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4 questions before you start an e-commerce website

Thinking of selling your products online? It’s the right choice, if you know how to go about it.

In fact, there are at least 4 key questions you should ask yourself before you start an e-commerce website.

Follow our guide to find out what you need in order to open a store that’s easy to use, attractive, and engaging, and leads to clicks and conversions.
We’ll address the following topics:


Are you ready?

How do I open an online store? Start with a STRATEGY


The first question you should ask yourself when considering opening an online store is, “How do I launch an e-commerce business? How do I start?”. There are different steps to follow, but the first is definitely to make a meticulous business plan.

Analyze these 5 points:

1. PRODUCTS. Is yours a mono-brand, multi-brand, vertical, or horizontal e-commerce business? To clarify: do you sell eyewear of all brands, or only RayBan; do you sell only jeans or luxury accessories like bags, scarves, and hats?

2. TARGET Who is buying from you? What is your customer like? Cheap as in “99 cents and up” or fancy like Milan Fashion Week? Imagine your customers as characters in a book and give them faces and “personas”.

3. EARNINGS: what are your prices, costs, and revenues? How much will your initial investment be and when do you expect to recoup these expenses? What profit margin do you expect from your sales, distributed over several years?

4. COMPETITORS. Who else is selling what you're selling? Look for the products you sell on Google, enter the names of your competitors and map them out.

5. POSITIONING. How do you set yourself apart? In a sea of fish, what makes you a catch? Avoid conforming too much, or you won't have a competitive advantage; at the same time, don't be too eccentric, or you’ll lose your positioning.

Where should I sell online? Choose the best PLATFORM for your needs


Software or marketplace, CMS or proprietary e-commerce? The first step is to find out what the market offers.

There are basically 4 kinds of solutions:

1. E-commerce SaaS (Software as a Service)
2. Marketplace
3. CMS open-source
4. Customized CMS

1) E-commerce SaaS (Software as a Service)

  • Cloud solutions “hosted” on the servers of the host platform, for a subscription fee. Shopify and Storeden are two of the best-known examples.
  • PRO: they are very easy to use.
  • CON: they offer few possibilities for customization. A good alternative to this kind of solution is to use a software builder + host space with your proprietary domain.

2) Marketplace

  • They are like huge, multi-brand e-commerce stores, and include generalists like Amazon or specialists like online distribution platforms, or serve particularly niche markets like Etsy, the e-commerce site for home-made crafts.
  • PRO: easy to use, pay-as-you-go, high traffic volumes.
  • CONS: you get little recognition (customers remember Amazon rather than its individual merchants).

3) Open source CMS

  • Web applications with source code that is open and accessible to all (hence the name “open source”), like WooCommerce, PrestaShop, and Magento.
  • PRO: they have low start-up costs and a large reference community.
  • CONS: they are not so easy to manage and they often require you to install different plugins, which slow down loading times.

4) Customized e-commerce site

  • Web applications with proprietary source code.
  • PRO: useful if you have particular customizations in mind and you don’t want a carbon copy of other sites.
  • CONS: they require programming skills and are often very expensive.
Once you've become familiar with the different kinds of e-commerce stores, you need to find out what you need:

  • How much hosting space will you need? Are costs included in the cost of the platform or not?
  • How large and complex is the catalog?
  • What kind of graphic template do you want to use?
  • Do you need customizations?
  • Does the platform permit integration with other systems, whether yours or those of your suppliers, in order to manage customer databases, product listings, and logistics?
  • Will the solution be able to scale over time?

Asking yourself these questions will help you make your choice. You’ll save yourself a lot of worry, and you’ll be sure that everything is set up before launching your online site.

How do I promote my e-commerce business? Try MARKETING


Your e-commerce business is an individual site with many products or services to sell. What is the best strategy for promoting it?

Try these 3 kinds of strategies and put them into practice right away: retargeting, Google Shopping, and Email Marketing.

1) Retargeting: people return to what they know

A user visits your site. Before taking any action, the user leaves. You follow up by “retargeting” that user with a targeted advertisement.

If the law of attraction works, the user will click on the advertisement, return to your site, and complete the purchase.

2) Google Shopping: buy with one click


Google Shopping is the first kind of CPC (cost per click) solution, and should definitely be considered by e-commerce vendors. Like AdWords, it uses ”keyword advertising”, a kind of auction for keywords in which you pay for your advertisement to show up when the user types in specific words.

To become a guru, follow the advice on Bigcommerce.com and don’t forget to post announcements directly on the product sheets!

3) E-mail Marketing

E-mail marketing is dead, long live e-mail marketing. Despite highs and lows, e-mail marketing campaigns remain a crucial step in promoting an e-commerce business. The challenge? Activating an e-mail strategy and being able to maintain it over time.

PRO advice for DEM? Gather the contacts you already havein-house, organize them into lists and differentiate your messages based on these lists: this is an extremely condensed summary of the winning strategy many web agencies suggest online.

4) How do I manage Privacy? Follow the REGULATIONS

Considering that “personal data” includes all information that can be used to identify a physical person and that the law defines handling personal data to include monitoring our users’ navigation, every e-commerce should have:

  • A privacy and cookie policy page specifying the information being handled.
  • A banner for the use of cookies - stating that to continue with navigation automatically indicates consent and which contains a link to the privacy and cookie policy page.
  • Specifications about the 3 levels of privacy in the privacy and cookie policy page and anywhere the user's consent is requested:
    • Level 1: data is used solely for the sale of the product (and therefore to carry out your service correctly)
    • Level 2: data is used for commercial purposes – including DEM, profiling, re-targeting
    • Level 3: data is used during transfer of databases to a third party
  • The user has the option of choosing which of the 3 levels of privacy to consent to checking off the options on the flag in every location where consent is requested: note that the options on the flag cannot be pre-selected.
  • A summary of the order information to proceed to the sale, with an explicit request for consent.

Conclusions


Business plan? Done. Analysis of competitors and positioning? Done.  Choosing a platform? Done. E-commerce check-up? Done. Complying with regulations? Done.

You’re ready to launch a successful e-commerce business.
Do you feel the thrill? That’s a good sign!
    Download the article in pdf:
    Want to open a thrilling e-commerce website? Here are the questions you should ask yourself.

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