Transforming your blog into a webstore can be a very intimidating process. But all it really takes is breaking everything down into manageable steps. Every phase has plenty of time built in, because you need to step back and observe your changes to make sure they’re working the way you want them to. So don’t think of it as a huge shift, but rather as a slow process that you can adapt to suit your own products, interests, and growth rate.
1. Find a Blog Host with Powerful Functionality
With any kind of blog, using any host, you’ve already developed key abilities for this transition; you know how to use admin interfaces and you’ve worked with customizing designs and layouts. You’ve found a following and developed a personality that should carry through to any products that you offer in your webstore. But you might not be using the best host for all the new functionalities you now need. If you don’t already use WordPress, it makes sense to port your site over to it and establish yourself there, because it has all the functionalities you need to open a small, introductory webstore.
When you start up your store, there will be a steep learning curve, and a large amount of set-up. Some of the first things you’ll want to work on include:
- Quality photography of all your products, taken at different angles.
- Creating custom permalinks for all your pages; this means that instead of the default URL of nonsense numbers, you’ll want to label them all much like you would breadcrumbs, with product names within categories.
- Choose a layout. This should depend in part on the number of products you’re offering at present and might offer in the future. A list view that has more information per product is good if you don’t envision expanding to a large number of products, while a grid view that allows users to see more products at once is better for more varied inventories.
2. Create a Good User Experience
Once you have confidence in the flexibility and capability of your back end setup, you need to make sure your front end is considered with great care. Much of the success of your site will depend on how intuitive it is to navigate through. Finding information must be easy and simple, but you have to balance these considerations with an aesthetic that sets you apart and makes you memorable and appealing. Take these essentials into consideration:
- Arrange your site conventionally, with a navigation list on the top or left, a search bar on the upper left, and so on. With ecommerce, it’s more important to be navigable than unique.
- Pay close attention to your product detail pages. They’re the part that your customers will spend the most time on, and you want them to have all the information clearly displayed, along with large photos that show multiple views.
- Try to eliminate confusion in all things by using descriptive error messages, offering a list of FAQ’s, and other service messages.
Fancier features can be added as your traffic increases. These might include field validations that display an error message if the information is incorrect, or inventory tracking that will display let customers know when products are going out of stock, and how many units are left. Small refinements such as these really help to elevate the customer experience; your site will feel more sophisticated and user-friendly, and the positive impact of the experience will reflect on your sales.
3. Use Google Analytics to Track Your Progress
Google Analytics is an invaluable, free tool that’s essential for any monetized site. Use an analytics guide to get started, if you don’t already have it installed. You can set up different profiles to track traffic from almost any source, easily identifying patterns and getting insights on how to encourage growth. Custom Variables allows you to compare pages, sessions, and visitors to further understand trends. With PageSpeed Insights you can find out which pages load too slowly (a killer for conversion rates) and improve the load times with their suggestions. You can track outbound links to discover where your customers are going, and which pages are the strongest converters. Google Analytics can also give you:
- The ability to compare your data between different time periods, by city or country, in many different metrics. This lets you track the successes and failures of your store as a whole.
- Local conversion data, which will give you insights into geographical purchasing trends. With this information, you can effectively decide which populations you should be targeting should you decide to start advertising.
- Information on which parts of the conversion process are losing customers. This is called Funnel Visualization, referring to the concept of the conversion funnel. Know this shows you which pages or processes might need to be reworded or streamlined.
4. Upgrade to New Software
After you’ve established yourself and worked out all the design and operational kinks, you’ll probably find your traffic increasing and your products multiplying. Unfortunately, along with these gains will come the side effects of success; the limitations of the WordPress platform may become too small for you, and you’ll find it’s time to upsize your operations.
The step to take next is to look into a more complex platform like Amazon’s webstore software,where you can easily customize theUX without any of the bugs or annoyances of running the site on your own. Services like Amazon Webstore let you rely on their secure technology while maintaining a completely customizable site. For example you can choose to use Amazon checkout (which helps to increase conversions due to its convenience) or your own customized checkout. Additional features include things like:
- A SaaS-based platform, which gives you on-demand software that is hosted on the cloud for easy changes and upgrades
- Scaleable server usage and unlimited bandwidth, so you can upload products and drive traffic to your site without fear of overloading it.
You might be afraid that using the WordPress ecommerce plugin or Amazon Webstore, with their built-in functionality packages, will make your site look generic and boring. But there’s really very few limits in terms of the design and functionalities that you can add to make your webstore a unique experience. For instance, this popular store has a very unusual cascading grid-structured layout of images and blocks of color. It was made with Amazon Webstore.
5. Ramp Up or Scale Back as Your Situation Evolves
Your level of involvement can be changed as you see fit; if you’re becoming overwhelmed with the quantity of orders, you can defer packing and shipping to Amazon’s fulfillment centers. Cloud hosting ensures that your site won’t ever go down under the pressure of too many concurrent users, and you’ll benefit from powerful security and anti-fraud technology.
Now that it’s laid out into a series of steps that you can take your time in implementing, hopefully the process of converting your blog into a webstore seems a lot less intimidating. It’s really all about carefully choosing solutions that work well for you in the short term and can be easily adapted to suit unknown variables that might crop up in the long term. Creating a webstore takes a lot of hard work and flexibility, so as long as you’re fully aware of the commitment it takes to put your plans into reality, you’ll be able to navigate your path to success.
Author Bio – Luke Clum is a graphic designer and web developer from the great Northwest. He loves UI design and hiking in the mountains. Follow him on Twitter @lukeclum
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