These days it’s really easy to set up an ecommerce site and sell stuff online, even if you’re completely new to it all. However, there’s a bit more to it than having a great idea. One of the most important things you’ll need to do is setup and manage an effective website that attracts real customers.
Read on for the essential things to know about starting an ecommerce business from home.
Start with a business plan
The ecommerce market is expanding all the time. Just think about how many people you know who regularly shop online. To carve yourself a niche in that market, you need a plan. It doesn’t have to be massively detailed, but spend some time on research into your intended market and target audience, and have an idea as to how you want to start and where you want your business to go.
The research part is vital. Know your market: who are your competitors? What’s good about their sites and what doesn’t work so well? Gather enough knowledge to understand how to position your site and your products – after all, there’s little point going through all the setup and initial outlay if nobody’s going to buy what you’re selling.
Choose a domain name and hosting service
These are the foundation stones of your ecommerce store. Your domain name is the internet address that your customers go to (like google.com), so try and get one that’s relevant to your business idea. Make it easy to remember (and spell!) and not too long.
Your hosting service is where your website pages will “live” on the internet. It’s worth checking out several providers to find one that offers what you need; namely, a service fast enough to deal with potentially high volumes of traffic, that has maximum reliability and will support future growth. Some hosting services offer free packages, but these may not have all the features you need.
If you’re starting completely from scratch, the simplest option is to get both domain name and hosting from the same company – that makes the technical part as easy as possible.
Find the perfect ecommerce platform
There are so many ecommerce platforms out there – so how do you choose one? You really want to get this part right, as changing it later will be time-consuming and potentially expensive. A great starting point is checking out your competitors and other ecommerce sites that you like: what do they use?
Look for a platform that offers every feature you might need, including payment types, shopping baskets, and security. Many major providers, such as Shopify, offer full site building capabilities to create the perfect online store. Others, like WooCommerce, integrate with other content management systems such as WordPress
Design a great site
And now we get to actually creating the site. Important things to remember here are:
- make it easy to navigate around
- make your products look good
- make sure it works well on mobile devices
Simple but classy is the way to go: if you create a website that looks unpolished and is difficult to navigate, you’ll put off customers and lose sales. Many ecommerce platforms and site builders offer templates that get you started: once you’ve chosen a theme, you can build a site very easily.
Set up a payment method
How are your customers going to pay for your products? The ability to take card payments is essential, and the easiest way to accomplish this is using something like PayPal or SagePay.
You also need to ensure that your site is set up for secure transactions. You know that little padlock that appears in your browser’s address bar when you’re making online payments? That indicates the site is secure. Most popular ecommerce platforms like Shopify and Magento will include this security as standard, but it’s best to check.
Now you have a great site, you need some customers. It’s time to advertise: shout about it on social media, contact other sites or bloggers for mentions or reviews.
Search engine optimisation is crucial. The more work and thought you put into optimising your site, the higher it will rank in the search results on related search queries. And after all, that’s where you’re likely to be getting most of your initial business. You could invest in running a Google AdWords campaign, which will charge you per click but this is costly and so it’s important to invest in SEO as well to help your organic search rankings.
There’s a lot of SEO information out there, but you might want to spend some money with a professional SEO agency for the most effective results.
All this might sound daunting, but it really needn’t be if you do your research and if possible work with professionals in web development and SEO.