By bringing your brick and mortar store online, you can experience an incredible opportunity to grow your influence and your revenues significantly. Ecommerce sales in Asia Pacific is estimated to be $855.7 billion this 2016 and it is expected to grow at $1052.9 billion in 2017.
As internet connectivity becomes further improved and mobile access becomes more popular than ever, connecting your in-store sales to online marketing channels certainly becomes a must.
Are you ready to take part and reap what this billion-dollar industry has to offer your business?
In this article, we will show you step-by-step how to create an online store, the essential aspects you need to build, how to optimize it, and the varied ways you can promote it afterwards. We will also discuss why you need to put your store eventually on mobile and what you can do to make that mobile presence relevant.
First things first – create your strategy
Putting your brick and mortar store online is a lot of hard work and comes with many steps to fulfill. But like in most things you do for your business, careful planning is essential to come up with a strategy that will guide you develop your ecommerce site. The strategy that you will formulate will also serve as your benchmark where your progress will be based from.
To get started, make sure that your strategy has the following components:
Your ecommerce site features
It can be a little overwhelming thinking about the different features you want your ecommerce site to have. You want it to be as user-friendly and helpful to your customers by having the features you like seeing whenever you shop online. But now that you are at the early stages of building your online store, make sure that you have the following nine indispensable features on hand so you can have your store up and running.
- Search box is an essential feature you should have so your site visitors can easily look for the products they are interested in on your site.
- Site navigation is also a crucial feature as your visitors must be able to access the different pages of your site as seamlessly as possible.
- Quick links to customer accounts and shopping carts are also expected ecommerce site features definitely worth having on your own.
- Featured products display is also critical to have on your homepage to show your visitors what your top-selling products are or the items you want them to take notice.
- Dynamic slides allow you to feature your products and your special offers through a series of images on your homepage. Include a call-to-action button to redirect your visitors accordingly.
- Store locator allows you to have a nice middle ground between your online store and your physical store. With a well-thought out store locator, you can take advantage of your potential customers who are on their mobile devices while directing traffic to your physical store.
- Email subscription box allows you to builds your mailing list for your newsletters and email marketing campaigns.
- Social media presence is also a must especially now that shoppers expect brands to also be available on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Have quick links to your different social accounts.
- Return policy and link to customer service are important features to have on your footer to give your visitors the assurance that your store promises comfortable and flexible shopping experience. Special offer badges, such as free shipping, are also great features to have to motivate people to start shopping from your store.
Anything that will improve the experience and usability of your ecommerce site can be added later on as you go along.
Online store promotion
It is essential that part of your strategy contains your plans on how to promote the ecommerce store you are building. There are many creative ways to get the word out there by means of both offline and online marketing.
Below are some of the offline promotions that you can do:
- Put your store’s URL link on your shopping bags, receipts, letterheads, and even business cards.
- Have flyers available in your physical store announcing the launch of your store. Insert it in between small talks too especially among your regular customers.
- For any in-store promotional items that you have, such as keychains, shirts, and other trinkets, have the URL of your store printed on it. It is a good way to get your potential and existing customers to start visiting your ecommerce site.
And below are several ways of promoting your store online:
- Announce it on your social media pages. Have a link to your store in your posts.
- Send out newsletters or any marketing messages to your customers you can via email announcing the launch of your store. Do not forget a link to your store to get your recipients start shopping on your site.
- If you have brand ambassadors or influencers, take advantage of their reach by commissioning a write-up written on their respective blog sites announcing your ecommerce store.
- Launch paid ads on search engines and social media and take advantage of optimizing your store using keywords relevant to the products you are selling. We will discuss all of these in greater detail as we go along.
Ultimately, corollary to these promotional efforts is the budget you are willing to appropriate.
Enabling payments is essential when setting up an ecommerce site. Although accepting payments is different and far more complicated in an online arrangement, choosing the right payment gateway will make it easy for your customers to transact with you.
There are two ways you can set up your payment gateway – as hosted off-site or as integrated in your ecommerce store.
Hosted payment gateways redirect your customers from your checkout page to your chosen payment processor’s platform. A good example of a hosted payment gateway is PayPal.
The advantage of using hosted payment gateways is that the payment provider is responsible for all the compliance methods and data security needed to make a payment transaction successful. For someone like you who is venturing into ecommerce for the first time, choosing this payment gateway option is best as it is easy to set up.
The disadvantage, however, is that not all hosted payment gateways are as popular as PayPal. If your customer happens to be redirected to a payment platform they are not familiar with, they might opt out and halt the transaction altogether. This could hurt your conversion rates.
Gauge how your customers feel about hosted payment gateways before selecting a provider.
Integrated payment gateways, on the other hand, connect to your brick and mortar store ecommerce via the payment gateway’s API.
The advantage of integrated payment gateways is your customers do not have to leave your site to complete their payment transaction.
On the other hand, the disadvantage of hosted integrated payment gateways is you are responsible for the integration process. While some are a breeze to set up, some may not be as easy.
Another disadvantage is you will be responsible for all the compliance methods and data security needed to make your payment facility functioning securely and properly. Make sure to check what your country’s security standards are to ensure you won’t be putting your business and your customers at risk.
Finally, another disadvantage is you need to open a merchant account, which will directly receive all your credit card payments. If you are starting out online as a small business, this might be a lot of effort to take on your part.
Accepting payments is an essential step when bringing your brick and mortar store online. Choose your payment gateway wisely.
Secure your domain name
Having a domain name for your store gives your business credibility. That is why it is equally important to secure a domain name that also matches what your physical store’s name is.
This way, your existing customers already know what to enter in their address bars to search and open up your brick and mortar store online. This also allows you to align with your customers’ expectations. If H&M had a domain name other than www.hm.com, then that would be very confusing for a lot of people.
The advantage of having your own domain name is it is easier for people to find you. Aside from the credibility, it gives your business a more professional image.
Another advantage of having a domain name for your store is if ever you need to change your web host, your domain name stays with you. You do not have to inform your customers of a new address. They will simply be brought to your new site whenever they type your domain name on their browsers.
With a domain name for your store, it is easier to get your site registered with search engines, giving you a better position in organic listings.
And ultimately, the best domain name to register is your actual store name. Go to whois.net and see if it is available. Secure your domain name from your chosen domain name marketplace and pay the annual fee.
Select a shopping cart system
Choosing a shopping cart that is easy-to-use and will grow with you as your business expands is definitely critical. But with so many available options to choose from, how do you know which one is for you?
In this section, we will discuss three shopping cart systems – Shopify, Magento, and Woocommerce – and its respective features, advantages, and disadvantages.
Shopify is complete ecommerce SaaS (software as a service) solution that allows you to launch, run, and manage your brick and mortar store online. It is designed with small businesses in mind. Also, it is easy to use and does not require coding or any tech experience, allowing you to get your ecommerce store up and running fast.
Aside from a shopping cart system, it also offers the following ecommerce features: storefront, store management, and web hosting.
Features of Shopify’s shopping cart system include:
- Free SSL certificate, which protects all the pages, content, credit card, and transaction information of your store. SSL certificates offer the same protection and security as that of banks.
- Accepts credit card payments and offers a number of payment gateways
- Facilitates free shipping by managing your average order value and choosing the price at which free shipping can be offered. Similarly, it allows you to set up your shipping rates (e.g. fixed, tiered, weight-based or location-based) and apply automatic taxes based on your location.
- Shopify offers a clear user experience and user interface. Truly a good option for businesses venturing into ecommerce for the first time.
- Pricing is modest and economical in the beginning
- Offers good app integrations for SaaS services
- Since it is a SaaS platform, you do not need to have your own server
- Limited options for customization. You are only allowed to change certain portions of Shopify plugins’ functionalities compared to other open source solutions that lets you customize mostly everything.
- The downside of using a SaaS platform is everything will be hosted on Shopify, meaning your content and data are not 100% yours. The tendency to be locked in with a service that you cannot change the structure of can be a disadvantage if your business expands eventually.
Magento is an open-source, full-featured software for ecommerce that allows you to completely customize your site. It is an enterprise level CRM that also lets you run more than one store, allowing you to manage both in one dashboard.
Features of Magento’s shopping cart system:
- Gives you the option to have your customers sign up for an account or sign in as a guest
- Offers and allows you to choose from multiple payment-processing options
- You can also use your preferred payment gateways, such as PayPal, Amazon Payments, and Authorize.net
- Highly customizable, highly scalable design and offers an extensive support network
- Choose from an open source (Community Edition) or a hosted solution (Enterprise Edition and Magento Go)
- Offers a multitude of modules, allowing you to build the ecommerce store that you have in mind
Can be easily incorporated with different payment options
- Mobile-friendly and has advanced SEO features
- Secure and stable with its server running on a separate system – all ecommerce information are private with no third party access
- Can be expensive to develop and manage
- Requires a more robust server, larger disk space and memory to be able to run the store properly
- Has a very long learning curve compared to other open source systems
WooCommerce is an open source ecommerce plugin designed for small and medium ecommerce sites using WordPress.
- Allows you to build a digital storefront as part of an existing website or as a stand-alone
- Payment processing options, such as credit cards, cryptocurrencies and even COD
- Full access for back-end operations
- Marketing and promotional materials aimed at boosting your sales
- Ecommerce reporting to measure your site’s success
- It is a self-hosted shopping cart plugin that lets you create a free online store on WordPress in minutes
- Offers limitless capabilities and options to customize your store
- Choose from various themes, plugins, and extensions
- Has documentation and instructional guides perfect for those looking for a DIY approach to building an ecommerce site
- Reportedly has slow loading speeds
- Plugin updates can affect your site’s user interface
- Having too many WooCommerce extensions can get expensive in the long run
The best way to start choosing your shopping cart system is to evaluate the size of your ecommerce site and the features that are important to you.
Have an impressionable design
Aside from usability, it is important to have an impressionable design for your ecommerce site. And when you think about how short the attention span is of the modern online consumer, there is no reason to go mediocre as to how your site will look like to your visitors and your potential customers.
Keep your homepage clean and clutter-free
It’s always a visual treat to browse and go over nice and clean websites and your online store should not be an exception to this rule.
Striving for a clean and clutter-free homepage does not necessarily mean having a site that’s boring or lacking personality. You can still have the works – the colors, images, and textures that you want – and keep your homepage simple and free of unnecessary elements.
Remember: Having a clean and clutter-free ecommerce site has the advantage of being simple yet very functional for your users.
Use white space as much as you can. This provides good contrast to your homepage content and images and it functions as relief zones for your site. Also, it can help your visitors find what they are looking for on your homepage, reducing the possibility of fueling your bounce rate.
A good example of a site that uses a generous amount of white space is Apple.
Choose your homepage elements wisely, ensure its visibility and that it will perform its intended functions. Direct your visitors’ attention to the actions you intend them to do by making those elements truly noticeable.
Have a smart use of design all over your page, such as using precise and bold colors, a clear color scheme, and hierarchical typography among others.
Use high-res product photos
This will make your visitors click on them and ultimately, go deeper into your site. Although it is not sound advice to sell without content, but the images you use all throughout your site significantly impact your ability to sell.
Check out this neat example of the use of high-res product photos from Optimo Hats.
Remember that the photos you use on your online store are the closest a customer can get to experience your product before deciding to buy it. Good product photography is truly a good investment for anyone looking to sell their products online.
Use your existing branding guidelines
Since you are bringing your brick and mortar store online, it is important that you use anything existing regarding your brand to the world of ecommerce. Using the same logo and the same color scheme will reinforce your brand online.
Additionally, using the tone for your offline marketing materials to your ecommerce store’s copy will help you achieve brand unity. When you think about it, there are not a lot of things you need to change when bringing your actual store online. Otherwise, you will be confusing your visitors and your existing customers as to what you are trying to be on ecommerce. Make it easy for anyone to identify your business both offline and online.
Have clear CTAs
This applies for your site navigation and the different buttons on your site where you want your visitors to perform a specific action.
Make your CTAs effective with the following tips:
- Use action-packed copy, such as ‘Get this now!’ or ‘Proceed to Secure Checkout’. Regularly test your CTA copies to see which version is making your visitors respond more.
- Choose the buttons’ colors wisely. The brighter, the better. And similar to the copy, regularly test the color of your CTA buttons and measure which more is converting.
- Place your CTA in the best location on your site. Again, this also calls for split testing. If your homepage happens to be considerably long, have multiple CTA buttons available – one on top, one in the middle and another just above the footer.
- Add a sense of urgency so people are motivated to start clicking.
Keep homepage copy fresh and updated
Aside from the SEO benefits, keeping this a practice is a good way to engage your customers constantly to your site. Communicate your different USPs, give updates about your latest product arrivals and promos, and share essential information about your online business.
Having fresh and updated homepage copy also gives your visitors the impression that you are an actively operating online store. An impression of a busy store is definitely a sign of good business.
Another reason to have fresh and updated content is there is always something new your visitors can look forward to. Content is the best way to keep them coming back and spending more time on your site.
Control your bounce rate
Bounce rate is the percentage of your visitors who leave your site without doing any further action. There are many reasons why it happens (.e.g. they find your site unrelated to what they are looking for, the loading time is taking too long, your visitors are distracted with the different elements on your homepage) so before they consider doing so, make sure to implement and keep in mind these 13 best practices so they won’t leave your site.
These will definitely help you keep those conversion rates up and your bounce rate down.
Don’t forget your store on mobile
Just as you are busy setting up your brick and mortar store ecommerce, do not forget to make it responsive too.
According to a Forrester Research, the expected mobile commerce sale for 2016 is $32 billion, accounting for more than 7% of all ecommerce sales.
That should no longer be a surprising revelation given that the adoption of mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablets and wearable technology, is increasing globally. That estimate for 2016 may even be higher as mobile technologies become even cheaper and internet connectivity becomes improved and more available.
Mobile marketing trends
As you put into consideration the responsiveness of your store, keep in mind the following mobile trends:
- Integrate mobile wallets, such as Apple Pay, Amazon Payments, and Visa Checkout. Integrating this type of payment option eventually will definitely help you address your mobile market’s need for fast and convenient payment transactions.
- Transition from a mobile site to a mobile app. Although it is understandable to ensure the responsiveness of your site first before developing a mobile app, it is a worthy consideration to have one developed eventually to establish your business online.
- The need for businesses to have mobile apps has been on the rise given that 89% of total media time in mobile devices is spent on downloaded applications and the remaining 11% on mobile sites.
- Create video content considering that this already takes up 69% of all consumer internet traffic. Incorporate videos into your mobile marketing strategy for better brand visibility and better sales.
- Aside from being a great complement to your images and content, videos are able to introduce your products to a whole new level for your customers and it truly makes up for the lack of customer experience prior to purchasing.
- Explore more mobile marketing channels. Aside from the usual marketing on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, consider mobile messaging apps too such as WhatsApp or WeChat that is currently changing the mobile market landscape in China.
You can read up here on more mobile marketing trends anticipated for 2016.
The importance of a mobile shopping experience
User experience is a feature that is increasing in importance when it comes to mobile shopping. Whether a mobile site or a mobile app, adopting a user-centered approach provides significant benefits:
First, you get to have a loyal user base. When mobile sites and apps are regularly updated to ensure there are no bugs, errors, and other unexpected behaviors that only lead to frustration, it can significantly increase customer loyalty.
Just as the tolerance for poor user experience is low, customers reward brands that give them every reason to be engaged with their business on mobile. When customers are engaged, they are definitely more likely to come back, shop often, and truly develop loyalty to the brand.
Second, you get to reduce the cost of customer support. By ensuring a well-designed, user-centered mobile site or app, your customers are less likely to struggle even with the simplest of interaction issues. By spending wisely on development, your customers are able not only to connect with your business 24/7, but also have a way to seamlessly interact with what you have to offer on mobile.
Although that is not to say you no longer need to give your mobile customers access to your help desk, you can save significantly towards it. More importantly, you won’t waste your customers’ time asking for help. The mobile site or app will do everything from selling to customer support.
Third, you increase customer satisfaction. Nothing boosts your conversion rate and your sales than happy customers satisfied with their experience of shopping from you.
Check if your mobile site or app is being used. If your numbers show that it is not or if it tells you that your target users do not like it, chances are you are not meeting their expectations.
Have a check of the current state of your mobile site or app – is it loading slowly? Are there too many ads showing up? Is it difficult to navigate through? A mobile site or app that does not live to your users’ expectations can only lead to two things – frustration and complete site or app abandonment.
Strategize and execute well your plans for your store’s presence and experience on mobile and aim for superior user experience at all times. With access to mobile ever increasing, an ecommerce site that is easy to use and navigate on smartphones and tablets is a non-negotiable.
Boosting your sales on mobile
A great opportunity for growth when bringing your store to mobile devices is you can address the needs of your customers who are more likely to be on their devices and not on their desktops.
You can read here for more details on split testing on mobile, but in summary, what you need to do are the following:
- Select your split testing tools and strategy wisely. Examples of testing tools you can use are Google Content Experiments, Optimizely, and Visual Website Optimizer to name a few.
- Define the percentage of your mobile users that will be included in your split testing. Make sure to get a sizable percentage of your mobile users to arrive at conclusive results.
- Start testing! Examples of where to start split testing your mobile store or app is your CTA buttons, your pricing and shipping offers, your product descriptions and recommendations, and the design of your checkout page.
Split testing is one of those reliable methods that can boost your mobile sales significantly.
Well-designed product pages
Product pages are at the center of any ecommerce site and being at the center of it all means the success of your product pages influence the success of your site as a whole.
Although one can argue that the shopping cart or the checkout pages are just as essential, it is in the product pages of your site where your customers decide whether to buy or not.
The objectives of your product pages should not be limited to the following:
- It should appeal to the different stages of the consumer buying process. Below are the 5 stages.
- It should be able to focus your customer’s attention into buying your products and not distract them.
- It must satisfy buying motivations stemming from emotional (buying based on feelings), rational (buying based on practical need or logic), and patronage reasons (preference for a store or brand).
- It should answer inquiries or address any confusion to build consumer confidence.
- It should lead customers to do the desired and obvious action – to add items in their shopping carts and proceed to the checkout page.
But at the most basic level of your product pages’ goals, the first question that always comes to mind among your customers is “what’s in it for me?’ or “what benefits are there with this product?”.
Ultimately, this leads to the creation of product pages that works in two ways – it shows the hierarchy of information following the traditional F-pattern of reading online and it delivers key marketing messages in the form of content, images, video, and other means that will build consumer confidence.
Below is a product page wireframe typically used by online shops. It has four main sections with each containing different essential product page elements.
The first section of the product page contains the breadcrumbs and the following elements:
- Product title or name
- Product image
- Additional product details usually in the form of clickable thumbnail images and videos
- Wish list
- ‘Email to a friend’ link
- Icons for sharing on social media
The second section has the following elements:
- Price or sale price if applicable
- Savings both in percentage and actual amount format
- Star rating
- Link to make customer reviews
- Benefit statements
- Delivery message
- ‘Buying’ area which shows all the information required from a customer to fulfill a product request (e.g. availability of product, color and size options, CTA button, confidence building messages)
The third section is mainly the portion where you discuss in length all the product’s details, such as features, reviews, brand, size, delivery, and return policy.
And finally, the fourth section is the portion for upselling and cross selling.
Keep in mind that this product page wireframe is only a recommendation; regularly testing the location of the elements per section of the wireframe is essential to see if this is the layout that will work best for your store.
Aside from the layout, critical to your product pages is the content that you will write. Well-written product pages have the best ability to convert, so keep in mind to always write fantastic product descriptions that will do the selling for you. Check out the summary of those tips that will propel your conversion rates:
- Define your ideal buyer
- Keep your descriptions scannable and flawless
- Focus on the products’ key features and benefits
- Use mini stories and sensory words
- Add social proof to your statements
Below is a summary of the many secrets that can increase your product page conversion rate:
- Highlight important information
- Use high-quality product photos
- Use social proof and trust seals
- Promote your ‘Add to Cart’ button
- Use scarcity and urgency
- Make live chat and support available
With your layout and content all set up, another aspect of your product pages you need to ensure is its ability to convert.
Optimize your site
When you are asked how to create an online store, the next question that follows is how to optimize it. Site optimization is a never ending process as it is one of the many ways that will make your ecommerce site constantly relevant to your customers.
Site optimization involves going back to the different elements, layouts and designs you have already implemented and see how else you can improve its performance.
As soon as you are done strategizing and creating your brick and mortar store online, make sure that you go back to the following elements on your store and enhance it.
Aside from a prominent search box, another way your customers will be able to find what they are looking for in your site is if you provide easy-to-use and practical site navigation.
Product findability is crucial before a customer can put any item in their shopping cart and proceed to checkout.
To ensure that your customers will be able to use your site navigation in the same manner you want them to use it, check out the summarized ecommerce site navigation tricks here:
Make your parent categories clickable. This is to align your site with the majority of customers’ expectations that these are clickable and not mere labels or headers. Making your parent categories clickable also encourages your site visitors to view your subcategories and start exploring the deeper sections of your site.
Have products appear in multiple subcategories if it applies. This is another way to align your store with your customers’ expectations. If they fail to find a product in a logical subcategory on your site, they might mistake it as you not carrying the product they need, leading to unwanted site abandonment and a lost potential sale.
Similarly, duplicate parent categories if it applies and make it available as another unique entry in your site hierarchy.
Consider a separate category solely for your new product arrivals. Especially for your existing customers who are visiting your site again hoping to find new items, this is a good section to direct their attention to.
Aside from new arrivals, having a dedicated category for your products on sale or on clearance is a good way to make such information easily available.
Stick to design conventions on site navigation by either placing navigation bar at the top of the page or on the left side of the page. Choosing from these conventions is practical as it prevents any mistrust on the part of your customers. As these are the norm, anything different to these accepted designs may make your site questionable, and eventually, harm your conversion rates.
Label parent and subcategories accordingly. Keep these labels short yet very descriptive of the products contained in it.
To help your customers find the products they need quickly, ensure a smart internal site search. 30% of visitors start their shopping journey by utilizing the site’s search bar so make sure that your site search is:
- Easy to find
- It offers product filters and breadcrumbs
- It has an autocomplete function
- Guides visitors to narrow searching by implementing faceted search
Make your ecommerce onsite search work to your advantage with this discussion of the five site search optimization tips.
As you add more products to your store, make sure that you optimize the filters available for your customers to use.
This helps your visitors refine their product searches, which is very central to how your customers browse through your catalogue. Keep in mind these nine optimization tips to ensure your product filters’ usability and usefulness to your customers.
- Have product filters per category
- Allow filtering based on themes (e.g. occasion, styles, price, etc.)
- Enable multiple filtering on the same type
- Ensure added filter refreshes quickly
- Display chosen product filters
- Limit product filter values to ten or less per filter type
- Make the improvement of user experience one of its goals
- Never return ‘no results’
Test how your users interact with your filters with your analytics data and heatmaps
Knowing that most people do not tolerate sites that take time to load, optimizing your site speed is another crucial factor to ensure your conversions.
Did you know that 40% abandon sites that take more than three seconds to load? If upon checking your loading speed and you find out that your site takes more than that, implement any or all of the following website speed optimization tips:
- Minimize HTTP requests or the files that need to be downloaded to load your site
- Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
- Reduce server response time
- Compress your files
- Optimize your images and keep it below 70kb
- Prioritize above-the-fold content
- Turn off unnecessary plugins
Let this discussion of the seven site speed optimization tips guide you significantly decrease your site’s loading time.
Check out page
A crucial aspect of your ecommerce site is your checkout page. This is where your site visitors transition from being a potential customer to an actual, paying one.
As the final step in the conversion process, optimizing your check out page for fantastic usability is truly a must. Whether you have a one-page checkout or a multi-page checkout, optimize it with the following strategies:
- Keep the page simple, clear and neat
- Put a guest checkout since 23% of shoppers abandon their carts if they are required to proceed to checkout
- Make customer support available for easy resolution on any problems that will be encountered on the page
- Make it easy to fill out form fields
- Ensure usability of your checkout page on mobile
- Use psychology principles (e.g. to minimize your customers’ perceived risks, place your security badges and return policies)
Read here for a more thorough guide on how to fully optimize your checkout page. And like in most things you do on your site to give the best possible experience for your customers, regularly test your checkout page. Strive for a better version of it every time.
Promote your online store
After doing all the hard work creating the foundation of your brick and mortar store ecommerce, securing the domain name, choosing a shopping cart system, designing the layout and images, writing content, and optimizing it for better user experience, you need to get the word out there about your brand finally doing business online.
There are many ways you can promote your store and in this section, we will discuss six of them.
Optimize for search engines
One of the best ways to promote and drive traffic to your ecommerce site is to make it appear favorably in organic search. Organic traffic is free, and when done right, it can give you loads of excellent ROI.
Make your business found online by appearing on search engine results with the following ways:
Have the proper HTML5 structure. Use the H1 to H6 tags properly plus the many other semantic elements in HTML5 that makes it easier now for bots and search engines to understand. Get the advantage of HTML5 by accurately incorporating it in your architecture.
Make your product descriptions rich in relevant keywords. Of course, be careful of keyword stuffing or overusing your keywords in your sentences. Use your keywords naturally and sparingly to avoid penalties.
Always have great and fresh content. Search engines love fantastic and new copies on sites, so invest on them. Fresh and updated content, such as customer reviews are great for organic ranking.
Site speed is now an SEO factor so remember to always optimize your site speed. And as mentioned earlier, aim for three seconds or less. This applies not only for your organic ranking, but also for your users.
Do not forget to optimize for mobile. Google now recognizes responsiveness as a ranking factor given how increasing mobile adoption is globally. And with an impressive amount of traffic coming from mobile, responsiveness should be well on your list for search marketing. Ensure your site scales regardless of the mobile device used and there are ample spaces in between navigational elements.
Check out our five must-have SEO checklist points for a more detailed guide regarding search optimization .
Launch ads on social media
With consumers spending a great deal of time on social media, it is not surprising why marketing on social media has taken up a significant portion of the overall efforts of advertisers every year.
In 2014, 92% of marketers advertised on social media with 80% of them indicating that their social media efforts significantly increased traffic to their respective sites.
Truly, the benefits of social media advertising go beyond increasing inbound traffic.
It also fosters brand recognition, loyalty, and authority. It uncovers more opportunities for conversions while decreasing marketing costs. Running ads on social media also saves more time than traditional forms of advertising.
Check out our comprehensive, step-by-step guide on Facebook dynamic product ads where you can automatically create and run ads based on your product catalogue and past user activity and add to carts.
Also, do refer to our ecommerce guide on Instagram ads where you can engage with your followers and potential customers with stunning and creative Instagram images.
Launch PPC ads
Aside from social media ads, you can also promote your ecommerce site using Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads.
Unlike SEO where you need to invest a lot of time and carefully implement its strategies to achieve a favorable position in organic search, PPC offers rather quicker wins.
The advantages of running those small yellow-boxed ads on top of Google search results pages is it allows you to set up your own budget. You can determine the budget for your ads on the keywords you want to rank for and bid on.
PPC ads also ensure that your page can be seen. Whether your ads will be clicked on or not, your page will always be visible to users.
You can also target your audience by location with PPC ads. Bidding for keywords becomes even easier for you as you will receive relevant clicks on people you are specifically aiming for.
However, the disadvantages of PPC ads is you cannot guarantee a conversion when a user clicks on your ad. Whether they intend to click on your ad or not, you will still need to pay for it, deducting from your set budget.
Bidding for keywords you want can also be competitive and expensive. And depending on the broadness of the key terms you want to rank for, you need to run PPC ads at least for three to six months to see success. Unless your PPC ads budget is sizable, it might put a dent on your resources in the long run.
If you want to get started with your PPC ads, check out this guide from Google.
Keeping a blog with fresh content for your store is not only good for ranking well on search engines, but also as a way to freely promote your site.
It is a great marketing platform that can serve a variety of functions and benefits for you:
- A blog is a great place where you can offer deals on a regular basis (e.g. promo codes, contest mechanics, etc.)
- A means to teach your customers the practical benefits of your products and how it can enrich their lives (e.g. regular “how-to” blog posts and instructional videos)
- It is a venue where you can tell your brand story. You can go in different lengths discussing how your brick and mortar store finally decided to go online.
- Blogs can get you noticed.
Major ecommerce sites have regularly-maintained blogs, which is worth emulating on your part as a new comer in the realm of ecommerce. Make sure to have links to your product pages whenever you publish a new post on your blog to maximize your traffic sources and increase your click-through rates.
Send out newsletters
Sending out newsletters via email is a sure way of getting you recipients informed and interested to check out your ecommerce store. Unlike social media, emails are more private spaces where your recipients welcome you in and you can personally talk to them on a one-to-one basis.
Much like blogs, newsletters allow you to send out store updates you want your customers to be informed with. And with email services such as MailChimp, you can streamline the way you send out your newsletters to your recipients. Check out our step-by-step guide on how to set up MailChimp so you can get started sending out your newsletters.
With newsletters, you can also include links to the product pages you are promoting, increasing your click-through rates.
And related to the set-up, you can create your newsletters using pre-made templates. All you need to do is to put in new content and images every time you want to send out one.
Ensure good delivery and excellent content and images of your newsletters so your recipients will find them relevant. Otherwise, they will simply delete your newsletter in their inboxes and unsubscribe.
Never underestimate the power of emails in your promotional efforts, especially its 4,300% return on investments.
Keep promoting your store using well-executed email campaigns based on great objectives. Below are some of the email marketing campaigns you can run:
- Post-Purchase Email
- Abandoned Cart Email
- Email to Request Product Reviews
- Social Proof Email
- Rewards Email
- Milestone Event Email
- Cross Sell / Upsell Email
- New Offer Email
Check out this comprehensive discussion of these email campaigns and how you can execute it for your business.
We just discussed the different steps you need to make to finally bring your brick and mortar store online. In summary, we covered four stages of creating an online store:
- Create your strategy
- Select a shopping cart system
- Have an impressionable design
- Do not forget your store on mobile
- Have well-written product pages
- Ensure good site navigation
- Implement smart site search
- Apply useful product filters
- Boost your site speed
- Design your checkout page
- Make site rank well on search engines (SEO)
- Launch ads on social media (Facebook and Instagram)
- Launch PPC ads
- Write blogs
- Send out newsletters
- Run email campaigns
Invest time well per stage of the site creation process and ensure that user experience is well-applied in every step. Keep in mind that to make your online store successful, it must be able to provide the same or an even better shopping experience for your customers than offline.