Setting up an online store is exciting, but there are some basic steps that will help make any online store successful. Whether the store is a custom website, WordPress site, Amazon Associates, etsy, or on eBay, the same things drive people to buy online, and so the same basic advice always applies.
Just like any store, an online store is not successful if customers can't find it. To get prospective customers to the store's site, invest in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This is a complex field that can be difficult to learn, so it's always best to hire an expert, at least for advice in getting set up. Oddly enough, SEO isn't just about search engines, but includes other ways of getting the word out about the store, such as Twitter, FaceBook, StumbleUpon, and other social media.
Once potential customers are at the storefront, they need to be enticed in. The store need to have a welcoming design that encourages visitors to click on links and enter. While the entire site's theme should be kept in mind, the home page is the most important.
Easy to Navigate
Of course, once a potential customer is inside the store, they won't buy anything if they can't find it. Be sure that it's easy for people to both browse and also to find what they are looking for. A wise store owner gets friends to try out the store and give feedback on problems they find. Ideally those test shoppers should actually make purchases - an online sales site can fail quickly if customers who want to buy something can't because the credit card system has a bug. Another consideration is that with search engines, visitors may land in the middle of the store, so the store should be designed in a way to make it easy for those customers to understand where they are, find what they came for, and check out.
Data, Data, Data
Once the store is running, web traffic reports will help the store owner understand where people are going in the store. Most modern websites and frameworks have a way to report on how visitors navigate through a site, and where they leave from. If a large number of visitors depart from a specific page, that page should be reviewed to see if something is discouraging purchases.
Care and Feeding
Many store owners get very excited to set up their site, then get frustrated when they don't see a lot of sales. In virtually all cases, online traffic grows slowly. While traffic is growing, it's important to stay involved and keep the store active. This will help get the store listed higher in search engines, and it will also keep the store looking current - visitors will often quickly leave an online store if it doesn't look like it's being kept up.
Following these five basic ideas are essential for successful online sales and an active store.