Start Selling Online with 9 Steps

It's more than knowing your target market, you need a grasp of branding, design, and content strategy.

Design Brief - What is it?

Today, people are looking for ways to streamiline their shopping experience. According to NASDAQ, 95% of the purchases are expected to be online by 2040. Lets see how you can start building a a website for your business.

1. Product/Service and Market

The first obvious step is to define what is it that you're going to sell. Questions like 'is there a need in a certain market that you can fulfill?' can help you define the product or service you can sell. Remember that your needs are not everybody's needs, so make sure your decisions are data-driven. It's true that selling something you like makes it easier to empathize with your audience. Just make sure the problem you want to solve is worthwhile.

Regardless of your business goals, make data-driven decisions.

Once decided about the product/service, study the market and the competition. A SWOT analysis can help you become better acquainted with your competitor. A well-done market research gives you a competitive advantage since your target market influences everything: the User Interface (UI), the User Experience (UX), and so on. Here a few things to understand about your market:

  • What's their background?
  • What's their income range?
  • How old are they?
  • What competitors’ websites are they likely to purchase from?

Knowing all of this will play an important role in helping to create a business that is personalized to their tastes and needs, build a stronger connection with them.

2. Business Models

Although there are many different online shops, they all fall into a few basic business models and you must know and understand where your business falls in. The main eCommerce business models are Business-to-Business (B2B), Business-to-Consumer (B2C), and Consumer-to-consumer (C2C).

  • B2B basically refers to businesses that sell goods or services to other businesses. Manufacturers, wholesalers, and service providers normally are B2B.
  • B2C on the other hand is the model where the majority of the online stores fall into. In this model, products and services are sold from businesses straight to the customers with no thirty-party or middleman involved.
  • C2C is a model in which consumers sell things to other consumers.

3. Business Name and Domain Name

Your business name needs to stay no close to the ones your competitors are using; it must stand out. Few things to keep in mind when choosing a business name are:

  • Keep it simple and easy to spell and remember.
  • Be original: Give your e-commerce website a name that will wow people by being so different.

And don't forget to purchase a domain name. There's nothing worse than preparing everything only to find out that the name you had in mind is already taken. But with a little ingenuity and wordplay, you may be able to come up with something pretty close if your ideal domain name is already taken.

4. Determine Your Branding

A brand is what people say about your business; is basically like your business' reputation. And just like a person's reputation is something out of his control, you can not control what people think about your company. But the good news is that, just like a person can influence what others think of him, you can influence what people think about your business.

A defined brand helps to build brand loyalty. Companies like Apple, Coca-cola, KFC that have iconic logos, visual identities, and ways of speaking have a tighter connection with their consumers than companies whose identities are less defined. It's like in many of your relations: Who would you prefer to hang out with, people who know who they are and what they want or those who don't?

People like to connect with people, so if clients don't feel the human touch they'll be very hesitant entering their credit card details

It's important to humanize your eCommerce website by letting your audience know why it exists and the people behind it. Make it easy for people to contact you. Remember: people like to connect with people, so if clients don't feel the human touch they'll be very hesitant entering their credit card details. If you want to build trust, make your brand more human. And speaking of humans, did you know that brands have voices? Yes, you read it right. Your brand's voice is what will transform your content into writing that's engaging and active. Your voice can distinguish your brand from the competition. Your voice will touch everything from the content on your e-commerce to your social media.

5. Plan a Content Strategy

To get a better idea of the product early on in the process, my recommendation is to use the so-called content-first approach and not the other way around. With this approach, you build the website with real content rather than lorem ipsum. To achieve this, you need to have a well-established content strategy. It refers to the management of basically any tangible media that you create and own whether it's written, visual, downloadable. Content strategy is going to help you, among other things, to:

  • Know what content you need to tell your brand's story and communicate what your products do;
  • Continuously demonstrate who you are and the expertise you bring to your industry and;
  • Shape the Information Architecture (IA). Just like a train needs tracks to move, your IA will serve as a route to get the content to your customers.

Knowing your audience is key here. What are their common questions about the products you carry, and what information would they find useful? Try to predict and answer the basic questions they may have and provide information in a way your competitors don't. Your content strategy will determine what you'll need and the best way to communicate it I design.

6. Determine Product Categories

Just like in well-organized physical store products are organized into categories, your eCommerce website must be well structured in order to perform well. All your call-to-action (CTA), navigation, and other ways of getting people to your products with minimum effort will depend on how well defined your product categories is.

When it comes to naming categorize your store's products, you got to be strait-forward. Don't reinvent the wheel, use the names and labels your target audience normally uses when shop for the kind of products or services you're selling. Remember: giving your customers clear paths to your products leads to higher conversion rates.

7. Product Photos and Descriptions

Online shoppers can't hold the actual product. So to make up for this disadvantage, it's important that the product photos you use include all the important details. The more you can convey through images with multiple angles and close-ups the better your customers will understand your products. And taking nice, high-quality photos is not difficult these days. With a modest setup of a tripod, some lights, and a paper backdrop most people with a decent camera and a bit of experience can achieve great results. Hiring a professional would be recommended though since they can take better photos and have editing skills to further enhance them and make them an even better representation of your products.

Online shoppers can't hold the actual product so they rely on images and product descriptions.

The basic purpose of product descriptions is to give the customers all the guidance they need in deciding whether they'll add the product to the cart or not. So it must tell them what they need to know, featuring the benefits and features of the products or services. And they should be guided by empathy and connect with potential customers on a personal level instead of being just a dry recitation of details. Remember:  your product descriptions need to keep the customer in mind and communicate how a product will help solve their problem and make their lives better.

8. Find the Right Ecommerce Platform

There are many e-commerce platforms to choose from. Magento, Shopify, Webflow, EditorX and WooCommerce are just some of the choices the market offers. As you can imagine, there are pros and cons associated with each one of them. How to know which one to use? Make sure that the one you choose enables you to do the following:

  • Responsive Design: This is going to enable your customers to have a consistent and smooth experience no matter the size of the device they're using.
  • CMS: A Content Management System will help you update and edit dynamic content, like products, blogs, news, and other blocks of conttent in a design more easily. This makes manging and update your website.
  • Shopping Cart and Checkout page: The ability to customize the shopping cart in a way that fits your brand and makes the shopping experience unified will make your store more trustworthy.
  • Easy to use: the platform you choose must give you the freedom and the ability to make some changes on the site without necessarily having to always hire a developer.

9. Make Your Online Store SEO-Optimized

Having a great website with great products or services is not that useful unless people can find it, right? So it's important to continuously do search engine optimization (SEO) to help search engines get your website to the right people. The more relevant your content is, the more organic traffic you'll get to your website. To create this relevant content you can consider writing a blog or how-to guides about the products you offer. For example, if your store sells smartphones, you can write articles about how to choose a smartphone, how to troubleshoot common problems with smartphones, or tips to prevent the battery from draining fast. SEO best  practices may include:

  • Research keywords using Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends to find relevant words and topics your target users use on search engines.
  • Use words people normally use when talking about your products or the areas of interest related to them.
  • Make sure all the headers have the relevant words and phrases.
  • Take it easy: don't exaggerate with keywords.

To Recap

With buying behavior changing, online commerce is going to keep getting more and more popular. You don't have to choose between traditional physical stores and online, you can strategically use both. What do you need to open your e-commerce website?

  1. Define the product or services you're going to sell
  2. Choose a business model that works best for you
  3. Find a suitable name and secure a domain name
  4. Establish your branding
  5. Plan a content strategy
  6. Determine product categories
  7. Make sure you have great images and product descriptions
  8. Choose the e-commerce platform you're going to use
  9. Make your store easy to find with SEO best practices.
Délcio Pechiço

Product Designer | Webflow Enthusiast | IT Support Technician | Background in Mining, Oil & Gas

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