Everyone is doing it. Online stores are showing up everywhere, and shopping online is growing every year. In 2021, there was a rise in the amount of BUY ONLINE, PICKUP IN STORE orders which we could directly relate to COVID-19 reasons of spending less time in store or in contact with people.
If your brand sells physical products or digital goods, it is worth considering an online store. Here is some consideration points for when planning your online shop website.
Things to Consider
- Who is your audience, and where will they be looking for products?
- Do you have a website and online traffic already that will welcome the addition of a store?
- Will you manage the store in-house or get a third party to manage it?
- What platform will you use to build your store that will also make it simple to update?
- Have you got the budget to spend on an online shop website build?
Knowing these key points will help you decide on how you design your online store.
Today, majority of traffic is on mobile devices, especially if your links are coming from social media apps like Facebook and Instagram.
Are your current buyers internet savvy? It might be worth conducting a survey to find out. What demographic is your ideal audience, and will they find your products in online searches, social media or referrals, or perhaps offline through advertising, sponsored content or word of mouth?
Instead of creating something that you believe is what your customers will want, be sure to ask customers what they actually would want. If you already have an email database, it is definitely worth running a competition to get survey answers. Ask questions like What do you like most about online shops? and What turns you off an online shopping site?
After considering your audience, and knowing what they want to see, choose a platform that will cater to yours and your customer’s needs.
Online Shop Platforms
There are a lot of online shop options today. Here are a few that we consider noteworthy and worth consideration.
Built to work together with the popular and flexible WordPress content management system (CMS), WooCommerce is a free addition with paid addons to expand its functionality.
As it requires WordPress, you will need to have either an existing WordPress website or setup a new hosted WordPress solution. With the complexity and size of an online shop site, we recommend not skimping on hosting.
A cloud solution would work very well, as resources can scale with your store’s traffic demands. read more about cloud hosting here.
One of the down sides of the WooCommerce system we have found in previous builds is clients can find it difficult to manage and update, especially when using variable products (products that have multiple sizes, colours, etc).
There is lots of documentation and training videos available online for WooCommerce, and with the price tag of zilch, it is worth considering especially if on a lower budget build.
As WooCommerce uses WordPress, an advantage is being able to use the vast array of plugins, including SEO related options like Rankmath and Yoast SEO.
WooCommerce has plugins for popular shipping channels like Australia Post, and payment gateways like eWay, PayPal and stripe.
This is a hosted shop solution, meaning the Canadian based company will host your store and you just need to point your domain name records to it.
The interface of Shopify for store admins is great and very simple to get used to. Products and categories are simple to add, and there is minimal coding or tech to deal with.
Shopify themes are usually responsive and work well on mobile devices like smartphones, which is extremely important these days. SEO is also very easily managed with meta titles and descriptions available for each page and product by default.
The platform also plays extremely well out of the box with other sales channels and marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay as well as social shopping like Facebook shops and Instagram product tagging. Connecting a Google shopping merchant account is also made easy.
Shopify Payments is a rebranded Stripe payment gateway and allows you to take credit card payments on your store. You can also easily connect other payment gateways like PayPal.
There are Shopify partner like DriveSocial who can help with theme customisations, updates and custom features.
Neto is an Australian eCommerce option that has been developed and supported in Australia. It works very much like Shopify in the way that they host your shop and you point your domain to it.
For Australian-based businesses, a major advantage of Neto is having local support during Australian business hours.
The platform integrates with other marketplaces like Shopify does, allowing you to manage your product feeds to Amazon, eBay and the like. Social integration is also made simple.
In recent builds for clients, we have found Neto more complex to use than Shopify, and for users looking to manage the platform themselves, it can be a bit daunting, especially when things are not where you would expect to find them in the admin navigation.
Adobe acquired Magento a few years ago. The open-source platform is very popular and is improving all the time with its easy to use page builder and growing extensions marketplace.
Unlike WooCommerce which is free, Magento offers a free service as well as premium paid versions.
Magento scales very well and can cater for larger ecommerce sites, although development may be better left to someone who has a good understanding of web development.
Online Store Budgeting
When it comes to creating an online store, there are costs involved in pre-delivery, building and post-delivery time frames.
Depending on the scale of your store, you may choose to start small and grow as funds allow. This is a common scenario for dropshippers, affiliates and smaller resellers who may just be starting this as a side-gig.
For a business that already has a physical shop, consideration must be made on the planning and building stages, including the cost of development, subscriptions and add-ons.
In all scenarios, in the same way a non-shop website doesn’t miraculously get traffic once live, budget is needed to create traffic and referrals.
Online shop websites can benefit from physical store referrals, and taking advantage of your current customer base. They can also benefit from connecting with other sales channels or marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay, Facebook and Google Shopping, and Instagram product tagging.
As with a regular website, the way your new web store is found on search needs to be managed. This includes local and national SEO campaigns, cross promotions, directory listings and correct indexing with search engines such as Google and Bing search.
Just as you plan your online store build and development process, plan your marketing strategy to work alongside the build and launch of the site.
Online Store SEO
The top considerations from an SEO standpoint with your online store include:
- Meta Titles and Descriptions on every page of your website, including every product.
- Reduced loading time of your site and efficient use of caching and CDN.
- Image tagging, both with ALT tags and geo-data (great for local SEO).
- Device friendly layouts that work exceptionally on mobile devices (phones & tablets).
- and off-site, links and referrals from prominent sites and directories.
Many ecommerce websites today benefit from sales initiated on search and social pages. This includes platforms like Google Shopping, Facebook shops, Instagram product tagging, Amazon and eBay integration and niched directories.
From the launch of your online store moving forward, the links to your site and products should grow. Creating an ongoing SEO strategy to continually expand your reach will also expand your audience, which in turn, will grow your sales if targeted correctly.
Our advice to store owners is to niche and own your points of difference. What makes it better buying from your online store than buying from Amazon for example?
Maybe you support the local footy team, or the your staff are known by customers from your socials. Whatever the reason, selling your point of difference and your specific product niches will help you get in front of an audience looking for exactly what you are selling.
This is often more cost effective as you are not paying to get your product in front of a generic audience with a low click through rate.
SEO is definitely one of the best ways to get in front of the audience looking for you on search, socials and in directories. When starting out, it may pay to run a short term (3-6 month) PPC campaign to get traffic flowing sooner.
We also recommend blogging. Write about your products, your store updates, your staff, events and whatever you believe your audience might want to know. Share it on your socials linking back to your website. Get that interest started, and don’t forget to link to products or categories in your blog articles.
When you write an article, jump on to Google’s search console and index the page. The sooner Google knows about your article, the better. Together with the right on-page SEO, social signals from your sharing and indexing by Google search, your site traffic will start to grow.