If you’ve decided to start your own online store, you’re in good company.
Each year, millions of business owners make the jump into the online arena. Unfortunately, a lot of them run into problems getting the wheels off the ground.
Whether you want to set up an ecommerce store as an extension of a brick-and-mortar business or as a stand-alone enterprise, here are a few steps you can take now to help make your new venture a success.
Before you set up an ecommerce store:
1. Be sure you know what you are selling. Before you do anything else, figure out what your initial product lineup will be. If you already have a physical location, you may need to cull your product offerings to those that you feel will work best online. The idea is to select a good “first pass.” You can always add more products later!
2. Collect 100% of the information before you begin working on your site. For each product, get the details together ahead of time. This will include pictures, pricing, weight, description, and product options (color, size, etc.). This may seem obvious, but a lot of people wait until they are knee-deep in their site design before getting the product details together. Before you begin the actual design of your site, you should have 100% of the information documented for every single product you’ll be offering. This will also help you flesh out what options each product is going to have and whether or not you will need “conditional options,” which could change the decisions you need to make about ecommerce software.
3. Pick an ecommerce solution that fits your needs and your budget. By now you should know how many products you are going to have, and what the options on those products will need to be. These two factors will be the biggest influence on which ecommerce product will be the best fit for you. If you have fewer than 10 products and your product options are fairly basic, you can go with something like Ecwid for free. Ecwid integrates with many CMS platforms (like Wordpress) and is very easy to use. If you have a large number of products or more complex product options, you may want to go with a more advanced ecommerce package like Volusion or BigCommerce. All of these are great solutions, and each has fantastic customer service when you need help. If you are working with a design firm for the creation of your site, which we highly recommend, touch base with them first to find out what they suggest. We have extensive experience with ecommerce integration, and we’d be happy to help you if you aren’t yet working with a website design agency.
4. Figure out what payment services you will need and what they will cost you. Just about every ecommerce software solution integrates with third party payment gateways like PayPal, and also with credit card processors. If you are going to take PayPal as a payment option, you will need a PayPal account. To accept credit card payments, you will need a credit card merchant account and a credit card gateway provider (a merchant gateway). This part can get confusing, but the general idea is that you need an account with a “processor” (usually the same processor that runs cards for your brick and mortar) and an account with a “gateway,” such as Authorize.net. The gateway can be the tricky part, because you need to be sure to find one that is compatible with your ecommerce software.
5. Pull the trigger! By now, you should have your products organized, know which ecommerce provider you want, and have your payment processors and gateway lined up. It’s time to put the pieces together! A great next step is to contact a qualified website design firm to help get your new store off the ground, and I just happen to know of one…
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