Things are getting exciting. You’ve carefully evaluated your product idea and finally found a product to sell online. After searching high and low you've found your supplier, ordered samples, and discovered that they're better than you could have expected. Finally, you’ve placed an order for your initial inventory and are just waiting for it to come in. What now?
Well, you’ve still got a lot of work to do because you’re in the pre-launch phase. It's a critical time for every online store as it will set the tone for your business going forward. Welcome to the grind.
Launching your business without being prepared can be a recipe for disaster, that’s why we’ve put together this 10-point launch countdown to prepare your business for its launch to the world.
There’s a lot of work to do, so let’s get started.
10. Prepare Your Social Networks
For many businesses, social media is the lifeblood that brings a consistent flow of traffic and customers. It's an audience of people interested in your products and your brand.
There are a few important things every online business should do to prepare their social channels for launch.
Claim Your Name
As a general rule of thumb and regardless of your niche, you’ll likely want to cover your bases with the two largest social networks, Facebook and Twitter. Even if you don’t plan to use they heavily, you should claim your name on both to manage your brand and prevent others from taking them.
In social media, there’s nothing worse than having different usernames on each network. Use a service like NameChk or KnowEm to search for consistent name availability across hundreds of social networks before choosing the name you want to go with.
Note: On Facebook, you’ll need to seed your page with 25 fans before you will be allowed you to change your page’s URL from a random string of characters to www.facebook.com/YourBrand. You can do this by either by inviting friends and family to your page, or by using a service like Fiverr to purchase fans.
Warning: Using Fiverr to buy hundreds or thousands of followers is counterproductive as your posts will only be shown to five to ten percent of your fans. Therefore, if you buy hundreds or thousands of followers, you may never reach your real audience, ever. Buying fans is also against Facebook's terms of service, so buyer beware.
Choose Your Social Networks Wisely
Beyond the staples of Facebook and Twitter, you'll likely want to join other key social networks. Some social networks will work better for your business than others. You will need to discover over time what works best for your brand.
If you have a very visual array of products or a brand that celebrates a certain lifestyle, visual and photo-centric networks like Instagram and Pinterest might be great options for you. If you plan to produce video content, you'll want to make sure you claim your name on YouTube.
Remember though, social networks require time and commitment to cultivate so only choose networks you can and plan to properly manage.
Set Up Your Profile and Cover Photos
Next you’ll want to set your profile and cover photos, as well as seed the social networks with some posts so new fans and followers will have something to look at and wont feel like they're the first people to the party.
For a list of all social network photo dimensions, go here.
Build A Following and Start Connecting
Now comes the most difficult and time-intensive part of preparing your social networks for launch, building a following. Truth be told, your first few hundred fans/followers will be the most difficult to obtain, therefore you'll want to dedicate some time everyday to building your following and connecting with your fans and followers.
For more information on building your social following, check out the following posts below:
- Instagram - How To Build A Massive Following On Instagram
- Twitter - How To Use Twitter For Ecommerce
- Pinterest - Ultimate Guide To Pinterest for Ecommerce
9. Get Your Email Marketing Ready
Now that you have your social accounts lined up, you need to get what will be one of your most important communication channel ready. Email marketing has been proven time and time again to be one of the most effective marketing channels, providing consistently higher return on investment.
Choose Your Email Provider
There are many options on the market for managing your email marketing, however, you’ll want to choose the best one for your business. A great start point is to consider which ecommerce platform you will be using and to look at which email providers integrate with that platform.
Shopify has a host of email options with direct integration that can even track sales resulting from your emails to monitor return on investment.
Some email marketing options if you're on the Shopify platform include:
Not on Shopify? You have other options. Check out:
Setting Up Your Templates and Launch Campaign
Once you have decided on your email marketing software, you need to spend a few hours getting your hands dirty. Since email marketing can be the most effective form of marketing, you should make sure you get things ready by setting up your templates, crafting a welcome email, preparing your email marketing campaigns and setting up your shopping cart abandonment emails.
8. Launch Your Landing Page
Your next step is to build a landing page. A landing page is essential for a few reasons. It will be your brand's temporary home until you launch with your full website. Your landing page will begin to showcase your brand and teases your pre-launch audience as to what’s to come. Most importantly, it’s a place to start building your email list of people that are interested in what you have to say and to learn more about your launch.
There are a few tools you can use to build your landing page that are really quick and inexpensive to use:
7. Install Google Analytics
Analytics are important to set up from day one. Analytics will give you valuable insight into your visitors and customers. In a physical store, you see your customer and you can easily chat with them. However, online, you’re essentially blind without analytics.
There are four steps to fully put in place Google Analytics for your online store:
- Create Your Google Analytics Account
- Connecting Your Google Analytics To Your Store
- Activating Ecommerce Tracking
- Setting Up Funnels and Goals
For detailed, step-by-step instructions on each of the above steps, check out this guide on setting up Google Analytics for your store.
6. Do Your Keyword Research
Before you begin setting up your new online store, it's important to do your keyword research. Keyword research is an important part of search engine optimization (SEO). The underlying value of choosing the right keywords is to help Google and other search engines understand what your ecommerce site is about and what products you sell. This in return increases your visibility by increasing the chance search engines will list your site in the search results when potential customers are looking for the products you sell.
For a step-by-step guide to choosing the right keywords for your new business, check out The Beginners Guide To Keyword Research for Ecommerce.
5. Build Your Online Store
Now that you’ve set up much of the essentials, you’re finally ready to begin working on your actual store. This is a big task, so make sure you give yourself enough time.
Some of the things you'll need to consider are:
- Choosing The Right Store Theme
- Overall Store Design
- Product Photography
- Product Descriptions
- Adding Apps
Don't forget, if you're on the Shopify platform, you can also look for help from Shopify Experts to get your store set up.
4. Decide On Your KPI’s
Before you launch, you’ll want to define a few key performance indicators (KPI's) to monitor going forward. Defining the metrics that are important to you and your business early will help keep you on track and focused.
There are several key performance indicators that everyone should track for their ecommerce business listed below:
Sales Key Performance Indicators:
- Monthly Sales
- Average Order Size
- Average Margin
- Conversion Rate
- Shopping Cart Abandonment Rate
Marketing Key Performance Indicators:
- Site Traffic
- Unique Visitors vs. Returning Visitors
- Time On Site
- Page Views Per Visit
- Traffic Source and Referrals
- Newsletter Subscribers
- Social Media Followers or Fans
There are far more than the KPI's listed above. For more information and a larger list of key performance indicators you may want to consider, click here.
3. Know Your Shipping Strategy
Your shipping strategy is an integral part of your ecommerce business. Shipping profitably can be difficult and there's lots to learn, so you’ll want to prepare carefully for it.
There are several important factors to consider including:
- Packaging Options and Materials
- Which Shipping Carriers to Use
- Shipping Time and Costs
For more comprehensive and detailed information on determining your shipping strategy, check out: The Beginners Guide To Ecommerce Shipping And Fulfillment.
2. Finalize Your Launch Promotion And Strategy
Finally, as you're preparing to launch, you'll want to consider the launch itself. How do you plan on launching your new business? Will you launch with a promotion like 20% off everything, offer free shipping, or a sweepstakes?
What communication channels will you use to tell you audiences about your launch?
The goods news is that because you've been building an email list and an audience on social media, you have an excited audience to share your news with. You may also want to consider reaching out to relevant publications to have your new store featured for launch.
Now that you’ve completed this 10-point launch plan, it's time to launch your online store to an excited and expecting audience. If you've done everything on this list, you should have a healthy following on social media and an email list of people ready to line up and purchase from your new store.
Don't forget, building a business is hard work and a long road but hopefully with this guide you'll be able to set the right tone for your business from the start.
About The Author
Richard Lazazzera is a an ecommerce entrepreneur and Content Strategist at Shopify. Get more from Richard on Twitter.]