Before any serious undertaking that requires your time and effort, you always make a plan – and your e-Commerce website should be no different. The truth is, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. But what exactly goes into an e-Commerce website plan? Having a solid plan of action can help you more easily measure your results, test new marketing avenues and stay connected with your target audience. By having an e-Commerce plan, you’ll be able to see what’s working, rather than guessing and hoping for the best. Let’s take a closer look at some of the points you should consider when taking your e-Commerce website from concept to creation.
1. Research and Strategy
The core focus of any e-Commerce website design should be clear communications between the web development company and the client. It is very important that the designers and developers have a clear understanding of the company, the product and the industry as a whole. Discuss your target audience and brainstorm possible keywords that potential customers might use to find your company or your product. Taking this all-important first step will ensure you don’t blindly waste marketing dollars trying to reach or convert the wrong type of customer. Using this strategy virtually guarantees that your efforts to focus in on the right types of customers are well-rewarded, saving you time and money.
This involves setting down all the requirements for the new e-Commerce site as well as its participants. What are the requirements for users? Content? Search? Landing pages? This is the time to ask yourself crucial questions regarding how much (or how little) knowledge someone must have about your product or service to make a purchase. Are they simply aware of it or are they searching specific item numbers and names? Knowing this information will help you pinpoint exactly how your customers are finding your online store, as well as how long they’re staying and which pages they’re visiting. It can often make the difference between a broad, general information search that yields no results and a specific product name or price comparison that turns into a sale.
3. Information Architecture
Here you’ll consider the navigation and layout of the site as well as best practices for overall user experience. How easy is it for your potential customer to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily? Following best practices in information architecture is key to overall user satisfaction and a higher conversion rate. Understanding how customers browse your site is key to giving them what they’re looking for without a lot of hassle or wasted time. The sooner your e-Commerce website can resolve their needs, the more likely they will be to make a purchase and come back again.
This will be the visual representation of your site. Often created as a Photoshop template, pieces can be moved around and adjusted during the design phase to create a professional, customer-oriented style that best captures your brand and focus. Having a professionally designed website is paramount to the all-important “first impression” a potential customer gets of your site and its credibility. If the site does not project a style that is attractive and pleasing, the customer may mistakenly infer that the products sold will not live up to their expectations. Equally as important, website design plays a key role in determining usability. Put simply, the customer experience in surfing your site and finding the products they’re looking for will have a direct impact on how many site visitors actually convert into buyers.
This is the “nuts and bolts” behind any solid, reliable e-Commerce website, including client and server-side applications (front end and back end programming), quality assurance testing, integration of third party tools and other solutions that will make your e-Commerce website scalable as it continues to grow. Ensuring that third party tools, backend applications and other components work seamlessly together contribute to the overall user experience and repeat purchases. Think of the website construction as the support framework of a house you’re building, and web design as the outside of the house – the siding, well-groomed yard and welcome mat that make it feel warm and inviting. Without properly constructing the framework, the house would fall apart.
6. Migration and Launch
The final step involves moving the site from a development server toward live launch. Revisit each of the aforementioned areas again for a final test to confirm that everything works, the brand message is conveyed and the navigation is seamless and properly leads someone to making a purchasing decision.
When developing an e-Commerce site plan, you can filter these steps into three main areas — Research and Strategy, Planning and Information Architecture. Ecommerce Partners has developed a very detailed outline of this plan known as the Ecommerce Requirements Specification or ERS. These are the essential “building blocks” for your website from start to finish.
An ERS, done right is the formula for a well-ranking, well-developed website that converts. Throughout the process, it should be streamlined enough to keep with best industry practices while being flexible enough to account for new developments and added growth.
By keeping these e-Commerce development points in mind when drafting your new site, you’ll be able to enjoy greater conversions at a lower cost than trying to plan-as-you-go and hoping for the best. In the end, following a well-rounded e-Commerce site development plan will ensure your new online business keeps customers (and search engines) coming back while opening the door for more expansive growth in the future as the e-tailer landscape continues to evolve.
For help with developing an ERS of your own, Contact ECommerce Partners for a free consultation and price quote at 1-866-431-6669 or email dennis[at]ecommercepartners.net.