Moving your business into the world of e-commerce can be exciting but daunting at the same time. There are many options for online store capability - from Facebook Store to DIY website design sites and eCommerce platforms like Shopify. You’ll have to do your research before deciding on the best method. Here are some things to consider as you get started on your online selling journey.
Things to consider
Before you set up an online store, find the most suitable solutions for your business in eCommerce software, including your content management system (CMS), website design, and requirements needed to upgrade your hosting or website plan to house the store. You’ll also need to consider security, website backups, and how to integrate your store with accounting software, shipping software and payment methods. Also consider how much product or service you expect to sell after you launch. You may start off small but may need the capacity to grow with the business, in which case it would be wise to find a solution that can handle increased storage space, manage inventory, track sales and have substantial or unlimited bandwidth.
Who will build my site?
e-shop website builders such as Shopify, Wix, BigCommerce and Shopping Cart Elite can help you get set up with an online store. From shopping carts to shipping, inventory management and helping you with SEO, these are one-stop platforms for your eCommerce requirements. Many provide easy-to-use platforms, but if you have web design experience, or know an expert who will design the site for you, then you can use templates with HTML to customise them. You may have a website developer on board to build your eCommerce systems from scratch - this could cost you more but lead to a more tailored solution. You may also consider using Facebook’s Store (which could reach the platform’s 2 billion users through targeted advertising) which can be integrated with your website or stand alone on your Facebook Business Page.
There are two basic hosting types for online stores. The first is hosted - when e-store software is hosted on a server provided by the same company the software was developed by. The second option is a self-hosted server which involves finding a server, downloading and maintaining the software for your eCommerce store. Discuss with designers, developers and other experts which option would work best for your business.
Make sure your online store has a user-friendly interface and payment gateway to securely accept payments from customers online. Include a variety of payment and shipping options and use tools that enhance your offerings and build your database (such as loyalty programmes, discounts and gift-wrapping). Look at what your costs will be for shipping; with increasing competition many online stores now offer free shipping to certain areas or regions, so decide what these will be before you go live.
It may all be good while setting up an eCommerce system and making sales, but not so great if you don’t have logistics in place to get the products to your customers. Shipping software will help you with the automated management of shipments - getting the products to the buyers. It will help you send tracking information to your customers and automate emails as well as support you with creating and printing address labels to accompany product distribution. This will be a time-saver when your business gets busy, so take care of this as soon as you’ve selected your site software.
While setting up a store online may seem straightforward, don’t overlook the ongoing maintenance and support that you may need as your store evolves. When that happens you may need more storage space for inventory, higher bandwidth and a top-notch security system. Look for customer support or a designer/developer with whom you can have a direct line of contact.