Starting an e-commerce store on your website could seem like a big task to take on if you have never done it before. Maybe you have a fully developed website and are looking to add an e-commerce component, or you could be building a website from the ground up. In any case, you need to know where exactly it is that you should begin.
As a marketing agency, we deal a lot with clients that have set up e-commerce stores at various parts of their online marketing journey, and we have used that information to synthesize what exactly it is that you should do in those beginning stages.
1. Establish Your Product List
The first thing you need to do when setting up an e-commerce store is figure out what you are going to be selling! This seems obvious, but you may not want to dive in immediately with all of the products that you (eventually) want to put on your site. This is definitely one of the more challenging part of starting up.
Once you have a product (or products) in mind, you are going to want to closely evaluate your choices. What are the projections for what you are going to sell and how much inventory are you going to need to have out the gate? The next step, of course is to understand where and how you will be obtaining the products and what kind of relationship you will have with your vendors. All of this should be done before you actually build anything online. This initial step of getting organized and doing background research is going to make or break the success of your e-commerce site from the start.
2. Professional Product Photography
One step that people often neglect when initially setting up an e-commerce store is featuring an original and professional photo for each product that they want to sell. This really makes such difference in presentation and the quality that your store presents. While this is an investment up front, good professional photography can actually make a huge difference in conversions.
People like to view images of the products they are about to purchase, especially if they are solely going to look online, and the better quality the image, the better quality image the better quality the customer will assume the product is.
One of the best ways to find a photographer is by doing a local search for photographers that specialize in product photography. If you contact them and explain that you are setting up your store they will know how to direct a shoot and get you going.
3. Merchant Services
Another decision you are going to have to make is what kind of merchant services you want to use on your website. Many companies choose to go with PayPal, which has its own set of positives (like that it is extremely easy to set up and link to your site) and disadvantages.
If you have people working in web design or your finance department that are familiar, they may be able to advise you on what the best option is for your business specifically. The key here is to do your research and make sure it is going to be an easy platform for customers to use and that it will be cost effective for your company.
If you already have a physical store you may need to re-evaluate some of the pricing on products depending on stock, shipping & handling, and other factors that may change in your online store. Again, this is going to be one of the things to discuss with your finance department (if you have one). Otherwise, do the research to figure out if there is any reason to mark up (or perhaps even discount if there is less overhead) the products on your online store.
Another thing to consider is what kind of products are actually suitable for online sales. For example, products over $1000 are going typically something that people either want to see in person or at least speak with someone over the phone. Forbes recommends considering the following four things when it comes to pricing:
- Local Availability
- Shipping Size
As you can tell at this point, your product list, product photography, merchant services, and pricing is all background work that needs to be done before you can officially launch your store.
Think of these four elements as the “getting your ducks in a row” of setting up an e-commerce store. You can’t launch one without them, but you also will be very set to get going once all of this footwork is done.
5. Setting Up the Website
Of course, an article on “where to begin” an e-commerce store would not be complete without a section on actually setting up a website.
As you are doing steps 1-4 and getting everything established, you may want to consider adding a new page to your existing site that says “Coming Soon,” so that people know to expect your e-commerce store in their next couple of visits.
Choose an e-commerce Platform
You are going to want to choose an e-commerce platform to manage this component of your website. Some, like OpenCart are free—while others like Shopify run about $14/month. This is a very reasonable software price and it will help you manage every aspect of your e-commerce site, from products, categories, checkout process, and other functional aspects.
Shopify is very streamline and super easy to get started with immediately, while OpenCart allows you a lot more control over technical functions.
Of course, these are just two of many platforms you can choose from.
If you don’t already have one set up you are absolutely going to want to have live chat software installed on your site. This will give customers a sense of ease that they can get their questions answered before making their purchase and it will definitely help your conversion rates.
There is a lot to take into account when you set up an e-commerce site, but don't get discouraged. The key to getting it going is really staying organized and getting all of the foundational work done before you put the site live or launch any part of the actual site.
If you hold off on actually building the site until you have everything ready to go, it will actually be a fairly easy task to build the site; especially with all of the helpful software and tools that exists.
What are your thoughts on building an e-commerce site? Do you have any experience building your own site? Share your experience or thoughts in the comments section below.