How to Build an Online Store and Why to Sell Online
Traditional brick-and-mortar stores are expensive to set up and maintain. They’re also limited in terms of how many people they can reach. At the same time, they have the advantage of allowing you to strike up candid conversations with visitors, get instant feedback, and guide them towards a purchase. Like all business models, there are pros and cons.
If you have a retail store and want to expand without the large overhead costs or you want to get your feet wet in retail without shelling out tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars for a location then an eCommerce website may be what you need. It gives you greater reach and comes with lower overhead costs.
What is an eCommerce website?
An eCommerce website can go by many names like an online shop, online store, eCommerce storefront, etc. The name isn’t as important as what it’s designed to do. It’s an outlet or storefront which manufacturers, retailers, and even distributors use to sell their products and services online at any time in a much larger geographic area than a physical location. An eCommerce website can be direct to consumer (DTC), or business to business (B2B).
What to look for in eCommerce website builders
When you begin to learn more about eCommerce websites, you’ll find out that there are many online software programs designed to make building your own website easy. They range from less to a hundred dollars to thousands of dollars depending on what you need. Here are a few things to consider when trying to determine the best one for your situation.
An eCommerce website that looks like every other one is far from ideal. One of the first things to look at is the ability to customize the store design. Can CSS and HTML be added or tweaked? Can the templates be changed or fully adjusted? How flexible is the editor and how many elements does it have? Bigcommerce is an eCommerce builder that gives you a lot of control over website design.
Without accurate inventory tracking, it’s nearly impossible to maximize profits and keep an eCommerce store well-stocked. Any eCommerce builder you choose should have multiple inventory controls and give you notifications when stock is low. Square Online is an eCommerce builder that does this and so much more for its customers.
Multiple payment options
The simple act of providing multiple payment options to customers can increase conversions – especially if the website is new. An eCommerce builder should have direct integrations with popular services like Stripe and PayPal and alternatives payment options like Google Pay and Apple Pay. Wix does a great job of providing multiple payment gateways.
Why should you sell online?
There are many benefits to be gained by selling online but one of the biggest is being able to get in front of more customers with less effort. You don’t need to open up large retail outlets which have their own fixed costs and staff. 10 people managing an online store can produce the same revenue as multiple retail outlets with 10 staff members each. In addition to a larger reach, you can also display tens of thousands of products. That simply isn’t possible with a physical location.
Five steps to build an eCommerce website
Do preliminary research
Starting an eCommerce website can be lucrative but it also requires a different set of skills and a unique approach to marketing. Take the time to understand the advertising channels you can use, eCommerce website design, your target audience, etc. It’s also a good idea to research your competition to see what they’re emphasizing in their marketing, their site design, and the kind of market they’re targeting.
Choose a website builder and set up your storefront
When you’ve completed your research, it’s time to get your website set up. You will need a custom domain that should be the same as your brand name. If you’re starting from scratch then try to strike a balance between a descriptive and branded domain name.
There are many eCommerce website builders to choose from and a few have already been mentioned. Before you choose one, make a list of the must-have features you’re looking for. Do you want control of CSS and HTML, do you need a drag-and-drop editor, is a large number of templates important, or are you interested in specific payment processors? When your list is complete, only focus on the options that meet the criteria you set.
The next step is creating the website. If you chose the website builder properly, you’ll be able to do this yourself by taking advantage of the professional-looking templates and intuitive interface. If it doesn’t have those things then you may need to continue searching for the right eCommerce website builder.
Customize your new website
The customization aspect is what you’ll spend the most time on. It’s not because it’s difficult but because it’s an ongoing process. You can speed this up a bit by choosing a template that has layout and overall feel you’re going for.
When customizing, there are a few key things you should keep in mind. The color palette should match your brand but also use shades that are inviting to your visitors. Incorporate trust factors such as an https website, clear contact information, and trust seals. Use a clean and minimal design that highlights your products and take the time to create compelling product imagery.
Integrate with payment and fulfillment providers
After you’ve designed your eCommerce website and are happy with the end result, move on to your payment processors. Before choosing the eCommerce website builder, you should have confirmed that it works with the payment processors you already have a business relationship with. Getting set up is a matter of copying codes from one place to another. If not, consider where you want to sell your products. Will you offer your items to customers all over the world or just in a specific country? This will have a big impact on the payment processor you choose.
Setting up fulfillment may be more difficult. Some eCommerce website builders have direct integrations with popular shipping services like DHL or UPS. Others have a plugin library that contains apps that are designed to help you get real-time shipping quotes and reduce your costs. This is an important area so spend time getting it right because it can eat into your profit when not set up properly.
Promote, collect feedback, repeat
Even if you have a solid customer base offline, it’ll be an uphill battle to establish a reputation online. That’s due in part because you’re competing on a global scale instead of within a limited geographic region. Your customers have near-limitless choice.
In order to grow your store beyond a few sales, it’s necessary to promote it far and wide using a variety of strategies. In the short term, you’d focus more on social marketing strategies like paid ads on Facebook and Instagram. You could also focus on things like search engine marketing (paid ads on search engines). The exact mix you choose will depend on your budget, your skillset, and your niche.
Longer term strategies include search engine optimization, building an email mailing list, and forging partnerships. Both long term and short term strategies have a place so focus your attention on both of them.
Another area you want to prioritize is collecting feedback. The feedback you collect will be in the form of reviews or testimonials. You can display them prominently on your website to make it easier for people to purchase your products. The other type of feedback is related to your products. Did the product meet expectations, where can you improve, would they recommend it to their friends or family, etc.? This feedback is important because it helps you improve over time based on the opinions of real customers – not your gut feelings.
An online store is a powerful way to grow your brand or launch it from scratch. There are many tools that will help you succeed such as eCommerce website builders, advertising platforms, and social media platforms. They’re only as effective as you make them. The first step is understanding how to use them properly so you can reach your goals. If you’re looking for the right eCommerce website builder then be sure to check out our helpful reviews so you can quickly shortlist the best candidates based on your situation.