Creating an online, virtual shopping experience for your customers is a vital component and stepping stone to creating a successful business. From Amazon to the most niche of clothing companies, most businesses have a storefront where you can digitally peruse a selection of goods and make a purchase. We call this eCommerce.
Let’s jump right in and get you set up with your own eCommerce website, starting with the first and most important step:
When choosing the right platform, you have three basic essential types to choose from. These are:
SaaS, or ‘software as a service’, is quick, cheap and easy—ideal for a small business. Look to providers such as Elementor (WordPress) for building the initial website, then I recommend plugins such as Will Commerce and Square to create the online store. The great thing about using Elementor with eCommerce plugins is that you can make the store your own and not be bound by the limitations of more popular platforms such as Shopify.
On the other hand, I do not recommend an off-the-shelf platform. In my view, they force the vendor into using a standard format which creates a market stall atmosphere and tend to look very samey. Here, you lack the ability to make the store own and there are fewer options for translating your business model onto your website.
As for bespoke solutions, you are looking at investing quite a lot more money to get an exact fit, as they generally give you precisely what you are looking for with an eCommerce platform. If you have the money, a bespoke solution is a more efficient method due to being optimised for the requirements of your build and come without the excess fluff that’s included with off-the-shelf platforms.
Now it’s time for the more fun and creative part: your website’s name. A good name tells a story and encompasses the essence of your brand, so ensure that you do plenty of market research to ensure that it’s search engine optimised and resonates with your target audience.
Domain names are generally bought from a hosting company or a domain registrar, but many hosting companies also offer their own web builder packages to save time and money. Do plenty of research into the cheapest deals, as website builders such as Wix can charge a high amount to keep your domain running for 12 months.
Do not be deterred if your ideal domain name is already taken. Hit up the thesaurus and look for synonyms for alternative terms, but try to be as original as you can.
An SSL certificate is a mandatory component in securing any communications between a visitor’s web browser and the host of your website. You can tell if a website is certified if it has a padlock icon just to the left of the title bar.
Luckily, there are many hosting platforms that will handle SSL for you, but with a cost. The price varies depending on the provider, so cater that into your requirements shopping around for the best platform.
The most common SSL certificate providers include Digicert, GoDaddy, RapidSSL, but there are many others. Do some shopping around to determine which provider suits you best.
Part of being an online retailer means setting up an IMA, an internet bank account that is another mandatory step to receiving payments from your shoppers. IMAS are different to regular online bank accounts as you have no direct access to the generated income until the bank clears it.
Getting an IMA is simple enough and is done by contacting your high-street bank and requesting an IMA. They will want to see important information such as:
To begin selling online, you must be completely compliant with the guidelines issued by the Payment Card Industry Security Standard Council, or ‘PCI’ as I’ll be referring to them going forward. The PCI is responsible for outlining the best practices for online card processing, governing any business that deals with credit/debit card data.
The level of compliance you must observe will depend on the size and scope of your business. Smaller merchants can simply complete an online form, and there are no worries for anyone using a SaaS provider, as they handle everything related to PCI. Likewise, if you are not directly handling credit/debit card information, you should be fine.
Shop around and do your research to find the most fitting platform to host your new online store. No matter the size or scope of your business, there is something out there to suit your requirements. Just remember: off-the-shelf software is more restrictive and limited in its functionality, I yet again recommend either SaaS or a bespoke provider.
And as always, watch this space for more blog posts, news and updates from the Apples & Pears family. We have regular events coming up soon which you can check out by following this link.