We will not get into the details of helping you actually build or optimize an e-commerce site nor will we get into the decision making process. There are way too many variables involved before we can begin to make any recommendations. The purpose of this article is simply to provide you with consideration points that are extremely important BEFORE you begin design and development.
1) Will you be selling custom products or will be reselling products from other manufacturers? Or a combination of both?
2) Do the products have existing SKUs and UPC codes? Creating SKUs for your custom products is relatively easy (we recommend having a naming convention that allows for expansion of new products). Creating and assigning UPC codes is important when you start selling on Amazon or using distribution channels.
3) Will the pricing of your products vary based on quantity?
4) Will you have multiple customer types – retail, wholesale, etc? We have developed e-commerce sites in which VIP customers or distributors are provided a wholesale or discounted price.
5) Are you carrying inventory or are you planning on drop shipping, or a combination of both?
This is important for many reasons for obvious reasons. If you are drop shipping, how will you handle order fulfillment and shipping on orders that contain products from two different suppliers and locations? We’ve all probably have ordered multiple products from Amazon and received our packages at different points. Just because Amazon makes this look easy does not mean it’s easy for your business to pull off.
6) How will shipping be set up? Free, Flat Rate, Dynamic. Will different products have different shipping classes? How might be these classes be effected with bulk orders vs. single product orders?
7) Who are your selling to? Local, Regional, Statewide, International? If selling international, does your product pricing need to adjust based on the customer’s location? Do you know the HS Codes of your products? (Harmonized Commodity and Description Coding System)
8) Will you be working with product data feeds (in / out). In most cases, the answer to this question is “Yes”. Even if you are not using a feed for bringing in product data, you will want your site to be built in manner where exporting your data feed is easy. This will help in marketing your e-commerce storefront products with Google Shopping, Amazon, FB, etc.
10) How many products do you plan to launch with? How many product categories?
This is an important consideration so that you and your development team have a good idea on the scope of the project. It’s also important to understand how you will organize the navigation structure of your store.
11) Do you have product photos or are you able to get them? Will you need multiple images of each product. Will some products need a unique product layout page to give the customer the best possible experience. For example, some products may require a video to help the customer see all of the benefits while other products may require close up views or 360 degree views. It’s important you consider how you need to present your products before the build.
12) Payment processing. Do you have an existing merchant account you would like to use? Which payment gateways does it support?
13) Will you need to synchronize your e-commerce inventory levels with your physical store?
14) Which e-commerce platform makes sense for you? We have developed site with WordPress WooCommerce, Magento, and Shopify and each one has it’s strengths and weaknesses. We have a general preference for WordPress WooCommerce and find that it is usually the best value and solution for most small businesses. This is a debate for another day though and the decision should be made by consulting an expert who understands the nuances of building and operating an e-commerce shop.
This list is just top-of-mind ideas we have come up with based on an initial conversation we recently had with a prospective new client. I am sure we can come up with a list of 100 more consideration points. The reality is that before you begin development of your e-commerce storefront, it’s important to speak with a development team that has experience. More than anything, we wanted to show that building an e-commerce site requires much more planning and thought than a conventional website.
What are some other important consideration points before building your e-commerce storefront? We would love your feedback and like to continue updating this list. Are there any specific factors that you would like to see us take a deeper look at?