eCommerce or digital presence is an indispensable part of modern-day businesses.
A user has the facility to browse a wide range of products or services without leaving the comfort of their home or workplace. Therefore, from the consumer’s perspective, a strong eCommerce or digital presence provides safety, speed, and a pleasing experience, making online shopping a preference.
In Pakistan, currently, 31% of the population would be willing to shop online if they are provided with a secure payment method. Similarly, 32% of the population uses the internet as their source of information at the moment.
Important Insight: In Pakistan, 98% of the users connected to the internet are via mobile phones. [IPSOS Pakistan]
Post-Covid, is it true that companies adopted the digital space one way or the other?
For instance, to maintain sales & retain the customer base, innovative retailers and businesses embraced eCommerce. We can see the trend of eCommerce growth in Pakistan (which grew by 83+% in 2021 compared to 2020). 
However, after interacting with the business community, we feel that some businesses are reluctant about eCommerce. And it may be due to the gap between eCommerce and the traditional way of doing business that creates doubts and a trust deficit. Our aim with this article is to provide some guidelines that might clear doubts in the business community and help digital agencies provide better services.
Foundations of Online Business
Create a business philosophy
Launching an eCommerce business is a later step. The first step is to figure out the exact business domain you want to enter and why.
For businesses that are already operating physically, shifting online would mean shifting their physical inventory online and building a digital presence. The philosophy of physical businesses is already defined. However, for stores that are starting their journey from an eCommerce platform, the answer to this question is essential.
The eCommerce industry is diversified. And launching an eCommerce-based business has more potential than ever, even in micro niches and domains. We believe that the right reasons for entering the domain and specifying the area of concern (domain) will provide impetus to growth & results.
To make an informed decision, you may need to answer the following questions:
- What are the market conditions of the industry you are going in? Is it profitable, growing, stable, and sustainable?
- What are the market conditions of the domain you have selected in your industry?
- What are the logistics & supply chain systems required for you to enter the market?
- What will be your initial costs and how will you fund it?
- Are there any legal implications, laws, or rules that apply to your product or service that you should know?
Set up your brand identity
Once you’ve reached a conclusion on the domain, developing the initial brand identity is the next phase of your eCommerce launch. You’ll want to start with a decent name that identifies your eCommerce store. Here’s a tip, check the domain name’s availability on GoDaddy or NameCheck to find a distinct name.
After selecting an appropriate name, you would need a distinctive logo design, an attractive color palette, and a consistent brand tone (photography, font set, textures, patterns, icons, and more) for your eCommerce store.
Steps to Launch a Successful eCommerce Store
Our team of professional eCommerce developers and marketers has put together a comprehensive guide to assist you in starting your eCommerce business.
Step 1 – Set up Supply Chain & Logistics
Once you define your business philosophy you move towards implementing it. The basic step to an eCommerce journey, particularly if you’re starting from scratch, is to set up a product sourcing system.
This means you either buy inventory and store it, drop-ship, or create a hybrid model.
For businesses that are already working physically, the supply chain & logistics have to be set for only the shipping parts. Multiple distribution partners in the market offer competitive rates and quality services.
SMCSE’S PRO TIP
A drop-shipping-based inventory model can help you start your eCommerce journey. After some time, you may transition to a hybrid or inventory model for growth & expansion.
Step 2 – Choose An eCommerce Platform
You can either set up an eCommerce presence on marketplaces like Daraz, Amazon, etc. Or you can develop your own platform (website) and sell from there. Our advice in this article is more suited for businesses that are launching their own platform.
eCommerce platforms are built on a specific technology and are like an online store’s operating system. There are many viable eCommerce platforms available but not all of them are designed to cater to all users. In order to get the maximum gain, you have to match the platforms’ capabilities with your business philosophy to select the right platform for your business.
Here are a few options for you to consider:
A simple platform to get a small store up and running quickly.
A free, open-source operating system that adds backend e-commerce features to a frontend WordPress site. To monetize on the WordPress site, WooCommerce is an excellent option.
An open-source platform that is adaptable but it demands technical maintenance and is suitable for large businesses.
Store operator for entrepreneurs and small business creatives with free themes, and easy to set up.
A user-friendly and simple setup for small business owners. Minimum web development skills are required with free design options for those on a budget.
Choosing the right platform for your e-commerce business can be confusing. However, if you keep your business philosophy in mind, you will be able to reach a fruitful decision.
SMCSE’S PRO TIP
Prefer eCommerce platforms that allow you to scale. If your vision is big, you do not want to be limited by a small operating system.
Step 3 – Design & Customize Your Platform
Once you’ve decided on the technology, the next step is to design, develop, and customize your eCommerce site. Here, you use your brand identity and visual elements that have been created when setting up the foundation of your eCommerce business.
An eCommerce design is not only related to its visual appeal and attractiveness. It is also about how your eCommerce store works, its navigation, and its structure to facilitate your website visitors and make them purchase your product – the entire User Experience.
Depending on your requirements and budget, you can either build and launch your website yourself or hire a professional designer or developer.
SMCSE’S PRO TIP
Always study which features are in-demand in your industry. Only after you’ve understood what you need to include in the eCommerce store can you design it for your customers.
Step 4 – Showcase Your Products
Adding products to your eCommerce platform is a simple process. But the critical aspect is to make sure your products sell themselves. A sound eCommerce store requires minimum customer support to make a sale.
For starters, set up product categories, assign proper tags, upload high-resolution product images, write clear and consice descriptions, set precise product titles, show prices and variants (size, color), showcase features such as warranty/guarantees/claims, and more.
SMCSE’S PRO TIP
Write SEO-friendly product descriptions and set your SEO for top-performing, in-demand products.
Step 5 – Setting Up Payment Gateway & Methods
After you’ve set up your store, added products, and set the design, you have to make the buying experience simple for your customers. The first step is to set up secure and multiple payment gateways and methods. Depending upon the platform you’ve decided to use for your store, you will get the option to set the payment method.
SMCSE’S PRO TIP
Provide payment methods & gateways according to the local market use. If your customers are happy with Cash on Delivery, you should always give them a choice. And they can select a card, JazzCash (or other wallets), cash on delivery, or more!
Step 6 – Setting Up Shipping
Along with Payment Gateway, you have to set up the shipping option(s). Usually, one or two shipping options are provided (an expensive vs economical option).
Make sure to provide exact shipping estimates to your customers. It is extremely important to let your customers know who will be shipping, when they can expect the package to arrive, and what will be the shipping cost.
Shipping costs vary depending on the type of shipping (express or regular), type of items (delicate or others), the distance of the shipping address, and more. You can opt for a shipping provider that meets your product specifications and customers’ needs (and budget).
It’s always better to lay out your shipping details in your shipping policy.
SMCSE’S PRO TIP
To improve sales, consider offering a 2-day delivery option on your most popular goods! Also, you can offer free shipping after a certain order value.
Step 7 – Test Your Shopping Experience
Before proceeding further, make a test run of your eCommerce website. Here’s what you can look for:
Check your landing page sections, design, links, and call to action (CTAs).
- Use & test the Search bar.
- Navigate to the product page and check all information.
- Test your checkout and add to cart buttons.
- Test your checkout process (make a test purchase if you have to and ensure there is no ambiguity for your customer).
- Ensure all the products are correctly listed on your site.
- Ensure all the product images are high quality.
- Test all the forms.
Interact with your eCommerce as your customer would. This will reveal opportunities for you to improve your store’s shopping experience.
Step 8 – Set Up Important Software, Apps & Extensions
There are still a few more things you can do to make your eCommerce store experience & management even better!
For one thing, use extensions & applications. They can be installed on your online store to provide superior functionality, help you better manage your eCommerce store, and provide greater customer experience & support. For instance, you can integrate:
- SEO applications or plugins
- Financial Management Softwares
- Inventory Management Software
- Marketing & Promotional Apps
- Multilingual Support Apps
- Email Integration Softwares/Apps and more!
SMCSE’S PRO TIP
A few applications help you integrate your online store’s functionality with your physical store. It’s always better to consolidate data and insights from more sources to get a comprehensive and accurate picture of your business, market, and customers.
Step 9 – eCommerce Marketing
An online store is successful if it is getting sales. Here, your promotion and marketing of your store can play a vital role. Generally, there are two broad ways to acquire customers:
- You can make yourself visible to people who are searching for your products, or
- You can find out people who may be interested in your product(s) and promote/sell to them.
And later you can build a list of your customers (and engaged audience) and sell again.
Usually, with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Google Search, Smart, and Shopping (Performance Max) ads are used to show products in front of people who are searching for the products online.
Similarly, social media marketing is used to sell to people who might be interested in hearing about what you’re selling (but may or may not be actively looking for your products at the moment).
In both cases, the end goal is to make a conversion. It’s important to figure out which approach works for your business and allocate your resources accordingly.
SMCSE’S PRO TIP
Always create a balance between long-term brand building and short-term sales. You can create a marketing strategy that will give you immediate results (but not at the expense of long-term brand building).
Step 10 – Go Live!
Don’t be afraid to go live after you’ve completed all possible steps. Remember that an online store is like a physical shop. It will take time, trial and error, and testing to create an audience, customer list, and online presence that generates consistent results.
Launching an e-commerce store, or starting any new business can be intimidating. With accurate information, necessary consultation, and determination you can certainly launch a successful eCommerce brand.