An e-commerce website is an indispensable asset as it can help you sell products or services and reach more customers. Besides driving sales, it can also provide a learning opportunity about the business world. Best of all, starting an e-commerce website is usually pretty affordable than starting a brick-and-mortar store.
A stylish functional website can also set you apart in your niche. With great marketing and an excellent product, you can achieve success. So, it’s really important that you invest in an e-commerce website. Although this may sound like an ominous task, our handy guide will walk you through the steps. After that, you will know how to create a successful e-commerce website.
1. Find a Product and Direction
Before you set up your e-commerce website, you’ll need to establish a couple of things. The first is to figure out the product or service you will sell. You’ve probably given it some thought, but if not, now is the time to think about what you have to offer. It is also a good time to look into sourcing items or planning how you will offer services.
When it comes to sourcing items, you can choose to work with local vendors or go to overseas wholesalers. Look beyond price, as it’s difficult to keep up with overseas sellers. Instead, try to determine what you can offer and how you can do it better than the competition.
A good starting place when building an e-commerce website is to draft a business plan. Your business plan should include the basics, ideally, where you’ll source products, projected sales, product pricing, marketing strategies, and operational costs. Also, include a mission and or vision statement to create a concise focus.
2. Choose an E-Commerce Website Platform
With the basics out of the way, it’s time to start setting up an actual website. But before you start creating listings, you have to choose the platform on which to build your online store. Over a dozen options are available, including easy-to-use sites like Wix, Shopify, or Square. However, if you already have a website set up using WordPress, you can consider using Woo Commerce to transform your website into an online store.
Shopify is a great choice for most people. As well as being affordable, it offers lots of plugins and room to grow. Additionally, you don’t have to worry about learning to set up a complete website as they have easy-to-use templates. The cheapest account for Shopify costs $39 a month with an added transaction charge for credit card processing.
3. Create Product Images and Store Logo
Once you pick the best platform for your e-commerce website, you can go ahead and take photos of your products or other media. You will also need a logo for branding purposes. Whether you opt for a small square logo or a larger rectangular one, make sure your logos and branding match.
In addition to creating a logo, you’re also going to need listing photos for the items you plan to sell. While you don’t need to get a professional photographer to take these pictures, it is critical that you get good images. This means using a good camera and setting up somewhere to take the pictures. Ideally, you want good lighting that surrounds the product and a white background.
Depending on what you’re selling, you may also want to photograph the item being used. For example, you can model clothing and jewelry. If selling an accessory like a phone case, make sure a phone is inside of it. In addition to images, you’re going to need well-written product descriptions. They should describe how the item works, highlight its features, and have a call to action to encourage customers to buy it.
4. E-Commerce Website Landing Pages and Layout
Next up is perhaps the most important stage in your quest to create a successful e-commerce website, and that’s designing your landing page and inner pages. Your customers will first see the homepage, so you’ll want to pay close attention to it. Make sure it highlights your popular items, has impeccable images, and has scannable content.
You should also add a couple of other pages, such as an “About Us” and “Contact” page. An “FAQ” page is also a good idea as it provides answers to some questions your customers may have. Remember to add a page that outlines your return, cancellation, and shipping policies.
When creating different landing pages, it is important to keep a cohesive brand image. Try to use simple and easy-to-read colors such as black and white while adding images and other media to keep the shopper’s attention. As you’re designing the pages, put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Make sure the website is visually pleasing, informative, and provides a great first experience.
5. List the First Item
Once you set up your website, it’s time to list your first item. This should be fairly simple if you have the product images and accompanying descriptions. Make sure each product has a concise title that explains what the product is. Then simply add in your pre-written item description.
Below the description, you may choose to add details about your return and shipping policies. Next, you need to add some of the pictures you took earlier. Some photos may require basic edits, such as cropping or resizing. It’s also a good idea to add as many photos of the product as possible. Finally, add the product price, including any shipping fee.
6..Think About Shipping and Returns
Before you activate your website and product listings, it’s a good idea to think about shipping and returns. Unfortunately, some eager sellers overlook both. Planning ahead can save you a lot of trouble later. A major rookie mistake that online sellers make is underpricing shipping costs, which ends up costing them money.
Shipping costs have gone up astronomically. It may sound like a good idea to offer free shipping, but it will quickly eat into your profits. If you do decide to offer free shipping, be sure that you know how much each item costs to ship. Otherwise, you can establish shipping rates for each item or even have your website program calculate shipping rates depending on location.
Finally, returns are an unfortunate reality in any retail business. While some are quick to offer no returns, it is usually a bad idea. Not accepting any returns may drive away customers. However, for large and bulky items, a return may not be worth them. So, come up with a plan for returns and how you will handle them. But be flexible enough for extenuating circumstances.
7. Make the First Sale
At this point, everything is all setup. All that is left is to activate your website and wait for the first sale. Depending on your niche and product demand, it may take quite a while to make the first sale. Not to mention, it may take some months for your website to top search rankings and pull in more traffic.
We will go into the marketing aspect of your website shortly, but it’s usually not a good idea to start offering large discounts on items right off the bat. Doing this early may devalue your items in the future and compromise future sales. Eventually, the first sale will come, and you need to take a couple of steps once that happens.
For physical items, you need to ship them as soon as possible. Ideally, you either have a distribution system set up or an organization system to fulfill orders quickly. It’s important to make your new business look professional. Firstly you should get a label printer or even inkjet labels rather than just taping pieces of paper to a box.
Similarly, you should source affordable boxes instead of reusing old ones. It’s not a must you brand them, but it is something you can consider later. Presentation matters and makes a first impression. So, pack the item properly so it arrives safely.
Before you tape a box, you may want to toss in a coupon code for future purchases or even a flyer about your other offerings. Some people also choose to throw in other items like magnets to help buyers remember them. After shipping the item, the work is not over yet. Make sure the e-commerce website is set to send product delivery notifications and includes a survey of customer experience.
8. Grow Your E-Commerce Website
After establishing your e-commerce website, you can publish information blog posts or even some product information articles. For instance, you could add tutorials and how-to guides or even embed instructional videos. All these can help drive new traffic through SEO, and keep people on your site longer.
A good e-commerce website has more than just a bunch of product listings. Remember that your website helps build relationships with customers, and that is more than just a store. Another important addition is customer reviews. You can integrate a customer review function using a plug-in, so buyers leave feedback. This can help build trust around your store and products.
It is also a good idea to add a newsletter option. That way, you can send emails to interested customers. You can let customers opt into this when they make a purchase, or add a signup form on your site. Most e-commerce platforms offer a newsletter option. You can use the newsletter tool to send out emails to customers who abandoned their carts or even send a coupon code.
Looking Ahead at Your E-Commerce Website
Making that first sale, and subsequent sales is a pleasant experience. But you need to do more for continued success. It’s crucial you plan and strategize how to grow your business and increase sales. Expect bumps early on before your e-commerce website takes off, so don’t let emotions get the best of you.
Try out different pricing strategies and marketing tactics to see which works best. Remember, your competition won’t be sleeping if you’re doing well. So, you want to make sure your website is SEO optimized and delivers a good customer experience, so you can remain on top.
It’s also essential that you work on getting your products on Google’s shopping listings. Depending on your e-commerce platform, you can use promoted listings and ads on various websites to market your products. Just because you are using an e-commerce website doesn’t mean you can’t advertise locally, either. Take advantage of free marketing opportunities, including social media.
E-Commerce Website Business Basics
It’s one thing to create a successful e-commerce website and another to keep it running smoothly. A lot of new shop owners overlook bookkeeping when starting an e-commerce website. While it’s fairly easy to keep track of sales, many first-time sellers don’t have the best record-keeping practices. Having a system in place early will save you major headaches down the road. You can use QuickBooks or a simple spreadsheet for a start.
But keeping good records is only one part of managing your business. You should regularly review sales data to see how different items are selling and adjust inventory and pricing as necessary. However, one of the most important things new e-commerce entrepreneurs fail to consider is taxes. When you start making money on your e-commerce website platform, you will have to pay taxes on your income.
Laws and regulations vary throughout the US and the world, so you should consult with an accountant or carefully read over existing regulations in your area. Doing this research in the early stages prevents you from getting a major and costly surprise later. You should also inquire locally about business licenses and other necessary paperwork.
This video also includes some tips to help your marketing strategy for your new e-commerce website:
Maximize Sales Channels
Just because you know how to create a successful e-commerce website or have an operational store doesn’t mean it’s your only avenue for selling items. You can also expand to selling on other sites like Etsy, eBay, and Amazon. Just remember that these marketplaces do take a substantial portion of your item’s selling price. The good thing is that if you use Shopify, you can manage these other sales channels and listings with your website.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Piotr Swat/Shutterstock.com.