Pre-launch checklist: How to collect contacts and sales before you go live

We all know the saying “failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” This rings especially true for your eCommerce launches. If you don’t set goals and develop a strategic roadmap for launching, you’re setting yourself up for ruin.

90% of eCommerce start-ups fail within the first 120 days of operation. The top three reasons cited for this are poor online marketing (37%), lack of online search visibility (35%), and little to no market for their products and services (35%). But fear not; with a well-developed pre-launch checklist focusing on driving awareness and interest, you can make sure your eCommerce brand is properly equipped for a smashing success.

Don’t launch your eCommerce store, new product line, or latest campaign until you’ve first ticked off everything on our eCommerce pre-launch checklist.

Why you need an eCommerce pre-launch checklist

Whether it’s a new eCommerce store or a new line for your existing eCommerce brand, launches of any type require a substantial amount of time, effort, and hard work.

With a solid eCommerce pre-launch checklist, you can make sure those precious resources pay off.

Even the most successful eCommerce stores can’t just launch a product and cross their fingers. If you want to promote the long-term success of your brand, you need to fine-tune and optimize your launch strategy.

Having a pre-launch checklist will help you stay on track by holding you accountable for your goals. Using this checklist, you can develop a clear action plan for your launch strategy that will minimize mistakes, streamline your launch process, and ensure your launch is poised for success.

Your pre-launch checklist can also guarantee sales before you even have inventory. It’s a sure-fire way to make sure your launch is a success before it even goes live.

Better yet, you can then use this checklist to consider what did (or didn’t) work well in previous launches, allowing you to roll out optimizations and improvements ahead of your next one.

Your must-follow eCommerce pre-launch checklist

You need to personalize your pre-launch checklist to your exact needs to give your launch the best chance of success.

To help you get started, we’ve highlighted the six eCommerce activities that every pre-launch checklist should include.

They are:

  • Target the right channels
  • Build your email list
  • Take pre-orders
  • Make scarcity a good thing
  • Generate future sales
  • Plan your logistics

With these key activities in mind, let’s take a look at how you can build a pre-launch checklist that generates sales and generates success before you go live:

Target the right channels

When planning an eCommerce launch, you need to make your launch campaign (and your wider brand) visible in the places where your audience spends most of their time.

Knowing which channels to target will help you get your launch in front of the right people at the right place. Consider the channels your target audience uses before deciding which ones to target.

You can either look at where most of your existing customers come from (if you have existing data) or talk to your target audience to understand more about their online shopping behaviors and interests.

When targeting the right channels for your eCommerce launch, use a mix of organic and paid channels.

Organic traffic channels include tapping into your personal network, leveraging partnerships, hosting events, and delivering an organic social media strategy. As for paid avenues, you can make use of paid social media marketing and advertising across channels such as Google Ads, affiliate marketing, and display advertising.

Decide which traffic channels are best for your launch, then craft a launch plan that’s specific to each of them.

If you’re launching a product aimed at new homeowners and interior design enthusiasts, organic and paid Pinterest marketing might be one of your must-target traffic channels. However, if your campaign targets parents-to-be, you might find them more responsive to Google Ads and partnerships with trusted experts in the parenting niche.

As a brand that’s just getting started, never underestimate the power of your personal network; it can prove to be your largest source of growth. Your network can spread the word about your launch, demonstrate positive sentiment, and serve as personal recommendations for your campaign. Be explicit in your approach and don’t be afraid to ask your connections to show their support.

Build your email list

Reaching your ideal customer through channels such as social media and paid advertising is great. But nothing compares to connecting with those people through email marketing.

Earned channels, like SEO and marketplace ads are unpredictable. You’re going head-to-head with competitors, algorithms can change, and the success of your chosen avenue is in the hands of others. So, having a channel you own (i.e. email marketing) lets you exercise control over the conversations you have with your target audience. The result? You’ll be able to nurture those relationships to generate more sales.

As part of your eCommerce pre-launch checklist, make sure you develop a plan for building your email list before launch.

Expanding your list will not only mean you “own” your customers (as detailed above), but it will also give you insight into launch demand. You can then use this insight to forecast supply planning and paint a picture of what sales might look like once you go live.

Contacts on your email list are likely highly engaged customers who’ve demonstrated a genuine interest in your launch. This means you’ll have a strong pool of people and early adopters you can tap into for product refinement and customer feedback further down the line.

If you’re wondering how to build an email list as part of your pre-launch checklist, try these tactics:

  • Host a giveaway for people who sign up for your mailing list
  • Create a pre-launch landing page containing your mailing list subscription form
  • Leverage social media to convert followers into email subscribers
  • Guest post on relevant publications with a link to your mailing list
  • Partner with trusted experts and brands in your niche to promote your mailing list

Focus on growing your email list and you’ll foster a strong community of early adopters and customers to champion your launch.

Take pre-orders

eCommerce launches are risky, but you can offset some of the risk by taking pre-orders before you go live.

Accepting pre-orders builds momentum before your launch. It’s a smart marketing strategy that generates buzz while also allowing you to gauge market demand for your product. You can then forecast product demand and inform production runs based on these pre-orders.

Securing pre-orders locks in sales before you go live and, potentially, before you even order stock. You can then use the revenue from these sales to fund production, boost your launch marketing efforts, or put them back into the business pot for future launches.

Your pre-order strategy is also a smart way to leverage quiet periods for your business. If, for example, you know your sales are typically lower during the spring months, you can develop a summer launch campaign that accepts pre-orders in the preceding season. This will boost your revenue during these commonly quieter months while also fostering excitement for a summertime product launch.

If you choose to take pre-orders during your pre-launch period, give yourself plenty of time to build momentum. The typical pre-order timeline takes place between two weeks and two months ahead of going live. If you launch pre-orders too soon, you’ll lose interest. But launch too late and you won’t give yourself enough time to gain interest.

You can accept pre-orders through a third-party platform such as Kickstarter. Alternatively, you can set up a pre-order option on your product page, create a pre-order landing page, or use your email list to collect customer information for pre-orders.

Pre-orders are commonplace in the gaming industry. From consoles to individual games, gamers can be found lining up to secure the latest releases before they launch. Take Cyberpunk 2077, for example: Ahead of launch, this game secured eight million pre-orders, which equates to approximately $500 million in revenue.

Make scarcity a good thing

Your items are scarce because you haven’t launched yet, but that can work in your favor.

Leverage scarcity as a way to build exclusivity for your eCommerce launch. With it, you can increase product demand and collect more leads and sales for your launch.

Some of our favorite ways to leverage scarcity for your eCommerce launch are:

  • Making a waiting list
  • Offering invite-only access
  • Creating exclusive launch content for members
  • Sharing limited early-release product runs
  • Incentivizing early orders

Don’t let scarcity hold you back. Have fun with it and use it to boost hype and demand for your launch.

Making a waiting list introduces a sense of exclusivity around your eCommerce launch. It also gives people an opportunity to be the first to get their hands on your new offering. In a similar fashion, providing invite-only access can add a layer of prestige to your pre-launch strategy by generating both FOMO (fear of missing out) and desirability.

Meanwhile, established eCommerce brands can reward loyal members with exclusive launch content and early access to product launches ahead of the masses.

Transform stock scarcity into a positive by announcing you’ll only release a limited number of items at launch, with the rest to follow at a later date. This presents you with an opportunity to ramp up pre-orders or collect contact information for the release announcement — a win-win situation for you.

You can even generate scarcity and exclusivity within your pre-launch strategy by incentivizing early orders. For example, you could offer a free gift for the first 100 orders. Doing this creates scarcity around the initial orders and encourages people to get their orders in early if they want to bag the limited run of free gifts.

Generate future sales

Your pre-launch strategy should focus on collecting contacts as well as sales.

You can use your pre-launch checklist to collect contacts and encourage future sales.

While we’ve already mentioned the importance of building an email list as part of your eCommerce pre-launch checklist, we wanted to touch on how this can benefit your future sales, not just launch revenue.

In your pre-launch strategy, create a sign-up or waitlist landing page for your campaign. This waitlist can be an effective tool for building anticipation leading up to your product going live. Post-launch, you can then tap into these contacts for future marketing and sales activity, nurturing the leads and turning them into valued customers.

You can create a waitlist landing page on your website that’s connected to your email marketing platform through a sign-up form. This will let you collect contact information from people who are interested in your launch offering. As such, these contacts should be both high quality and relevant to your business.

Send out a series of pre-launch emails to your email subscribers to remind them about your launch, further generating hype and demand. Once ready to go live, these subscribers should be lining up, ready to get their hands on whatever you’re offering.

Post-launch, you can reengage these contacts to inform them of future launches, gauge feedback, and keep them up to date on new product releases, sales, and other offers. This will feed into your long-term sales strategy, driving sales well into the future.

Plan your logistics

Finally, no pre-launch checklist is complete without an ironed-out logistics strategy.

For an eCommerce launch, you need to know exactly how you plan to hold stock and fulfill orders. Otherwise, your campaign will fail at the last hurdle. Nobody wants to sign up for a pre-launch only to find out it’s oversubscribed and they’re unable to get their hands on the goods.

Pre-orders guarantee immediate shipment upon release — however, this only works if you forecasted effectively. Manufacturing and logistics departments need to stay on their toes to react appropriately to supply issues.

An example of logistics planning gone wrong can be seen with Sony’s launch of the PS5 gaming console. In the lead up to the launch of the PS5, Sony ran a large-scale pre-launch campaign. However, they underestimated the market demand and were unable to fulfill pre-orders to schedule.

This logistical nightmare, teamed with Sony forgetting to mention the pre-order period during their PS5 launch event, had a snowball effect: stock sold out within seconds, producing a backlog of orders that couldn’t be fulfilled. (I was only able to land one within a 5-minute order window a year after they released).

If you fail to plan your logistics, you put your entire eCommerce launch at risk. Just like Sony experienced, overlooking your logistics can result in slow lead times, insufficient inventory to meet consumer demands, and dissatisfied customers.

To combat this, you need to meticulously maintain and monitor stock forecasting and the logistical needs within your pre-launch strategy. If you plan to sell on Amazon, you can use MyFBAPrep to offload your logistics and gain end-to-end transparency. This will allow you to know exactly how much stock you have for future sales.

Wrapping up — Crafting a successful eCommerce pre-launch checklist

Your pre-launch checklist is about more than organization; it’s an opportunity to grow your brand before you’ve even launched. The result? It drives traffic and sales to your eCommerce store while also forging strong relationships between you and your customers.

Next time you plan to launch a new product, campaign, or even an eCommerce business, make sure you refer to this checklist.

From choosing which channels to target to determining how to build an email list and embracing scarcity, you can adapt this checklist to help your launch generate as many contacts and sales as possible.

Amend and optimize your pre-launch checklist with every new launch to produce a strong strategy that drives success for your store.