Are you ready for the launch of your ecommerce site? You might think you’re ready, but chances are you will follow these steps:
- Throw a whole bunch of money at a web development company to build you a site.
- Cross that item off your to-do list.
- Develop heart palpitations when you realize the project manager wasn’t kidding about the amount of work you (yes, you) have to do before the site can launch.
- Wish for death.
OK, maybe you won’t actually wish you were dead. You will wish you’d listened when they tried to warn you that building an ecommerce site involves a whole lot of homework on your end. A WHOLE LOT OF HOMEWORK. Way more than can be done in the 10 spare minutes you have at the end of the day. Possibly enough to be a full-time job for more than one person. Cue the heart palpitations.
But you can survive if you’re prepared. And to be prepared, you need to be ready to:
1. Describe your products in way more detail than you ever have before.
The people looking at your site have probably never seen your product. They can’t just pick up the box and get all the details like what it’s made of, how heavy it is, what the technical specifications are and what the warranty covers. You have to go way beyond title and price in your product descriptions. One or two sentences will not get the job done.
And you have to do that for all of your products. 1 T-shirt x 5 different sizes x 5 different colors = 25 different products that need to be described in detail. The process takes time. Lots of it.
2. Get some decent product photos.
Postage stamp-sized product photos on grey backgrounds will not work. You need high-quality images that will look equally great on large desktop monitors and tiny smartphone screens. That probably means hiring a photographer and arranging to have all of your products in one place. Yes, it costs money, and yes, it’s worth it.
3. Find a way to get your products into your site.
You can’t magically transfer the info from your print catalog to your ecommerce site. The data has to be in a format that can be moved into your site (a database, an Excel file, maybe a CSV). If you have some kind of inventory management system, that’s a good start. If all your product details are scribbled in a binder in the store room, you’re going to be busy.
4. Figure out how to charge for shipping.
Free shipping is the easiest option, but if it will bankrupt you, it’s probably not the way to go. Just cover your costs and keep it reasonable. People shouldn’t be shocked when they see the final price.
Keep in mind that the more complicated your shipping rules are, the more information you’ll have to provide. If you calculate shipping by weight, you’ll have to note the weight of every single one of your products. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
5. Understand the tax laws that apply to your products.
Taxes are not a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. There are a million different regulations that apply to different products in different places. You need to know the ins and outs of the tax laws as they apply to your business so your site can be properly configured. If you have warehouses in different places, maybe you have to charge taxes for those places. If you’re not sure, get an accountant. This is important stuff.
6. Decide how to handle promotional codes.
Do you plan to offer discounts? Will those discounts be on entire categories or only on individual products? When will the discount codes turn on? When will they turn off? Do people get free shipping if they buy certain products? It’s easy to write up a flyer; it’s a whole lot harder to configure your ecommerce site to reflect what you want to do. You need to plan ahead.
To learn more, check out our High Five episode “How to Prepare for Your Ecommerce Website Launch.”