Not all of us were Scouts, and even fewer of us are always prepared. When it comes to building our ecommerce sites, there’s always something we forgot, can do better, and most importantly: learn. A lot of store owners only worry about their site at the last minute — shortly before the holidays and major commerce events.
In this article, we’ll talk about ecommerce best practices that can help your store succeed all year long.
There are many tips and tricks to improve your ecommerce site. You can:
- Ensure your hosting meets your needs
- Conduct regular tests and run test cases
- Optimize your site for SEO for ecommerce
- Update and backup routinely
- Keep tabs on your payment processing
- Keep a close eye on your inventory and vendor relationships
- Audit content regularly
- Optimize your organic promotions
- Use alternative marketing strategies and ecommerce channels to build brand awareness
Let’s talk about why it’s important to monitor your online store and keep it current with these ecommerce best practices.
Technical Ecommerce Best Practices
1. Pick A Great Hosting Provider
Maybe you found a great deal on hosting during Cyber Week. Maybe you’ve been with the same one for years. Are you using the best platform for ecommerce? Don’t wait till Halloween to get a scary surprise.
Check in on your site performance. You want hosting that is secure, fast, and has great hosting support if things go wrong. You also want a provider that doesn’t kill your site if you hit your limit. Look for an option like Nexcess, which autoscales to meet your needs when you get a big traffic surge.
If you’re with Nexcess, you have access to WooCommerce Automated Testing, Plugin Performance Monitor, and our Sales Performance Monitor.
Look at complaints from customers. Are they happy with the experience your site provides? What can be done about it? Is it a simple fix, or is your hosting provider just not cutting it?
Check reviews, look up testimonials, and determine whether or not your current provider is meeting your needs. Is your site slow despite optimizing? Finding out your unlimited plan is feeling a little limited? Paying upcharges for everything or pushed into products you don’t want or need? It may be time to look for a new provider.
Psst. Your digital ecommerce experts have OPINIONS about the best option.
2. Test Early and Often
If we could shout this from our rooftops to everyone with an ecommerce store, we would. Testing is a SUPER important ecommerce website best practice.
We like Webpagetest.org and Google Lighthouse, but there are plenty of tools and options out there. Good tools give you insights and lead you to resources that will help you fix problems, not just report on them.
Whether you’re looking at your waterfall, security scores, or test case results, knowing what’s wrong is just as important as fixing it. You can gauge whether or not you can handle it yourself, or hand it off to your developers. You’ll be able to tell exactly what is maxing out your resources, where your security has holes, or whether some of your site elements aren’t working properly.
Why do you need to know that? It can prevent your customers from completing purchases. When it comes to online stores, hiccups cost you revenue.
Check out some of the most important ecommerce website testing test cases here.
3. Optimize Your Site
Running tests on your site can help you nail down the specific reasons your site is running slowly. Maybe it’s a plugin you’ve installed, maybe it’s gigantic image files that haven’t been compressed, or maybe it’s a security issue. Whatever it is, optimizing your site is important for a LOT of reasons.
For starters, site optimization helps you rank better in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Search engines like Google take into account a lot of factors while scanning sites. Your site performance, SEO friendliness, and site structure are among the things they look at while putting sites in the most relevant order for people searching the web.
A site audit takes time. Going through all your content (or code) is time consuming. Giving yourself (or your web developers) enough runway isn’t just considerate, it’s smart. A rush job is frequently not a thorough job.
If you’re doing this ahead of time — or better yet, regularly —you’ve got a way better chance of securing potential customers. The easier it is to find you, the easier it is to buy from you.
We’ve got a ton of resources about SEO optimization for your ecommerce site, including these great articles and eBooks:
4. Update Everything, Backup Regularly
Nexcess customers don’t have to worry about keeping things updated and backed up. With fully managed hosting, we take care of all that for you. It’s one of the reasons we’re one of the best platforms for ecommerce.
However, if you’re with a hosting provider that doesn’t automatically do that for you, make sure your plugins, add-ons, themes, and WordPress versions are updated regularly. Test plugins in a staging environment to make sure nothing is “breaking” your site.
Keeping up with the most up-to-date versions means you have access to the newest features. Bugs are fixed and it improves your compatibility. All of this helps provide a better experience for current and potential customers. Simply put, staying current is one of the most important ecommerce best practices.
Don’t forget to backup your site, either. When you’re on your own, it’s on you to fix or delegate the job, and there’s nothing more important than a safe and functioning version of your site.
5. Check Out Your Checkout
In a brick and mortar store, everyone hates the cart with the wonky wheel. In an ecommerce store, if your cart doesn’t work … you’re not making the sale.
Check for errors and bugs with your cart regularly. If you’re a Nexcess customer, WooCommerce Automated Testing will check this nightly.
Ensure any plugins you use aren’t causing problems — and check with your payment processor. Are there errors? Has the API changed? Do you have disk space issues causing you to be unable to record orders? Knowing sooner is way better than later.
Business Ecommerce Best Practices
6. Know Your Inventory and Supply Chain Issues
What’s in stock should always be a priority, but it is heavily focused on during the holidays because people tend to want their gifts delivered on time. We all know that since the pandemic started, supply chain issues have been a bigger problem than ever.
Knowing what you have and keeping tabs on what your site says you have prevents unhappy customer interactions. This is true all year round. You should always have eyes on inventory management.
Going into your WooCommerce dashboard and checking the numbers listed against what is actually in stock ensures customers can’t overbuy — and you won’t have committed to an order you can’t fulfill.
This is a great time to enable the “backorder” option, so customers are aware if there’s a wait on a product they want. Make sure you plan sales or other promotions around times you can reliably expect to have stock.
Related reading: A Guide to Multi-Channel Inventory Management Solutions >>
Check in with your fulfillment partners regularly. Make sure there are no issues or surprises. We’ve already mentioned supply chain issues, but it’s worth repeating. Foster good business relationships with your fulfillment partners so you always know where you stand.
Since the supply chain issues have been a steady problem since the pandemic began, most online retailers have a good idea of how long it takes to get their stock in and shipped out to customers. Whether or not it’s a holiday, you should regularly check in on how long it takes your items to get to you, as well as delivered to your customers.
7. Keep *ALL* Your Content Fresh
If you’ve got a blog, an ecommerce best practice is to perform content audits regularly. Refresh your blogs, add new content, and track what performs well. These are all critical to a strong ecommerce content strategy.
A lot of the content your customers will see is emailed to them. Log in to your email marketing accounts and dashboards to ensure they can accommodate expected new subscribers around promotions. Make sure you’re not being sent to spam.
Update your automatic email copy! Anything sent to your customers that’s autogenerated is probably not looked at as often as it should. Check now, check regularly, and avoid looking unprofessional.
Same goes for forms (and make sure they’re working)! Anything involving customer data collection should ALWAYS be checked regularly. You don’t want to lose out on customers because of something easily fixable.
Check on non-store integrations too. The API for Instagram, for example, changes frequently. Anything pulling data from your site or accounts should be connected properly. This is another reason why staying on top of updates and using the most recent version is so important.
Customer service content should also be routinely updated. Whether it’s sizing charts, FAQs, return policies — whatever! Any changes you decide on need to be communicated effectively and available to your customers.
8. Promote Internally
Your customers aren’t only purchasing from you around the holidays (unless, of course, you exclusively sell Christmas trees). Promos happen all year long.
A great online store should have a great ecommerce marketing plan. That being said, marketing isn’t just advertisements. Whether it’s for a special event, a campaign, or to meet a quarterly goal, your entire business rests on customers buying your products. Ensuring they can do that (especially during a sale) is a great way to build customer retention.
Letting them know what’s on sale and what great deals you have not only informs your customers, it helps you make money. Upsells and cross sells can help rake in dough — it’s a great idea to add them to your product and cart pages.
Utilize sitewide banners, pop-ups, etc. but don’t forget to check on their connections regularly. If you want them to work for you, they need to be working. The Nexcess Plugin Performance Monitor is stellar at letting you know if something has gone awry.
Schedule your sales and set up coupons ahead of when you want them — like we said before, rush jobs usually lack quality. It also gives your team time to test if everything is working correctly.
9. More Ideas To Keep Traffic Flowing
Everyone remembers great ads, but it’s hard to stand out with so many stores selling the same items. Not everyone has a full social media marketing team or a PR agency to help build brand awareness.
Promoting Your Business With Podcasts
Some great ideas to keep your business on people’s minds include involving yourself with other brands. A great example of this is using podcasts to build your audience. If you’re selling a product you know will solve a pain point for consumers, it’s time to do some research.
Look into podcasts that discuss interests related to your products, send a pitch to the creators, and start helping people learn about your products.
The key to being a great podcast guest is making sure you don’t slam listeners with attempts to sell. Podcasters will feature guests that add value to their content.
For example, if you sell running shoes, look up fitness podcasts. Offer to discuss the top five gifts for runners this season. Come prepared with features, reasons why your products are good for XYZ customers — and sell without selling.
Be a Socially Responsible Brand
Another great idea actually sounds like the opposite of making money. Involving your brand with charities is a great way to spark interest in your store.
Ever order from Domino’s? There’s always an upsell in their carts to donate to St. Jude’s Hospital. Been to a local restaurant lately? Chances are there’s a donation box for a local charity. People like to feel like they’re doing something good.
Giving Tuesday is an annual event that is an easy and fast way to involve yourself with a good cause and your community. Sandwiched between the major commerce holidays, it’s a day where people across the globe give back. Partnering with a nonprofit not only helps a good cause, it also helps employee and customer retention.
Now more than ever, people are attracted to companies that are involved with “Corporate Social Responsibility” projects. Involving your business with it can mean expanded brand reach, boosted sales, and brand loyalty. If you raise money for a charity, whether through employee contributions or a drive, donations are usually tax deductible.
These are just two ideas to help you stay in the running with all the growing competition. You can also look at affiliate marketing options, developing your digital content strategy, or other ways to make your ecommerce store stand out.
Done With “Fast Food” Hosting?
You know commerce. And now you know ecommerce best practices.
We know hosting. If you’re done with cheap hosting but still want fast and easy, come check out why WordPress users trust Nexcess fully managed hosting. We don’t call ourselves your digital ecommerce experts for nothing.
With our scalability, security, speed, and support you’ll go from putting out fires….
… to being on fire (in a good way)!
Whether you’re building a site from scratch or have an existing one you’d like to migrate over, we’ve got you covered. Check out our fully managed WooCommerce hosting plans to get started today.