Business and ecommerce have become inseparable terms today. Over the years, ecommerce has virtually become the most significant aspect of the retail industry. The world has taken to the trend of doing business online.
According to some estimates, more than eighty five percent of internet users have purchased something on the internet at least once and half the number of internet users shop online regularly. That means, the online market is big and is ever expanding. So, why not set up an ecommerce website if you have something to sell?
While setting up an ecommerce website may seem like a daunting task at first, with all the tools and services readily available in the market, it really is easy setting up any kind of website on the internet.
That being said, you certainly need to pay attention to a few key issues to avoid pitfalls. Here we have tried to make this article a step by step guide to creating a perfect ecommerce website for your business.
Step 1: Lay out an ecommerce business plan
Planning is a must in every venture if success is the goal. You need a plan to setting up a website. A plan doesn’t need to be a long detailed document with series of tasks but at the least a rough idea about how and where to start and end.
Do a fair amount of brainstorming and don’t hesitate to take notes of every possible question that pops up in your mind. What will you be selling on your website? Who are your target customers? How should your website’s UI look? How much will it cost you to set up a decent ecommerce website?
Do some research – a good lot of learning is required to lay a good ground work for your ecommerce project. Do some math away from your computer if need be and build on your idea; dig a little deeper into it. You sure do need to spend some time on the drawing board. You most certainly cannot expect to get anywhere without a plan.
Step 2: Get a domain name
A domain name is what identifies your website on the web. Once you’ve identified the products you’ll be selling through your website, choose an appropriate domain name for your website that represents your business accurately.
A good name has the chances of making it big on the internet. A domain name which is short, easy to remember, easy to spell, catchy and unforgettable is likely to draw more visitors to your store. You can purchase domain names through hosting companies or domain registrars.
Step 3: Choose the right web hosting service
All websites need to sit on a server somewhere to be available on the internet and the server configurations has a large part to play in overall performance of your ecommerce websites on the internet.
How your website is hosted determines, to a large extent, its speed, uptime and performance. It is absolutely essential that you host website through the right host.
An online store should be able to handle a lot of traffic and should have maximum up-time. Google has hinted that website up-time and speed are important factors to acquire a good ranking on search engines.
There are hundreds of web hosting companies in the market that offer different kinds of free and paid hosting services or packages with a variety of features. Since free hosting services provide limited features, a paid hosting is advised for a reliable service. Choose the right web host that allows growth and flexibility. Some web hosting companies also offer domain registration service and tools to build website.
Step 4: Choose the right ecommerce platform
Ecommerce platform is the key component of any ecommerce website. It cannot be emphasized enough how important it is to choose the right ecommerce platform. Choosing the right ecommerce platform can be an overwhelming task but it is the most crucial step and cannot be compromised for anything. One great way to choose the right platform is to check out the platforms of the best ecommerce websites similar to the one you are trying to set up.
Choose an ecommerce platform carefully that most suits your business needs, as having to move to another platform later can be costly and time consuming. There are many vendors out there who provide you shopping cart software and other ecommerce tools to give you the best ecommerce solutions.
The best ecommerce platforms provide you with all shopping feature – carts, payment options, website performance statistics, security and more. They can be purchased in a bundle which offers all features from hosting to security certificates (hosted solutions) or can be purchased separately and integrated into your ecommerce websites plugins (standalone solutions).
The kinds of ecommerce solutions you find in the market are categorized as off-the-shelf software, bespoke software and Software as a Service – SaaS. They all have their advantages and drawbacks, so choose the one that best fit your needs. Some of the top ecommerce solution providers in the market are Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce, Wix, and Sellr.
Step 5: Make sure to obtain a secure certificate
A secure certificate (SSL) secures the connection between a visitor’s web browser and the web server hosting your website to ensure a secure transaction. If you have opted for a bundled pre-packaged ecommerce solution, then it is likely that your ecommerce solution provider takes care of the security. But, if that’s not the case, you should most definitely obtain a secure certificate (SSL) alongside the domain name.
You can purchase a secure certificate from SSL certificate providers like Thawte and Symantec for example. Also some hosting companies take care of SSL certificate for you charging you separately for the certificate.
Step 6: Design an easy to navigate ecommerce website
Let’s come down to the actual website building task. How your products and services are presented on your website makes a significant difference between success and failure of your ecommerce venture, so your website cannot afford to look clumsy. Design a website that properly showcases your products, poorly showcasing your products makes you lose sales.
You lose valuable customers if it is not easy to steer around your website. Keep it simple yet elegant and make it easy to navigate intuitively. Also optimize your website for mobile devices.
Step 7: Choose eCommerce payment methods
To facilitate online payments, you need to secure an internet merchant account (IMA) that lets you receive online payments. There are banks that can set up IMA for you. Almost all eCommerce platforms support a wide range of payment methods and give you options to integrate other customer-friendly payment gateways with your eCommerce website.
Although digital payment gateways like PayPal and Google Checkout are cornering the market, credits cards still remain the simplest and easiest ways to purchase things online. Also make sure that you meet the appropriate level of PCI SSC (Payment Card Industry Security Standard Council) compliance.
Step 8: Create a marketing strategy for your ecommerce website
Once your website is up and running, you need to drive visitors and customers to your site. For that, create a marketing strategy. Spread the word and attract customers. Set aside some budget for advertising and make use of banner ads, Google AdWords, PPC.
Optimize your websites for search engines so that it gets noticed. Promote your website on the social networks. Start creating content, do a good amount of blogging.