The big day is finally here! After all the planning, designing, and building, your ecommerce website is ready to launch. Or is it?
Launch day often involves a little more than simply flipping a switch and watching the orders pile up. Before your site goes public, you should do as much testing as possible. It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to a website that is making you money!
Things to Test Before Your Launch
Before officially unveiling your site to the public, there are a few important things you should thoroughly test to ensure they’re working properly:
- Overall responsiveness of your website, including load time and functionality on all devices
- Any links or navigational items
- Site search
- Checkout process, including the payment gateway
- Any automated events or messages (ex. purchase confirmation and shipping emails, shipping software, tracking numbers, etc.)
The best thing you can do to test is have multiple people place orders on your site. Give them as little instruction as possible: just tell them to visit, pick out a product, and try to buy it. This process will simulate the real customer experience, and may help you find some yet-unnoticed bugs or issues.
Many shopping carts and payment gateways support a “test mode” that allows you to make purchases with dummy credit card numbers. This prevents you from spending real money on orders, but otherwise completely simulates the purchasing process. Just remember to take your gateway out of test mode before you launch... otherwise you’ll never charge any customers for their purchases!
The number of test orders you place is entirely up to you. If you have a small ecommerce site with only a few products, you will probably feel satisfied after two or three test orders. But if you have a more complex store with bundles, customized products, or a wide variety of items, you will probably want to test options and combinations far more thoroughly. You can never test too much, so don’t be afraid to place and fulfill sample orders until you’re sure things are working the way they should.
What Happens if I Find an Issue?
Don’t take any chances: delay the launch until it’s resolved.
An ecommerce website’s success depends on its usability. If customers can’t add a product to their cart, see all available options, or (worst of all) check out, they will leave and go somewhere else. It might be inconvenient to push back your launch by a few days, but it’s better to get it right than it is to have the first review of your store say “it doesn’t work!”
Keep in mind that you may not be able to find every bug, typo, or error on your website prior to launch... and that’s okay. Just do what you can to make sure that the site is functional and running smoothly. If someone spots an issue post-launch, thank them and resolve it as quickly as you can.
Now it’s Time to Launch!
The day is finally here! Once your testing has concluded and any issues have been resolved, take down that “coming soon” page or move your site off its development server. Congratulations: you’re live!
For the first few days that the site is operational, you’ll want to watch things very closely. Make sure that any orders are being processed correctly, that data is filtering into Google Analytics correctly, and that customer service is able to handle any questions or comments coming their way.
Here’s an idea: email your first few customers to thank them for shopping with you. Ask them if they received everything (included automated emails) correctly, and provide your email address for any questions or suggestions they may have. This will not only help squash any bugs you might have missed, but will also establish goodwill for potential future purchases.
Once your site is launched, there will probably be a waiting period as search engines index your website and start providing it in search results. Your appearance in SERPs (or Search Engine Results Pages) will change based on your site’s performance, links, and marketing over time.
Here are a few things you should do while you wait for the hits to roll in:
- Submit your site to Google. This will get it crawled and indexed.
- Add your site to Google Webmaster Tools. GWT is used to verify your site’s health and appearance in the Google index, and they may also use this to communicate with you about crawl errors or any other problems.
- Set up a presence on social media channels and promote your new website. Use relevant hashtags where appropriate to help increase visibility. Don’t be shy about asking for retweets or for your Facebook friends to like your new page, either!
- Send a few emails. Is your ecommerce website launch creating local jobs? Contact some reporters to let them know – it’s a potential story for them. Know of a few bloggers in your niche who might want to review your store? Send them an email. Targeted outreach can spread the word a lot faster than word of mouth.
In our next chapter, we’ll explore a few long-term marketing methods that you can use to spread the word about your store, and both draw in new customers and create returning ones.