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Ecommerce is an incredible option and opportunity for anyone motivated and seeking more income. Whether you’ve been running your brick-and-mortar business for 20+ years or you’re a recent college graduate building up a business during a hiring slump, there is a massive opportunity to start and run a successful business online.

But the process of getting started can be daunting. For many, building an ecommerce store online is a logical place to start. But a quick glance at any ecommerce checklist reveals the complexity of this venture. 

Our Simple Ecommerce Checklist to Optimize Sales

Find the perfect product
Plan your business
The path to purchase
Build your brand
Picture perfect
Start writing
Search engine optimization
Plan to measure your progress

Tackling everything at once just isn’t realistic and connecting the dots between all the different advice online can be overwhelming. At the same time, it’s hard to know what to start with and what is ok to fix later. Sometimes one small detail can mean the difference between a sale and a bad review.

In this article, we’re going to break down the fundamentals of your ecommerce checklist. 

We’re going to make it simple and give you a chance to process each step with examples and clear instructions. We’ll also include a lot of helpful links to resources that can help you learn more. So, let’s get started. 

Build your business

Sometimes it feels like your business and your website are the same things. So, you may think the first step to building your online business is to design your website, but that’s simply not the case. There is a lot of preparation you’ll want to do first.

A man working from home nails down every step on his ecommerce checklist with Selz ecommerce for business growth

It’s easy to get mired in the details when you start building your website. Even web hosting can feel complicated and overwhelming. That’s why an ecommerce checklist is essential before you start designing your website.

When you think about it, most of the work in designing an ecommerce website is in the planning, not the technical details. And if you’re not super comfortable with technology, website builders and all the new terms can feel off-putting, even if they’re super easy to use.

Your ecommerce checklist should focus on your real priorities. When you’re starting an online store, you’re learning to sell online, and selling online is more about function than form. It’s not so much about your site looking the particular way you envisioned, but about how your site works, how easy it is to use and how quickly a customer can make a purchase once they land on your website.

This ecommerce checklist is going to cover everything you need to prepare for your ecommerce website before you start the web design process. 

Choosing a product that people want is a top priority for any ecommerce checklist

Find the perfect product

First, select, create and test the demand for your first product. You don’t need thousands of products to launch an ecommerce business, but you do need a product that someone wants, needs and is willing to pay for.

Read more:

48 Creative Business Ideas (That You Can Start Today!)
10 Simple Things to Make and Sell Online Today
30 Business Ideas for Small Towns to Expand Your Local Business Online
40 Small Business Ideas for Digital Products to Diversify Your Business Income

Plan your business

Next, create a simple business plan. It can sometimes feel easier to just jump into your new business, but without some personal and professional goals laid out the low risk of building a website can make it easy for you to give up and let go of your business dreams. A business plan can help you create goals with a timeline that will help you keep pushing when the going gets tough.

A solid business plan should be at the beginning of your ecommerce website checklist

Small business ecommerce list:

  1. Choose pricing and discount options for your products
  2. Decide how you want to handle shipping
  3. Learn about tax regulations for your products and where you plan to sell
  4. Figure out how you want to handle abandoned carts or canceled orders
  5. Determine how you’ll handle your accounting 
  6. Decide how to handle gift cards

Read more:

The Complete Guide to Writing a Business Plan for Small Business Growth
90+ Business Blogs and Small Business Resources
Small Business Accounting: How to Optimize Your Small Business Budget
Automation Tools and Tips to Help Scale Your Business

The path to purchase

When you start the ecommerce website development process it’s easy to get stuck. You may have a vision of exactly what you want your site to look like. So, you might jump in and immediately start wrestling with your store builder until everything looks the way you think it should. After all, if you build it, they will come, right? 

But many give up at this stage and go on to try something else when they don’t see sales immediately start to roll in. Others get to a great start with their new website, but a too-fast launch means errors that impact the customer experience and the return visitors you’ll need to succeed.

At this stage in planning, you’ll want to think about what your customers need when they want to make a purchase. Some of this may involve competitor research. After all, do you know how many steps your customers are willing to take online to buy your product?

There are many steps to any purchase, so an ecommerce chcklist can help you make sure you get every detail right

Some super fans are so into their favorite products that they will spend 20 to 30 minutes digging through a website. They bookmark product pages and stick with clunky multi-step processes just to get the perfect product. But many others will give up after just three or four steps, and it’s not always for the reasons you think.

So, as you go through this ecommerce checklist, think about your customers and the experience you want to create for them. Use that understanding as you start to plan your online store. Ask yourself:

  • Do your product category ideas line up with what your customers usually see online, or do they feel more like the way you’ve organized your local store? 
  • Which is easier for them to understand? 
  • How many times do you want to click before you reach the product you’re looking for? 
  • How many different paths can you take to reach the same page on your site?
User experience is an essential part of any ecommerce checklist and requires a lot of discussion and testing on your ecommerce website

User experience ecommerce list:

  1. Write out your categories and how to display them
  2. Figure out which browsers your customers use most 
  3. Plan an ecommerce site that is friendly to all devices
  4. Add a search field to make your products easy to find
  5. Look at options for personalization on your homepage for return visitors
  6. Add language options to expand your audience
  7. Determine which payment processors you will use and which countries you will accept payment from
  8. Decide how you will handle customer service questions and requests
  9. Figure out how you will handle common concerns, like sizing for clothing
  10. Determine how you will collect and share customer feedback
  11. Think about ways to upsell or cross-sell during your buyer journey
  12. Outline how you want your shopping cart to work and why
  13. Add currency options to expand your audience
  14. Decide how you will handle sold out products
  15. Determine what to communicate during checkout, for example, savings after applying a discount
  16. Outline what you want your receipts to look like

If you’ve never built a website before or you don’t spend a ton of time online, it may be hard to make the move from personal experience to creating a great experience for your customers. 

Talking to an ecommerce expert about your upcoming site design is a great way to put yourself in the shoes of your customers. Their experience can help you anticipate the most urgent concerns and expectations of your customers.

Build your brand

You’ll also want a vision for your brand.  This might include examples of photos, preferred colors or the fonts you plan to use. This will help promote your product and show your audience that your business is both professional and trustworthy. 

You’ll also want to prepare to market your products and connect with customers on different sales channels. Your new ecommerce site will be the center of much of your upcoming marketing initiatives. So, you’ll also want to think about how you’ll use your site to promote your business and products.

Ecommerce coaching with Selz is a chance to work with an expert ecommerce coach

A quick note: If you’re already feeling stuck wading into some of these important tasks, you may want to speak to an ecommerce coach. They can help you set simple manageable weekly goals. This will help you set up the foundation of your business on a timeline that works for your schedule.

Branding ecommerce list:

  1. Choose a great business name
  2. Create your social media accounts
  3. Create a professional logo
  4. Plan where banners for sales and special offers will appear on your site
  5. Add an email signup form to the header or footer of your site plan
  6. Outline ideas for events and webinars
  7. Think about how you want to encourage, collect and share user-generated content
  8. Decide if you want to start a podcast 
  9. Outline your vision for social media

Read more:

The Essential Brand Voice Template for Business
How to Market a Product Online in 7 Powerful Steps

Picture perfect 

In a brick-and-mortar store, your customers can walk up to the window of your storefront.  They can interact with in-store displays and touch, taste or smell new products. You can’t really copy this experience online, but you can bring a new version of your store into the homes of your audience. 

The next essential on your ecommerce checklist is great photographs and videos. There are a lot of inexpensive tools that make creating unique audio and video for your site easy. And this one detail will make your website and marketing more interesting and engaging for new customers.

So, don’t just plan to add any old picture to your new website. Your audience won’t just be comparing your product and image to other stores on your street, they’ll be comparing them to other sites selling similar products around the world. In addition to the checklist below, think about finding a talented photographer or learn what you need to take great photographs on your own.

YOur ecommerce checklist should include professional photography for your product photos and videos

Ecommerce list for photography and video:

  1. Take many photographs from multiple angles for every product
  2. Create videos to educate customers about a new or unfamiliar product
  3. Create promotional graphics or photos for your homepage
  4. Resize your product images for faster site speed
  5. Make a video for each product listing
  6. Create video tutorials to show how to use your product

Start writing

After you’ve done this user research on some competitor sites, do a quick outline to map out the categories and the pages you want to include on your website. Then, start writing the copy for each page.

You’ll probably make changes to your website copy more than once before you start designing. It’s easier to edit in a  word processor than it is to make changes right away on your website. You’ll have enough to think about during the design process without having to write and rewrite your copy.

A man writes copy for his website - an important part of his ecommerce checklist

For some people, writing isn’t much fun. It can be tempting to cut and paste, especially when you have a lot of similar products, but it’s not a good idea. Duplicate copy can have a devastating effect on your SEO. This article will cover more about SEO later, but for now, plan to write something unique for each page of your website.

Copywriting ecommerce list:

  1. Write the copy you want on your home page
  2. Write your privacy policy and legal information pages
  3. Write your story to educate new visitors on your product and how it evolved
  4. Write an About Us page, and a short version for your social media accounts
  5. Include calls to action on every page 
  6. Create your return and exchange policies
  7. Write creative and useful product descriptions for each of your products
  8. Add product descriptions to a spreadsheet with other product details, like UPCs
  9. Decide how you will handle product variants, for example, the same t-shirt available in multiple colors
  10. Write your FAQs
  11. Decide what you will do with customer information and add this to your privacy policy
  12. Decide what you will collect on your contact page
  13. Write template emails to explain product delivery and tracking
  14. Write great welcome and thank you emails

Quick tip: If you’re more comfortable selling in person then you are in writing, try a voice to text tool. Record yourself talking about your products the way you would on the phone or in your store.

Read more:

How to Write Product Descriptions that Drive Sales
Marketing Writing: How to Write Content That Sells
From Fiction to Content, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Marketing

Search engine optimization

SEO can sound like just another marketing buzzword. That said, search engine optimization is really important if you’re starting your online business on a budget. Before your copy is ready to add to your new ecommerce site, you’ll want to think about the keywords you’re using. Those words can make it easier or harder for customers to find your business online.

Selz ecommerce SEO is a great way to build awareness and publicity for your small business

Ecommerce list for SEO:

  1. Decide which keywords are most important for your business
  2. Optimize your product titles with relevant keywords 
  3. Add keywords that feel natural to your website copy
  4. Decide whether you want to add a blog

SEO is complex and requires many different skill sets. Many will start a blog to optimize on-page SEO. Others will focus on site speed and site mapping with technical SEO. You may not have the time to build the relationships with complementary business partners that you’ll need to maximize your off-page SEO. An SEO service for small businesses can be an incredible resource at this stage. They can make sure your site is right from the moment it goes live.

Measure your progress

Take a look at your business plan and goals again. Now, think about what analytics you’ll want to measure on your ecommerce site to track whether you’re going to meet those goals. The data you’re able to collect on your ecommerce site can also help you anticipate trends and refine your marketing and message. 

A business owner checks analytics off his ecommerce checklist with the Selz Do-It-For-Me website design service

Analytics can get very complex, and if they aren’t set up correctly you could end up basing major decisions on inaccurate or incomplete data. An all-in-one service like Do-It-For-Me will give you a team of professionals that can help you make these vital decisions before they can impact your business and site performance.

Analytics ecommerce list:

  1. Consider collecting product-specific data, including views and social shares
  2. Plan how you will measure and track site speed

Read more:

Where Customers Come From: Understanding Website Analytics
Data Analytics for Small Business

Now that you’ve checked everything off on your ecommerce checklist you have a clear strategy and plan. You have everything you need to start designing your new website!

About the author

Jana Rumberger

Jana is a writer and Content Manager at Selz. She has expertise in ecommerce strategy, selling products online, and small business solutions. Jana combines diverse experience in education, design, and manufacturing to craft engaging content.

In addition to her writing, she is a visual artist and foodie in Portland, Oregon.