Recently we helped a client add an online store to their existing site. We thought we’d share some of the things we learned during the process.
Happily, every eCommerce site requires the same basic steps to set up. That’s the good news. Some steps can be more involved than others but that all depends on you, your business and what you are selling.
Yep. I’m really starting here. I know. Shipping doesn’t seem very interesting. But consider that it is how you physically interact with your customer. It’s actually a huge part of the process and you want it to be as smooth and predictable as possible.
The basics. What shipping carrier are you going to use?
These carriers all have eCommerce sections on their sites that you might want to a read through to help you decide.
At least fifty percent of our business is fulfillment, we can do everything right up front but if they open that box and things are not right it messes up the entire experience. You gotta get that part right.
John Lawson, CEO, 3rd Power Outlet and ColderICE Media
It’s equally important to identify and continuously evaluate the right shipping mix for your business. Many businesses think it’s easiest to select one carrier for everything, but each offers distinct advantages and pricing options.
Amine Khechfé, Co-founder and General Manager, Endicia
You’re also going to need to know the weights and measurements of each product and / or boxes you’ll be using. Don’t forget to take into consideration how much the packaging will cost you. And add to shipping weight. If you’re considering international shipping, customs and parcel tracking need to get added into the mix.
Don’t forget to think about how your package will LOOK when it arrives. Before you decide on shiny white mailers, you might want to send some tests through the mail to see how things look when they come back. Are they dirty, grimy, scuffed up? Imagine how your customer would feel receiving that. If you’re shipping food items that are perishable, shipping times becomes critical.
Consider how many hours per day you are actually involved in the processing of orders, and the cost to your business. Many retailers will spend their time processing orders thinking that they are helping the business, but in reality they are probably holding the business back by focusing on the wrong areas.
Ian Dade, Senior Account Manager, UK Fulfilment
Speedy despatch is vital because buyers are increasingly impatient to receive the goods asap. But rather more important than speed is managing expectations and keeping your promises. The key is to be transparent, let your buyers know when the item will arrive and aim to beat your predicted delivery date.
Dan Wilson, Editor, Tamebay.com
Test, test, test. Do a dry run, heck do SEVERAL dry runs of your procedures. And don’t be surprised if you revise and refine these for the first couple of orders. Your customer may order your products in a way you did not imagine. Trust us – we’ve seen that happen!
Shipping and handling is not the most exciting part of your business, but it is hugely important.
Delighting your customers, instead of just delivering what they expect on time, is a low-cost strategy that can help you boost sales, loyalty, or both. For instance, I will frequently upgrade customers to priority shipping.
Jordan Malik, Founder & CEO, FindSpotter
The best systems should become more efficient the more similar orders it receives. Multiple orders can be picked at the same time in waves. Other activities in the chain can also be scheduled in waves.
James Hyde, Director, James and James Fulfilment
How do I accept payments?
You’re not in this for love, right? So you will need to figure out how to accept payments on your website. For this you’ll need a payment gateway. This part can be overwhelming because of the many options available. There are plenty of them out there. Each with their own requirements. Below are some of the more popular gateways:
These each have their own requirements and settings. Some are easy to setup while others are much more involved. You’ll want to research and figure out which one will work best for you.
I found my payment gateway! Do I need an SSL certificate?
Basically. Yes. There’s a “but” in here which I’ll get to shortly. There was a time where I would say it’s okay to have a ecommerce site with out an SSL. Not anymore. Savvy consumers will almost certainly navigate away from your site fast if they don’t see an https on your store address. Online data security is a huge issue. You want them to feel safe.
So, an SSL certificate basically means that you have a secure connection between your web server and the browser your customer is using. It adds the https and padlock to your site so users know it’s safe to enter their credit card information.
Now. Here’s the “but”. Gateways like Paypal and Authorize.net have options that don’t require an SSL. They will redirect the user away from your website to enter their payment information in a secure connection provided by them.
Either way, it’s really worth getting a SSL certificate installed on your web server. Your hosting provider should be able to help you with this.
I know what I’m selling, how to ship and how I’m accepting payments. Now What?
You’re not done yet. I know. So many steps. Now you need to find the right ecommerce plugin for your site. Since we typically develop WordPress sites, that’s what we’ll be looking at.
As you might expect – there are a bunch to choose from
Woocommerce is one of the more widely used, but here’s what you need to consider when picking:
- What type of product are you selling?
- Can this plugin handle your product? Does it accommodate product variations, like different sizes and colors, or can it handle virtual, downloadable products?
- Does this plugin work with the shipping carrier you want to use.
- Does this plugin have an extension for the payment gateway you chose or can it be integrated somehow?
Your perfect plugin will be the one that says yes to all of those questions. If you find there’s more than one, then you could consider things like cost, support level, integration process, etc.
Ready to sell?
Hopefully this has helped you get closer to your eCommerce goals. In short, know your business, your products and your customers. And good luck!