what your criteria are for a return to be accepted.
- Create your security policy. Your security policy should explain what you do, in detail, to protect your customer's payment information. Are you on secure servers? Do you use SSL? Are you verified by a third party verification service? The more information you can provide the better to give your customers that warm fuzzy they need to trust you.
- Product photos. When it comes to selling online, visuals will make or break you. Make sure all your products have quality photos. If you do not have experience taking product photos for the Web -- they won't be good enough. There are many great resources to learn how to take the best product photos possible. You can also check with your suppliers to see if they have photos you can use or hire someone who can guarantee top image quality.
- Product descriptions. One line generic descriptions won't cut it. You need details, sizes, colors, dimensions along with some good marketing verbiage that makes the potential customer realize they need, want, must have that item(s). Will you be entering your products yourself? If not, you need to plan on hiring someone to create an uploadable spreadsheet or do your data entry for you.
- Marketing plan and budget. You need to have a plan and budget both in time and $$s to market your new eStore. What are you going to do to get your site "out there?" There is no "build it and they will come" online -- you'll be lucky if you ever get found with that approach. Pay Per Click campaigns can run from a few hundred to thousands of dollars a month depending on how competitive your market is and will require massive time for you to test, tune and run effective campaigns. Don't want to deal with PPC campaigns? Then plan on spending tons of time doing social media networking online combined with aggressive traditional marketing efforts off-line. Without either your new eStore will remain a spec of sand in the desert.
- Customer Service plan of action. You need to look at your schedule and plan for the printing, processing and packing of orders. This in of itself can be very time consuming when done properly. You'll need to spend time answering customer e-mail inquiries (properly), updating order status, entering shipping details and ETAs so you can send customers that much desired shipping confirmation. How will you handle phone inquiries? Do you have a merchant account to accept credit cards? What forms of payment will you accept? Visa, MasterCard, Check, Wire Transfer, Money Orders? How about PayPal or Stripe? Do you have a payment gateway to verify, approve and process charges real-time?
- The Right Premium WordPress Theme. You want a theme that is supported and keeps up with WordPress and any security issues that may arise. The last thing you want is to invest time and money into a theme to find out it breaks with the next WordPress update or that the developer is MIA when you need them. Here are my preferred WordPress Theme shops.
- Managed WordPress Hosting. Ever here the saying you get what you pay for? This applies to WordPress Hosting X10! You'll need the platform that caters to WordPress' database and resource requirements. You'll need a platform that is on top of network security. You'll need support that is there when you need it. WPEngine (<=AFFLink) offers all that and is the company I use exclusively (after a lot of trial and error testing other platforms) for all my sites.
Now You Are Armed With the Basics!
These are the core basics you have to plan for before you decide which platform to use for your new eCommerce website. Having this information nailed down will allow you to be able to review themes, plugins, and platforms to know which will work best or your online store concept.
You've heard the saying "fail to plan; plan to fail." Do yourself a big favor and do not proceed until you have the above issues all nailed down and ready to integrate.
Then get selling!
At your service,