How to Easily Transform Your Blog into an Ecommerce Website

If you’ve decided to take the leap from writing to retailing, you might not know where to start. But don’t feel discouraged; you’re already farther along than you may think. Through your blog, you’ve explored administration interfaces and customizations, established your voice and personality, and garnered a following. For the rest, just follow this step-by-step guide and learn how to seamlessly convert you blog into a thriving ecommerce website.

Find Your Niche

The first step any new business should take is to decide on your brand strategy. Consider these questions:

  • Who is your target audience? What are their tastes and interests?
  • How can you translate those qualities into a look for your brand?
  • What is your unique selling point?

You’ll probably be able to cull a lot of these answers from your experience interacting with blog readers. To get more information, consider making a quick survey and ask readers to help you out with their opinions.

Organize Your Site

Before you start building up your store, it’s essential to have a comprehensive plan for your site’s informational architecture. Place each product in a logical group, then arrange and label those groups. Decide on horizontal or vertical navigation (vertical allows more links to products, horizontal often looks more spacious and attractive). Consider graphic treatments, such as giving a few product links more weight by applying a typographic or illustrative treatment.

But remember not to get carried away with aesthetic flourishes. Because of the necessarily complex navigation and interaction, ecommerce sites require one of the most no-nonsense approaches to design. Make sure that the function of each element is completely obvious. Then double-check your work by split-testing to make sure that your designs are providing the best user experience.

Start Out With a WordPress Plugin

There are a variety of introductory ecommerce plug-ins to choose from, including:

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  • WordPress ecommerce: This popular free plug-in is quickly installed and set up. It’s easy to customize the design, and it’s compatible with widespread payment options like PayPal and Google Checkout. The only major downside is that you can’t customize invoices. IconDock is one of the most popular WP ecommerce users.
  • Shopp: This plug-in is worth the money, if only for the flexibility of its interface. Especially handy for people who use QuickBooks, Shopp orders can be transferred over for effortless accounting. You can also track sales and select from various shipping methods. Queen City Prints is an example of a well-designed site powered by Shopp.

IconDock

Both options will give you a good feel for the ecommerce world while you build up your stock of products and customers. Explore different themes and supplementary plug-ins, which include contact forms, surveys, and forums.

Upgrade to a More Comprehensive Platform

After you’ve gotten a handle on how everything works, consider upgrading to more robust ecommerce software, which provides the power and flexibility that your business will need once it’s gotten off the ground. Amazon webstore gives you an all-inclusive design package, including the use of page masters and direct image and asset hosting. Templates are easy to use, and customizations are both expansive and intuitive. Fruit of the Loom is an example of an Amazon webstore.

Fruit of the Loom

Supplement the Basics

Once you have a full set of tools in your new platform, start augmenting your site with all the add-ons that customers appreciate. These additions can help streamline your users’ experience:

  • On hover, display a quick summary of the articles in the shopping cart. This makes it easier for users to keep a tally of their intended purchases.
  • Feature interesting pieces or collections of merchandise on the homepage. Not only does this approach allow you to keep content fresh, it also gives customers extra encouragement to buy what’s featured.
  • Add diverse product filtering options, like price points or sizes, so searches can be faster and more effective.
  • Allow users to socially share your product pages; they can get friends’ opinions and provide you with a little free advertising at the same time.

There are so many enhancements you can add to your store that you might feel overwhelmed by your options. But keep in mind that solid fundamentals, like crisp, high-quality photos and easy navigation, are always the priority for a satisfying customer experience. As long as you have these basics down, you’ll be well on your way to finding success in your ecommerce website.

From Small Blogging Beginnings

To find out how a small blog grows into a multifaceted ecommerce site, take a look at DesignModo’s success story. Only launched in August of 2010, the site started with a respectable 1000 to 1500 visitors per day. But after a redesign to accommodate the addition of new topics, founder Adrian began releasing freebies like vector packs along with its usual design-centered articles. These made for a big leap in the site’s social media following. Currently, the site has 25,000 to 30,000 visitors in a day; a huge leap to make in such a short time.

DesignModo

With such an enthusiastic readership base, it was a natural step to take DesignModo into the ecommerce world. The sales section is reached by an attention-catching tab on the upper right of the main site, along with a banner at the very top that advertises a featured release. Once inside, the interface functions a lot like the blog at large, which helps to make the transition from articles to purchases less jarring. Product pages give crisp, high-quality previews of the many user interface elements packs on offer; for their more complex products, they sometimes even include explanatory videos. Payment is quickly and easily made through PayPal or by credit card.

To Thousands of Sales

Just six months after its first release, the online store had already raked in 10,000 sales. A lot of the site’s success comes from the fact that it still puts out plenty of free products; they’ve logged over 1 million downloads to date. The other factor that spurred sales was the originality of their product: relatively free from competition, their UI element packs responded to a need and a niche in the market.

As DesignModo’s example shows, it can be fairly easy to add a sales category onto a well-respected blog. Followers feel an instant connection with the products they wouldn’t get from the anonymity of a traditional online retailer. Another considerable perk is the advertising you might choose to put on your blog gives a much more subtle and unobtrusive nudge toward purchases. Rather than having to throw resources into traditional advertising tactics, like banners on external sites, a blogger can just throw out a suggestion to check out their store. With the built-in trust and advertising that a good blog can provide, it’s no wonder that sites like DesignModo are finding great success in their new ecommerce forays.

Luke Clum is a Seattle based designer who specializes in web design and online marketing. He’s fascinated by the power of the internet to act as a catalyst for creative ideas. If he’s not pounding away at his computer, he’s most likely hiking or climbing in the mountains. You can follow him on Twitter @lukeclum

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