Believe it or not, it’s relatively easy to launch an ecommerce website. The hardest part of course is cutting through the noise in the decision making process. But if you follow this guide, you’ll be able to skip all of that and get right to business. In less than an hour, you can have your ecommerce store up and running. You only need four things:
- Products to sell
- A domain name
- A web hosting account
- A way to process payments
Before you even think about putting up a website, you need to be sure about the product, or products that you plan to sell. Ideally, you should pick something that you have an interest in. If you do it this way, you’ll likely have some knowledge about the product. More importantly, you’ll be more motivated to work on your business than if you sell something that doesn’t interest you. You should think about your business in the long term. Imagine yourself working on this business in ten years. Is it something that you would enjoy doing for at least eight hours per day? If not, then you might want to rethink your product selections.
Besides interest, you should run some projections. How much does this product cost wholesale, and how much can you sell it for? How much do you anticipate spending on marketing and advertising? What do you think your average order size will be, and how many customers do you need on a monthly basis to make enough money to see the business as a success? Some products are more profitable than others. Often, high ticket technology items have very low margins, where certain fashion accessories have much better markups.
Last, do some competitor research. Is your industry saturated, or is there space for another player? What is unique about your product? Once you figure all of this out, it’s time to move on to the next step.
Once you’ve decided on a product, you can move on to an important business decision. You must decide whether you will resell other brands, or manufacture your own product. Then, you must decide whether to keep stock of your products, or if you instead prefer to use a drop shipping company. It’s usually easiest to start out by drop shipping. This will keep your up front costs low while you learn your business. Then when you’re ready, you can sell direct for higher margins.
It can take hours to pick a domain name for your company, so it’s helpful to narrow down your choices. Although there are many top level domains today, dot coms are still the best choice for ecommerce websites. However if you can’t find a dot com, then consider a dot io or other domain.
Next, decide whether you want a generic keyword domain, or a branded domain. There are pros and cons to each. First, forget about any SEO benefits to having a keyword domain. Just focus on memorability and branding. Is the domain easy to remember? Does it convey the right feeling? Is it easy to associate with the products that you sell? Will it still be relevant if you expand into other related products? Figure this out, and take your time selecting the right domain name for your business.
The domain name just gives your website an identity. You still need a place to host the files that run your website software. That’s where web hosting comes in, and there are lots of choices. If you want premium hosting, then read this Network Solutions hosting review. It gives you an idea of where to set your expectations if you pay a premium price for your plan. Then, decide what’s most important for your business. If you’re operating on a shoestring, then you might opt for a cheaper hosting company. If you have some extra money to spare, then it might be worth it to not only select a premium company, but to also select a premium plan with more processing power, memory, and storage space.
You have a number of ecommerce platforms to choose from. If you’re operating on a low budget, then go with WordPress. You can install the WooCommerce plugin for free to enable ecommerce on your website. If you have a bit more budget, then you could run a Magento Community website. Just keep in mind that it is a very difficult platform to work with, and you will need a professional web developer to help you. In addition, you’ll need specialized Magento hosting to run such a site, because the platform requires lots of resources. You of course have the option to instead use a platform like Shopify or BigCommerce. The advantage there is that you can be up and running faster, and you won’t need to get a hosting package. However, you’ll lose a lot of flexibility in how you configure your website, which means you have less control over the user experience, SEO, and other factors.
Once you’ve got your products loaded onto your website, it’s time to integrate payment processing. Most ecommerce platforms today have several options built in by default. You can easily follow the prompts to connect services like Paypal or Stripe to your website. Many people enjoy the ease of using Paypal for payment processing. However, Stripe may be more flexible for certain industries. In addition, you could consider bitcoin processing, ACH and other payment options.
The money isn’t going to pour in magically once your website is up and running. You’re going to need to do a considerable amount of work to market your website. In addition, you need to keep up with the latest trends. Keep track of what’s going on in e-commerce in general, as well as in your industry. Do this, and you have a shot at a great future!