With the number of consumers shopping online increasing significantly on a daily basis, it is very important as a business owner to start selling your product online and get in on the action. Regardless of whether you already have an existing product currently sold at brick & mortar stores or whether you are introducing a new product, it is a good idea to create an online store.
Selling your product online can help your business grow significantly especially since your market reach is beyond just the people walking into a local store; it can be the whole country or even global. In addition to providing a greater reach and wider customer base, an online store has many other advantages too. Another such example is lowered operating costs providing you with a rent free store requiring less maintenance and employee hours to manage. Selling online can also allow you to provide more competitive pricing because your overhead costs are less, products can be stored at a single warehouse and simply shipped out to a customer as orders are placed.
Setting up an online business can be relatively easy, but there are a number of things that are required to get started. Below is an outline of the things you need to open an e-commerce store and start an online business:
- The Product: One of the most important aspects of launching a successful online store is having the right product to sell. The advantage with using the internet is that the product can be almost anything, regardless of size or price it can still be sold online and shipped to the customer. Although relatively anything can be sold over the internet it is important to have a good product that has a good demand for online purchasing as well as a product that will be easy to handle in terms of logistics and shipping. Also since an e-commerce store is a business that is run online the product does not necessarily have to be a tangible item, it can be a computer software, program or e-book that can be downloaded straight to the buyers PC.
- A Good Domain Name: Before even starting to build your online e-commerce store you must secure your business domain name. The domain name is the address where the e-commerce website can be found on the internet. Choosing the right domain name can have an impact on the success of your store and it is important to select something that includes the brand name or business name. It is also important to consider how easy it is to remember and type in as this how people are going to find your online store. Most business domain names end with .com or .net, but you can obtain more specific domain names relevant to your locality.
- A Website: If you plan on starting an online business then a quality website is probably the most important aspect. The website will behave as your business hub and will act as the main point of sale and contact with customers. Your business website can be created using available e-commerce software or by hiring the services of a professional web designer. Although it may cost slightly more, we recommend going with a professional web design company. The reason for this is a professionally developed website can be customized to your specific requirements and you will have complete control of what the website looks like and how it functions. The user experience of your shopping cart and browsing experience of your products must be properly streamlined and made easy, especially since the attention span of internet users is very small.
- Web Hosting Services: Once you have a quality website ready the next step would be to make your website available for your customers to access online, this is where web hosting comes into play. A web hosting service provider will publish your website online so that it can be accessed using your domain name. The service providers store your website data files and make them available for viewing online. With an e-commerce site it is important to select a good web hosting provider that has quick support and maximum up-time.
- Merchant services provider: Since an online business can in no way accept cash payments via the website a merchant services provider is required to handle and process credit card payments. The service provider acts as a link between the customer and the credit card company, transferring money from the credit account to the merchant account. One such payment processing provider is ‘e-way’. You will also need to set up a merchant account with your financial institution to accept payment deposits. Another option is to accept PayPal, setting up a PayPal payment gateway is fairly simple and just involves signing up to pay pal, you will be charged a small percentage of each sale for this service.
- Marketing: The final stage of launching and running a successful online store is to market it. There is no point having a brilliant website selling an exceptional product if no one knows about it. You must get your name out there and inform people of what your e-commerce website has to offer. There are a variety of online marketing strategies that can be used, some of which include social media marketing, e-mail marketing, and pay-per-click advertising. Search Engine Optimization or SEO is another important part of online marketing yielding results in the long term. SEO provides your website with ranking with search engines so that your website shows up amongst the top results when a relevant search is made.