What Do I Need to Start an Online Store? Development Tips!

Now more than ever, it is easier to have an online storefront, but just offering items for sale does not guarantee a profit. Here are four elements to help your site generate more sales.

Make Navigation Easy and Interesting

Physical stores are designed to be easy to browse. Online stores should be no different. With online stores, you want to encourage browsing, so customers can see a lot of items quickly, but also have the ability to get more in-depth information.

Online storefronts should be appealing to the eye. Site design should be colorful, fun and interesting. Pages should download quickly, unencumbered by superfluous graphics.

Site navigation should be very easy, fast and obvious. If visitors can find the items they want quickly, they’ll buy. If not, they’ll leave. Customers should have easy access to more detailed information on products, but not on the initial screen.

Include Related Items in Displays

Structure product displays in online storefronts so that related items are grouped together, allowing customers to easily purchase several related items. “You should be able to buy everything you need right there on the site,” says Howie Green, principal of Boston-based Howie Green Design.

This is more a question of the visual layout of your store than a function of the software you choose. Some software packages will enable site owners to enter information that can help suggest related products, but the easiest way remains to simply present the items together in a related display. The more related products and information you can give customers, the more likely they are to make a purchase – or perhaps purchase several items.

Include All Important Information

On the Web, space in not an issue, therefore, it is easier to put more information about a product online than is possible in a printed catalog or brochure. The more information available, the better chance there is that a customer will make a purchase.

According to Marnie Ann Joyce, Web site producer with Manhattan-based Makeko, many sites omit important information about their business or products. A site visitor should be able to easily find not only the products offered, but also all prices, shipping charges and related information.

Another important piece of information to include for online stores: a telephone number. “Having a human being to talk to is important,” says Joyce. Many consumers would like to know where the company is located, and what laws, taxes and regulations they are subject to. “I’m not going to buy from someone if I can’t talk to them. Anybody can have a Web site.”

Make Purchasing Easy

According to Green, making online purchases as easy as possible is one of the most important elements of a good commercial site, but unfortunately, “It’s where an awful lot of sites fall apart.”

Much e-business software requires consumers to go through several pages of selection and confirmation before they can actually purchase an item. A good online storefront will streamline the buying process to facilitate sales and encourage repeat buyers. It shouldn’t take more than two or three screens to buy something online.

The purchasing process is almost entirely a function of the software, according to Green. Keep this in mind when choosing the software for your online store. Security shouldn’t be an issue with streamlining the buying process. Well-thought-out and well-designed software will have security issues built in, while also making purchasing fast and easy.

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