How to start an ecommerce website to sell online
Are you tired of trying to find customers — sick of peddling products at farmer’s markets, sitting in your store waiting for people to walk through the door, and struggling to make sales even though you have a product that people love? Well, it sounds like it’s time to set up an ecommerce website.
An ecommerce website is an extension of your business that reaches wider than any local marketing promotion or storefront.
With an online store, your customer base is no longer limited to the people walking by your booth or browsing the shelves of your store. Your customer base becomes the entire country — more than 300 million people who can browse and purchase your products. You have the power to sell online to anyone in the United States and even the world.
Realizing the full power of an ecommerce website
Ecommerce stores give businesses the power to act big, but remain small. Through professional and powerful, yet affordable, online storefronts, businesses can reach an extremely large market and sell to a vast and wide customer base.
Estimations of U.S. online sales for 2015 range between $325 and $347 billion — and that number is only expected to grow. The same projections put ecommerce sales at roughly $414 billion to $491 billion by 2018. Wow.
Online stores give small businesses the opportunity to tap into a massive marketplace and an entire nation of shoppers. With so much power and possibility in online shopping, you’d think there would be a lot to setting up an online store. But selling online is easier than you think.
Three options to help you sell online
An ecommerce website is essentially made up of three basic elements:
A payment processing platform — a tool that manages financial transactions.
A storefront — including product and shopping cart pages.
Website hosting — service that makes a website visible on the web.
While this list is small, it might seem intimidating to producers and business managers. When your talent is running a brick-and-mortar business and creating products, coding websites is probably not something you want to add to your list of things to-do.
But you don’t need to be an Internet expert or professional coder to sell online. There are ecommerce integration options for all skill levels.
Option 1: Add standalone payment processing
This is the most technically advanced method for creating an ecommerce website because you will need to open a merchant account and add it to your website. This option does not include a full storefront, and you’ll need to have a website already live on the web.
A merchant account is a tool that allows you collect payment via your website.
This usually appears as a “Pay Now” button (like options from PayPal) or a shopping cart (like options from SamCart). To integrate these payment tools, you might need to add extra code and programming to your website.
Option 2: Add an ecommerce plugin
A less advanced but still somewhat technical option is adding an ecommerce plugin to your site. This adds a payment processing feature as well as pre-designed product pages and a shopping cart.
WooCommerce is the most popular and widely used online store plugin for WordPress websites. It can be added to most themes, and there are also Woocommerce-friendly themes designed specifically for ecommerce websites. WordPress themes that support WooCommerce offer a well-designed shop and user experience, and will require less customization and coding on your part.
Option 3: Set up an ecommerce website package
The easiest and fastest way to get your online shop up and running is using a templated ecommerce store. With this option, you get it all in one quick install. An ecommerce website package includes an online shop website theme, product pages, shopping cart, payment processing feature and hosting for the site.
Instead of building your store piece by piece, you can install the whole store at once. GoDaddy has an Online Store option that includes all of these essentials plus 24/7 customer support, tools for integrating with Facebook and Google Analytics, and more.
Important elements of an ecommerce website
While there are only a few essential elements that you must have to create an online store, there are many other components that will help you get the most out of your ecommerce shop. Before you start to sell online, consider the following elements and how you want to handle and manage each.
Product details and photos
Don’t just post product pages and hope your items will sell. Instead, create interesting and useful product detail pages with sales copy that lists benefits, features and specifications. And be sure to include photos that show the product in detail.
Calculate the cost of shipping your products, and select a shipping method (free, flat rate or weight-based) that will best serve your customers and business. Consider free shipping as this has been proven to decrease shopping cart abandonment and increase sales.
Decide if you are going to ship outside of the U.S. and create a shipping policy for international sales that includes extra costs and days for delivery.
Don’t forget about taxes when you sell online. Talk to an accountant to determine whether or not you should charge tax on your online sales.
Term and conditions
Clearly post a refunds and terms of service policy on your website and prompt users to agree to it before they make a purchase.
Within your store, you have options for creating coupons for discounted rates or on individual products. Explore how you can use coupons to reward new or loyal customers.
Many storefront include a review feature. More than half of customers read reviews before making a purchase, so encourage your happy customers to leave reviews after their purchases.
The last element is quite possibly the most important. Before you sell online, decide how you will fulfill your orders. Review the logistics of managing new orders and create a checklist that takes an order from beginning to end. Planning ahead and knowing the process will help you properly set expectations and avoid late deliveries and unhappy customers.
Ecommerce: A new frontier
An ecommerce website can open a large, new frontier for your business. You will be able to sell to millions around the country instead of the thousands in your neighborhood. You will be able to tap into a billion dollar market. And, you will be able to give your business an opportunity to expand and grow with minimal risk and low investment costs.
So, stop waiting to launch your site because you think it will be difficult or expensive. Use these tips to open your store, start with a few products, and watch your ecommerce website work for your business.
Originally published at Garage.