Creating a successful online store is not as intuitive as opening a local brick-and-mortar shop, but the results of an effective online presence can be staggering. You will instantly have access to potential customers throughout the world as well as reduce many of the logistical costs that plague new businesses. Anyone that is ready to jump into the world of e-commerce should keep these few tips in mind to make it as easy, affordable, and efficient as possible.
Domain and Hosting
There are quite a few companies that make the process of purchasing domain names and hosting the website easier than ever. For many small business owners, a prepackaged or template website with a name of their choosing will often be enough to get the process going. More experienced business owners will want to consider purchasing a handful of domain names so that other parties do not buy them up in the future. Hosting can generally be purchased from the same company that registered the domain name. This is also a good time to activate and organize social media accounts.
The most difficult part of this process for most small business owners will come down to how payments are made, received, and processed. This is another area where an owner may want to opt for a pre-made business account from a company such as PayPal. These online financial organizations are extremely easy to use, charge little in the way of fees, and often offer support such as customizable “buy now” buttons. A merchant account will also be necessary so that your business can accept Visa, MasterCard, and other major forms of payment. These accounts typically require a small startup fee and will take a small percentage from each payment.
Bringing in Traffic
An e-commerce site will give you unprecedented access to millions of potential customers throughout the world, but it will also increase the amount of competition that you have. Unless you are going to rely solely on word-of-mouth marketing (never advisable for e-commerce sites), you will need to think about optimizing your website. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of making a website more visible to internet traffic. This can become an incredibly complex process, but the basis is simple. The more useful and pertinent your website is, then the more traffic will be directed towards you. You will want to immediately consider starting a blog, linking to your social media accounts, or even paying for some basic advertising at the start.
Build on Your Success
Once your website is up, a merchant account has been created, and you have made that first sale, it is time to start thinking about long-term success. Depending on the industry that you are in, there are a wide variety of other factors that you will need to consider such as how to cheaply ship your products, trademarking, and protecting your website from criminals. Most owners will also want to utilize programs such as Google Analytics to see what is and isn’t working with their business. While online sales may seem impersonal, remember that there is a person behind the computer screen that is purchasing your products or services. It never hurts to send friendly emails or a simple thank you note to turn one-time customers into lifelong clients.
In the end, owners will need to decide exactly how much control they want over their website and how much support they will need. Those that are technically inclined will often be able to cut some corners or manage the website on their own while others will need assistance with graphic design, security, optimization, social media management, and advertising.