There’s no doubt that launching an online store is a big deal—and if it’s something you’re planning on undertaking, you’re likely feeling a mixture of nerves, excitement and sheer terror at the thought that something may go wrong.

If you’re more scared than excited, having a clear vision of the end result and how you will get there will go a long way towards putting your mind at ease. Add to this confidence in your chosen system and software provider, and you’ll be sleeping well and feeling excited about what’s to come.

So how do you find the right provider and system? The first step is to be clear on the big and little things you need your ecommerce to deliver. Once you‘ve identified which features you need and why, it’s far easier to match your needs to the right solution.

To help you get to that point, here’s 5 essential steps to take before you launch your online store.

Step 1) Identify the key features and functions you need to deliver a first-class user experience

This might seem obvious, but it’s quite important to put your requirements down on paper so nothing is missed. There are some features that are universally necessary (and should be a given), such as a fast load speed, clear navigation menu, responsive in-site search function and well-organised product categories. You should also be looking for reliability and a system that can seamlessly scale and grow with your business. Other features that may be important to your business include consistent branding, messaging and colours that match those that your customers see in-store. Easily managing promotions and ensuring price parity between your online and physical store is a top priority too, which can be achieved with an integrated system.

Step 2) Develop this into a list of priorities (must-haves) and a wish list (desirables)

On completion of the first step, you’ll likely have a long list of things that you would like your online store to be able to do—if you don’t you may need to go a little more in-depth. Once you’re happy that your list is comprehensive enough, you can begin sorting it into a clearer list of your priorities (aka your must-haves) and your wish list of desirables. Rank these from most important to least, and then discuss them with your website support team. Your IT provider should then provide insightful feedback and offer advice and guidance on what else you might require your system to do, giving you complete confidence that they are the right team to bring your online store to life.

Step 3) Talk to providers to find out what is possible and how it will be managed

Now it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty and talk details with your IT provider. At this point you must be 100% confident that your ecommerce solution includes every single one of your must-haves, plus a good chunk of your desirables too. You’ll also need to discover how easy it is to operate, update and manage. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions and to request a demonstration too. Any reputable IT provider will gladly demonstrate a live system to show how it works.

Step 4) Understand the importance of integration

One of the most important functionalities that you will need is integration. Your online store must ‘talk’ to your point of sale system as well as your social media accounts such as Facebook and Instagram. Smooth and complete integration with your POS removes the need to manually re-enter data, as when you update pricing in one system, it automatically updates in the other. This is a crucial function for every retail store, that will not only save you time, but will also ensure your customers are getting a consistent experience in-store and online.

Step 5) Check you have the right level of support for ongoing success

Once your online store is live, you’ll need reliable and responsive support to keep things running optimally. Like everything in life, your ecommerce will need to change over time, in response to business growth, customer demands and market trends. As your business grows and the online world evolves, the last thing you want is to have a site that was built once but can’t be tweaked, refreshed, or modified as you need down the track. Make sure you are clear on the level of support and ability to make changes as needed right from the start.

With a planned approach and the right solution, the sky’s the limit

While the prospect of getting your online store up and running is certainly daunting, the benefits are too great to ignore. The right solution will save you time and money in-store with your daily workflows while also making you money online in the background. So if you’re ready to take your business to the next level, get in touch to find out how it works and where to start today!