Essentials To Start An E-Commerce Business
Today’s business opportunities are remarkably democratic – thanks in no small part to the Internet. You don’t have to invest heavily in an expensive on-premises install, or pay through the nose for plenty of employees to get started. All you need, in fact, is a website, and a way of selling items through it.
Well, actually – you need a little bit more than that. And in this guide, we’re going to talk about everything you have to have in place to get yourself started. Here’s our rundown of e-commerce essentials for all of you budding entrepreneurs out there.
A Marketable Idea
First of all, what exactly is your idea? What are you going to sell, and how are you going to sell it? Do you have a passion for something in particular, or is there something you know will fly off the shelves like hot cakes?
You could manufacture your own product, or you could ship something in from abroad that has yet to take off in this country. You could even act as an affiliate, and sell something on somebody else’s behalf, and receive a commission.
Or, of course, you could use a combination of all these methods. It’s entirely up to you – but whatever you choose, you have to get it right.
Find A Domain Name
Your next step is, theoretically, a simple one. But in truth, it is a little more complicated than you might think. You will need a domain name – an address on the Internet where people can find your service. It will usually end in something like “.com” or, if you are selling exclusively in the UK, “.uk”.
Now, there are two things to think about when you find a domain name. First of all, it should be similar to your business name. The closer, the better, although it doesn’t have to be an exact match. Secondly, it should be in some way linked to the industry you are serving.
For example, let’s say your business name is Smiths, and you sell fishing tackle. Try something like SmithsFishing or SmithsTackle.co.uk. Why? It’s to do with search engine optimization – which you can find out more about here.
Get A Web Host
Your next step is to choose a web host. This is a service that you pay for that opens up your website to the world. Usually, they are quite cheap – particularly when you are just starting out. You’ll find that the more traffic you get, the more data you will be charged for.
So, it’s important to choose a flexible service that you can increase and decrease as and when you need to. There are plenty out there – try Vidahost or Easyspace to see the sort of prices you will need to plan for in your budget.
Build A Website
Now we’re getting to the real nitty-gritty of creating your business – building your website. There are a few options for you here. You could build it yourself if you know what you’re doing. It’s possible to go down a template route too. All you need is a content management system such as WordPress or Joomla, and a template to work with it.
There are thousands of free templates to choose from, although paying for one will give you a more professional sheen. Your final option is to get someone to build it for you. Choose a great web designer and you can build it any way you like, without any restrictions.
However, it’s a good idea to bring some of your ideas to the table and make it clear what you want. Your designer will be able to work quicker and better if they have an idea of what you are after.
Fit In An E-Commerce Platform
Your next step is to find a good e-commerce platform to integrate with your website. There are plenty of options available, so take your time to choose one. One important thing to think about is the user experience.
If you don’t know how to use e-commerce, it’s a good idea to get an expert in the field to take care of things for you. For example, let’s say you choose the Magento platform. You follow the instructions and set it up yourself, but then a few weeks later something goes wrong. Every hour that goes by, you are losing sales.
So, in this case, it would be wise to organize some Magento support, too. It will help you keep on top of the tech you are using and stop you from losing those precious sales.
Get A Merchant Provider
Now it’s time to ensure you have the technology in place to receive payments. You could go for PayPal only, but bear in mind that not everyone places their faith in online payment systems like these.
You’ll need a merchant service to handle all of the payments by debit and credit card that your customers will make. The merchant will open an account for you and allow you to use their service, and you will pay various charges.
There is a charge for using the service – a flat fee if you like. And then there are charges per transaction. It’s only a small amount usually, but you should bear it in mind when you set your prices.
Start Your Marketing
So you have everything you need to sell, but no customers. The answer of course is online marketing. It’s a big subject to take in, and if you want to know more, feel free to have a look around our blog. There are plenty of excellent tips and resources to follow to get you started.
There are some basics to think about though. First of all, you should have a coherent marketing plan in place, and a market to aim for. That plan should include things like search engine optimization – or SEO. This will help you start to rank in the search engines, and the higher ranking you get, the more visitors will come.
You should also think about your conversion rates. It’s no good having a lot of traffic if people just leave because your website is a mess, or makes no sense. There are a lot of services you can use to make things better. Think about hiring full marketing firms, SEO specialists, copywriters, UX designers and many more.