According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, online businesses are growing much faster than traditional brick and mortar stores.
It makes sense.
Local retail shops, DIY craft makers, and even bloggers are starting to sell their merchandise and services online.
What separates the successes from the failures? Among other things, a strategy and a good website. Without these, you may be setting your eCommerce site up for failure.
Your Guide to Making a Successful E-Commerce Website
First, you’ll need to figure out a few things regarding what you’ll sell. Then, you can get to building your online store! Click below to hop directly to the section you need help with.
- Create your product.
- Determine pricing for your online store.
- Figure out shipping options.
- Choose your eCommerce platform.
- Pick a domain name and brand.
- Build your eCommerce website.
- Set up your merchant account.
- Add a SSL certificate to your website.
- Start selling online!
1. Decide on your product.
If you’ve been pondering setting up an online store for a while, then you may well already have a product in mind. Whether it’s something you make, like handcrafted furniture or handmade soap, or something you’ve found a source for at wholesale prices so you can sell it off at a profit, every online store has to start with a product.
Do some research to make sure your product is viable. Is there already a market out there for your product?
If there is already an established market, consider whether your product is unique enough to break in. Will you be able to compete on pricing?
Develop a MVP and get started.
2. Set your pricing.
Pricing is one of the hardest parts to get right in running a new business.
If you price too low, you’ll lose money or just barely break even – which won’t make the time and effort you put into your online store worth it. If you price too high, you won’t make enough sales and still risk losing money on the whole endeavor.
To figure out the pricing that makes sense you have to first figure out your own costs. That includes:
- the cost of materials to make your product
- web hosting for your eCommerce site
- the percentage credit cards or Paypal will skim off the top
- additional marketing and advertising costs
Then figure out how much you want to add on top to pay yourself (and make a profit!).
Pricing pro tip: Before you set your final pricing, research what your competition is charging. You may get to bump your prices up a bit (oh happy day!), or you may have to lower them in order to stay competitive.
3. Research shipping costs and options.
If you’re selling a physical product, how will you deliver it to customers?
Your impulse may be to pass on the full cost of shipping to the client, and many online stores do take this route. Be warned though that shipping costs can have a strong psychological impact on consumers, with 44% saying they’ve abandoned an online purchase due to high shipping and handing costs.
Instead, consider offering one of these shipping methods:
- Offer free shipping, no questions asked
- Offer free shipping and up your product pricing slightly to cover the cost
- Offer free shipping for orders of a certain size
- Offer a flat shipping fee
4. Choose your eCommerce web hosting.
When it comes to eCommerce, you have two options: use a marketplace that already exists like Etsy or Amazon, or manage a website and brand that’s all your own.
If you want a website and brand that’s all your own, many website hosting platforms (including HostGator) make it easy to find compatible eCommerce options that you can work with in the same space you use to work on your website. This way you can direct people to youronlinestore.com. You look like a real, live store!
An ecommerce software like Magento will make it easy for you to list your products, set your price, and add a shopping cart to the website. They take care of ensuring the process is intuitive for both you and your customers, so you can just focus on selling.
5. Pick a domain name and brand.
This is the fun part! Just think, what will customers be telling their friends when they talked about that awesome new thing they just bought from _____? Fill in the blank with your brand.
Brainstorm words and phrases that say something about the products you’ll be selling, and words and phrases that mean something to you. And be sure to stay away from names that have already been copyrighted by other businesses. Follow these top tips for choosing a domain name for your eCommerce website.
6. Build your eCommerce website.
Many hosting platforms can make at least part of this step easier by providing or a merchant site builder you can work from rather than having to build a website from scratch.
At this stage, you’ll also need to work on writing web copy that describes your wares and helps persuade website visitors to buy.
Once you set up your site, you have to do more than just add your products. In addition to product pages, your eCommerce website should also include the following pages:
- A home page where you feature weekly deals and sale items
- An about page with a brief description of what you do
- A contact or customer service page so customers can easily reach you
- A blog where you post updates, industry news, and helpful tidbits
7. Set up a merchant account.
Online stores need a way to receive money – specifically, a way to receive credit card payments. A merchant account does the very important job of ensuring you can get paid.
You have options that range from big, familiar brand names like Chase and PayPal, to companies more focused on small businesses like BluePay and PaySimple. You will have to pay something to the company in order to get your money, but the ability to accept the money your customers send should make the fees well worth it.
8. Get your SSL certificate.
When you create your site, be sure to install a SSL certificate. These certificates provide the green lock you see next to URLs when you’re shopping online, and they keep your customers’ private data safe.
If customers are going to hand you their private payment information (or more accurately, enter it into a form on your website), you need to make sure the sensitive details will stay safe. An SSL certificate for your website encrypts all the sensitive information customers provide so that hackers won’t be able to grab that credit card information as it’s sent over the web.
9. Start selling!
Now it’s time to start making money.
If you launch your online store and don’t get much traction, then you should start thinking about promotion. Content marketing, social media, and paid promotion are all areas worth looking into to start getting people to your website. Check out our post on cheap, easy ways to start marketing your business.
If you’re not quite ready to make that level of investment in your online store, start with old-fashioned word of mouth. Talk to your friends about it, mention it to professional acquaintances, and bring it up at any events around town likely to attract the kind of people interested in what you’re selling.
Brick and mortar business will likely always be around, but the internet gives users access to a larger selection of products and services. Now, the world has access to YOUR products and YOUR services.
Once your eCommerce website is up and running, take a moment to pat yourself on the back. You’re an entrepreneur now. Then get back to work!
Are you ready to start selling online? At HostGator, we’ll help you get your eCommerce business up and running in no time. Register your domain and get access to award-winning 24/7/365 support.