how to start an online business 1

Setting up an online store is not like your regular blog or website. It requires careful planning to launch an online store that is not only top class in user-experience but also has hardened security features as your customers would be making online payments for your products and services. It is so important for you to provide personalized and end-to-end shopping experience to attract and retain your customers, understand them better, increase sales and maximize your chances of profit to succeed in your business.

Our earlier blog was all about how going online with your business can benefit you in this digital age. You can read it here (eCommerce solution for your business.)

If you are an entrepreneur planning to start an e-commerce website, it is crucial to spend some time learning and planning about the whole process and understand all the requirements for your e-commerce business.

This blog will help you with some useful tips and ideas on how you can set up an online store.

1. Planning and Research

Before you get down to business, you should have a rough idea of how your online store interface should look and perform by studying some competitor websites that follow a similar business model to what you have in mind.

  • What kind of products are you selling – physical products like toys or books, perishables like food, or virtual goods like music and software? You need to ensure your store can support all such services and variable pricing features.
  • Are you planning to sell your products overseas or just locally? Depending on this, the e-commerce software that you choose should support multiple currencies and multiple languages.
  • Your online store software should support shipping and logistics so that your products reach your customers efficiently and safely.
  • You will also need to set up tax, payment and shipping options to support your business requirements.
  • Consider linking your products from the store to social media pages like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Social media integration of your e-commerce website will greatly improve your online presence.
  • Your e-commerce website needs to be optimized for search engines which is important to help drive traffic and sales to your website. To be competitive online your store should have built-in tools that help you achieve good Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

2. Choosing a Domain Name

Now let’s get down to the basics.

Think about a short and attractive phrase relating to what your business is about so that you can register a suitable domain name which will be the unique online address for your business. Make your domain name catchy and keyword rich so that not only is it brandable and easy to remember but also be search engine friendly. The .com extension should be the primary choice for your e-commerce website if it is available.

3. Web Hosting Service:

Choosing a good web hosting service ensures that your site is up and running. A ecommerce web hosting provider should have the following 5 features: speed, storage, security and good customer support. Storage is determined by the pictures and videos you use for your e-commerce website; both their size and quantity will quickly take up space. Fast load times are important to prevent customers from leaving your site.

4. Setting Up an Online Store Website:

Setting up your e-commerce website requires careful planning, design knowledge, and mainly technical expertise about which e-commerce platform is good for you. Since you are dealing with money and online payments, you will have to consider the security risks involved and the overall experience for your customers.

Basically you will be choosing between two types of online stores:

Hosted — This is essentially a store software that is run on a server provided and maintained by the same company that charges a monthly payment for services. Although these are easy to set up, you will be limited by bandwidth, choice of add-ons and the amount of customization you are able to do when you need to expand your business.

Self-hosted — You or your developer can pay for the server, and download, install, and maintain the ecommerce software on your own. A self-hosted software gives you more control and flexibility over your ecommerce store.

Many online stores prefer open source software such as PrestaShop or Magento which are very popular global solutions. While PrestaShop can be good for smaller to mid-size shops but when it comes to dealing with lot of products and bigger businesses, Magento is the better option. You can make a clear choice by reading more about which e-commerce platform is right for you (Magento vs PrestaShop.)

5. Online Payment Services

To receive funds over the web for products or services, an online store will need a merchant account service and a payment gateway to process credit and debit card payments. Since this service is a business necessity, you need to research the fees, processing costs and terms involved before selecting a provider. Payment gateways have hosted and self-hosted options similar to ecommerce platforms. Self-hosted gateways are integrated via API and can offer a seamless ordering process unlike hosted ones which redirect your customers off your website.

Other points to note are reliability, customer service, and adoption of latest technology to process payments. Make it easy for customers to pay for your products with the right payment gateway.

6. Adding Content and Products

A good Content Management System (CMS) will allow you to add, change and delete your own content and upload new products with images. Open source solutions like PrestaShop and Magento can give you tons of features, make site management easy, provide SEO benefits, give users analytics and reporting and much more.

The content on your website is very important to get your message across to your customers and land a sale. Visitors will be interested in information about your company, privacy policy, and browse through your product listing and blogs. Keep your website updated with data about current industry trends and other relevant information.

7. Promoting Your Website

You have a great e-commerce website, but how do you attract customers to it?

The first step is to implement SEO (search engine optimization) strategy to rank high on searches. This is the most cost-effective marketing technique to boost your online presence.

Social media although not essential can increase customer interaction where you can announce promotional discounts and offers. Link your online store to facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube accounts.

Need Help to Set Up an Online Store?

We have pointed out some of the major steps to setting up your first e-commerce store. It is not an easy process to complete but once you have gone through this blog a few times, you will get an idea of how to begin.

If you would like more information or need some help with your online business, Neologix can recommend the right e-commerce solution for you, and help configure and set up your online store.

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