Getting started with ecommerce: Quick tips and best practices for building online shops

By
Kayla Dzambo

So you’re interested in building an ecommerce site. You’ve got your product/services and your domain name purchased. Now what?

The next steps can be daunting if you’re relatively unfamiliar with running an online shop. Even though ecommerce can sound simple, there are quite a few details you should be thinking through and gathering before you even begin to build your site. Whether you are attempting to build your online shop yourself or having a professional create one for you, here’s a few tips to help you get ready for selling your products via the interweb.

Product Information

For the first step in building your online shop, you’ll need a complete product list. No matter what ecommerce platform you use, you and/or your web designer will need quite a few details for each product. I suggest creating a comprehensive product sheet (excel or google sheet) with the following information:

  • name of product description
  • product number (SKU number)
  • dimensions (LxWxH cm or in)
  • weight (lbs)
  • quantity for sale.

Organizing all of the product photography alongside this information is key as well. This is the most time consuming part of the ecommerce process, but will be worth it! This list will not only help you gauge the size of your site, but will also help organizing the site structure and uploading products.

Product Photography

To ensure sales on your new online shop, know that photography will be the most important thing you can add. Photography helps customers know what they are getting and builds trust with you and the customer. Types of photography you can invest in for your site are product photography and content photography.

Product photography are any photos of the goods/services you will be selling. It is the most necessary photography type to have. For physical product photography, some best practices to keep in mind is keeping images simple and showing scale/context when needed. Using clean backgrounds helps customers focus on the product and any details it may have. To help customers visualize the size of a product or how it may be used in their lives consider showing a photo of the product in environment and/or with a human touch.

Content photography is any photo that can be used throughout your site or on social media. This photography should be eye catching and on brand. These types of shots help your site and products stand out online. No matter your budget for photography, having clean and straightforward shots will help your customers trust that what you are offering is exactly what they need.

Hidden Costs

Though you may have your product cost and retail price figured out, don’t forget to consider some of the extra costs that come with selling online. Some of these hidden costs include platform fees/subscriptions, shipping packaging, and payment processor fees.

Most ecommerce platforms charge a monthly fee, based on the subscription level you have. The level can also determine how much the platform charges you per transaction (which can be a small flat fee or small percentage of the sale per item sold).

The next hidden costs are shipping related. Usually shipping costs are passed on to the customer. However, did you account for shipment packaging? This cost you’ll be responsible for. Packaging ensures the customer can receive their product in mint condition. Remember this price when setting product prices.

Lastly, each ecommerce platform offers a few payment processors to choose from. These are online softwares that get you paid! The difference between these options are usually their integration and transaction fees. When running credit cards, these processors take a percentage and/or sometimes a flat fee of the transaction.

Do your research to see what processor and rates work best for your company and platform. Knowing where to look for these hidden costs can help you adjust product prices accordingly and make decisions based on budget and profits easier.

The unfun details

With any project, there are the details that are the least fun but very crucial to tackle. Important details to remember are taxes, shipping, and legal information.

Taxes online can be tricky. Most ecommerce platforms are intuitive enough to help you collect the taxes you need to. However, I would make sure to do research to make sure you are charging the correct amount. Taxes vary based on what state/country you are selling your product from and to. Some products are exempt from tax collection too (ie. digital goods and services). Always ask a tax professional and/or consider investing in a tax reporting plugin to make sure you are following all laws and collecting correctly.

Most online platforms walk you through shipping options as well. Shipping is often set up through either weight or custom flat rates. If you have products that will be harder to ship based on size/weight or worth, consider hiring a professional to help you with this process.

All sites should have some legal (or policies) posted. This should at least include a refund policy, privacy policy, and shipping policy. These will help protect you and your customers. These details often get overlooked when planning out an ecommerce site, but knowing them ahead of time will help you get your site running quickly and smoothly.

SEO

Driving traffic is mainly the job of marketing efforts. However, Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the most basic and cheapest (free) way to help your online shop’s search rankings.

Make sure your domain is easy to remember and has your business’s name in it. People are more easily able to find your shop this way. The URLs on each shop page matter! Most ecommerce platforms populate the URL name automatically based on the page content. If you end up duplicating a page, this may not apply. Make sure URLs within the site match the page content.

To make sure Google is picking up and displaying the correct page information on your site, look for an SEO section or search engine listing preview section on each of your website pages within your ecommerce platform. Professional web designers will usually set up these SEO basics for you. If you are building the site yourself, take the time to follow these SEO prompts. You won’t regret setting them up.

If you’d like your site to rank better on search engines after these efforts, hire a professional. Having traffic come to your site is key for sales. Our team’s experts know how to make sure your customers are able to find your site through better SEO.

Picking an ecommerce platform

Once you understand your product, picking a path forward is easier. Below is a quick general guide to help pick an online website ecommerce builder/platform:

  • Small Shop (5-15 products) : Squarespace, Webflow, Wix, Wordpress
  • Medium Shop (15-75 products) : Squarespace, Wix
  • Large Shop or Complicated Products (75+) : Shopify or custom build

From the above list, Squarespace and Shopify have the simplest backends to navigate. Squarespace and Wix are the easiest platforms to build a website (with or without experience). There are many more online platforms than the ones I’ve listed. These are just some of the most popular.

If your inventory includes more than 75+ products, you have a complicated product to sell/ship, or you just want to make sure your site looks professional I would suggest hiring a team of experts, like my team at liquidfish, to build a custom ecommerce site for you. We'd love to talk with you about a custom solution we could build to better suit your needs.

Now that you have some basic guidelines to keep in mind when building your ecommerce site, get out there and find what solutions work best for your business! If you still feel like a fish out of water while trying to navigate this process, our team at liquidfish is full of experienced individuals. Contact us anytime,  we're always looking for new challenges and are waiting for partners like you.

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