Top 10 Tips The Set Up Of An Ecommerce Site

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Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 39 seconds

Any business that has yet to develop an online presence is missing out on the strong growth in online spend in the UK, even in the context of the current economic climate. Estimates vary widely but spending figures in the region of £9 billion a year are often quoted. The following are some of the most important elements to consider in the set-up of an ecommerce site.

1: Set A Realistic Timeline

Researching and selecting web hosts, web designers, agencies, affiliate networks, affiliate management firms, payment gateways and the myriad of other providers potentially required in creating an online presence is time consuming. Whilst you may ultimately decide to single-source much of this via a decent agency, acquiring at least a rudimentary understanding of the key issues in each area is necessary to ensure that any such prime contractor is suitably qualified. You will need to confirm that they have the requisite skills and technology in-house or have appropriate best-of-breed partnerships. Many new entrants attempt to follow unrealistic time lines and either fail to deliver on time or are forced to cut corners with potentially disastrous results.

2: Research The Competitions Ecommerce site

If you are an established firm you will no doubt have a good understanding as to the main players in your sector. Check out their online presence. Who looks good? Who is at the top of the search engines for relevant search terms and phrases? Who is buying advertising on the search engine pages? Spend time on their sites studying not only the price points but overall usability and consumer feedback. Many businesses flourish by simply doing something only slightly more effectively than the competition. As a late coming entrant to the online market, you should take full advantage of the very visible propositions of your competition, learning from their mistakes and indeed from elements of their businesses that appear to well implemented.

3: Understand Online Law and Regulations

Consumers enjoy a reasonable level of protection and privacy in the UK. The Data Protection Act 1998, Distance Selling Regulations 2000 and the Electronic Commerce Regulations 2002 are a good starting point. Understand what you must, can and indeed cannot do in the context of payment processing, fulfilment, returns, marketing and email communication.

4: Ensure Security

It is vital that any site components involved in the capture or display of consumer information, together with payment processing adhere to the appropriate security standards. You will find it well worth investing time in understanding the rudiments of Secure Socket Layer (SSL) and basic web site security. You will also need to assess the provisions made by your chosen web host in ensuring the security of clients’ sites and their associated data.

5: Choose the Right Payment Service Provider

Continuing the security theme, PSPs are generally required in order for you to be able to take consumer payments. There are a range of providers and a good many factors to consider including set-up and ongoing transactional charges; the ease and “seamlessness” of the integration of provider’s system with your site; the technology employed; security; their relationship with your bank and so forth. Some ecommerce solutions will come pre-integrated with an existing PSP; others will offer a choice or simply an interface requiring potentially complex and expensive integration.

6: Understand and Execute Effective Online Marketing

You may create the best site in the business. Without visitors, however, it is of little value. If this sounds ridiculously obvious, you are already ahead of many of your competitors. Although far more businesses are now web literate, there are still endless examples of pretty sites seen by almost no-one. Attracting traffic is a multi-disciplinary exercise. If you understand the concepts of a conventional marketing mix through multiple channels, the same principles apply to the online world but the channels are very different. The relevance and effectiveness of each channel will be determined by the nature of your business and the degree of market competition. Online channels (and thus disciplines) include natural or organic (unpaid) search – often referred to as search engine optimisation (SEO); paid search, often referred to as pay per click (PPC); social media optimisation (SMO); and affiliate marketing. Each of these areas requires deep knowledge and few firms can resource all of these channels in-house, with many using best of breed partners.

7: Build in Reliability

Don’t skimp on website hosting – it is vital that your website creates a good impression with customers if they are to return and recommend. There are plenty of web hosts from which to choose, many of which seem to offer competitive packages. Ultimately it is best to opt for those that are used by other successful sites, ensuring that your customers have access to the site 24 hours a day. The same goes for the site implementation itself: any development work must be thoroughly tested and should occur in a structured environment with appropriate change management discipline.

8: Plan for Change

Whilst some businesses are of sufficient size to finance their own in-house technical staff, others will retain the services of an agency. Either way, you need to have consistent access to someone who understands your ecommerce platform and who can fix any issues and implement any necessary changes promptly and accurately. In choosing your ecommerce site, whether an “out of the box” solution; a bespoke creation or a combination of the two, ensure that it includes a Content Management System (CMS) to facilitate regular updates and additions to your on-site content. This includes not only product information but also text content which is a vital element of search engine optimisation.

9: Ask for Feedback

Every business should solicit and act upon consumer feedback. Those new to ecommerce should pay particular attention if they are to keep up with the competition and deliver competitive products and services. Well designed ecommerce sites can readily support the feedback process, with many sites making active use of user generated content (UGC) as a key element of their own on-site content. This may appear in the form of reviews, questions and answers, forums and blogs.

10: Keep Set-Up Costs To A Minimum

This final point appears to ignore the complexity described above and yet should be a guiding principle during your initial foray into ecommerce. Virtually no-one ever gets it completely right the first time. Identifying and working with the right agency partner is perhaps the most important element in the entire process. The right partner can steer you through the minefield and work with you to plan an effective yet cost-conscious market entry. As you will see, the breadth and depth of choice in our ecommerce solutions can provide a suitable starting point whatever your business. You need a partner that has strong client references and a genuine commitment to the delivery of value for each and every one of its clients, large or small.


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