If you are thinking about starting your own e-commerce business, we think you would find our guide very useful: How to start your e-commerce business from scratch.
So, your new e-commerce website has been built, designed, and populated with juicy content — congrats! This is a big achievement as many don’t make it this far, and it is important to acknowledge and celebrate important milestones along the way to becoming the next Steve Jobs. But before you start popping bottles and browsing black turtleneck sweaters for your official launch presentation, you need to make sure your website is functioning correctly.
To help get your pre-launch game on point, here is a rundown of all the essential pre-launch processes required to ensure a smooth build-up to your official launch.
Ready for pre-launch? Let’s jump into it.
Once you have successfully built a working prototype of your new e-commerce website, you don’t simply launch it to the public before ensuring it works correctly from a user perspective. The next step is to conduct a series of tests to see if your website’s design and functionality meet all the requirements necessary for it to operate smoothly in real-world scenarios. Here are a few ways to see if your website is going to make the kind of impact you are hoping for.
Quality Assurance (QA) Testing
This is the stage where you are able to see if your website’s features, functionalities, and design layout are working well both individually and collectively. Here, a competent QA engineer is needed to go through and investigate every aspect of your entire website to search for any bugs, issues, and general technical mishaps that could comprise operational efficiency. Your QA team must ensure your website undergoes rigorous quality protocols so that it functions correctly at every touchpoint. There a few ways QA engineers ensure your website is functioning smoothly at this stage:
User Acceptance Testing (UAT)
User Acceptance Testing (UAT) is primarily to investigate if your website is able to perform to your business objectives. Often, it is the last phase of the software testing process, where users go through predetermined steps to find out if the software is working correctly.
Here, QA engineers ask small groups of user test audiences to perform 2 types of tests, by means of both scenario-based testing and exploratory-based testing:
- Test cases: this involves users following specific steps at various digital touchpoints to ensure these micromoments are performing to task. This can include adding/removing items from the cart, proceeding to checkout, payment detail input, etc.
- Test configurations: where users are asked to test the functionality of a website from various different devices, operating systems, and browsers to ensure consistency across multiple configurations.
After you get a thumbs up from your QA engineering posse, you can move on to your Beta version launch.
Beta version launch
Launching a Beta version of your e-commerce website is commonly viewed as the final stage of the testing process. The primary objectives of a Beta version are to find out if your preliminary testing has worked and to discover how well users have responded to it. Ideally, you want to soft-release your website to a small group of early adopters who will use your website in a real-world, uncontrolled setting.
Here is where you gather as much user feedback and suggestions as possible so you can fix any problems or inconsistencies before your actual launch. This process will illuminate you on how users feel about using your website, what they like and dislike, and what can be improved upon.
If you are new to the e-commerce game then the migration process won’t affect you at all, as all your content is housed on your first platform. But for businesses who have outgrown their current platform and are needing to move to a more advanced one, then the migration process should definitely be on your radar. Most migrations from old to new websites and platforms are no easy feats, but migrating an e-commerce business is challenging and complex as any adverse changes will result in an instant loss of revenue. All the same, businesses moving to a new platform will require a platform launch, so they will have to undergo these processes like any other new or established businesses in the pre-launch phase.
Once you have sourced your ideal enterprise e-commerce platform with a SaaS option for a customisable API, it’s time to map out your functions, integrations, and third-party apps you want to keep and remove. Investigate each touchpoint of your new chosen platform to uncover inconsistencies and areas for improvement from your legacy system. It is important to get input from each department of your business, including stakeholders and outsourced teams, to ensure everyone is on the same page and each business process is able to transition smoothly. Then it’s time to let the tech team do their thing and start the migration process.
After the migration of all data and content is complete, it is advisable to relaunch your site as a test launch. This allows you to test the functionality and iron out any technical issues before officially launching your website. An inter-departmental effort is required here so no items fall through the cracks.
Pro tip: Make sure all your URLs are working with every page.
Pre-launch marketing strategy
Now that your website has undergone multiple testing processes you need to create a killer marketing strategy to promote your brand to the public before officially launching. Developing a pre-launch marketing campaign will ensure you generate hype and build the right audience base before you even hit the go-live button.
Pro tip: For more detail be sure to read our article Developing an e-commerce marketing strategy: Part I where we investigate the preliminary planning and development phase (why, what, who) and Part II which focuses on the execution phase (how).
Hungry for more? Here are a few additional pre-launch marketing moves to drive awareness of your website and to build excitement in the lead-up to your official launch:
Gamifying your pre-launch strategy is a surefire way to not only drive awareness to your website from the onset but to also start cultivating a strong audience of engaged customers. Various contests, polls, giveaways, and promotions (particularly on social media channels) aimed at actively engaging your audience are crucial in establishing communication with your audience early on while demonstrating value. Games are a fun way your audience can find out more about your brand and products/services without the in-your-face marketing techniques which can be off-putting to new customers.
The concept of ‘less is more’ should be understood and executed well during your pre-launch marketing campaign. If you give away all your ‘secrets’ (i.e. list of all your products and features, or show entire advertising campaigns at pre-launch) you lose the power of the allure of your new brand. Teasing out your product before it is available generates hype and interest before you have launched: after all, people want what they can’t have. You want to spark the imagination and curiosity of your audience before presenting them with the product/solution. Create excitement in your pre-launch campaign so that when you finally go-live you have an audience who have been anticipating it for some time.
Depending on your business type, it might be a good idea to tap into the influencer marketing space to gain wider interest in your business. Influencers can help boost your brand and build-up to your official launch by promoting your products/services in the pre-launch phase. Here you will be given access to a wider audience who are already engaged and will trust the suggestions of the influencer. Influencers can spark conversations and engagement among their audiences to drive traffic to your site and awareness of your brand.
Dive into detail
We published an article detailing the best practices to market your digital asset. Although it is geared toward marketing a mobile app, many (if not all) of the practices can be used to market your e-commerce website. It covers every aspect of the marketing process: pre-launch (building awareness), post-launch acquisition (building a user base), and retention (fostering advocacy).
If you are looking for the latest digital marketing trends to help boost your awareness, look no further.
There you have it, our tips and strategies to get your pre-launch phase ticking successfully. Remember, it is only half the job done having a website built: you need to ensure it is able to function properly in the hands of your target users. All of your preliminary testing processes need to be conducted thoroughly before you can begin thinking about your go-live date. Only once your tests have been completed and your beta version has shown that your users are happy with your website can you begin your marketing strategy to drive awareness. But follow these simple steps and you can’t go wrong. After all your pre-launch processes are complete, your next step is hitting the go-live button: good luck!