How To Build an eCommerce Website
Gone are the days of braving the crowds at the shopping mall in search of that pair of shoes you saw in a store catalogue. Before eCommerce, you would mentally prepare yourself, taking a gamble that the store would even have your preferred size and color. Unless there is a sale, the shoes will be sold at one price. You’d either ask an associate for help, or search the store to find what you were looking for. You’d get that pair of shoes one way or another, but thanks to eCommerce, getting your hands on that pair of shoes has become as simple as the click of a mouse.
Type in website, search the shoes, select color, select size, add to shopping cart, and check out. Voila – they appear at your doorstep in 5-7 business days.
It’s not just shoes that have become easier to purchase. It’s certain types of medication, products sold at a store thousands of miles away, the action figure you used to play with as a child that isn’t made anymore, a copy of the obscure movie you saw at a private screening in New York City once – you get the idea.
The world and her charms is at your fingertips, and it’s easier than ever to conduct business online. It seems that consumers are beginning to catch wind of this, as statistics from BigCommerce demonstrate:
This is a significant, but perhaps not shocking find: More than half of Americans prefer to shop from the comfort of their couch.
Considering that Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO and Founder, has recently surpassed Bill Gates in net worth – clocking in at $91.6 billion – I think we can all agree online shopping is more than just a passing trend.
Here are just a few consumer reported benefits of eCommerce:
- The stores are almost never closed
- No crowds, long lines, or parking lot nightmares
- The ability to read truthful product reviews before making the purchase
- Flexibility at checkout with shipping costs and promotional codes
From a sellers standpoint, there are also many benefits to utilizing eCommerce.
It’s clear to see that eCommerce has changed the way we consume, and it’s safe to say nearly every major retailer takes advantage of eCommerce as a way to maximize revenue. What about your small business? Is it really worth selling your products and services online? How exactly does eCommerce work on the back end?
There are four basic steps to launching an eCommerce website:
- Ascertain your brand
- Choose your hosting platform
- Design your site
- Get certified
Keep reading to find out more about what actually goes in to creating your own eCommerce empire.
1. Ascertain your brand
The first thing you, an aspiring eCommerce entrepreneur, should do, is re-establish/ascertain your brand.
Taking your product or service from a physical location to the virtual world is a great step to take, but keep in mind that data from the U.S. Census Bureau showed that in 2013, there were over 100,000 online retailers. While this puts you in great company, it leaves you with a lot to prove.
It’s vital that your brand is clearcut, your niche is well established, and visitors to your website know exactly what you are all about. We can’t all be a one-stop-shop like Amazon, so when you decide what kind of product or service you are going to sell, make sure you do everything within your power to stand out in that field.
As you begin to build your website, it is in your best interest to consult an SEO expert on best practices so that your website begins to appear early on in Google results as customers search for for what you are selling. If you are unsure why that is important, check out this article on how SEO makes you money.
2. Choose your hosting platform
Once you have conceptualized and fleshed out the look and feel you want to achieve, it’s time to weigh your eCommerce hosting options. You can opt for selling your product in a marketplace that already exists, such as Amazon or Etsy. However, if you want a website or brand that’s all your own, there is a range of hosting options that will walk you through the process. Shopify was voted the best eCommerce software for a small business by Business News Daily. Other softwares mentioned were Magento for enterprise, WooCommerce for WordPress and blogs, and Selz for digital downloads.
Be sure to conduct your own thorough research on hosting platforms, and, if it’s in your budget, consult an expert.
Next comes the fun part.
3. Design your site
This will include your domain name, website theme, and setting up product display and cost.
Again, if your budget allows, it is recommended to consult an expert on this. Although it may seem like the easiest step, it requires a lot of thought.
Consider that anyone who purchases a product from your site will tell their friends, “I just got this sweet action figure from _____!” and the name of your brand will, in addition to SEO techniques, be spread by word of mouth. It’s vital that your domain name is catchy and relevant to what you are selling.
When it comes to selecting a theme, be mindful of how the visual layout of your website can affect spending. Studies have shown that even certain colors can affect spending habits. For example, we typically associate the color black with sophistication, in turn making a simple product seem more upscale. The color burgundy makes us think of all things rich and refined, which may explain why a burgundy pillowcase might cost more than a white one of a similar style.
Customer retention is the end goal, and companies like Insureon are well aware that competition in the eCommerce world runs rampant. In addition to offering tools for the small business owner to keep customers coming back, Insureon specializes in small business insurance. This is something to consider, as it could be the difference between disaster and smooth sailing when something like a data breach happens. It’s also an easy way to secure your income and power your growth.
Finally, be smart in assigning costs to your products. Be sure to factor in the cost of running an eCommerce site:
- Cost of materials to make your product
- Cost of your hosting platform (typically per month)
- Percentage credit cards and Paypal will skim off the top
- Additional marketing/advertising/consulting costs
Once these costs are factored in, you can calculate how much profit you want to make. But beware of competition – be sure to research what competitors are charging for similar products and adjust your prices accordingly.
If what you are selling is a physical product, this will also be the time to decide if and how the customer will take on the cost of shipping. When you are deciding on shipping options for your customer, keep in mind 44% of consumers say they abandon an item in their virtual shopping cart due to high cost of shipping and handling. You have options – free shipping across the board, free shipping for orders of a certain size, or a flat rate for shipping might keep your customers from jumping ship too quickly.
This brings us to the last step.
4. Get Certified
Assuming you’re not doing this for the fun of it, you’ll need a way to get paid from all your hard work. You’ll need to set up a merchant account in order to be able to receive credit card payments.
You can go with bigger names such as Paypal, or companies who focus on small business like BluePay. Be sure to research what option works best for your individual needs. Keep in mind you will be charged to set up an account here, but streamlining payment options for your customers make it well worth it.
It is also vital to install an SSL certificate. Organizations must use an SSL certificate to secure their site if they wish to take online payments or expect their visitors to submit confidential information. Apart from building essential trust and security into your website, SSL certificates also help with SEO efforts now that Google is providing a rankings boost for pages that contain SSL certificates. This will also be a recurring payment, but you simply can’t go without one.
Final step: launch! Your eCommerce website is ready to go.
It’s a whole new world, to be sure – so don’t be afraid to get professional advice. You can find resources to guide you through the daunting but worthwhile process here.