Launching a new e-commerce website can be many different things for every individual. Starting a new online store with a clean canvas is like starting a new relationship—it’s exciting and invigorating and filled with opportunity and a desire to put your best foot forward.

A new website lets you leave behind that worn-out and all-too-familiar skin that no longer meets expectations and jump in headlong with new energy and hope for what the future holds.

Well, that’s the way it should be, and, like most relationships, reality steps in somewhere along the way—objectives slip, expectations fall, and what once brought so much joy and hope can quickly lose its lustre.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s face it, Australia, like most countries internationally, thrives on the back of a small businesses. However, the sad reality is that most companies are grossly misguided and poorly funded, leaving little scope to achieve the brand recognition they hope for online.

The good news is that making the right moves is relatively easy and cost-effective by acting on the right advice at the right time, setting firm objectives and a little forward planning.

Let’s imagine you’ve completed your due diligence, carefully assessed your marketplace and understand your customer needs. Whether you have been in business for some time or are a budding new startup, it’s time to put all that hard work into action.

So, what do you want to achieve?

Surprisingly, it’s this very first step where most businesses get it wrong.

Knowing what you want to achieve goes beyond just wanting more customers, sales and money—you will need to be able to ask and answer the tough questions, be courageous enough to dream a little and set your objectives high.

Setting objective goals for your ecommerce store.

Surprisingly, few consider all the crucial steps in launching their website and what occurs beyond. In reality, a website launch is like a runner launching himself from the starting block; the acceleration, speed and distance travelled are determined by planning and goal setting.

Goals help us strive towards predetermined objectives, whereas planning is a process that helps us achieve the desired outcome. Itemising our short-term and long-term goals will ensure your website development goes smoothly and helps future-proof your website as your business grows.

Some questions you might want to consider before pre-development are;

  • How large is my target market?
  • What resources will be needed to capture your target audience?
  • Will cutting costs now limit future growth?
  • Are there technologies that you can implement now to lower future development costs?
  • What marketing methodologies deliver the best short-term and long-term results?
  • Where is my target audience located, and will that change over time?

Setting your budget.

Let’s face it, the majority of us are constrained by what we can afford. Placing a ceiling on your development spending is prudent, enabling you to weather unexpected expenses. Restrictive budgets can reflect unrealistic expectations and hamstring performance and growth in some circumstances.

I’ve always taken a long-term perspective on affordability, and cutting costs that hamstring long-term growth is a path you might want to reconsider.

Setting your development budget is a balancing act that weighs short and long term benefits with risk versus reward. It’s something every business should consider independently and seek qualified advice based on financial circumstances. The point is to be sufficiently informed to weigh up the benefits offered by the various technology providers and the development options available that best suit your industry, immediate and long-term growth and budget.

Choosing the right ecommerce platform.

As small business drives a substantial slice of every economy globally, it’s logical to look at reliable and affordable platforms. Our aim here is not to delve into the pros and cons of all the eCommerce options available but rather to highlight key features of the two most commonly used platforms that may help guide you to your decision.


  • Roughly one-third of all CMS systems run on the WordPress platform. Free and open-source, WordPress offers service-based and e-commerce businesses a cost-effective way to develop and launch their online presence.
  • WordPress has almost limitless potential to expand with over 50,000 plugins available to customise your store. One such plugin that enables WordPress users to launch their e-commerce business is Woocommerce, and it’s free to use.
  • WordPress is multisite ready, making it invaluable for companies who plan to venture into multinational fulfilment or want to group all their e-commerce ventures on one platform—we’ll talk more about this later.
  • There are over 30,000 WordPress themes available, both free and low-cost, making it easier to customise your store to the look and feel you desire.
  • WordPress has been around for almost two decades; ample developers and designers worldwide are experienced in customising WordPress at very competitive pricing.


  • Shopify is a hosted eCommerce solution ideal for less tech-savvy individuals and businesses who do not have complex customisation needs.
  • Shopify has an ample range of beautiful themes available for purchase; although it is possible to customise them, flexibility is limited.
  • There are over 1000 apps to help customise customer experience and automate your tasks; however, most require a monthly subscription.
  • Marketing tools to help boost your SEO and sell your products are inbuilt into the Shopify platform.
  • Although pricing starts as low as $29, transactional and bandwidth fees can quickly become prohibitively expensive for some e-commerce stores.

Overall, both platforms offer businesses the opportunity to launch their online presence quickly and affordably. WordPress provides a far greater ability to customise and grow your business than Shopify—details best discussed with a professional web development company.

Choosing the right web hosting provider.

For businesses who elect to develop their website using WordPress, select a hosting provider to provide the best possible customer experience for your budget. Choosing the right host is crucial. Some factors you will need to consider are;

  • Hosting performance and website speed
  • Security
  • Support
  • Cost


Hosting performance will weigh heavily on customer experience, the type and hosting package you choose, and their location impacts how quickly your website loads. When selecting a hosting provider, ensure they are located in the same region as your primary audience—selecting one outside your country will significantly affect performance and customer conversion rate.

Hosting can be as little as a few dollars a month and run into the thousands—in reality, hosting has become significantly cheaper than it was a couple of decades ago. So, businesses today are incredibly fortunate to have access to premium service levels or under $200 per month.

Here are some premium WordPress and dedicated hosting providers you might like to consider;

  • WP Engine
  • Kinsta
  • Digital Pacific

For those serious about marketing to international clientele, choosing a hosting company with global points of presence and CDN capabilities is crucial in maximising audience experience outside your region.

There are countless to choose from, but the aforementioned hosting providers are the most revered and trusted by business and web developers. Take your time to thoroughly research your provider, as it will save you the frustration of switching hosting providers later.

Security & Support.

Next is security and support—the two go hand in hand. Keeping your website and client data secure, and functioning requires vigilance and know-how. Most small businesses will likely be less interested in the how and more interested in the cost.

Cyber security is no easy task, so it’s best to rely on those who know how to secure your website to do their job, and that’s where support comes into play.

Look carefully at your hosting provider’s small print to ensure your level of support includes keeping your website and client data safe. Most support plans will help keep your plugins up-to-date and will be available to handle technical issues when things go awry.

Custom Design or Theme Template.

Whether you choose a free, open-source platform like WordPress or go with a hosted eCommerce platform, both allow you to customise your theme to achieve the look and feel you desire.

There are limitations associated with hosted solutions. eCommerce platforms like Shopify, Wix, Bigcommerce and the like are more than sufficient for small ventures and those with a limited catalogue range. WordPress wins hands down for businesses that require greater flexibility, significant customisations, or custom coding.

Choosing a pre-designed, modular theme is the cheapest and preferred option for many businesses—it is important to realise that often customisations are almost always inevitable.

The level of customisation and functionality your website needs weighs heavily on website development costs. Extensive customisations quickly run into the thousands, with custom design often running into the tens of thousands.

Flexibility in customisations of your website provides a greater opportunity to optimise and fine-tune your website for maximum performance. When done right, you end up with a lightweight, fast and responsive website that’s easy to navigate—the essentials that maximise customer experience.

It is often best for small businesses or startups to start with a pre-designed theme, choose the right plugins, and invest your money in areas with the greatest leverage. Remember, you can always further customise your audience’s experience when finances permit.

Streamline business operations through your e-commerce store.

Launching a new eCommerce website is an excellent opportunity to streamline your business operations. Businesses large and small benefit from the time and labour savings by making your eCommerce platform do some of the heavy lifting, such as;

  • Inventory management
  • Syncing orders to your online accounting system
  • Customer shipment tracking
  • Packaging and shipping costs.

There are thousands of plugins or apps to expand your platform’s functionality depending on the eCommerce platform you choose. Many enhancements are available for very affordable one-time payments or annual subscriptions.

In addition to these time-saving features, consider packaging options carefully; your packaging choices can significantly influence postal costs and impact your bottom line. Furthermore, choosing suitable packaging can go a long way as far as customer perception is concerned, especially for gift items.

Getting your store’s content ready during the development process.

eCommerce stores are very different from service-based businesses. Unlike service-based companies, which have limited services, it’s not unusual for eCommerce websites to have catalogues that number in the hundreds or thousands—for this reason, eCommerce websites require significantly more setup time.

There is a direct correlation between the size of the eCommerce store and website setup and the resources required during development. As a result, shortcuts can be tempting in haste to launch; often, crucial steps are overlooked, increasing errors.

‘s why development planning is essential. Every task must be itemised. Those engaging a development company have a significant weight lifted from their shoulders; however, catalogue setup usually falls in the hands of the business owners.

While your website development is still in process, numerous tasks are usually finalised in the background by businesses in readiness for the website launch, such as;

  • Photography
  • Prepping your catalogue
  • Organising packaging, shipping and logistics
  • Ordering your products from suppliers
  • Inventory management
  • Customer service pages
  • Marketing planning and preparation
  • Blog articles
  • Social presence
  • Budgeting


Often, suppliers provide images of their products; however, if you’re importing products, photography is usually the responsibility of the importer.

Photography can be very tricky and depending on the size of your product and the number of products you need to photograph, the task can be monumental.

Hiring a professional photographer for many small businesses might not be an option. If you decide to tackle the task on your own, consider using a freelancer to edit and enhance your photos before launching, as the quality of your product photos will inevitably impact sales.

Some of the things you will need to consider are;

  • The number of products that need to be photographed
  • The equipment and props needed to facilitate the shots.
  • The time needed to photograph, edit and enhance photographs.

Prepping your catalogue.

Not so long ago, many favoured spreadsheets for preparing website content. Recently online database solutions have made it easier for individuals to organise and share content with in-house teams and clients—with low monthly subscriptions, online databases have become the way to manage project tasks and content pre and post-development.

When launching a new eCommerce store, every service page, category and product page will require considerable thought and resources in preparation for the website launch. Some pre-release tasks might include;

  • Crafting short and detailed product descriptions and specifications
  • Outlining product benefits
  • Crafting meta titles and meta descriptions
  • For variable products, decide on field types and their variations.
  • Decide what variable fields are needed in layered navigation.
  • Setting up freight tables for product size, weight and item quantity.
  • Sort and prepare pertinent information necessary for Google Merchant Centre, such as weight, dimensions, shipping, etc.

Packaging, Shipping and Logistics.

Pre-packaged products usually require finding the appropriate freight carrier to ship the goods based on the weight and size of the product.

For those merchandising, imported products that require pre-packing before shipping will need appropriate boxing and packaging materials to be organised. Let’s take an example of an online merchant selling perfume, candles and soaps; you will most likely need to consider;

  • Packaging—choose eco-friendly or custom packaging, gift wrapping, bubble wrap and labelling solution and consider the time it takes to assemble flat packed boxes in the despatch process.
  • Order management—how will you control and manage order flow and keep track of returns and exchanges.
  • Inventory management—keeping tabs on stock on hand
  • Invoice processing—syncing e-commerce sales with your accounting system.

Every single one of the above items requires resolution before launch. The more you streamline your solution, the smoother your business will run, and you will spend less time chasing problems.

Customer Service Pages.

Every site has them, and it’s surprising just how easy it is to overlook the details. Ecommerce stores, more than any other business online, need to pre-empt customer questions on their website. Take time to consider all questions customers will have and address them directly on your website—this will save you time answering the same questions repeatedly. Still, it will allay customer fears and increase customer conversions.

Every eCommerce website should have the following customer service pages;

  • About
  • Contact
  • Shipping & Insurance
  • Tracking & Delivery
  • Returns and Refunds
  • Privacy Policy
  • FAQs
  • Account

The more transparent your business appears to your customers, the less they fear. Make it easy for your customers to see that doing business with you is easy, that you’re ready to address any warranty issues and help them with their purchase and after-sales questions.

The more transparent your customer experience appears and your willingness to help them—the greater your customer trust.

Marketing Plan.

Your marketing plan should be firmly in place long before your website is launched. In fact, it is likely for new businesses to have been addressed before business commencement.

A marketing plan results from a marketing strategy, validating the various marketing options available and selecting those that best align with your business objectives, budget, experience and resources.

Some of the marketing options you may consider are;

  • Pay per click marketing—SEM and social media marketing
  • Selling through Amazon and eBay
  • Social media channels
  • Search engine optimisation
  • Content marketing
  • Guest posting
  • Press releases

Your marketing plan is formulated on your understanding of the marketplace and your target audience—the tip of the spear is keyword research. Keyword research should play a significant role in preparing your marketing plan.

When your website launches, you’ll want to hit the ground running, so you need to ensure your eCommerce platform is ready to cater to these various marketing strategies and capitalise on them.

Focus on a combination of strategies that;

  • Deliver an immediate return on investment
  • Promote long-term traffic and sales growth
  • Make time to investigate new revenue streams.
  • Keep evaluating your goals and progress.

Forward Planning.

Forward planning can encompass many things, so we will stay focused on matters of business growth and how it may impact your website.

As you can imagine, as your business grows, so will your website’s needs; when enhancements are required, some companies are impacted more than others.

It’s not possible to foresee every difficulty that lies ahead; however, it’s a good idea to consider the implications of business growth at the planning stage; here are some questions you might like to ask yourself;

  • What are the consequences if my website traffic quickly?
  • What if there are regional difficulties I need to address, such as freight and logistics?
  • What are the stock control implications of opening a retail outlet or another store?
  • And lastly, can my website be quickly adapted to utilise an overseas fulfilment centre for offshore orders?
  • Freight and postage — how will you overcome the logistical and financial implications of opening up internationally?
  • What impacts will international distribution have on your e-commerce and accounting systems?
  • Are there any foreign tax implications you need to consider?

It may seem a little audacious to consider these matters before the ink has time to dry on your stationery—but you may be surprised to find that forward planning often adds little to no cost to your startup plans but can save you thousands and many sleepless nights in the future.

Often, forethought enables you to find solutions pre-development and, in doing so, allows you to tackle many of these issues for little more financial or time commitment.

So whether you are choosing your eCommerce platform, plugins or hosting company, think ahead a little and discuss how adaptable your platform is as your business expands.


By future-proofing your website, you will have a more adaptable site that can adjust to fluctuations in customer demand and cope with logistical issues associated with expansion. While prudence is wise, consider the long-term effects of budgetary decisions that may hamper growth.

For those wanting to know about planning your website launch, whether your business is service or e-commerce based, we are here to help.


How large is my target market?

Keyword research plays a crucial role in identifying the size and demographics of your target market. How competitive your market niche and your budget will determine business reach and opportunity.

What resources will be needed to capture your target audience?

Identifying where your target audience hangs out online, the questions they ask and where they seek answers will determine what resources will be required. Balancing SEO strategies, content, and pay-per-click marketing often delivers the best results.

Can I afford to wait until later to invest in technology?

It’s never an excellent strategy to overreach when planning your business strategy. Every business is individually different. In-house resources often dictate what strategy small businesses pursue—targeting areas where you have the most knowledge will often achieve the greatest return on your marketing dollar.