Whether you have an inventory of 15 or 1500, launching an online store is no small undertaking.
With so many moving parts to deal with it, can be easy to get caught up in the immediate goal of simply getting your site up and running.
But when you go live, then what happens?
Hopefully, business will pick up. Traffic will flow in. Conversions and click-throughs will abound.
But then—hey wait, what’s happening?? Your site begins to slow down, or worse, crash, or MOST WORST, you get hacked!
What went wrong?
When launching an online store, you MUST think of the long term. Focusing only on getting your store up and running won’t cut it.
Here are four key steps you need to take to ensure your online store will last the long haul:
1. Find a Good Host
Who you choose to host your website matters. It is the foundation upon which everything is built.
No amount of kickass coding or gorgeous graphics will matter a lick if they’re rooted in an unreliable or underpowered host.
We are going to assume that your ultimate goal is to grow your online store. If so, you must make sure your site host has the flexibility and capability to grow with you. An unresponsive site = lost dollars. So before getting on board with a hosting company, make sure you have answers to the following questions:
- What sort of scalability potential do they offer? Are their plans flexible and able to be upgraded/modified as your needs change? even moving to a dedicated server environment if need be?
- Do they offer multiple hosting environments or specialize in just one? As in, could you switch from a shared server to a dedicated one if needed? Are there penalties for reconfiguring mid-contract?
- What type and level of technical/customer support do they offer? (24/7 help is not unreasonable!)
- Do they offered managed hosting options? If so, what can they take off your plate?
- What is their server upgrade procedure? Will there be downtime? If so, when and how much?
These are just the most basic essentials to considering when choosing a site host. Once you do sign on with a company, it’s wise to regularly evaluate your site’s performance and your contract. If you find yourself outgrowing your host, or they fail to meet your needs, don’t be afraid to vote with your virtual feet and find a host who can!
2. Make security a priority
If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of an email hack-attack, you know all too well the pain, frustration, and possible devastation it can yield.
Now imagine that happening to your customers en masse.
The fact of the matter is, the internet is an insecure place. And there is no shortage of people ready to take advantage of that fact.
If you have an online store, you–and your customers–are vulnerable.
You HAVE to take steps to ensure your customers’ information (and ultimately your ass), is protected.
The good news is you don’t need fancy firewalls and or pricey pentagon-level security features to protect your site from hackers. Taking just a few simple (and free!) steps on the front end will keep you, your store, and your customers safe on the back end for as long as you are in business.
- Choose secure passwords–use capitals, special characters, numbers, the whole shebang
- Use two-factor authentication liberally with logins
- NEVER use the “admin” login default
- Make sure you are using a secure connection for online checkout and that you are PCI compliant
- Don’t store sensitive data–i.e. credit card numbers, expiration dates and CVV2 codes (you can’t be robbed if there’s nothing to steal!)
Luckily, if you are using WooCommerce and WordPress (which we recommend!), there are plenty of software and plugin options to choose from that can take care of these things and more. We like Jetpack and Vaultpress, just for the record.
3. Back it up
If you’ve ever typed an essay in Word, you’ve heard it a thousand times from your teachers, parents, and librarian. SAVE YOUR WORK.
The same applies to your website.
BACK IT UP. As in, right this second.
Just do it.
Ok good. Now, plan when you’ll do it again. And again.
With an online store, you MUST back everything up regularly. This is your livelihood we’re talking about here. It’s the nature of the beast that your inventory and pages are probably changing and updating frequently. You want to rest easy knowing that should there be some sort of technological apocalypse, your baby won’t be lost forever.
Not sure how to do this? Or think you’re prone to forget?
Here again, WooCommerce and WordPress are here to help! Enter VaultPress (again) and BackupBuddy, two awesome plugins that can get this oh-so-important task off your plate.
4. Monitoring and Maintenance
Website maintenance and monitoring are necessary evils if you want your online store to last the long haul.
Think of your store like your car. You can be irresponsible and run it into the ground, or be an adult and take care of it so it can take care of you.
So before you launch your store, figure out what program or platform(s) you are going to use to monitor and analyze your traffic. Just as security cameras in a brick-and-mortar help you see what’s going on, regular site monitoring will allow you to see what your customers are doing in real-time.
Not only can you keep track of how visitors are navigating and interacting with your site–conversions and click-throughs and all that important business-related stuff–you can also keep abreast of shady or fraudulent activity, too!
Note: your site host should also regularly monitor their servers for viruses, malware, etc.
You also need to actively maintain your store. This means keeping on top of updates for your website, your e-commerce platform, and all your extensions and plugins. (Out-of-date plugins are frequently the overlooked cause of site issues!) And of course, make sure you are updating and adjusting your security software and protocols as recommended.
We highly recommend blocking off a regular, recurring time slot in your calendar for maintenance and updates. Making it a routine will keep you on top of things and prevent potential problems from encroaching on your regular work schedule. And a word to the wise, the more extensions your site has, the more frequently this needs to happen!
Feeling Overwhelmed? Bring in the Big Guns!
No site should ever be a static, unchanging thing. Evolution is the nature of the internet. But keeping on top of everything you need to do to make your store a success can be overwhelming, especially for the average internet user. TheeHouston Agency is here to help! We specialize in Wordpress and WooCommerce website development for clients big and small. Contact us today[/linl] to see how we can help take your online business to the next level!