So, you have a product, idea or service and you are ready to open an online store, but where do you begin? Of course, having an online store is much more advantageous than owning a physical store front with a monthly overhead. However, beginning can be quite daunting for someone who isn’t a web page developer. Have no fear, it is a little easier now to set up an attractive online store that fits your brand and displays your product seamlessly with online tools to help you get your site up and running.
We’re going to break down the steps you need to take in order to launch your online store and start bringing in loyal customers.
Step 1: Choose and Register your Domain Name
This is crucial and should take some serious thought and time. Choosing the right domain name for your online website creates an identity for your store and brand. You a name that is catchy, memorable, short and brandable. Be prepared to be married to this domain name because this is going to be the name associated with your brand for years to come. Therefore, think long term! For more information and a quick easy guide to choosing your domain name, read our how to guide here.
Step 2: Choose a Web Hosting Service
Once you’ve chosen a domain name and registered it, you need to sign up for a hosting service. It is worth the time finding the perfect web hosting service for your website. Do not skimp on cost here. While there are free services available for web hosting; you are running a business and so you should pay for quality service for your customers. A key point to having a successful online store is a user friendly, fast loading website that has zero issues.
What you need from a hosting service:
- Tons of space: you need a hosting plan that comes with a lot of space so that your online business has the space it needs to grow. Online Stores, requires the use of a lot of pictures for products, and so having a hosting package with a lot of space is necessary.
- Choose a service that allows for customisation, especially if you plan to do your own programming and web design.
Step 3: Design Your Website
Your online store is your storefront. Just like a physical store has to have a design, colour palette, specialised shelving systems for product displays etc. so does your online version. You want to think about what your brand is how you want your website to reflect that. Every opportunity is a branding opportunity. The more seamless your brand the easier it is for your customers to connect with it.
If you aren’t a web design programmer, have no fear. There are many sites that offer website templates that are customisable to your brand. You also can hire a web designer to build one for you.
You want to focus on:
- A clean design- make sure your website isn’t flashy or distracting. Online consumers have a short attention span and while design is important, a clean design functions better. Products display should be the emphasis.
- A User-friendly design- your online store should be easy to use. Customers should not have to click more than twice to find out product information. In fact, enabling things like scroll over short product viewing is an excellent way to make things easy for your customers.
- Readability- your website should use no more than 3 colours and easy to read fonts. Remember with a clean design your customers are more likely to engage your products as opposed to being distracted by your website design.
Step 4: Use SSL Certificates for User Security
An unprotected website leaves your business, its’ clients, users and other visitors vulnerable to cyber-attacks, phishing sites, hackers, credit card fraud, malware and other security breaches. This is where the SSL Certificate comes in. Several certificates exist which play a vital role to protect sensitive data like credit card numbers, usernames, passwords, email contacts, and much more, from hackers and other meddling eyes.
Here are a few examples of what SSL certificates encrypt:
- Online transactions details
- Credit card information
- Web forms and customer logins
- E-mails and web applications such as Outlook
- File transfers over https and ftp
- Information sent over mobile devices
- Communication on cloud-based platforms
There are different SSL certificates which offer different protection, so it’s important to know what is covered by a given certificate and what you need for your website. For more information on SSL Certificates, check out our post here.
Step 5: Have E-Commerce Software
Having e-commerce software enabled on your site allows your users to browse products easily and make secure purchases. The software is designed to store customer profiles and financial details. With some software options, marketing is factored in, since it can be used to send emails to customers within the data base. This is a great way to ensure that you build loyal customers and can be used as a tool to offer discounts and promotions. Research companies before making a choice. Ensure that they offer services that suit your brand and business. Choosing the right e-commerce software will greatly impact your overall customer experience and your online store’s success.
Step 6: Setting up a Merchant Account
In order to receive credit card payments from your online store you must set up a Merchant Account with a bank. Using a bank of course can be costly and incur a lot of fees, so a lot of online merchants use services like PayPal to avoid this. There are other online options similar to PayPal. Again, research is key. Be sure to research all options and see what the perfect fit for your business is.
Step 7: Promote Your Online Store
Now that you’ve done all the leg work in setting up your online store it is time to get the word out. Promoting your online store is the ultimate way to drive real traffic to your store and ensure success. There are many avenues for you to do this. Before beginning, the best thing you can do is create a sound Marketing Strategy that fits your online store’s brand and your products.
When creating that plan there are a few things you have to consider:
Who is my consumer base?
As a business owner you must know your customers. Understanding and anticipating their behaviours and wants can help you effectively target them. So, study the type of people who will use your products and figure out the most effective ways to target them.
Know your niche.
Always play to the niche of your products and its fan base. This ensures a steady traffic flow to your online store and converts that traffic to loyal customers.
Show up where your customers are.
Understand how your demographic consumers view advertisements. If you are selling products to millennials then you know that particular demographic uses social media the most. Target them where they are. If your demographic is, soccer mums then ensure your marketing strategy is tailored to them. This circles back to knowing your consumer base and understanding their behaviours.
Choose the best platforms to promote your e-store.
Once you’ve worked out your Marketing strategy you can plug it in to help promote your site. Some of the proven areas for site promotion are:
- Social Media: Facebook leading the pack, followed by Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Create a budget for marketing on these platforms. Use automated software like Tailwind to schedule post.
- E-mail Marketing: This is an excellent tool to build a loyal following. E-mail marketing is highly effective for engaging your customer base in a real way and delivering weekly deals, discounts and promotions.
- Omni Channel Management: Using multiple inclusive e-commerce sites to list your products on. Large marketplaces like Amazon, and eBay are excellent ways to drive traffic back to your site and sell your products to a wider market. They can help you get the word out about your brand. It is all about casting a wider net to catch more fish.
Now you are ready to launch your online store! Go forth and sell sell sell.