5 rules to keep in mind to start a successful online store
If you were to start an online store for your business, you can choose from several options. The most popular and most effective way to create a website is to use the WordPress platform and then turn it into a store by adding a free plugin called WooCommerce. Nothing proves the popularity of WooCommerce better than the more than 13 million online store owners who have chosen this platform for their business. Also, it is important to note that more than 37% of all online stores in the world are WooCommerce-based.
With WooCommerce, you can create a great online store where you can sell almost anything, from simple physical goods to subscriptions to online courses. Using the platform also allows you to perform key operations such as inventory management, sales tax management, calculation of shipping costs, etc. WooCommerce is undoubtedly the leading online store building technology today, so as a future online store owner, the only question is, what steps do we need to take in order to get the best out of it?
Below is our list of 5 best practices for building a successful WooCommerce online store.
Rule 1 – Web hosting
No online store can function without web hosting, so not only paying for it but also choosing the right service provider is crucial. Quite simply, web hosting is the physical location of your website on the Internet. It is like a storage center that removes all the information, images, videos, messages, etc. from the website in one safe place. Web hosting providers ensure the security of the server that stores the website data and that it is always connected to the Internet.
The operation of web hosting is simple: the service provider sells the area on the server that is necessary for the operation of the website, that is, the space that the owner of the web store needs to store all the data of the website. For example, if our website is designed to provide users with large downloadable information (music, video, images, etc.), we will need more server space than a website that provides users with read-only information.
The more and larger content we put on the website, the more space we need to buy from the web hosting provider. As we have already mentioned, the web hosting service provider ensures that our website is connected to the Internet, so users can browse undisturbed. A 24/7 internet connection without lag is essential these days, especially when working in a competitive industry like e-commerce. In this case, even a small delay can make our potential customers dissatisfied, and it is also possible that they will never return to our website.
There is an important rule for hosting. Cheap is not good, but neither is expensive. It may be a rule of thumb that you cannot get a quality hosting service for a few hundred forints a month. It is worth sacrificing the storage space because it depends on whether we can serve our customers at all. We at WPWOW use Hetzner’s services and are extremely satisfied with them.
Rule 2 – SSL certificate
Once you’ve chosen the right web hosting provider, it’s time to make sure your website has extra protection. This can be achieved by installing SSL certificates on the web server. SSL certificates are small data files that are linked to our organization using a cryptographic key. In simpler terms, an SSL certificate installed on our website enables a secure connection between the browser used to visit our website and our website’s server (provided by the web hosting provider selected in Rule 1). This secure connection is absolutely necessary if we handle our customers’ sensitive data on the website, such as credit or debit card data, login data, personal data, etc.
In summary, SSL certificates combine the following:
- Our website domain and server name
- Company identity and location
- After the SSL certificate is successfully installed, the application protocol changes from HTTP to HTTPS, where “S” stands for “secure”.
It’s easy to check whether other websites you visit on the Internet are using a secure connection. Depending on the type of browser we use and the type of certificate chosen by the website owners, if there is a secure connection, we can see a green padlock next to the HTTPS protocol at the top of the search bar. The decision is simple: if we want our customers to trust us with their payments and share their personal data, we need to install an SSL certificate. This is how we can ensure a safe browsing experience for our potential customers.
Rule 3 – WordPress theme
We need both a front-end and a back-end to build our website. The back end is the background on which our website is built, it is the brain that runs the processes. For example, how efficient is the communication between our website and the server? Will it maintain the same level of effectiveness when 100,000 new users arrive on the site? Won’t it crash? All these questions must be answered by the back end.
Meanwhile, the front end is what we see when we visit the website. A great design or user interface (UI), user flow or user experience (UX), and all the other small details help our website stand out from the fierce competition. This could even be a matter of debate. I wonder which is more important in terms of attracting and retaining new customers today: the front end or the back end? In order to make the front end of our website not only attractive, but also perfectly functional, we have two basic options: custom production, which is quite expensive, as it requires special programming skills, or we buy a pre-made theme that is compatible with WordPress and WooCommerce can be relatively easily optimized with its settings.
A pre-made WordPress theme is a much cheaper and faster solution, especially if we want to launch our website as soon as possible, or if we want to test the products, the concept, or even the target audience. There are many WordPress themes available on the internet, each designed for a specific purpose. While one may be more suitable for selling large quantities of cheaper products (small images, more options, and functions), another may be ideal for small-scale sales of luxury products (larger images, minimalist design, fewer functions). That’s why it’s so important to choose the right theme for your website. In the long run, this will have a direct impact on the experience of our customers, the success of sales, and the reputation of our company.
Rule 4 – Check-out
So, so far we have managed to choose a web hosting provider, secure our website with an SSL certificate, and choose the best theme to successfully attract and retain the target audience relevant to our business. Let’s imagine for a moment that our potential customer has gone through all the steps to like a particular product and add it to the cart. So you are ready to buy. The last thing we want right now is for the payment or check-out page to be buggy or not user-friendly.
According to recent surveys, 7 out of 10 shopping carts are abandoned without completing the purchase. Can’t you already feel the importance of our online store providing customers with a flawless payment experience? This flawless payment process consists not only of the attractive appearance of the selected provider’s payment window but also includes the following aspects:
Don’t forget to place trust badges around the checkout button. Examples include the secure PayPal payment badge or major credit card badges. These instill confidence in customers and testify that our company fulfills what it promises. Always formulate the price policy as clearly as possible, that is, inform the user in advance that the shipping cost and any taxes are included in the price of the product or appear as an extra cost. In the case of the payment/invoicing form, let’s strive for simplicity. Show only the most relevant information and try to limit its length to no more than 1 page.
Don’t forget about affiliate sales either. WooCommerce allows you to display a list of additional products on the checkout page, which can significantly increase the average cart value. However, we have to keep this on the cart page, it cannot be included in the checkout process. We do not want customers’ attention to be distracted by distracting factors at this point.
Last but not least, make sure that the design around the call-to-action buttons in the cart and on the checkout page is as clear as possible. This way, users can easily find the invitations and continue the purchase/payment process with the next step.
Rule 5 – Automated email marketing
If we followed the first 4 rules, it means that we now have a functional website. However, before we start doing business, the most important thing we still need to consider is our marketing strategy, especially one branch of it, which is none other than email marketing. E-mail marketing has always been considered one of the most popular and effective tools, with the help of which we can successfully introduce our products and business to people. Fortunately for everyone, in an effort to outdo the fierce competition, new companies have taken it to the next level and created email automation, which allows pre-determined actions of website visitors to automatically send out emails.
Automated email marketing has many advantages. Here are some:
- You can save a lot of time, so as a business owner, we can spend our time more efficiently.
- It allows you to segment your audience and share personalized content, resulting in people opening emails more often and visiting your website, which naturally leads to increased revenue.
Here are some tactics you can use to increase your customer acquisition rate and boost sales through automated email marketing:
According to a BlueHornet survey, 74.4% of visitors expect a welcome email after signing up. When a user registers on our site or creates an account, a welcome email helps us further deepen the trust that is building. In addition, welcome emails have three times higher click-through rates and generate five times more revenue for the average business than all other email marketing strategies. Automated email marketing allows you to set up custom email templates that can be automatically sent to your new subscribers right after they’ve shared their email addresses with us. Isn’t it brilliant?
Cart abandonment warning e-mails
This email series targets customers who placed a product or service in their cart but left without making a purchase. This technique is surprisingly effective – a promotional newsletter has an average conversion rate of 0.17%, while cart return emails have an average order rate of 4.64%.
Order and delivery confirmation and updates
If you want to set up an automated email workflow, start with order and delivery confirmation emails. These appear automatically and inform the customer that we have received their order and that it is being processed or shipped. These e-mails are especially important in e-commerce and help immensely in building better customer relationships. It is therefore worthwhile to keep the customer informed about exactly where the order is.
All in all, it can be said that starting an online store is not an easy task, and even the smallest possible details must be approached with great care. Don’t forget to take the time to follow the 5 rules listed above, all of which are equally important to the long-term success of your business.