It would be 100% true to state that Magento itself covers most of the needs of an online store, at least, at their basic level. However, as your business grows, so do its demands. You need a more powerful server to handle the growing traffic; you need more robust means to handle the sales without employing extra staff, and much more. And you will inevitably face a situation where the Magento’s native functionality must be replaced or augmented with more specialized solutions.
At this point, even an experienced merchant may get lost quite easily: new technology trends emerge daily, just to pass away in a couple of weeks; the tech companies are in the constant rush, chasing this elusive “Next Big Thing”, and coming up with more and more complex and advanced features. The choice is really overwhelming.
First and foremost, any feature, no matter how advanced, is only worth having as long as your business clearly benefits from it. Business models vary greatly, so you should always ask yourself – how will this particular feature contribute to achieving my business goals? And these goals are known fairly well: to attract, convert, serve and retain customers.
To help you with figuring out what is a must and what is not, we have compiled a quick checklist: the things that a modern web-store has to have. Note, we are not suggesting any specific solutions. It is far too often that the same business function can be carried out in a number of different ways and with a number of different means. We just advise that you verify those business functions ARE actually performed, and your business goals ARE achieved.
In online world, attracting a customer starts from a browser search bar. The number of people you can reach through this little text line exceeds any other method by a great margin.
To ensure you are taking a full use of this channel, you must provide quality and relevant content. Technical means like blogs, forums, etc are ways to add extra content – extra SEARCHABLE content – to your website.
Next, you must make sure that your content is also robot-friendly. There’s a number of purely technical reasons search engines may apply rating penalties for, like duplicate content, improper sitemap, etc. For larger stores specifically, advanced SEO software may be required. Though there’s certainly no ‘magic-box’ solution that would automatically lift your store rankings to the top, rectifying the potential SEO issues with an automated tool may be a good starting point.
Besides the search traffic, you can also get enormous number of viral customers from social networks – so, make sure you have some social sharing solution, or, better, some deeper integration with major social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
That’s arguably the most difficult and not straightforward part. To ensure the success here, you’ll need a good marketer (or a couple of them), and it’s more about sales techniques than it is about technology.
Still, the tech part should not be neglected. The best marketer out there can’t help it if your nearly-customers are unable to checkout.
First of all, make sure that you are accepting each payment method your core audience is likely to use. PayPal or Authorize.Net may seem to have (and may actually have) it covered, but do not underestimate the importance of offering other options, especially, if you are working world-wide.
Then, the checkout screen itself. You MUST have it as simple as possible, and you MUST have it working. Spoiled for choice, online shoppers are quite unforgiving. A customer lost on the checkout stage is a customer lost forever, 99% of cases. And, alas, 99% of widely available checkout solutions lack in either usability or reliability. Do not hesitate to spend on a high quality checkout solution, this investment will definitely pay off.
By enabling your customers communicate with your brand, you achieve so much on so different levels, that this opportunity just can’t be ignored. From raising your store’s trustworthiness to collecting feedback and scoring pro-active sales – all these are direct benefits and opportunities opened by introducing a convenient communications tool. You just have to select the means that would work best, and you have quite a plenty of options:
A simple email exchange may work initially if your customer base is narrow or the nature of your business does not suggest active communications. Still, you may want to use more sophisticated mailing solution than a default local SMTP server.
If your business implies the possibility of multiple contacts or long-term correspondence, your tool of choice is some Help Desk or CRM solution, that would keep your exchange organized.
And in any case, your business will surely benefit from some instant contact option, like an online chat, perfectly suitable for quick on-site consultation and pro-active sales.
Also, you should not forget about self-service. A simple FAQ can remove considerable burden from your customer service team, and provide visitors with necessary assistance when you are offline. (The latter is quite important, since shopping online is frequently done past regular hours).
There’re 2 aspects to this goal. First, you should be able to reach your customers when they aren’t on your site. A Newsletter subscription does the job pretty well, and it is a native Magento feature. However, it may be worth replacing it with some external mailing services (e.g., MailChimp) to leverage the advanced features and detailed reporting the latter offer.
The second aspect is incentivizing customers to come back. A loyalty program, referral functionality, vouchers and coupons are all good answers to that.
So, the 4 main business goals are achieved, is it all? Well, not quite – there’s one more important point in our checklist.
Knowing what’s going on
You won’t drive a car with your eyes closed, will you? And you shouldn’t drive your business without knowing what’s going on with it.
Again, there are 2 aspects to gathering and processing data for online stores: business-side and behavior-side.
The former includes detailed sales reporting, inventory tracking and management, and various financial calculations. There’re multiple options, from costly ERP integrators to bespoke on-site accounting solutions that give much better insights on how your business performs, compared to quite basic Magento’s native reporting.
The latter covers page popularity ranking, checking customer routes, identifying obstacles in customer experience, etc. Certainly, your go-to business intelligence service is Google Analytics. However, even this universally-recognized tool may as well be supplemented with some extra solutions.
Obviously, there’re whole layers of aspects that are not covered in this brief article. We have barely touched on the infrastructure matters, avoided diving deep into detail, and left much to be added generally. Online commerce is a far too complex and multi-faceted area to get fully covered even in a 1000+ pages book, so those multiple omissions were to be expected.
We at Peexl, however, are always ready and eager to give you a helping hand and guide your business to success. Contact us any time for professional services that will make your business competitive.