How to Set Up an Online Store
Are you looking to set up an online store?
Maybe you want to convert an existing business to an online business, or perhaps you want to set up an entirely new online business.
Why set up an online store?
Setting up an online store is a perfect way to reach a larger customer base if you have an existing business, and a great way to sell your products or services.
An online store will allow you to keep selling if your physical premises has to close for any reason, such as the current worldwide pandemic.
You can even use an online store to expand your business reach. Starting an online shop can even help your business grow.
Costs of setting up an online store
The cost of setting up an online shop can range from around £20 a month for a do-it-yourself website builder option, right up to tens of thousands of pounds for a top of the line, bespoke Ecommerce website.
For most businesses, the DIY option will suffice.
Decide what you want to sell
If you’re moving an existing business online then you’ll already have a strong idea of what kind of products or services you want to sell. It’s much easier to move from selling a product or service from a physical shop to selling the same product or service online. There may be some logistical challenges, such as shipping and stock in the case of physical products or delivering a service in times of social distancing.
But technology can help overcome these issues, for example a good Ecommerce package will take a lot of hassle out of processing orders, while video conferencing software allows you to offer services such as counselling or business consulting remotely.
If you’re starting a new business then things can get a little more complicated. It may be that you need to spend time identifying the niche your business to occupy before you go on to start thinking about specific products and services you need to sell.
In some cases you’ll already have a strong idea of the kind of niche you want to occupy.
But if you don’t have a strong idea what form your online shop will take, then you’ll need to spend time researching potential niches before you move on to deciding what products you want to sell.
Gather product information
By now you should have a strong idea of what you’ll be selling online, and what type of platform you’ll be using to create your website.
So now’s the time to gather relevant information about your products and services ready for it to be added to your site.
This can be a relativity simple task if you sell just a few products or services, but it becomes more time consuming the more products/services you sell.
Many Ecommerce website builders (including GoDaddy’s) allow you to bulk upload product details, which can be a great time saving tool.
The kind of information you’ll need to gather about your products and services will vary depending on what you’re selling. Here are some of the most common questions you’ll need to gather:
Name: What is your product/service called?
Description: What does the product or service do?
Price: How much will the product/service sell for?
Options: Does the product come in more than one size or colour?
Tax details: Is the product/service taxable in the location you plan to sell it?
Photography of your products
Product photography is a specialised area and it can make sense to hire an expert, if your budget and the situation allows.
Product photography tips:
Use a neutral background for simple product photos
Include multiple photos from more than one angel
Ensure the product is well lit
Show the product in use if possible
If the product has more than one variant, include at least one photo of each option
Invest in editing software
Choosing photos to represent a service can be more difficult. It’s generally a good idea to aim for something like a photo of the service being delivered or a customer who is willing to endorse your service.
Building your online store with a website builder
Website builders have come a long way in a relatively short time, and it’s now easier than ever to use one to build a fully-functioning online store.
Fast – your shop can be online in a matter of hours
Easy to build – website builders use drag and drop interfaces, which require little technical knowledge i
Good for small budgets
Only suitable for small to medium size online shops – A website builder online store will allow you to add a few thousand different products, which should be more than enough for the average business. But if you plan to offer more products, then you may want to choose a different route.
Hiring someone to build your online store
Web designers can offer a quality Ecommerce store. But expect to pay a premium price.
Flexibility – As with the DIY option, employing a specialist Ecommerce web designer will offer complete flexibility.
Scalability – Again, employing a designer will let you scale your online business if you need to.
No need for technical knowledge – After all, you’re hiring someone to do it for you.
Ongoing support – Many designers offer ongoing support.
Cost – The cost of Ecommerce web design can run into thousands of pounds (and then some.) Obviously you’ll pay less for a smaller website, but you are still likely to end up spending more than the monthly cost of a website builder.
Updates and support might add to the cost – Your designer is likely to charge a monthly fee if you want them to provide support for your site, and if you want them to update your site on a regular basis.
Getting your site online might take time – Although a good designer will be able to build your site relatively quickly, there are a number of steps that you’ll need to take before you get to that stage.
Buy a domain name
If you decide you’re going to use a website builder then now’s the time to pick the package you want, along with a domain name that suits your business.
If the website builder package you choose is truly focused on letting you create an online shop, it should come with a free SSL certificate. SSL certificates encrypt any data sent via your website, helping keep crucial things such as customer’s payment data safe from hackers.
If you decide you’re going to build the site yourself, then you’ll need a domain name, a suitable Ecommerce web hosting package, and an SSL certificate.
Create your online store
You should now have everything you need to get your online store up and running. The ins and outs of building your online store will depend on what platform you’ve chosen.
Market your online store
Once your online shop is up and running, you need to tell people about it. You can measure how your online shop is doing. One of the best ways of doing that is by installing Google Analytics.
You can set up a Google Analytics account here. Google Analytics allows you to access data such as: The number of people visiting your site, the ways people are finding your site, the pages people visit on your site, and more.
It’s a great way of identifying marketing channels that are working well, and those that aren’t working so well.
Once you’ve got Google Analytics installed, you can begin marketing your online shop.
Search engine optimization - SEO
Over the long term, SEO is a great way to attract people to your website via search engines such as Google.
Don’t expect SEO to deliver visitors overnight – it may take a few months or even more before your site starts to rank in Google for terms relevant to your business.
Pay per click advertising - PPC
PPC is a good way to get potential customers to a new online store, it can drive traffic to a site instantly.
PPC ads can appear in places such as search engine results, social media sites and across other websites that have joined an ad network.
Using social media
It’s getting tougher than ever to gain an organic following on social media, but it is still possible. For many brands. Social media is a crucial source of traffic. For many other brands, social media plays a strong supporting role in everything from sales to customer support.
Email marketing is another channel that takes time, but which pays off in the end. If you’re starting a completely new business, you’ll need to grow your email marketing list from scratch. But if you’re adding an online shop to an existing business then one of the first things you’ll want to do is notify your existing email subscribers about the new way to buy from you.
Email marketing allows you stay in touch with people who’ve bought from you in the past, which means you can tell them about new products, special offers, or anything else that’s happening.
Which marketing channels will work best for your business
Do you get more customers via your Facebook ads, Google Ads or Twitter ads?
If one channel is outperforming the rest does it make sense to increase the amount you invest in that area? And what can you do to improve the channels that aren’t performing so well?
Are there any obstacles before completing a purchase
If you do discover such an obstacle, you need to research to see what’s going on. It may be something simple or it may be something less obvious such an unexpectedly high shipping charge that is putting people off.
How to identify improvements
This can be something as simple as running two different ad campaigns which promote the same product but with different images. If one performs better than the other, then that’s a good sign that you should use that image in future ads.
Which products or services are more popular online
If a particular product or service is gains more popularity, it might be worth increasing the amount you spend to promote it.
Maybe there’s something about the layout of the popular product and service’s page that encourages more sales. Do the images or product and service descriptions on other pages need to be improved to match the popular page?
It might be rewarding to introduce new products and services that are similar to the existing popular products and services shown on your site.
Once you’ve started marketing your site and people have started visiting and purchasing from your online store, it could be time to analyse and improve the way you do things.
Analysis and improvement should be an ongoing process, and the areas you focus on will depend on your website’s strengths and weaknesses.