Online stores come in many sizes and levels of complexity. From your basic Etsy setup, to a giant multi-category retailer there are some e-commerce building blocks that every online store needs to grow and thrive.
I believe that all the building blocks needed to create a successful online store fit into three tiers. Below I have broken these tiers down, showing you the various building blocks within each and how they effect your online store.
1. The Foundation of an Online Store
You Don't Have A Store Without These Building Blocks
Ok, we all know this analogy – anything you build (house, makeup on your face, website) needs to have a really good foundation. Without it, everything you build on top will likely crumple into a sad heap with all your effort going to waste.
The ecommerce building blocks within the Foundation Tier are non-negotiable – you must prioritise them over anything else within your ecommerce business. I really can’t stress this enough!
1.1 - Your eCommerce Platform
Nowadays we are sooooo lucky – there are loads of different platforms to choose from when your building your online store. Each platform has it’s bonuses and limitations, so it’s important to understand which is best for your store.
For those who create their own products and want an easy to setup shop solution, it’ll be worth looking at Etsy. You want to have a bit more freedom with how your store looks? Shopify could be a great choice!
I’ll go into further detail on each of your options in another blog post soon, but in the meantime make sure the platform you choose gives you room to grow and you understand how to manage and update it (don’t rely on a web designer to do this for you, if something goes wrong in the middle of a bank holiday you need to be able to fix it yourself!)
1.2 - Product
Whether your a creator or curator, the product you sell on your store should be of the highest importance. Not only should you confirm there is a valid market for the products (ie there are enough customers out there that want what you sell), but when customers receive the goods they’ve purchased, their expectations are met and exceeded.
1.3 - Fulfilment
How will you get your products to the customer? It is pointless managing to make sales on your online store if your unable to deliver the items in a timely and safe way.
Packing and posting can take a lot longer than you might imagine, so having a clear fulfilment plan is a must. While your at it, it’s important to take into consideration where you’ll store your inventory, what you’ll do if you sell out of an item, and how you’ll manage customer returns.
Packaging your product well and using a reputable delivery company can cost a pretty penny, but it’ll save you serious dollar in the long term. Items going missing or arriving damaged is unfortunately part of selling physical products online, but minimising them as best you can will give your customers a much better shopping experience.
1.4 - Insurance
This may be one of the most forgotten building blocks of e-commerce but it’s soooooo important. I’ll go into what to look for in a good insurance policy for selling online soon, but in the meantime make sure your policy covers your full inventory for theft and damage, as well as public liability. If you sell overseas, check to see that your insurance covers this.
1.5 - Mindset
Straight talk time – at this point without YOU, you don’t have a business. You are the one building this online empire! Even if you do have staff, it’s you they look to for guidance and instruction.
As an entrepreneur it’s so easy to slip into bad work habits leading to burn out and overwhelm. Looking after your mindset is the best way to prevent failing under the burden of building a business. This journey is HARD, so take time to look after yourself, give time to creativity and don’t beat yourself up when things get a little stressful.
I believe mindset is the number one factor that dictates how successful your online store will be, and below you’ll find my guide to developing a growth mindset. You can download my roadmap to mindset success for free, just pop your email address below and I’ll send it to you along with weekly tips for running and improving your online store.
eCommerce Growth Mindset Roadmap
It’s time to break through the mindset blocks that are keeping your sales small. Discover my seven step process for developing a growth mindset and increasing your online sales.
Enter your name and email address below to grab your free copy of my growth mindset roadmap.
2. The Structure of an Online Store
Your Store Will Fail Without These Building Blocks
Right, you’ve built a strong foundation for your online store – fantastic! Next up you need to build the structure of your online store. These are the building blocks that help your ecommerce website run on a daily basis – without them your store won’t run smoothly and will likely fail pretty quickly.
2.1 - Customer Service
Do I really need to write why keeping your customers happy is important?! Well, just incase you think customer service can wait let me tell you why it needs to be a priority.
Customers are the lifeblood of your business and it costs more than you might realise to get them in the first place. I’ll write a blog post about customer lifetime value soon, but lets just say that good customer service can turn a one-time purchaser into a repeat buyer and brand advocate.
Giving great customer service also stops accidental mishaps (such as deliveries going missing, or items arriving damaged) turning into negative reviews. It’ll build amazing trust with your customers, and they’ll feel confident recommending your store to their friends and family.
Some customer service questions you need to figure out:
- How can your customers contact you?
- Who will deal with customer enquires?
- Have you created a clear policy for returns?
- How will you make it up to customers who don’t have a great shopping experience? Discount codes, freebies, a handwritten card?
2.2 - Money Management
When you first open your online store it’s easy to assume you’ll have a constant flow of orders, delivering cash money to your bank account daily. And yes, eventually we will get your store making consistent sales but this won’t stop you needing to think about cashflow.
A lack of cash when you need it will very quickly kill your online store.
There are certain times of the year when you’ll need to purchase more inventory than usual to see you through seasonal shopping spikes and without access to funds you risk selling out and losing sales. And, don’t forget the quiet months when your day to day running costs stay the same but your sales dip – you need to be able to cover your expenses otherwise your store will be out of action.
Entrepreneurs also have a bad habit of not paying themselves properly for way too long. This just adds to your stress, and it’s not a viable business model. Make sure you start paying yourself as soon as possible – trust me, it helps make everything feel a little more worthwhile.
Keep track of your accounts and manage your money carefully – this will help you plan ahead for growth and slower sales periods.
3. The Next Level of Your Online Store
Your Store Won't Grow Without These Building Blocks
Yay! Your store’s foundation is strong and you’ve got a solid structure setup to make the daily running of your shop a breeze – winner! Next up we need to put in place the building blocks of e-commerce that will enable your store to GROW. Yesterday’s sales figures are something to be proud of, but let’s not kid ourselves, we want to see bigger numbers today.
Below are the elements you need to put in place to enable your sales to continually soar.
3.1 - Marketing
OMG there are so many marketing options it can be really overwhelming.
My tip is just to pick a maximum of three at first, get those perfected and bringing customers to your store before you start adding more marketing methods to the mix.
Here are a few types of marketing that could help new customers discover your store:
(I’ve starred my favourites that I recommend starting with)
- Social Media*
- PR (Getting your products in print magazines and onto other websites)
- PPC (Online Adverts)
- Blogger Outreach (Getting blog writers to share your products with their audience)
- Influencer Marketing (Having social media stars share your products)
- Gifting (Sending your products to key people)
- Email Newsletter*
- SEO* (Getting your products to show on the first page of search engines organically)
- Reviews & Word of Mouth*
3.2 - Reporting
Knowing what is and isn’t working in your business helps you make future decisions. By creating and reading reports you’ll be able to identify your best loved and most profitable products, the marketing methods that have a great return on investment and if there are any areas of your business that aren’t up to scratch.
I highly recommend getting your reports to create themselves automatically, and delivered in your favourite format to your inbox on a daily basis. I’ll post some great ways to do this soon so stay tuned!
3.3 - Team
Doing everything yourself will work for a while, but soon you’ll discover the jobs you love doing and the ones you let slide because they just “aren’t your bag darling”.
Taking on staff is a massive step, and not one I’m personally keen on straight away. Instead, I prefer to find other entrepreneurs who specialise in the areas of business I’m not good at.
A great example of this is product photography – enlisting the services of a great local photo taker has freed me from sooooo many imagery headaches, giving me better photos than I could ever hope to take myself!
You can find virtual assistants, online graphic designers and web based bookkeepers to help you with all the different jobs you may not want to continue doing yourself. You’ll free up your time, giving you the chance to work on taking your online store to the next level.
I really hope you find this blog post about the building blocks needed to create a successful ecommerce website useful. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below. As always, if you have any questions leave a note below and I’ll try my best to give you a good answer 🙂
Here’s to building profitable ecommerce stores!
Chat soon, Liz