Preloader Emblem

Launch Your Online Store in 2023



You’ve created the best products in your industry. Your brand design is on point. You’ve set up social channels for your business. This means you’re finally ready to launch your Shopify store

Not so fast. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of introducing your business to the world and miss some critical steps. 

While on the surface, your brand and website look polished, there are several checklist items that will ensure a smooth ecommerce launch. Are your product pages search engine optimized? Have you created a marketing plan to promote your brand? Does your website have critical pages like FAQ and contact information?

As you start your business, take stock of those easily forgotten tasks that can make the difference between a bad customer experience and a great one. This ultimate ecommerce checklist contains all the to-dos you’ll need to complete before your store goes live.

💡 Tip: Bookmark this Shopify store ecommerce launch checklist and check back when you’re about to launch.

The 15-point ecommerce checklist for your Shopify store launch

  1. Add sales channels
  2. Create a custom domain for your ecommerce site
  3. Review your checkout experience
  4. Build your website’s essential pages
  5. Review your automated emails
  6. Conduct a content audit
  7. Set up analytics and tracking
  8. Brush up on ecommerce SEO and optimize your store
  9. Optimize all images on your website
  10. Build a pre-launch marketing plan
  11. Set your tax and shipping rates and settings
  12. Review your customer contact options
  13. Install helpful apps and integrations
  14. Set up your billing information
  15. Get your back office in order

Let’s dive into each of these items on this launch checklist to ensure that your ecommerce business ticks all the boxes. 

1. Add sales channels

Consumers now expect an omnichannel experience from brands, as more turn to unconventional search sources like YouTube and TikTok to discover and buy products. Even the retail channel is making a serious comeback—half of Gen Z consumers favor in-store shopping, despite being online-native. 

Three mobile panels showing TikTok shopping options
TikTok Shop

Choose the social media and marketplace sales channels that will work best for your brand, then add the available integrations to your store. Do market research to understand where your customers are hanging out and the channels they most often shop.

Some online sales channels you can add to your ecommerce site include:

These channels connect with Shopify so you can easily keep track of orders, inventory, and customers across platforms.

Reach customers everywhere they are with Shopify

Shopify comes with powerful tools that help you promote and sell products on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Google, and YouTube from one back office. Make sales on multiple channels and manage everything from Shopify.

Explore Shopify’s sales channels

2. Create a custom domain for your ecommerce site

Custom domains can give your site a brand recognition boost and make it easier for customers to remember your URL—and find you.

To get started, conduct a domain name search to see if your business name is available. If it is, and the name isn’t already trademarked by another business in your industry, you can purchase your custom domain name directly through Shopify.

If your first pick for domain name isn’t available, you still have options. Sometimes it will be challenging to get your desired domain, especially if your brand is a common word. Here’s where you can flex your creative muscle. Pepper, for example, chose wearpepper.com as its URL.

Experiment with top-level domains (TLD), too. A TLD comes at the end of a URL—common examples are .com, .edu, .net, etc. TLDs like .gov and .org are used by governments and organizations, respectively. Common TLDs for ecommerce websites include .store and .shop, but you can get creative here too. 

💡 Tip: Use Shopify’s free domain name generator to find the perfect URL for your online store. 

Screen grab of Shopify's domain name generator

3. Review your checkout experience

Before you officially open for business, be sure prospective customers can actually complete a purchase on your online store. According to an average of studies, the online shopping cart abandonment rate across ecommerce websites is over 70%. To combat abandonment, identify and fix errors and remove friction at checkout before you launch.

Side by side panels of mobile checkouts from two DTC ecommerce brands
Mobile shopping cart page and checkout for stores Plus and Starface.

When testing your checkout process, ensure that:

  • Shipping rates are surfaced on the checkout page, giving customers all the options for shipping times and level of service for their region
  • Discount codes can be applied in the cart (test each code to make sure it works)
  • A customer can edit their cart’s content (delete products, change quantities)
  • Familiar payment methods, such as credit cards, PayPal, Google Pay, and Shop Pay are available
  • There is an option for order status tracking
  • The contact page can easily be accessed for follow-up questions or order amendments
  • An automated email notification is triggered upon purchase
  • A language selector, currency switcher, and international shipping policy are all available and working (if you ship outside your country or region)

💡 Tip: With Shopify Payments, you can place a test order on your site with a live payment gateway to make sure everything works. Make sure you test your checkout on mobile, too. 

Start accepting payments fast with Shopify Payments

Skip lengthy third-party activations and go from setup to selling in one click. Shopify Payments comes with your Shopify plan, all you need to do is turn it on.

Discover Shopify Payments

4. Build your website’s essential pages

Store trust relies on critical pages on your website that signal to the customer that you run a legitimate business. These are pages customers have come to expect, and they contain information that helps your audience learn about you as a founder, understand your policies, and get in touch.

Based on research, these are the pages most recommended for online stores to include in their sitemap:

  • Homepage
  • Contact page
  • About page
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page
  • Shipping and returns policy page
  • Terms and conditions and privacy policy pages

Don’t forget about other pages like collection and category pages and product pages. Double check any promotion landing pages, your checkout page, and your shopping cart. Every customer touchpoint deserves your scrutiny!

💡 Tip: Employ the principles of psychological design to reduce cognitive load: place elements of the site in places that customers expect to see them, like contact info in the footer and drop down navigation in one of the top corners.

Homepage

homepage is usually the most important page on any ecommerce site. Potential customers will often land here first, or navigate to it second. Consider the homepage the site of the “first date” with your customer. It’s a chance to make a great first impression and establish the feel of your brand.

It’s also a jumping off point to the rest of the website. Clear navigation to help users browse your store and a strong CTA are important here. Prominently link to your category pages, product pages, and promotions from your homepage.

These examples from Personal Fav and allkinds have clear calls to action, catchy visuals that represent the brand’s vibe, and an easy path to navigating the rest of the site.

Ecommerce homepage for online brand Personal Fav

Ecommerce homepage for online brand Allkinds

Contact page

A contact page signals to customers that a store is authentic, that they can access the store owner for help, and that there are real people behind the brand. On this page, include a phone number, email, and retail address (if applicable), along with the ways a customer can reach you and how long they should expect to wait.

This example from active brand Isle has an easy-to-use contact form as well as other methods of contacting the company.

Ecommerce contact page for online brand Isle

💡 Tip: You can also offer live chat or a chatbot via a small icon usually found in the bottom right corner of every page on your website. This is a quick way for customers to reach you without having to navigate to your contact page.

About page

Your About page is where potential customers navigate to learn more about your brand, your mission, and the people behind your products. There are a few ways you can approach this page as a store owner, appealing to the main reasons customers visit it:

  1. Tell a story. Shoppers often are trying to make sure a business will be around for the long term. An About page is a chance to show your store is real, with actual humans at the helm. Tell your story and introduce customers to the background of your brand: your staff, your processes, and your local city.
  2. Connect on common values. Many shoppers are interested in a business’s mission and purpose and whether the business shares any of their values. Sharing your brand’s purpose, principles, mission, and your “why” can win you new customers who support similar causes.

These examples from Future Noodles and Leath feature photos of the business owners, giving customers confidence that there are real people behind the brands. They also use the power of brand storytelling to draw visitors in.

Ecommerce about page for online business Leath

Ecommerce about page for online business Future Noodles

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page

Before you launch, you might not anticipate the questions you’ll get from customers. As such, this is a page you will evolve over time, based on customer service interactions. To craft an effective FAQ page, look at competitors to see which questions they answer on their websites, or try an AI tool to generate FAQs. 

Customers often have questions about shipping, return policies, sizing, warranties, and product care. Ugly Brands has a searchable FAQ page where you can browse topics and see related questions and answers.

Ecommerce FAQ page for online business Ugly Brands

Shipping and returns policy page

This is an important page to help customers understand exactly what to expect during the shipping and returns processes. Outline exactly what they will pay, how long your fulfillment and delivery times are, who is responsible for duties and taxes, and what steps customers need to take to generate a refund.

This example by Thursday Boot Co. clearly outlines the brand’s shipping policy.

Ecommerce shipping policy page for online business Thursday Boot Co.

Terms and conditions and privacy policy pages

Terms and conditions pages and privacy policy pages contain legal information to protect both your business and the customer’s rights. They outline the expectations of both the brand and the customer.

The following examples from Lucky Lad and Cubitts show that these pages don’t have to be creative, but they should have clearly presented information that’s easy to navigate.

Ecommerce terms and conditions page for online business Lucky Lad

Ecommerce privacy policy page for online business Cubitts

💡 Tip: Use Shopify’s free tools to generate a privacy policy and a terms of service page.

5. Review your automated emails

Every ecommerce business ower should consider adding email to their marketing plan when starting an online store. Email is also a useful tool to communicate important information to customers throughout their purchase journey.

For your business, there are several automated emails you’ll want to customize before launch. Edit your email templates and create sequences that nurture your subscriber list and ultimately drive sales.

Preview of Shopify Email on various overlapping screens
Use Shopify Email as part of your overall marketing strategy and to automate your customer communications.

Set up an email marketing app like Shopify Email or a third-party app from the Shopofy App Store and consider the following automated emails to add to your flow:

  • Welcome series introducing your brand, products, and new customer promotions
  • Order confirmations (receipts)
  • Abandoned cart notifications (win them back with a discount code)
  • Order confirmation emails
  • Shipping notification emails
  • Promotion emails to re-engage loyal customers
  • Campaign and holiday shopping-specific emails

6. Conduct a content audit

Editing is a critical part of any writing exercise. Read back every word on your site or—even better—get a second set of eyes to double check your work. Check product descriptions, homepage copy, button copy, and footer information for accuracy, spelling, and grammar. 

When it comes to your copy, consistency is one of the most important things to remember. Adopt an editorial style guide, whether it’s MLA or AP, as well as your own brand voice guidelines. Incremental changes to your message can help increase conversion or average order value. 

On the technical side, look for broken links and 404 errors in particular, as well as any image-rendering and mobile responsiveness issues. Check out your site on different browsers and mobile devices so you can understand if a bug is universal or specific to a browser or device.

These examples from Wild deodorant and Superplastic show that you can have fun with your 404 pages.

Ecommerce 404 page for online business Wild

Ecommerce 404 page for online business Superplastic

💡 Tip: Hire Shopify Experts to help you set up your Shopify store and test it for issues. These vetted professionals can offer technical feedback if you’re not overly savvy. 

7. Set up analytics and tracking

It’s important to have analytics set up from day one. This data will give you valuable insight into your visitors and customers. Analytics tools can help you track how users are navigating your site, where they’re coming from, and where they experience friction. These insights can help you make improvements to your site as you grow your business. 

Shopify Analytics are baked into the ecommerce platform, allowing you to get data right in your dashboard. You can also rely on tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console, or look at more niche solutions. You can use a combination of tools to analyze specific aspects of your business, but be sure to track basic ecommerce metrics first.

💡 Tip: The Shopify App Store is packed with apps that integrate seamlessly with your store. Browse the analytics apps to find one that’s best for you. 

8. Brush up on ecommerce SEO and optimize your store

If you’re starting an online business, make sure your website shows up in search results when customers look for terms related to your product. That’s because, while social networks increasingly become go-tos for product discovery, Google still accounts for forty percent of search. Search engine optimization (SEO) tactics can help you generate consistent, high-quality, and (best of all) free traffic. It all starts with keyword research.

Because of the brand’s SEO efforts, Starface appears on the first page of search engine result pages (SERP) for the term “acne patches” alongside massive brands like Walmart and Sephora.

Google SERP showing results for keyword "acne patches"

Here’s how to use ecommerce SEO tactics to help your online store rank in search engines:

  • Conduct keyword research. Discover popular and trending search terms related to your products.
  • Try keyword optimization. Use keywords and related terms in product descriptions, category descriptions, page headlines, page copy, URLs, meta titles, alt text, and asset file names.
  • Use schema markup. Use specific code to help search engines better find your content and serve enhanced results in Google (e.g., rich snippets).
  • Design a sitemap. Build a sitemap that provides information about your website’s content to Google. This will help Google more easily crawl your site and categorize your pages.
  • Optimize site speed. Choose the best hosting company, invest in a content delivery network (CDN), and compress images to help your website load faster to improve customer experience. 
  • Use the power of content marketing. Create blogs that rank for target keywords, educate readers, and get high-value backlinks from other websites. Offering value to customers in search results can lead to better conversion. 

9. Optimize all images on your website

Images that load too slowly can affect user experience and performance in search engines—and slower load times can even lead to lower conversion rates. Be sure all images (including product images and lifestyle images) are optimized for the web to achieve faster load times and a better shopping experience.

Ecommerce homepage for online brand Freewrite
Big beautiful images like this one that stretch the width of your ecommerce site are impactful, but be sure they’re optimized before uploading. Freewrite

Shopify handles the technical complexity of keeping your images fast, because speed matters for online stores. Here’s what else you can do to improve load speed and optimize your images for web:

  1. Use descriptive file names. Optimizing file names helps with the SEO ranking of your site and product pages. Use keywords that are relevant to the photos and your business.
  2. Optimize your alt text. Alt text is used for accessibility and SEO. This should be descriptive text containing keywords where relevant.
  3. Reduce the size of your images. Big beautiful images make an impact on a homepage, but be sure that the file size (in pixels) is reduced as much as possible without sacrificing quality. 
  4. Save images as JPEG or PNG. For most online images, a good rule of thumb is to use JPEG images for photography and PNG images for graphics and icons.
  5. A/B test your images. You’ll want to know what’s working and what’s not—and, more importantly, why. Run some A/B image tests to see which types of images work best in different situations (i.e., contextual lifestyle images versus products on a white background).

💡 Tip: Use a free tool like Shopify’s Simple Image Resizer to reduce the size of your images before upload. 

10. Build a pre-launch marketing plan

You’ll launch your site to crickets unless people know about it. The best way to spread the word is with a pre-launch marketing strategy. These are the actions you might take to build an audience or drum up anticipation for your launch. While marketing is an ongoing task for your ecommerce business, the pre-launch strategy is an especially critical one.

Some ideas for your pre-launch marketing plan include:

  • Creating a pre-launch landing page to capture emails
  • Posting social media content before and after launch to keep customers excited and informed
  • Lining up PR opportunities
  • Hosting a pre-launch event, virtual or IRL
  • Setting up pre-orders
  • Inviting early subscribers to an early access promo with password access to the site
Ecommerce product page for online bedding business Hush
Hush uses pre-orders to build anticipation and encourage customers to purchase products on the website before they’re ready to ship.

11. Set your tax and shipping rates and settings

Check that your shipping rates are appropriate for the products you’re selling in the places you’re selling them. Otherwise, you could eat into your profits, covering the difference between your posted shipping rates and the actual cost of shipping. 

It’s important to nail down your tax settings, too. Depending on where your business and customers are located, you might need to charge sales tax and remit it to the government at tax time. If you sell in multiple regions, an accountant can help you get set up.

12. Review your customer contact options

While it’s a critical to build a standalone contact page on your ecommerce website, it’s good practice to include your business’ address, phone number, email, and even live chat on most pages. Many businesses add this information to a static footer on every page.

According to one study, businesses that chat with site visitors have a 48% increase in revenue per chat hour, a 40% increase in conversion rate, and a 10% increase in average order value. 

Euka takes an automated approach with a chatbot option accessible from every page on its site. Meanwhile, Soko’s contact email sits in the footer of its website on every page.

Ecommerce chatbot on the website for Euka brand

Ecommerce contact info in the footer of the website for Soko brand

13. Install helpful apps and integrations

The Shopify App Store has plenty of apps that can extend your site’s functionality, but start small and choose only those essential to doing business efficiently. You can always layer on more as you grow.

New businesses should focus on apps to help with marketing, customer support, and conversions. Also look for apps that are specific to your type of business. For example, advanced size chart apps are great for apparel businesses. And, quiz apps can improve customer experience and reduce returns for brands with complicated products by helping customers make the right selection.

The Shopify App store webpage
Try a social proof app or an app that generates discount codes. There are tools for ecommerce businesses of all sizes.

💡 Tip: On a budget? There are plenty of free Shopify apps that can help streamline operations for your ecommerce business—everything from marketing to shipping.

14. Set up your billing information

Before you go live, let’s make it official! If you’ve completed your free trial, choose the right plan on your ecommerce platform and set up your store’s billing information to ensure your store fees are paid on time and there are no issues.

15. Get your back office in order

Are you ready for the onslaught of orders as your highly sought after brand launches to the world? Ensuring that your processes are in order before you go live can help eliminate shipping delays, inventory issues, and customer service debt. 

Again, apps can help automate some of your processes and systems baked into your business style guide, and training materials can keep everyone on the same page.

Manage all your inventory from Shopify

Shopify comes with built-in tools to help manage warehouse and store inventory in one place. Track sales, forecast demand, set low stock alerts, create purchase orders, count inventory, and more.

Explore inventory management on Shopify

Why an ecommerce website launch checklist is important

A woman reads a book inside a design studioYou have a ton on your mind in the months and days leading up to launch day. Ecommerce success relies on a smooth experience for your customers and a set of systems that dictate how you run your business. So how can an ecommerce launch checklist help?

It offers peace of mind for you and your staff

With so many moving parts, it’s easy to miss simple but critical steps leading up to your launch. The act of checking items off a list gives you the assurance that you haven’t forgotten anything. You don’t need to worry about what ifs when you’ve already checked, audited, and stress tested every stage of the customer experience in your ecommerce store.

It ensures a smooth launch day

When you need something to go well, an ecommerce checklist can help reduce ambiguity and streamline the work that needs to get done. Taking care of the housekeeping items ahead of launch means you won’t be scrambling and distracted by them when you’re trying to celebrate. Focus launch day on customer connections and making every order experience count.

It sets the tone for customer experience

Customers will quickly abandon your business if their first experience is less than stellar. On the other hand, a great experience can lead to loyal customers and word-of-mouth referrals. If you’ve checked every box on the checklist, the likelihood of disappointment is low. That said, things can still go wrong. If so, you have plenty of time to make it right because you’re not fussing with SEO or setting shipping rates.

Make sure your ecommerce store checks all the boxes

Now that you’ve crossed out everything on your list, it’s time to launch your ecommerce website and brand to the masses. Put your marketing plan into action and start building brand recognition. 

The best part is that nothing is set in stone. As you collect feedback and data, you can tweak shipping settings or web design. You can invest more in ecommerce SEO and less in marketing campaigns that aren’t performing. Add essential apps, improve your checkout page, and fortify your customer support—all in service of landing more happy customers and more sales.

Feature illustration by Eugenia Mello
Additional research by Adam Rogers

Ecommerce checklist FAQ

What are the steps to create an ecommerce website?

When you choose an ecommerce platform like Shopify, you can create an ecommerce website in just a few steps. First, sign up for the free trial, purchase a custom domain name, and customize the look and feel of your ecommerce website. An ecommerce launch checklist can help ensure you don’t miss any steps. Your ecommerce website checklist contains items like setting shipping details and updating payment options.

What are the functional requirements for a website?

Basic functional requirements for an ecommerce website include accessibility, mobile-responsiveness, a working checkout flow, site terms and conditions, and a privacy policy. The ecommerce platform you choose should have, at minimum, this functionality. Nice-to-haves for your ecommerce business website include personalization, customer login, interactive elements, chatbot support, and more.

How many products should an ecommerce business launch with?

You only need one product to launch your ecommerce store. Many online brands start with one product and add complementary items to their product collection at a later date. If you offer multiple products on your ecommerce site, be sure you use navigation, collections, and category pages to help customers find the right products.



Source link

Categories

Leave a Reply