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Tips for Building Your First Online Shopping Cart (By James O'Brien)

Starting your first online store?

Starting an online store can be extremely daunting for someone new to the world of online businesses, but, for a good reason. There are so many aspects which create success for a shopping cart in a world of powerful search engines, directories, affiliates and word of mouth, the chance of making it big can rely purely on a big budget or a brand new idea.

If you’re thinking of building your online extension of a current business or even starting a purely online business then hopefully the following will outline some of the most important aspects of getting started.

Market research Ask yourself, is there any point in setting up any kind of online business at all, if there is no demand or so much competition you will be lost in the crowd?

There have been a few exceptions in the past where small businesses are so well structured and marketed that they grow quickly and succeed, however this can be very difficult without the right support.

So how are you going to set yourself apart? What will be your image? And what are your goals?
These are questions you need to think about when you are researching. Find out if there is truly an opportunity for your company to succeed. The worst thing you can do is simply jump in and hope for the best, did the most successful companies in the world do that?

Setting Targets and Goals Figuring out where you will be in 5... 10... 15... 20 years from now plays an integral part in the way your shopping cart is structured, managed and performs now. Target and goal setting makes an incredible difference to the level of success or success at all a company can enjoy.

Start thinking about the steps your online store will make at each stage of it's life.

When it starts to grow needing new staff 
When it needs financial assistance 
When changes to tax structure is important 
What new markets you wish to tap into 
Your staff rewards when targets are met 
Daily, weekly, monthly and yearly sales targets

…and the list goes on. Think big! If you aim higher than the rest, the chance of your shopping cart being successful is also higher.

Setting up Your Store – general rules
- Business Contact information

The following information should be posted to the website in an easy to see location:

A corporate address 
Product return address 
An e-mail address 
A contact number
Big detailed pictures pay off

Just like in a physical retail shop, your customers want to really know what they are buying and need to see it close up. Make sure you are uploading images larger than just the detailed product view. Upload at least 400 X 400 pixels and up to 1000 X 1000 pixels for every product image so your customer can get a clear detailed view of what they plan to buy from you, otherwise, they will simply click away.


Do testimonials work? Can testimonials be rigged and seem unauthentic? Sure. It seems like most testimonials are generic. If you include the first and last name as well as possibly photo of the customer (with permission), you will earn trust and credibility.

- Graphics

While a flashy site with neat graphics may catch someone's eye, well written, descriptive, persuasive text and emotional images are the ticket to sales conversions... it's the difference between the prospective buyer exiting your site and opening their pocketbook. Avoid any annoying music and long loading flash movies on your main pages.

- Only knowledgeable people to take phone calls

Consumers shopping online are no different than regular retail customers, they have questions about your product, your business and your delivery methods. It is important to greet any phone calls or emails with well trained staff who are knowledgeable about your company and products. The more your company can assist consumers, the better the conversion rates and repeat buying. Don't forget to cross sell and up-sell at this point!

- Return policies should be easy and fair

A good return policy can promote trust in the buyer and multiple orders. It is important to include return labels with the packaging and provide refunds when requested. Repeat business is your best business. Provide them with your best customer service and they will reward you for it by ordering from your shopping cart- not someone else's. 

- Navigation

Make sure you maintain a simple navigation throughout your shopping cart. There should be no reason to steer customers more than two to three clicks deep within your site, the home page should always be only a click away. The clearer your site is presented, the more time customers can spend looking at all your products and info without getting frustrated. It is important that your build your shopping cart using a quality programmer and designer or well designed/built shopping cart software.

-Be sure of your postal methods

Ever not received an item you ordered online and paid for upfront, only to find out no-one knows where it is? Ever received an item in the post only to open and see it damaged? This is one of the most frustrating things about buying online. Make sure you back yourself up with tracking codes and trustworthy shipping companies.

Content Make It Count!

A method to inducing the first click is providing a strong call to action or incentive. By featuring discounts and free shipping offers, the offer may intrigue the user to commit another click. 

Don't let them go

Once you have the prospective buyer "on the hook"… don't kill the sale with poorly written product descriptions. Nothing kills a sale quicker than a product that is as enthralling as reading the ingredients of a bag of frozen peas. You have invested the time and effort to build your shopping cart; don't miss out on sales due to poorly worded product descriptions. 

Being personable is also important. Instead of having the most exciting part of a television product description be it's "titanium silver color"… talk about how the consumer's home will be the place to come and watch the big game (on a screen so big you can see the sweat coming out of the players' pores). Speak about how the "picture in picture" capability means there will be no more flipping back and forth- saving the fingers precious energy for snatching up potato chips. 

Do all you can to involve the person's emotions and senses into the product description. Sure, the technical stuff should be included, but put it at the bottom of the description. 

Provide a strong reason for why they should buy

Ever see the phrase "buy from us" in an online store? This has to be one of the biggest turn off's to visitors. Consumers are fragile, you need to provide strong evidence to why anyone should buy from your store, this needs to be your POINT OF DIFFERENCE. 
Make your point of difference obvious, something which truly give someone a reason to look further into your products and proceed to the shopping cart checkout. Simply telling them to buy for no particular reason apart from you wanting the sale is not good enough.... and they know it.

Now that your site is built. It’s one thing to have a fantastic site with great content, products and design…but…. What good is it if no one can find it?

Stay tuned for part two, “how to market your online store”


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