Guidelines for Building an E-Commerce Site


In this page, you'll find common sense recommendations to guide you when setting up your e-commerce site.

Before continuing on to our recommendations, take a look at these two important lists:

Ten Things To Do
  • 1 - Have a maximum amount of textual content that has been carefully defined.
  • 2 - Present quality photos.
  • 3 - Take care of the finishing touches on your site (no broken links, mismatched buttons, pointless animated images, etc.).
  • 4 - Rapidly let visitor's know what you do.
  • 5 - Facilitate the purchasing act and order tracking.
  • 6 - Optimize your prices, without being obsessed. Stay coherent. People aren't solely on a quest for the "cheapest" product.
  • 7 - Favor customer relations and reassure them. (You're a small company and you value your customers!).
  • 8 - Bet a little at a time, don't put all your "marketing eggs" in one basket.
  • 9 - Continuously communicate with your customers and prospects by creating events (product ads, special offers, etc.) via newsletters and RSS feeds.
  • 10 - Call upon the Actinic support team and have them advise you when needed.
Ten Things Not To Do
  • 1 - Neglect the textual content of your site.
  • 2 - Present poor quality photos.
  • 3 - Begin by working on the look of your site while neglecting the content.
  • 4 - Propose obsolete information .
  • 5 - Don't accept credit cards and only take checks or bank transfers.
  • 6 - Think that it's enough to build your site, submit it to search engines and then just wait for the customers to show up.
  • 7 - Don't publish a phone number.
  • 8 - Drown visitors in banner ads and animations.
  • 9 - Overwhelm the customer with a chaotic look.
  • 10 - Take more than a day to answer emails.
 Ordering Procedure: Theory

In theory, e-commerce is a very simple concept that is based on what goes on in a real store.

The following is an outline of the steps taken during a purchasing act:
  • Visit the shop

    Just like in the real world, the purchasing act is first based on being able to see and choose products or services.

  • Fill up the shopping cart

    The visitor becomes a potential buyer when they add an item from your catalog into their shopping cart. They can then resume their visit and continue browsing your catalog or they may decide that they've found what they were looking for and proceed to check out, just like when you check out at the register before leaving a store.

    Of course, they can modify the quantities of each product in the shopping cart (or set the quantity to zero and decide not to purchase).

  • Identify the buyer

    The step that follows filling up the shopping cart is the prospect identification step.

    Before being able to propose a shipping price, the different possible payment methods and the taxes that may apply, you need to know who is buying, as well as their address.

  • Calculate shipping fees

    Once the customer has been identified, the system will propose the different shipping prices that you have defined and will then ask what payment method the customer wishes to use.

  • Choose the payment method and confirm the payment

    Once the payment method has been chosen, the customer will be taken to a page allowing them to confirm their order one last time (with the choice of shipping option and payment) and will also be asked to read and accept your terms and conditions.

    The customer will then be directed to one of our partners, or will stay on the site for the direct processing of their payment.

  • Acknowledge the reception of the order

    Once the payment has been validated, the Actinic system will send the customer an order acknowledgement detailing the products, quantities, prices, and delivery time.

  • Organize your work and order tracking

    You will receive a copy of this email, which will allow you to begin to organize delivery of the order.

    The order tracking system will allow you to keep the customer informed of the state of progress of their order.

  • Update stock levels

    Once the order has been placed, the stock levels will be immediately decreased (if payment is validated), le paiement est confirmé) in order to avoid inadvertently offering a product for sale that you no longer have in stock.
 Start Out Simple!

In general, aspirations are high when creating a site. However, nothing ever goes as quickly as expected, so break your project up into stages.

For example, if you know that you will eventually have 400 products and that you will sell to the public, to professionals, in the United Kingdom and abroad, begin by organizing 50 products to sell to the general public in the United Kingdom. You can then add, little by little, the functionalities allowing you to fulfill your aspirations.

 Keep the Important Things in Mind

  • What are the steps involved in a purchasing act in everyday life?

    • Get people to come and encourage them to enter your shop.

    • Once in the shop, make sure that the customers find what they came for.

    • Transform the urge to buy into a purchasing act.

    • Develop loyalty.

  • On the Internet, don't look any farther. You're dealing with the same customers, so the reasoning is exactly the same!

    • Get people to come to your site

      • People don't come to your site because it's attractive. They come because you found a way to get them there! Therefore, spend more time and more money on your marketing strategy than on the look of your site.

      • Don't forget that in everyday life, the look of a store is much more important than on the Internet because people pass in front of the store before going in, whereas for a site, they land inside of it!

    • Once on your site, make sure that the customers find what they came for.

      • Once people have come to your site, the only reason that they may want to stay a while and possibly buy something is based on the content: Catalog organization, product description, attractive images and attractive prices. Therefore, this is where you should spend a lot of time in order to make them want to buy something.

      • The easiest and often the most sought-after element is the text! Put as much information as possible in your descriptions. If a buyer finds the information they're looking for on your site, then there's a good chance that they'll stop searching, stay on your site, and consider placing an order. On the other hand, if this information is incomplete, it's logical that they continue their search elsewhere.

      • In addition to rich textual content, include photos of a reasonable size that are as attractive as possible, and that clearly present the product (and not the product in the middle of 10 other products).

      • If you sell products that people need to assess and evaluate (basically, all products that aren't brand name products that everyone knows because they've seen them in "real" stores), it's a good idea to use the concept of zoom images to propose several images of your products, or to use the "Additional Information" concept to add a complete WebBlock page including a description + photo, or a PDF document.

  • Transform the urge to buy into a purchasing act

    The biggest obstacle to the purchasing act is the lack of trust. When people are at the point of buying something online on your site, a certain number of points have been established: They like the products, the prices are appropriate. The only thing left to do is to verify the other points.

    • General Presentation

      • Make the parallel with a real store. When you walk into the store, you don't necessarily want to find yourself in the middle of a space decorated by a trendy interior designer (because as a customer, you know very well that it's the customer who pays for that kind of luxury), but you want to be in a place that is impeccably managed. Therefore, your website must be impeccably managed.

      • Your information needs to be up to date. If you provide news on your site, make sure that the most recent piece doesn't date back more than 6 months (otherwise, don't include this information).

      • If you can, show that you maintain your site on a regular basis. Again, visitors want concrete proof and won't be fooled by phrases such as "site up-to-date" or "you are the nth visitor to the website this month", etc. Favor a home page that shows a special offer or highlights the product the month, a news page that is current and up to date, etc.

    • Logistics

      • If possible, propose several shipping services (for example, an inexpensive, but quality shipping option and an express option that is a bit more expensive).

      • Use the Actinic shipping calculator to optimize shipping costs in relation to an order. Don't make the customer pay 15 GBP for a package that they know perfectly well only costs you half that price. Customers will accept that you make a profit on what you sell, but certainly not on the shipping of these products.

      • Set up Actinic order tracking and carefully document each stage in the life of your orders. Don't forget that customers are impatient. If you don't provide any information online, you can be sure that you are going to get emails or phone calls wanting to know "what's going on". Save yourself a lot of work by doing a little up front!

      • Put yourself in the customer's place and remember that 80% of the recommendations that your customers will make to their friends about your site will be linked to the service you provide and not to the site or the products. The friends of your customers are your future customers, so take care of your customers!

    • Security and ease of payment

      • The dilemma with the payment act is that the two parties are looking for different things: You're looking for honest customers and you don't trust everyone; the customer is looking for honest merchants and doesn't trust just any old site! Let's quickly take care of your case, that of the merchant. You have to have a reasonable amount of trust in the customers who place orders on your site, but, reciprocally, you have to have a "good head of the family" attitude to avoid obvious scams!

      • Simply apply the same rules as in everyday life. Ask for proof of identification if you esteem that the total is too large, be wary of aux adressese-mail anonymes (Yahoo, Hotmail) anonymous email addresses (Yahoo, Hotmail) that are difficult to link to an individual and favor real domain addresses (nothing will prevent you from verifying the site and finding an address and phone number) or addresses from providers with a good reputation, such as wanadoo.

      • Don't only accept checks! 90% of people want to pay by credit card and 10% by check or bank transfer. Of this 10%, 50% will never send the check (because they forgot, lost interest, don't have the time, etc.). Basically, if you only accept checks, you are going to be running on 50% of the 10%, or 5% of the total potential of your site!

    • Your company's visibility

      • One thing is clear, you aren't an e-commerce giant, and you can't claim to have the same visibility or inspire the same level of confidence.

      • Similarly, buyers have often had small problems throughout their lifetime with one of these large companies where, in general, they were never able to speak to someone who took care of them and their problem, etc. Therefore, don't try to pass yourself off as being much larger than you are (a bit, yes, but not too much) and, on the other hand, use your size to your advantage!

      • A cell phone number where you can be reached if a problem arises, your "real" name (and not customer service), etc...these are good advantages to emphasize.

  • Develop loyalty

    Once you have customers or prospects, you need to get them to come back and buy other products. It may seem ridiculous to mention it, and in a "real" store, it is absolutely ridiculous. The price printing and sending out a paper newsletter and all that's involved in its implementation leads to merchants not doing it very often, if even at all. This habit must be changed!

    • With the Actinic system, you have already paid to send a newsletter to all of your customers every month! It's quick, easy to use and free! Therefore, there's no excuse not to use this possibility, and use it often!

    • Animate your site and announce new products, special offers, etc. Talk to your customers! Not communicating with your customers and prospects every single month is a big mistake.

    • Give these customers certain privileges to encourage them to come back. A small discount of several percent or slightly reduced shipping fees are good ways to prove your devotion to your loyal customers.
 Configure Your Sales System
  • Select the taxing and pricing mode

    • If you sell to the general public, your catalog should be displayed Including VAT.
    • If you only sell to businesses, use a price display Excluding VAT.
    • If you sell to both, then consider the using "Multi-Pricing".

    Be careful not to restrict the access to your online shop if you sell to the general public. Price engines require free access in order to index your products.

  • Organize your categories, layout and menus

    Think about the way you are going to organize your catalog.

  • Set up your online shop

    Choose a layout adapted to your products. You wouldn't display PCs and clothes in the same way. One requires much more technical information, the other requires more photos.

    Both the shopping cart and catalog components contains an "Element Layout" tab that allows you to choose a suitable layout in just a few seconds.

  • Configure the shipping system

    Define your services and your shipping prices. Narrow down your countries and organize your pricing by customer category.

  • Payment Methods

    Choose the payment methods you want to accept and determine the acceptable countries and order amounts for each payment method.
 Define a Strategy for Creating Traffic and Increasing Sales
  • Strategy

    Go from the quickest to the slowest.
    Bet on the least expensive (therefore less risky) to the most expensive.

    • Your strategy should be guided by the following thoughts:

      • You just finished your site and you want to start selling right away.

      • If you already sell your products, good for you! You are going to try to sell more, while spending less, to get more customers.

      • If you don't sell or don't sell enough, then you're going to try to understand why and fix the problem.

    • Therefore, you need to find ways to create traffic, and fast!

      • Ways that are going to reap rewards quickly. Ways that are going to allow you to know how to quickly determine which tools are the best for creating qualified traffic on your site.

      • Ways that are the least risky in terms of finances while respecting the following points:

        • You've been reasonable and you haven't frivolously spent your entire budget on your site's graphic design because that would be foolish and unnecessary.

        • You don't want to wait and pay for your site for two years "to see if free search engine optimization with Google works" because you have better things to do!

  • Procedure

    • Take advantage of all of the opportunities offered by Actinic partners!

      • Our partners aren't philanthropists. When they offer you a free trial of their services for a given period, this is an opportunity for them to show you the utility, the pertinence and the profitability of their services and then to tell you, "With us, if you spend X, you will earn n times X, so let's discuss our services!"

      • So, don't be shy. Use everything you can!

      • Use them at the right time! You wouldn't invite your customers to a store that's under construction, so wait until your site is finished to use these services and to create traffic.

      • Never forget that you only have one chance to make a good first impression!

    • Think about what you're going to do after these free campaigns have been used.

      • If you've already planned to spend several hundred pounds a month for online marketing in the months to come, don't hesitate for a single second! Immediately set up our campaign tracking tool. Indeed, even if these partners all offer serious services, the results won't be the same depending on the nature of your clientele (general public, professionals, men, women, young people, the elderly, etc.). Certain partner sites are going to give you results that are infinitely better than the others and you need to find out which ones. You can do this easily using the campaign tracking tool.

      • When you start out betting, bet small! You should start out slowly to get familiar with the system and then reinforce your presence as conclusive results start coming in.

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