Digital marketing is increasingly complex, particularly when it comes to ecommerce. While open-source solutions such as WooCommerce have made it easier than ever to actually sell online, there’s often a large amount of moving parts that stand in the way of success.
Though much of the nitty-gritty of site setup isn’t necessarily your concern as a digital marketer, the buck will still stop with you if the money isn’t flowing in. You’ll need to have a strong grasp of the essentials to ensure your marketing spend isn’t sending people towards a woefully inadequate online retail environment.
In this piece, we’ll help you maximize the eventual impact of your campaigns by stepping through a simple checklist you can use to assess whether your site is really ready to have money thrown at it or not. Let’s take it from the top!
1. Your product details and inventory are organized in the background
Regardless of your area of operation as a marketer, you should never assume that you’re dealing with a perfectly organized background setup. Also, ecommerce software (no matter how sophisticated) cannot magically fix existing offline chaos — it’ll only pour fuel on the fire.
Open-source solutions help, but you need your ducks in a row behind the scenes first.
Given this, you should start by ensuring all details relating to your product are properly organized and tracked. Bear in mind that your site will almost certainly need to have many of these details regularly updated or changed. It’s not a one-shot deal, so you need a process in the background to handle this.
There’s no one perfect way of doing this, but you can start by asking the following questions:
- Is there a list of all details required per product for the system?
- Are all of these details stored centrally or easily available?
- If yes to the previous two questions, how is the integrity of the data? Has it been spot-checked?
- Who is responsible for this data?
- Is there an existing plan to manage inventory across online and offline sales?
If the answers to any of the above fill you with unease or uncertainty, get that thoroughly fixed before going any further.
2. Your SEO essentials are dialed in
For a frankly ludicrous amount of e-commerce sites, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) becomes a pressing concern after the site has gone live – this is not the way to approach things. While SEO will be an ongoing endeavor (and may well fall under your remit as a marketer), you want to be certain that the basics have been attended to prior to launch.
What does this mean in practice? The list of individual pressing items is a long one, and will depend to a certain extent on the solution you plump for. Start getting a broad feel for the type of items to be covered by reviewing detailed guidelines from Shopify, Kissmetrics, and Yoast
Backlinko’s e-commerce SEO guide is an essential resource.
However, bear in mind that it’s easy to fall victim to overwhelm – you’re simply getting familiar with the landscape here if you’re coming to it for the first time. When it comes to drawing up your own checklist, use Backlinko’s definitive guide to SEO, and you won’t go far wrong.
3. The entire site functions flawlessly on mobile
In 2017, this should be more or less a given, but sadly often isn’t. If you’re dealing with a solid open-source framework such as WooCommerce, the vast majority of default themes (e.g. Storefront) should function flawlessly out of the box. However, with the sheer range of mobile operating systems, versions, and devices available these days, it’s not a given. In short, mobile accessibility must be tested.
Use MobileTest.me to quickly review individual pages.
Testing can quickly become a hellscape of time and effort, so it’s important you approach this in a structured way. Go for the following:
- Pick a sensible range of target mobile devices. There’s simply no point in trying to cover every edge case – start with the most recent Android and iOS devices and major browsers.
- Use an emulator such as MobileTest.me to quickly check your major product pages and checkout sequence.
- Use real hardware devices to double-check that everything is running smoothly.
Although mobile is clearly the way forward, not all developers have caught on yet. By running through these steps, you’re giving yourself the best chance to get out of the blocks catering for everyone.
4. Your product pages are thoroughly reviewed and optimized
Your product pages are obviously some of the most crucial elements of your entire e-commerce site. As with the SEO point above, you want to be sure you’ve gotten most of the obvious optimizations out of the way before you actually go live.
- Your headlines are optimized.
- Product images are high-quality, and descriptions are on point.
- Your calls to action are strong.
- Social proof (in the form of ratings and reviews) has been added.
- Potential uncertainties around sizing and shipping are clearly addressed.
While they’re crucial, product pages can be easily overlooked for more pressing concerns. However, picking off the low hanging fruit here pays dividends down the line.
5. The entire checkout sequence has been optimized and tested
Your entire basket and checkout sequence is where the rubber meets the road on your e-commerce site. It needs to be optimized and rigorously tested prior to any launch. Even excellently designed open-source solutions such as WooCommerce benefit from judicious tweaking in this regard.
While sites such as Kissmetrics have you covered when it comes to a comprehensive list of tactics here, make sure you’re paying particular attention to the following broad areas:
- You’ve mapped out all of the major moving points of the sequence in advance – without a clear map to guide you, it’s far too easy for you and your team to get lost in detail and distraction.
- You’ve stepped through the entire sequence multiple times with live purchases.
- You’ve flowcharted all potential outgoing emails and reviewed their contents (particularly around order confirmations and purchase receipts).
- You’re crystal clear on what the various delivery statuses available via third-party providers may be, and how they’ll be communicated to customers.
- You’ve thoroughly tested all processes around returns and refunds.
It’s easy to forgo this step, based on any numerous reasons. However, full testing and optimization are absolutely vital for a complaint-free launch. Also, preparing the ground now with regard to a smooth customer relationship is only going to good moving forward.
6. Your policies and legal info have been thoroughly reviewed
Selling products or services online is quantifiably different to merely spouting out opinions on a personal blog – you’re running a business with very real legal obligations, and a duty to make things clear for your customers. Though these will vary from country to country, and often from state to state within countries, you need to be on firm ground with your own setup.
Check Shopify’s guide for many of the legal basics of ecommerce.
The Shopify ecommerce guide for the United States is one of the best resources in this regard, so be sure to consult it thoroughly. Nearly regardless of where you are in the world, also make sure the following are in place:
- Clear shipping guidelines and returns policies.
- Links to FAQs and full contact details are clearly visible throughout the site and on any order confirmations or receipts.
Many ecommerce sites overlook this element – recently we’ve seen this in the form of the EU Cookie Law – and it definitely helps to be on the right side of the establishment if you wish to do business for any length of time!
Having a simple checklist to hand as a digital marketer will save you and your team an enormous amount of heartache and confusion down the line, and enable you to hit the ground running with your efforts to drive actual sales.
We’ve covered a lot of ground in this piece, and you’ll doubtless have noticed that there’s plenty of room for sub-checklists throughout. However, the six main items we’ve covered will go a long way towards guaranteeing success. Let’s briefly review them to close out:
- Your product details are nailed down early.
- Your SEO essentials are taken care of.
- The site is bulletproof on mobile.
- Your product pages have been thoroughly reviewed and optimized.
- The entire checkout sequence has been tested and optimized.
- All policies and legal info have been reviewed.