You may have just spent long and tiring hours slaving over the composition, design and presentation of your e-commerce website and feel that you are now ready to open the virtual doors to buyers. The chances are that you have sidestepped quite a few essentials, or omitted certain fundamentals that individually or collectively are key to creating the perfect buying environment. This is understandable as there is a lot to think about, so we have indicated here a must do check list. Go through your website and see how you stack up before you start selling online.
" Please don’t be tempted to try and replicate the ultra cool website that you came across the other day, with all the flash enabled graphics, cool audio effects and so on. In addition to slowing down the load times of your pages, especially if the visitor is using a less than premium access method, the chances are that your "coolness" will detract from your core sales message. You need to avoid any dilution.
" Check to see how long your webpages take to load. If you have not already done so, go here and download this neat YSlow plug-in for your Firefox browser. This will automatically analyze your page design and tell you what you need to do to ensure that it loads more quickly.
" Hopefully you started off with a structure plan and your site unfolds naturally to the virgin visitor. Step back and look at your site through someone else’s eyes. Is there a clear and logical path from your home page to your checkout page?
" While on the subject of clarity, are you very clear about your unique value proposition? You MUST have something different to say. Once you have determined your critical USP, make sure that your solution flows from the buyer’s need. Are you stressing benefits, not features?
" While on the subject of features, don’t try and load up what you consider to be "value added" elements, especially if they may confuse the process. We’re not suggesting that your potential clients are all imbeciles, but if you introduce a question mark in their minds, over a period of time this will translate into an element of lost sales.
" Go over your form composition and requirements with a fine tooth comb. Have you ever been frustrated when filling in a form online, only to be told when you submit that you need to go back and amend something? This may be only mildly irritating, but becomes very annoying if the other information you had entered has been erased, forcing you to "start again." Make sure that the correct information has been saved!
" Always make your visitors feel special. Offer them something for nothing and give them plenty of information free. The more your site comes across as a trusted purveyor of knowledge, the more people will return and over time convert into customers. This is a very important point. You are not there just to get money out of their wallets, but must devote the majority of your marketing efforts to providing value.
" Make sure that you have systems set up to automatically communicate with anyone who communicates with you. If someone sends you a simple e-mail query, you should have an autoresponder set to fire back immediately, thanking them for their input and advising them when they should receive a reply, if you’re not able to do so right away. When somebody fills in an order, do you have a specific thank you page ready, as personalized as you can make it? Your clients will expect an immediate response of some kind following their payment and this should not be just a generic message provided by the shopping cart provider, for example.
" Look at your site composition from an SEO perspective. Are your title tags clear and unambiguous? How does your site show up within search engine results?
" Remember what we said earlier about keeping it simple? This will certainly help you if you discover that there are a number of errors on your site. Sign up for a Google Webmaster account here and after a couple of easy registration steps you should get a good picture of any glaring errors that need to be fixed.
" Remember that there are a number of different web browsers. Many web savvy folks like to use Firefox, but you should remember that the majority still use Internet Explorer. There are other less important browsers such as Chrome and Safari and you should see how it looks on a smartphone screen as well.
Have you got any tips to add to this check list?