There are two types of businesses in this day and age — those who have an online store and those who are thinking about starting an online store . If you’re reading this, you’re probably in the latter camp. Perhaps this is your first business venture, or perhaps you’re a seasoned entrepreneur who’s dipping their feet into the world of ecommerce. Wherever you are in your entrepreneurial journey, knowing how to tick all the boxes when starting an online store is a must. There’s not only design to think about, but financials, linking the ecommerce store to an accounting system, website hosting, legalities and marketing to consider as well. Read on to find out what you need to know to get up and running.
From marijuana to old ladies — online shopping didn’t emerge the way you’d think
As hot a trend as online stores currently are, the act of selling online has been happening since the early 70s — and the very first online transaction was a drug deal. Don’t believe us? Check out this Guardian newspaper article for more information. Ten odd years later, a 74 year old woman become the first above-board online home shopper to buy groceries from supermarket Tesco. Since then, starting an online store has increasingly become an onus on business owners looking to stay ahead of the curve and the competition and to delight their customers.
Here are some of the most important things to plan out before making that first sale online:
The technical side of things
Starting an online store involves the same technical considerations as starting a regular website. The site needs to be hosted (a cost that should be factored into your budgeting) by a hosting company — make sure you choose one that is reliable. Before signing up, find out how often their servers are down for maintenance. An unreliable provider will hamper your ability to make sales — isn’t the beauty of having an ecommerce store the fact you’re open for business 24/7?
Marketing starts with knowing who your customer base is and what makes them tick. Once you’ve got that down, you can work out how you’re going to make sure these people know you exist. The online space makes it both easier and harder for people to find your products. That’s why an effective marketing plan is so important for guaranteeing you commercial success. Blogging, search engine optimisation, AdWords and social media are all vital tools in this aspect. Check out our previous blog for more details about these inbound marketing factors work.
Design and UX
Design and UX (user experience) play a huge role in whether visitors to your online store stay long enough to make a purchase or leave rapidly. As we highlighted in our blog about becoming a master of ecommerce design, a huge percentage of online shoppers simply abandon their carts if the going gets tough. And by tough, we mean that the online store is poorly designed and difficult to navigate. Think about the last time you shopped online and had a good experience. Try to think about what made it so easy to purchase your items. Did you only have to click a few times to get to checkout? Was searching for products easy and intuitive? If you had any queries, were they answered quickly by the store’s staff? All these factors will influence whether your visitors become customers or not.
Without a payment gateway, there is no online store, and no way for your customers to pay you. Choosing the right payment gateway is important for your business, as well as for your customers. Make sure whichever one you go with is PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant to ensure the protection of both you and your customers’ sensitive payment data. Choosing a platform that lets you build and manage your ecommerce store and integrate it with a payment gate is the wisest option.
It might not be the most glamourous aspect of running a business, but accounting is just one of those necessary evils. Fortunately, technology has made it easy for those not gifted in the numbers department to manage their finances. This is where online accounting packages come in. Find one that integrates seamlessly with your online store, and you’re laughing.
Quality control and delivery
The story doesn’t end after you’ve sold a product and received the funds. How your products are delivered safely and quickly to your customers is another key concern for you, the store owner. What’s more, you’ve got to make sure the product reaches them as it left you. Consider whether you’ll use a courier service or PostNet. If your customers are within a 100km radius of you, it might be feasible to deliver the product yourself, allowing you full control over the whole delivery process. Most importantly, listen to your customers’ feedback after they’ve received their goods.
Staying on the pulse of ecommerce trends and developments
Want some first hand experience of how to set up and run an ecommerce store? Sign up for a free trial of Sage Online Tools today. Otherwise, come see us in person at the the eCommerce Africa Confex happening 17-18th February 2016 at Cape Town’s CTICC. Expect conference sessions, an exhibition showcase, industry thought leaders, pioneering suppliers, and over 1,500 other attendees all interested in the latest ecommerce trends and developments.
A tech demo of Sage Online Tools and its payment gateway Sage Pay will take place at 10am on 18th February at the Sage Online Tools stand in Area One, led by SOT’s product manager and Sage Pay’s channel manager. Come by and say hello!