There’s little doubt about the effect e-commerce has had on the world of retail, and, in recent years, more and more companies have been moving their operations online to cater to the burgeoning growth in web-based shopping.
E-commerce is transforming how – and where – people shop, decimating the traditional high street and real-world retailing. Moreover, the popularity of online shopping skyrocketed through 2020 due, in part due to the lockdowns imposed by the recent Coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, many experts suggest COVID may have accelerated the growth of the online sales sector by as much as three to four years.
However, if your company isn’t selling online already, it can seem a daunting prospect trying to figure out just where to start. Read on for some tips to help get your firm up and running with an e-commerce store quickly and easily.
Decide whether to take a DIY approach or outsource to a development firm
Web development tools have progressed significantly in the last ten or so years to the point that it’s now very easy to set up an e-com website that, previously, might have taken weeks or even months for a development company to build. That said, if you intend to sell online, you have a duty of responsibility to protect your customers’ private information and credit card details, so e-commerce really isn’t an area where you can afford to take chances.
Any firm operating online runs the risk of cyberattack or credit card fraud. If you choose to partner with a development company to build your project, they will most likely also offer bulletproof hosting, online security tools, full Quality Assurance (QA) testing through the build process, and a chargeback guarantee solution to protect you from online fraud. Should you decide to go it alone, the onus for all these considerations will lie squarely with you – so think carefully.
The eight steps required to build your e-com store
Since a development company will pretty much build your site from start to finish with very little input required from you, this article will consider the steps involved in making the site yourself.
Choose which e-commerce builder system to use: There is now a plethora of e-com site builder tools you can use to construct your site without understanding even a single line of code. Systems like Wix, Shopify, and WooCommerce could see your store up and running in a matter of hours. Check out online review sites to find the system that best matches your requirements.
Select a plan: All the major e-com store providers offer a range of different plans priced and tailored to specific needs. In most cases, prices vary depending on how many items you want to stock, the amount of storage space you need, whether you’re ok for your site to feature adverts, etc. Remember that there are some free e-com providers like Square Online.
Work out your shipping options: The way companies sell and ship their products has changed drastically in recent years (for example, dropshipping). You should check that your choice of builder supports your intended shipping method before committing to use them.
Think of a domain name: A domain name is an address your users will type into their browser to get to your store. As a rule, you want to pick something relatively short (to reduce the number of keystrokes), memorable, and, if possible, that sums up what you do – particularly important from a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) perspective.
Pick a template: All the website builders come complete with pre-made, professional templates, which, again, remove the need for specialist coding skills. Indeed, you may even find your builder already features a store layout built specifically for your type of business. Once you’ve picked the template, you can start building your store and customizing the layout with specific colors, images, fonts, social links, etc.
Build your store: Once you’ve customized the layout, you can start on the fun bit and begin filling your store with products. The typical core information you’ll need will be the item price, name, and category. Bear in mind that you might also need size, color, material, weight, etc. You’ll also want to have great images of your products (vitally important for selling online) and a full description (good descriptive text can often mean the difference between a sale and the prospective client going elsewhere). Remember too that your products will need to be well-organized into easy-to-understand categories to help customers find them.
Choose a payment gateway: Of course, there’s little point in setting up a shop without giving your users a way to pay. All the main builder systems come complete with a range of payment options covering the most common platforms like PayPal, Stripe, etc.
Test, test, test: No matter how diligent you’ve been during the building process or how well you planned your site, it’s almost inevitable you’ll find glitches, mistakes, typos, or parts of your site that don’t flow well. Before putting your new e-com site live, you should comprehensively test all your pages – plus get as many other people to test them too so that you can gauge invaluable feedback. Remember, building an e-commerce site isn’t a one-off job – rather, it’s an ongoing process of trial and error, so be prepared to make changes as you progress.