How to Create A Future Proof E-commerce Website

Trading online is a great way of expanding your business and extending its reach across the globe. For many businesses, e-commerce is the only means with which they sell their goods.

If you are looking to set up an e-commerce site then it’s vitally important that you have a website and a platform capable of growing with your business. The last thing you want is to have to scrap it all and start again in a few years, as this is both very expensive and very time-consuming.

So, how can you ensure that you create an e-commerce website that you won’t outgrow?

Business Basics

It’s vital to get the basics of what you want to achieve right from the start. Decide what you want to offer and think about why it’s different from what other people are selling. Check out your competitors’ websites and see what they are offering and how. It’s not usually a good idea to compete in a race to the bottom on price; instead, look at how you can add value, perhaps by offering gift wrapping or extras related to the product.

It’s important to set a budget too. Decide how much you want to spend on setting up a website and work out how much you will need to sell to recoup that cost. Building an e-commerce site from scratch is costly and time-consuming, so you’ll probably want to invest in a web developer to help you put the site together. You should first choose what kind of platform you want to use though.

Choosing an E-commerce Platform

There are loads of off-the-shelf e-commerce packages, such as Shopify or Magento. These not only let you sell from your own site but via established platforms including eBay and Amazon Marketplace. They are also relatively simpler to setup than building a site from scratch and also feature a range of add ons and extras to help you with everything from SEO to dropshipping.

Getting the platform right is important as once you’re set up and running, it’s a very difficult exercise to swap your site over to another platform. It’s important therefore to research each platform and understand what it is you want to achieve from it.

Site Design

Having established what it is that you want to achieve from your e-commerce site you can turn your attention to the site design itself. The look of your site needs to reflect what it is you are selling. A site whose purpose is to sell tickets online for music concerts may want a modern and funky vibe. Alternatively, a website that’s selling formal evening wear may opt for something far more traditional and refined. Getting the look and feel of your site right is essential if you want to really grow your brand online.

It can help to take a look at what your competitors are doing online but never try to emulate or copy what they’re doing wholesale but, instead, try to take lessons from it. What does it do right? What does it do wrong? You might find that there’s a particular style used by people in your sector. Most e-commerce platforms offer a range of templates so you can build something to suit your needs but still have it look distinctive.

Once you’ve built the site you need to test it and make sure everything looks and works as it should. It’s a good idea to get someone else to help here as it’s easy to overlook issues such as spelling errors.

Hosting and Payment Gateway

You need a site that’s reliable, so choose who you want to host it with care too. Some platforms offer their own hosting, whilst with others, you need to find your own. Take a look at independent reviews and see how other people rate the service. Cheapest may not always be best here. Similarly, consider how you are going to take payments; most e-commerce platforms are able to handle credit cards and services including PayPal. Make sure your chosen provider supports the services you need and has appropriate security controls in place. They must comply with PCI DSS standards.

Search Engine Optimisation

When your site is finished and live, you need to make sure that people can find it. Having a fully researched and comprehensive SEO strategy for your ecommerce site is an absolute must. This will ensure that your site ranks well in the search engines and will ultimately help you deliver traffic and sales for your business.

This means ensuring that your site contains keywords appropriate to your business sector, again research successful competitors to see what works and making sure that your content is kept up to date. Factoring in SEO should also inform your choice of e-commerce platform. From Shopify to Squarespace, not all e-commerce platforms are as SEO friendly as each other, so do your research and try to find one that you or your SEO agency can work with.

If you're new to all of this (or even if you do have a bit of knowledge) then there really is no substitute for working with professional web developers and SEO people. A quick search online will bring up a host of local providers so take the time to research a few and get an idea of pricing so you can budget for it, as this initial investment will always pay for itself many times over further down the line.

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  1. I still need to get to grips with the most basic of SEO, some of it goes right over my head x

  2. My husband works behind the scenes on ecommerce sites, it really is a minefield!