SoftwareBY RabIT software engineering · February 14, 2020

So you’re either considering to, or have already started a custom Ecommerce website development project. First off, congratulations! Now we need to make sure you have all the necessary information to make your new website a success.

Statista’s projections estimate that the Ecommerce industry will be worth $4.5 trillion by 2021. Competition is becoming more intense as new players enter the market for a piece of that considerably-sized pie.

ecommerce industry statistics

Source: Shopify.com

 

Despite how easy some people make it seem, developing an Ecommerce website from scratch can prove challenging, depending on product category and targeted markets.

I would say it’s only worth to start an online store, if you have a strong knowledge about your customers and the products you’d like to sell to them. It is also a big advantage if you already have a physical store before the Ecommerce website, so you have a large customer base who will provide initial feedback you can use to make it more attractive for new clients.

 

To make your custom Ecommerce website stand a chance, we recommend you to follow these steps:

 

1. Online competitor research

Chances are someone has already started selling products similar to yours online. By this point you should always expect to have competition and make the necessary precautions before investing into Ecommerce website development.

Before you start analyzing the competition, you need to determine your own business profile, as well as a detailed customer persona. Write down what customer needs your business is equipped to satisfy, and all the aspects that make it different from companies in the same space.

Do your best to create a detailed description about people who you expect to buy your product (or are already buying your product offline). Who and where are they? How old are they? How much are they willing to spend? Where do they search while shopping online, etc.

Once you know where you stand on the market, it’s time to do the digging. Search for similar competitors on sites like Amazon or Google Shopping. Examine the user experience of their Ecommerce website, pricing strategy, buying funnel, etc.

Subscribe to a few newsletters and follow their social media pages to learn about how they communicate with their audience. You can even try to order something from them, to experience the complete delivery process.

 

2. Choose the right Ecommerce platform

During competitor research, you should come across a few different Ecommerce platforms. This can also help you decide which one you’d like to adapt yourself.

First off, you need to decide if you want to use an Ecommerce website builder or have your development write the code from scratch.

The main advantages of using a website builder are lower overall development costs and a shorter time-to-market period. However, using these SaaS solutions can come with a high monthly fee, so costs can easily build up over time, especially if you want to scale your site later on.

Building your Ecommerce website from scratch gives you maximum flexibility, control and allows for easier scaling. Not to mention you don’t have to deal with support every time something goes wrong. This usually makes the development process longer and more expensive early on, however.

If you do decide to go with an Ecommerce builder, here are some good options to consider:

 

comparison for custom ecommerce website development guide

Source: Vizteams

 

3. Prepare design mockups

While most ready-to-use Ecommerce builders provide free website templates, you should consider creating custom design to make it stand out even more.

I’d recommend hiring a professional web designer who has deep knowledge about user experience and modern user interface builds as well. There are also plenty of talented freelancers you can easily hire through sites like Upwork or Guru.

When it come to Ecommerce design, remember these key aspects:

Load speed – This is the most important factor that impacts online shoppers’ user experience today. According to Smart Insights, 57% of visitors will leave your site if loading takes longer than 3 seconds. About 80% of them will likely never return to your site again.

Responsiveness – Site elements must display properly on all screen sizes, in all browsers. Also make sure that your designer follows mobile UI best practices.

Clear and visible call-to-actions – Your Ecommerce website design should help customers effortlessly complete their purchases. Your CTA buttons should have clear, concise text, and eye-catching design.

High-quality images – As much as you want to improve load times, pay attention that your images don’t appear low-quality or pixelated. Use JPG image formats for multi-color images, and PNG for simple images. You can also use formats like WebP or JPEG XR, but they aren’t supported by all browsers.

 

 

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4. Choose payment gateway API

Payment API integration is an essential part of any custom Ecommerce website development project. It is crucial to select a gateway that fits both your business’ and customers’ requirements.

These APIs help you manage credit card payments and bank payments, and also play a key role in tracking orders and maintaining customer lists. They also help protect both online vendors and shoppers from fraud and information breaches.

We recommend using acclaimed gateway APIs such as Stripe, Square or PayPal. Our own team uses Stripe the most during development projects, but Square is also a good alternative. It is popular among small vendors with a physical storefront as well as an online store.

 

5. Develop planned features

By this point you should be able to picture your ideal Ecommerce website and compile a list of feature requirements. You will need this to ask for initial project estimations from development teams. Include as much detailed information as you can in order to get an accurate estimate.

When you start looking for development companies for custom Ecommerce website development, you need to think about how much money you can afford to invest in it and ideally how much time it should take them to finish the project.

Be sure to reach out to at least 5 different teams, and compare offers, clarity of communication, and whether they have proper development, quality assurance and project management processes set up.

If you know someone with an IT background, or a reliable consultant, involve them in the selection process as a third party to make sure you choose a capable team.

It is crucial for you to stay in constant communication with the developers, because they will need your input and feedback throughout the project. Someone from your internal management team should be assigned to follow the development process and make sure the completed features are in line with your expectations.

When it comes to custom Ecommerce website development, scalability and security are extremely important. Site architecture and databases must allow for easy expansion to be able to grow together with your business. This might require the use of cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS).

We also recommend to include penetration testing during the development process to discover potential vulnerabilities and protect future customers’ sensitive information.

This is how the development process looks for us.

 

6. Quality assurance & usability testing

QA testing should be an integral part of the custom Ecommerce website development process to make sure all features work error-free. Unit testing, automated testing and code reviews should be carried out continuously throughout production.

It might require some extra effort from the development team, but it would take much longer to correct coding errors later on, when critical errors start to appear.

Usability testing is also crucial to see if your Ecommerce website is easy to understand and navigate for your potential customers.

 

custom ecommerce website development testing

 

7. Import product content & write creative

The job of your website creative is to make an immediate impression, and really draw customers in. Your chances of converting visitors are much higher if you manage to tell an engaging story that appeals to their imagination and gets them excited.

Make sure to add:

Visually appealing product photos – Since customers can’t touch or interact with your product online, you must rely on interesting, high-quality images to present them. Upload clean photos and give shoppers the opportunity to zoom in and out and view items from multiple angles.

PowertoolWorld, a popular hardware Ecommerce website even includes short product videos.

Descriptive keyword-rich product titles – Titles also serve as brief product descriptions. Here you need to think like your customers and use words that they would use to search for your products. This will make your site easier to find for search engines.

Creative, engaging product descriptions – Include the most important information your customers would want to know about your products. Write about aspects that make them stand out, how they were made, and why people should be excited to own them.

 

8. Hosting & SSL certificate

There is a whole plethora of hosting providers out there to choose from. There is no such thing as an absolute best, the right one for you depends on your specific requirements.

When choosing a provider, make sure they fit your business in terms of:

  • Security capabilities
  • Performance abilities
  • Database performance potential
  • CMS software compatibility

After setting up your Ecommerce website, you still need to make it secure.

 

ecommerce website security

Source: Pixabay

 

SSL certificates encrypt visitors’ financial data and other sensitive user information. Search engines will also give your site a higher ranking if it is equipped with an SSL certificate.

If you want to get one for your own Ecommerce website, Let’s Encrypt offers free certificates as a nonprofit organization. You can also install SSL certificates through paid certificate distribution websites like DigiCert or Comodo SSL, or directly from hosting providers like GoDaddy.

 

9. Prepare content, advertising & social media strategy

Having the perfect Ecommerce website won’t provide financial results without enough traffic. Since you are likely only starting out, you probably can’t afford to advertise to a wide audience on every platform.

You need a carefully targeted and efficient content & advertising strategy to reach the right people with the right offer at the right time.

If you don’t have a background in digital marketing, the most obvious solution might be to simply hire a professional agency to take care of this for you. Although, if you’re starting out with a tighter budget, or want to keep your marketing activity in-house, you must come up with an initial strategy yourself.

This is not a marketing-focused article, so I won’t go into too much detail here.

Basically, you have to identify your ideal buyer personas, find ways to engage with them and convince them to take action (buy). You can do this organically through content, or reach them with targeted offers through paid advertising channels (social media ads, banner ads, search ads, etc.).

 

10. Search engine optimization – SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) can save a lot of money and effort when starting a new Ecommerce website. If you don’t have to advertise your site, because its the first result in search engines (like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.), you can achieve a much higher profit margin.

However, if you want to stay on top of the search game, you need to invest into quality SEO development and keeping it up to date. This can be hard, because SEO requirements are always changing.

Developers need to stay in touch with these changes and update your Ecommerce website accordingly. Despite all of this, I‘d say it’s still more cost-efficient on the long run than paying for advertisement.

 

11. Maintenance and further development

Instead of a linear process with an end point, think of custom Ecommerce website development as a cycle that repeats throughout the software’s lifetime.

Once your team has successfully developed all planned front-end and back-en elements, the work is still not over. There is continuous maintenance work that has to be done in order to avoid feature-breaking errors and keep all systems up to date.

Due to the ever growing competition in the Ecommerce industry, innovation is essential for every business that wants to stay relevant. You must keep in touch with customer demand and evolve your site to be able to satisfy new needs and preferences.

Integrating newly emerging technologies, optimizing new devices and platforms all require extra development work to be done. For example, industry analysts currently predict that voice shopping, AI services and Augmented Reality (AR) will provide the next innovation challenges for Ecommerce website owners.

 

voice-shopping-ecommerce

Photo by Fabian Hurnaus from Pexels

 

A custom Ecommerce website comes with a lot of advantages and also a few disadvantages for your business.

 

Here are some of them:

Advantages:

  • You’ll have a platform where you can receive and respond to customers’ questions quickly and directly.
  • Buyers don’t have to travel to your physical store, which can save them a lot of time and money. Delivery services are often cheaper nowadays than buying the fuel to drive to a store on the other side of town. If you manage to save money for your customers, they might even spend a little extra on your Ecommerce website.
  • A big advantage is that you can almost automate the flow of the orders. If your custom Ecommerce website has integrated billing API and delivery service API, it only requires 2 clicks to prepare the invoice and the delivery note.
  • It’s way easier to manage product stock and keep descriptions, pictures, names, categories up-to-date because you can see and edit everything in an admin interface instead of writing down the changes on paper.
  • You can collect data and prepare statistics reports about orders, outgoing and incoming stock, etc. This way you can discover seasonal buying trends and place more focus on best-performing products to increase your profits as much as possible.

 

Disadvantages:

  • One of the first that comes to mind is, of course, the cost of development. Hiring skilled programmers to realize what you have dreamed can cost a lot. Especially if want to make your Ecommerce website really stand out with unique features and design.
  • Once you start an Ecommerce website, you need to constantly think about new features to improve user experience and regularly update the design of the site, so customers will see that you are taking care of your online shop.
  • It’s also a pain to pay every month for the server where your site is hosted.
  • It’s harder to show product quality and explain every information about them to customers through the internet. Presenting the items in real life and demonstrating their functionality can be much more effective.

 

To summarize

This is our broad outline of the custom Ecommerce website development process. Of course, many details are up to you to figure out, since you’re the one who knows the ins and outs of your business.

We thinks that the process shouldn’t start with the actual development, but with market research and careful planning. Once you have a clear picture of exactly what you need to do, you’ll have much better chances to succeed with development.

If at any stage you feel like you need help from an experienced team, feel free to reach out and ask your questions. Thanks for reading!

RabIT software engineering

RabIT is an innovative software engineering company from Hungary. Our goal is to help startups and enterprises drive growth through technology innovation and make a real impact in their industries.

Code quality and transparency are our main priorities throughout each project.

SoftwareBY RabIT software engineering · April 10, 2018

Today, companies of all shapes and sizes are starting to use digital technology to bypass the limitations of the physical world. New advances in this field allow them to release their products to the market faster, to reach the right customers, while offering a near perfect user experience. Although the world started business digitization decades ago, we are still only taking baby steps compared to what can be accomplished in the future.

In this article we will help you ask the right questions to determine if you can use digital solutions yourself to help your company reach its full potential.

There are a lot of reasons to start digitizing your own company, and a blog post wouldn’t be enough to talk about everything here. For now, we collected 7 common reasons why you should consider introducing digital technologies to your own business processes.

At the end of each point, we will provide you with some questions that you can ask yourself. Our goal here is to find out if it is time for you to start thinking of business digitization as a real growth strategy.

 

So why is business digitization important for you?

 

1. Your industry is open for disruption

No matter which industry you are in, everyone is susceptible to disruption. Thanks to digital technologies, new or existing players can revolutionize the way people perceive a product or service, making what other companies offer in that industry obsolete. Do you want to be disrupted or become the disruptor? The choice is yours.

disrtuption in business digitization

Uber is probably the best and most used example for disruption. The company used business digitization perfectly to provide an unbeatable user experience. They simply offer a faster, cheaper, more comfortable solution compared to taxi services. Ever since they appeared on the market, cab companies have a reason to fear for their existence. Don’t think this can’t happen to you.

 

 

If someone finds a brand new (and better) way to solve your customers’ problems, you have to respond. One way to prevent your business from falling behind is to follow industry trends closely, subscribe to every channel that is gaining in popularity, keep track of what your customers, competitors and partners are talking about. These channels can become excellent sources of new ideas and ways to help your target market.

Another important thing to do is to take every competitor seriously. A lot of market leading companies just decide to laugh off newcomers rather than devote time and resources to really get to know their strategy. History tells us that a lot of them wake up one day to realize that they have already fallen behind. Just think of what people said about Twitter back in 2006, and where the service is now.

 

Some important questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you aware of competitors who are offering new ways to answer customer needs?
  • Are you up-to-date about the newest trends in your industry?
  • Do you have the opportunity to become a disruptor for your industry?

 

2. You need to improve everyday efficiency

No matter how efficient you think you have become by today, there is always room for improvement thanks to new technological solutions. Using outdated legacy systems, operating processes manually that could be automated, poor communication between workers and managers, etc. Symptoms like these suggest that you are dealing with real problems that can be solved using digital solutions.

digitization

A custom-built enterprise management system can provide solutions to many of these problems by itself. You will find that business digitization greatly increases speed and efficiency, especially if the system is built specifically around your business. Also, you can finally transition from the pen & paper format to the Cloud, which is beneficial for both your business and the environment.

The fact that you are already using some kind of software doesn’t guarantee maximum efficiency. Software constantly needs to evolve and adapt to new business conditions, and scale together with the company. If your current software is slow and unreliable with frequent crashes, or incompatible with your newer systems, you probably need to consider updates or replacement. Replacing your inefficient software usually saves you money on the long term, compared to the high costs of maintaining outdated systems.

 

Some important questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you have any manual work processes that could be automated?
  • Is your current software system causing frustrations among your employees?
  • Are your software maintenance costs outpacing the value it provides?

 

3. You are not offering the best user experience

Do you feel like you put a lot of effort in your business but don’t get the results you want, while the competition seems to have no problem at all? Maybe you are not offering the right customer experience to your target audience. A fast and smooth user experience is imperative to succeed on the market, as customers today are used to instant gratification.

Pizza Hut can be a good example for new and creative customer experience solutions. They know that their customers hate waiting for their food in restaurants. They found a way to fight boredom by making the entire ordering process interactive using touch screens. 

Guests can even play games together while they wait for their pizza. Here’s the video.

 

Suitcase is another company that used business digitization to find a creative solution to one of mankind’s oldest problems: “most men hate shopping”.

They gather data about your measurements and taste preferences on their website. Then their team puts together hand picked outfits to meet your preferences and finally sends them to your doorstep. In a few clicks men can get a suitcase personalized to their needs. Don’t like what you get, send it back entirely or partially for free. This way men can always look their best without ever having to go shopping themselves.

Now think about your own business. Think about your customers’ needs and everyday problems, and try to find new creative solutions for them. You don’t have to be a multinational giant to offer the best experience, you just have to think outside the box.

 

Some important questions to ask yourself:

  • Do your customers face any difficulties while using your product / service?
  • Can you make your product / service easier to access for your customers?
  • Can you tap into new sources to gather feedback about your customers’ needs?

 

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4. You are not using the new channels to their full potential

Here we won’t talk about the uses of social media for example, because others have already got that covered. We want to emphasize the importance of data-based decision making when it comes to online channels instead. Correct use of data separates successful online campaigns from just throwing money out the window.

Data from your social media pages, website, webshop, blog and every other platform you are using should be collected, analyzed and taken into account while executing your online strategy. Tracking conversions, engagement, website traffic, lead generation and other important KPIs is essential to optimize your online efforts.

Most companies are not using big data to its full potential yet. It is difficult to integrate all the information from these separate sources, and see the full picture. For example, every social media platform has a different interface, which makes it difficult to compare the information from each site.

Social media API integration can provide a solution for this problem. You can create a software solution that gathers all the data from your social pages and integrates it in a single platform. Having everything in one place can help you gain a deeper insight into your customers’ behavior and save a lot of time as well. This is just one example of the endless ways business digitization can help you get more value out of your data.

 

Some important questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you know what channels are your target audiences using?
  • Do you have a clear goal and strategy to reach your audience?
  • Can you use data to help your business adapt to your customers’ needs and habits?

 

5. You are not thinking about mobile users

If you start business digitization without adapting to mobile users, you are definitely doing something wrong. People are shopping, browsing and socializing on their phones more than ever, and the numbers just keep growing. Our own AdWords data also shows that about 70% of website visitors found our website through their mobile phones.

family cell phone plans

 

Even if you don’t sell your services through mobile devices directly, you should still find a way to engage mobile users. Don’t hesitate to develop an app that complements your product. Look at what Nike has done. They just sell sport equipment, but still created an application that tracks your progress when you go out for a run.

digitization

In the healthcare industry doctors usually have their hands full with people asking for consultancy, so they needed electronic medical record (EMR) applications to become more time-efficient. Developers delivered, and these apps now make it possible for patients to track, monitor and save their own data and ask questions through the app, ultimately saving the doctors valuable time.

Hell, someone even created an app for farmers to track where their cattle are, check if their livestock is healthy or when the cows are due to be pregnant. The possibilities are limitless. Be creative, find solutions, develop your idea and gain profit.

If you do decide to optimize your website for mobile users or create your own mobile app, make sure that the final product is highly responsive, clean and easy to navigate on every device.

 

Some important questions to ask yourself:

  • Is my website adapted & responsive to mobile users?
  • Can you compliment your traditional product / service with a mobile app?
  • Can you use Appification and Gamification to your advantage?

 

6. Your supply chain has too many players

Digitization and new technologies allow your business to make the value chain shorter and offer more value to your customers. Today, companies can take everything into their own hands including distribution, promotion and building brand awareness.

You can buy shoes directly from Nike, tools from Black & Decker, cars from Tesla, laptops from Apple and so on… 

digitization

 

Today, everyone can set up their own online retail channel with relative ease. New players often start selling their products in their online stores first, and only open physical stores later when their brand has already gained recognition.

You don’t have to be a globally recognized brand to create a successful sales channel for your products. Ecommerce web builder platforms like Shopify or Magento can help you get started even if you don’t have any web development or design skills. Once your webshop is ready, you can get traffic by running an online ad campaign with AdWords, Facebook and Twitter Ads, etc. You have every tool you need to get started today at your fingertips.

You can also take branding and promotion into your own hands through content marketing. Find the key interests and pain points of your target audience, create content that is helpful, informative or simply fun for them and share it through channels like a blog, social media or websites like Medium.

 

Some important questions to ask yourself:

  • Can you create more value by bypassing the middleman?
  • Can you use any online tools to build your own sales & media channels?
  • If you are the middleman, can you become a media brand yourself?

 

7. You are not utilizing new technologies yet

Ignoring new technologies and solutions will cause you to fall behind to more innovative companies. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and big data are just a few examples for technologies that can offer you brand new opportunities.

Amazon is the perfect example here. They have tons of information about their customers. They are now using AI to predict consumer purchase behavior to reduce shipping time as much as possible. Their ultimate goal is to achieve a one-hour delivery time for any order. 

It goes without saying that they also need to incorporate big data technology into their processes in order to achieve this. Amazon already has a famous IoT product as well, called Alexa. It acts as your personal digital assistant that allows you to use voice commands to shop online, turn on other devices around the house, and much more.

You don’t have to be a huge company like Amazon to use these new technologies. You can experiment with sales & marketing automation yourself with the help of AI and big data. For example, machine learning can help you make effective use of all your collected data about your customers.

For IoT, think about new solutions to add digital technology to your existing product in a way that creates additional value for your customers. Smart fridges that help you order groceries, smart shirts that can track your heart rate, smart cups that show drink temperature, etc. The possibilities are endless when it comes to IoT.

 

If you sell a product, make sure it is compatible with the future. Use data to your advantage, make smart use of digitization and AI to analyze everything that you can. Keep following trends and developments, and more importantly, act now! Anyone can become the next big thing, so why hesitate?

 

Some important questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you actively following the newest developments in your industry?
  • Can you add a digital element to your traditional product to add more value to it?
  • Can you find new sources of customer data, and a way to analyze it?

 

SUMMARY

In this article we tried to address some important new changes and opportunities that digitization can offer for modern businesses, big and small alike. Our goal here is to encourage you to question your traditional way of doing business, and help you rethink your entire company in order to succeed in this rapidly changing environment.

Other than opportunities, the digital revolution will definitely bring many new challenges as well. This is why it is more important than ever for you to follow latest trends and developments not only for your company, but for your entire value chain.

We wanted to state that it is no longer an option to ignore business digitization. Today’s businesses must become agile, and be quick to adapt to unexpected changes in their environment. We hope that you can get some new and creative ideas from these examples, that will help you reach success in the new digital era.

 

Thank you for dedicating your time to read this article! We want to help companies and entrepreneurs succeed during the 4th industrial revolution. If you’d like to talk about implementing digital solutions for your business, feel free to schedule a free consultation.

RabIT software engineering

RabIT is an innovative software engineering company from Hungary. Our goal is to help startups and enterprises drive growth through technology innovation and make a real impact in their industries.

Code quality and transparency are our main priorities throughout each project.