This blog post is recently updated on 05 July 2019.
As people are spending more time and more money to shop online, starting ecommerce business has emerged as a promising option for several would-be entrepreneurs. One big advantage of ecommerce is that anyone can launch the business from any part of the world. You can simply create your own website once you identify the right product or idea. Click To Tweet
If you are still in a dilemma about whether you should walk down this path, consider the following statistics that show what a promising filed this is going to be:
- In 2019, a whopping 1.92 billion people will purchase something online.
- Though ecommerce is just about 5% of omnichannel spending, it drives 40% of its growth.
- By 2021, 72% of ecommerce transactions will take place on a mobile device.
If you still need proof of how booming the online retail space is, take a look at the image below that shows why this is the right time to launch your ecommerce business and put in every effort to grow it.In fact, according to Statista, consumers all over the world are predicted to spend up to $4.8 trillion online in 2021, as depicted in the image below.
Related Article: How to Start a Clothing Store Online – Ecommerce Tips
Most people think starting an ecommerce business is extremely simple as you just need to create a website, gather some products, click photographs, and upload them on your website to earn money. Though the process is similar to this commonly held belief, there are a few important things that every business owner should consider before starting an online selling platform.
Just like any new business, ecommerce takes a lot of effort, dedication, and patience. You need to be convincing enough to make customers purchase from your newly launched website. Click To TweetOf course, you can start your own ecommerce business in a few steps. All you need is a domain name, hosting space, and some products that your buyers would purchase. However, the real challenge comes in at the later stages when you must sustain and grow your business. So, it pays to plan well and get clarity about what you want your business to achieve before jumping in.
Following are the top six questions that every entrepreneur should ask before starting their own ecommerce store.
Top 6 Questions Asked Before Starting Ecommerce Business
Dedicated Hosting vs. Shared Hosting–The Ideal Choice for Starting Ecommerce Business
Businesses, large and small,have a wide range of options when it comes to selecting the hosting plans. There are multiple platforms dealing with hosting, but the most common issue most business owners face is whether to go with a dedicated hosting or shared hosting. Before giving an answer to this question, let’s examine what each brings to the table.
Dedicated Hosting – It is a type of hosting where you have an entire server — the whole machine — all to yourself. This is just like renting a whole house and having total control over the rooms, when to come, and how to manage the furniture. No other websites are hosted on your server. Dedicated hosting gives you full control of your hosting – right from the machine-level configurations to your control panel dashboard settings.
Shared Hosting – This is another option available to you where you share the space with many other websites. It is like renting a room in a multi-apartment building where all other rooms are occupied by other tenants. You have no actual control over the building and cannot limit the number of visitors.
If you understand the complications that are a part and parcel of ecommerce businesses, you would want to know the benefits of opting for dedicated hosting, which are as follows:
- Unmatched security over payment transactions and other customer details
- Dedicated server resources (as they aren’t shared)
- Enhanced performance and security
- Flexibility of customizing the server to your needs
- Each server has its own unique IP address
- No overhead for purchasing or maintaining equipment
Online websites like HostGator and GoDaddy are the leading names in hosting services that offer competitive pricing with an easy-to-understand user system, thus allowing online business owners to easily select the desired domain name and suitable hosting package necessary for starting ecommerce business.
Selecting the best suitable hosting plan is easy with GoDaddy as it offers the easiest way to select and purchase the package that fits your budget.
Check the example that makes selecting hosting easier than any other platform.
Before you make the final decision of buying a domain name online, it is important that you check for the hosting plans as GoDaddy offers free domain name with selected hosting plans.
The domain name you choose will have an impact on how much traffic your site attracts. Hence, it is important that while selecting a domain name for the website, you do it carefully and keep in mind to ensure it’s in tune with your business. You should also think about the terms that your target audience may search for when looking for your services and try to have a domain name that has one or more of those words or is closely linked to them.
For example, if you are offering Search Engine Optimization services in Atlanta, then selecting one of the followings may be the best choice: SEOAtlanta, Best SEO Services, etc. Consider a keyword-rich domain name inspired by the words related to your products or industry.
A coherent strategy will help you to quickly build traffic flow from search engines.
If you decide to purchase a domain name without the powerful keywords, understand that you should have SEO friendly webpages to bring in traffic. Your brand name should align with the services and products you offer to the target audience. This is an easier way to attract the target audience to your business website.
How to Design a Website for Starting Ecommerce Business?
Your website is your online shop. It must be attractive enough to catch your target audience’s attention and keep them engaged. Additionally, it should persuade them to complete product purchase using a simple checkout process.
In other words, your website is the place where you need to display your products and attract customers. If it is not attractive, it will encourage people to jump onto your competitors’ websites to purchase the same products. Thanks to the presence of global ecommerce giants like Amazon and eBay that sell almost everything under the same roof, bad customer experience on your website would spell doom for your ecommerce business.
Now, the challenge that every ecommerce business startup would face is whether to hire the services of a web developer or follow the “Do it Yourself” method using trusted Open Source platforms like Shopify, Magento, Zencommerce, or WooCommerce along with a host of other tools available in this space.
Before you take the final decision of using the Open Source platform, it is prudent to look for the features, services, and additional benefits that you get with different service providers. Here, we present the latest pricing on Shopify and Zencommerce platforms to give you a clear understanding of what may be the right choice for you when you have plans for starting ecommerce business:
We’ve also identified a few pros and cons of selecting Shopify and Zencommerce, which can help you take a decision. Let’s have a look at them too
- Hosting – Uses their powerful server to run your store successfully and smoothly.
- Security – PCI DSS compliant.
- SEO – Shopify makes it easier for website owners to be SEO experts.
- App Store – This offers thousands of add-ons to expand your website features and functionalities.
- Site Speed – Shopify ensures your website runs faster than the competitors.
- On-the-go Store Management – Shopify provides iOS and Android apps to let you manage your store on-the-go.
- Easy to Use with Existing Websites Created on Other Platforms – With the Shopify Buy Button, you can use Shopify with a website that you have built using another platform (such as Wix, WordPress, Jimdo, or Squarespace, etc).
- Integrated Blog – You will get a built-in blog with Shopify.
- AMP Versions of Product Pages – With third-party apps, you can create Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) for your products to ensure they load quickly on mobile devices.
- You (albeit with the help / additional cost of a).
- 24/7 Customer Support – Reliable customer care service with a user-friendly interface.
- Pricing – 1-2% commission is applicable if you use a third-party payment gateway for payment processing.
- Customization – You may be capable of doing some basic coding for customization.
- Migration – It may be difficult for you to move from Shopify to another platform.
- Payments – It can be used only for a few countries like the U.K., Canada, Australia, and the U.S.A.
- Difficult to Export Blog Posts – It can be difficult to export blog posts from Shopify.
- App Store – Most of the apps available on the store are paid.
- Developed by Experts – Zencommerce is developed by experts to give you an improved and real professional appearance.
- Users’ Needs – It is designed keeping in mind the users’ needs and can be trusted for better user experience.
- Easy-to-setup – One factor that makes it the first choice of sellers is its user-friendly functionality.
- Customization – It is an open source tool which means it is customizable by just anyone.
- Poor Layouts – It may be convenient but comes with the cost of poor layouts that may distract your audience.
- Tough Upgrades – Upgrading to the next version is possible, but not easy for sure!
- PHP Knowledge – Anyone can customize if, but you must have some knowledge of PHP to do it.
Hiring a professional web development company would be the best decision you can take as these companies have skilled experts to deliver everything you need like design, development, hosting, etc that are needed for starting ecommerce business. When looking for the best web development companies, you may get proposals from companies who would give you great service, but their proposition would be costly. At the other end of the spectrum lie those companies that would offer cheaper prices but getting your work done from them may prove challenging. Ideally, you need to find a reliable web developer who would design your online store just the way you want it to be without costing you much.
If you are new to the business realm and aim to follow the “DIY” approach, using platforms like Shopify, Zencommerce, etc. will help you create and launch your website in a matter of minutes. The pre-designed formats available with these platforms are easy to use, but customizing these formats may be a little challenging, especially if you have little or no prior programming and coding knowledge.
Once you are done with the selection of the best platform to develop your website, it is time to think about the layout and other important things.
The Design Factor for Starting Ecommerce Business
Getting started with the website development of your online store requires some basic understanding of good designs and appearance that make a website visually appealing. Additionally, making yourself familiar with some good design tools is also a preferred choice.
Given below is the list of some top design tools that may be used:
- Atomic – Atomic is a prototyping tool that requires no coding.
- Antetype – It is a UX design application expected to boost the productivity of UI designers.
- Mascaw – A tool that is fit for composing semantic HTML and concise CSS.
- Avocode – Avocode guarantees the automatic generation of code pieces for exported pictures.
- Sketch – It is a useful tool in the exploration and UX phase of the design procedure.
- Webydo – A B2B hybrid tool that consolidates both website design and development in one.
- Material UI –CSS Framework that implements Google’s Material Design.
While using the above-mentioned tools can be helpful for better website design, it is important to take a little more care about the design part as it should be capable of holding the users’ attention. Since you know your target users better than the tools, you should use the tools judiciously and not get carried away by them and let them dictate your ecommerce store’s design.
No matter what you sell or offer to the clients, it is important that you use the best suitable images at front-end. Appealing images grab users’ attention and trigger an almost instantaneous response when they encounter them. Since website images play a significant part in determining our first impression, it is important to keep in mind a few things when selecting the right photographs.
Here are a few tips you may find useful for selecting images that demonstrate a level of professionalism for your individual brand:
- The Sense of Originality – Attractive images are appealing, but it doesn’t mean stock photos will do the job for you. Instead, using the original images may be a better choice. It’s better that you hire a professional photographer and come up with one-of-a-kind imagery (as depicted in the image below) that perfectly suits your business.
- Quality Counts – You are sure to spend a few more moments at the websites where good quality images are used. However, you may leave the platform if the services are not reliable enough. Thus, it’s recommended to select only high-definition images, while ensuring they are fast to load with small file sizes.
- Evoke Emotional Response – Online business lacks a sense of personal touch. Hence, it is important that you evoke a sense of emotional response through images. Get images that guide viewers towards making the decision to purchase. Images should be able to deliver a sense of pleasure of using a product or service. One way to do it is to shoot a product from multiple angles, which can be used to show its features, attract attention to its benefits, and even highlight its USP, if any. For instance, if you are selling footwear, you can shoot them from the following angles:
Left and right side
Top and bottom
Front and back
Additional details (such as leather, fabric, logo, etchings, etc.)
You may even use something like https://acquireconvert.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/image03.gif to give a 3600 view of your footwear.
Show Multiple Variants – If your products are available in multiple colors and patterns, you should take shots of all the available variants, thus giving your customers to pick according to his/her own taste and choice. The images below show how you can do it.
- Get Smart Models – It is important to feature the people in images that resemble your target audience. For example, if you are running an online apparel store for teenagers, it is good to display images of the models of a similar age group. People want to see themselves reflected in the happy, smiling faces they encounter online. If you are wondering how to do it, the screenshot below from Toonz shows you exactly how you can nail it.
Getting started in web development also requires some basic understanding of good design. If you can, you should learn the basic concepts of design as it will teach you how to think like a designer.
What Should I Sell & How do I Handle my Inventory?
Product inventory plays a great role when it comes to choosing the right ecommerce platform for starting ecommerce business. Hence, it is important to know what you are going to sell and how large your inventory should be. Check if complications could arise when selling your products to other countries.
Whatever you sell online, it is important that you make your website available amongst the top search results for relevant search phrases and terms. Hence, it is important to use the best and/or most suitable keywords for your website by using free tools like Google Planner. It lets you get the best and/or suitable keywords that can attract most visitors to websites like yours.
Product Types – There are usually two types of products sold online-digital and physical products. If you are selling products that are delivered to your buyers’ doorsteps, you may have your own set of requirements. On the other hands, if you are selling products that have no physical appearance and are sent in the form of digital files, you may want to select the best suitable platform that suits your requirements. For example, if you are selling digital subscriptions and will need to charge users on a monthly basis, choosing the right platform according to your needs may be strategic as not all platforms make it easy to charge users on a repeat basis.
Size of Inventory –The size of your inventory matters a lot when you have plans for starting ecommerce business. There may be many decisions that would be based on the size of your inventory. These could include the choice of website development platform, hosting type, and hiring teams, etc. If your platform isn’t going to sell many products, you may go with some basic ecommerce platforms while the bigger inventories would require robust platforms like Magento, which is capable of handling more than 5,00,000 products.
Your product inventory would primarily depend on the type and size of the business you are planning to run. For example, if you are running a business to deliver fresh food via an ecommerce platform, the number of items kept in the warehouse would differ drastically than a platform selling clothing or accessories. Overall, it’s recommended to keep low stock levels to reduce the costs of operation. This would help to increase your cash flow as you will not get weighed down by the high price of maintaining stock for long periods of time. However, you should track your sales to forecast demand for your products and even keep an eye on your buyers’ search habits to find out the periods during which general interest in your products increase or decrease. Such data will then help you to fine-tune your inventory accordingly.
To track buyers’ interest in a specific product, you may use Google Trends. If you look at the screenshot below, you will notice how over the past five years, searches for NFL jerseys rise during the commencement and middle of the NFL season while there’s a drop in the summer and spring.
What Payment Options Should I Offer?
After the successful selection process, checkout is the most crucial process for any buyer. Trust plays a major role here. So, you need to make sure your customers feel comfortable when shopping through your website. And using safe and secure payment methods are the key to inspire customers’ trust. If you’re just starting ecommerce business, you can opt for integrated payment solutions that people trust, such as PayPal.
PayPal is a paid service and certain charges are applicable for online transactions:
- In the US – 2.9% of the transaction amount plus a fixed fee based on the currency.
- Outside the US – 4.4% of the transaction amount plus a fixed fee based on the currency.
The integration may be done with the help of a developer as it requires a lot of coding skills to get your website equipped with PayPal or any other payment gateway.
Once you grow to other countries and expand your reach, you may want to integrate some other payment methods and gateways. Your decision of integrating other payment gateways solely depends upon your geographical reach. For example, if you plan to make your services available in Australia, then you may want to use the payment gateways that are trusted by the people in that country.
Since the Bitcoin is trending these days and more people are investing in this cryptocurrency, accepting BTC as payment may be a great choice to stay a few steps ahead of your competitors.
Many ecommerce business owners may be unaware of the way how online transactions take place. Before starting ecommerce business, it’s a good idea to understand how online transactions work. You need to have a merchant account and payment gateway in order to process transactions. Using your own secure payment processing such as Authorize.net will add credibility and trust to your site.
Should I Invest in Digital Marketing or Other Promotional Methods?
Now that the ribbon has been cut and you have successfully launched your online shopping platform, it is time that you start receiving orders from customers. But, how are you supposed to get orders when no one knows about you? It is time that you launch a well-laid marketing plan. Making the target audience aware of an online store is one of the most challenging tasks for an online entrepreneur. But there’s no need to fret and fume as you have multiple options to promote your brand.
Utilizing social media marketing is the best and most preferred way to promote your brand online. If you wonder why, consider this – a whopping 3.48 billion social media users exist at present (in 2019), while the worldwide total growth in social media users has gone up by 288 million (9%) since this time in 2018. Imagine what tapping even a small segment of this population could do for your business!
If you still need some additional impetus, here are some statistics about social media that should answer the question:
- 95% of online adults in the age group of 18-34 are most likely to follow a brand on social media.
- 71% of online shoppers recommend businesses that have had a good social media presence.
- It’s 40 times more likely for visual content to get shared on social media as compared to other forms of content.
- For Facebook, the best time to post is between 12 and 1 p.m. on the weekends (Saturdays and Sundays), between 1 and 4 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, and 3 p.m. on Wednesday.
If you wonder how much business social media platforms can bring your way, look at these statistics:
The average value order of customers referred from Facebook stands at $55 while that from Instagram stands slightly higher at $65. (Source: SocialMediaToday)
Though social media marketing can be done by yourself when you are starting ecommerce business, using the available tools is a good choice as it reduces the time required for promotions. Here is a list of some top social media tools that may be used.
- Social Clout – It is designed to track engagement and calculate social media ROI. This tool shows you which demographics have the best engagement that can help you to change or fine-tune your marketing strategies.
- Feedly – This lets you put your whole content ideation on autopilot mode. Just add the RSS feeds of your favorite blogs and writers and this tool will create a daily magazine with all its content.
- Socedo –It helps automate lead generation by finding and acquiring targeted leads through different social media channels.
- Canva – Images are the most engaging for social media audience and Canva makes things easier for you.
Investing in trending marketing methods like TV ads and newspaper ads may seem lucrative, but digital marketing plays a very important role here. Since you are going to sell products online to global shoppers, it is essential to invest in a well-planned digital marketing campaign. For the best results, choose a brandable name that can easily be discovered on the Internet.
Using digital marketing, you can target a local or international audience with custom marketing plans. The campaign can be tailored to specific audience demographics, such as gender, location, age, and interests. This means you know who is going to see your advertisements.
Unlike traditional marketing methods, digital marketing gives your audience a choice. The target audience gets an option of opting in or out of communication. So, you shouldn’t take tailored marketing and market segmentation too lightly. Instead, you should leverage them to the optimum.
A few benefits of digital marketing include
- Possibility of interacting with your audience.
- Digital marketing is cost-efficient.
- Your audience can choose how they want to receive your content.
- Data and results are easily recorded.
- You get real-time results for your marketing efforts.
Before you launch your digital marketing campaign to attract more visitors to your website, it is important to have an insight into the do’s and don’ts of digital marketing to make it a success:
- Plan – Create a strategic plan to know your audience and attract them effectively.
- Respect Privacy – Do not get involved in making revenue by selling customer data to others.
- Find the Right Channels – Identify the right marketing channel where you can reach out to customers with your content.
- Original Content – Stand out and be noticed by posting high-quality, unique content.
- Know Your Competitors –Know your competitors and identify what marketing strategies they are using.
- Spam – When creating emails, make sure they don’t land in their spam box.
- Put all your eggs in one basket – Identify different elements of digital marketing and use the best (for your business/industry) or the most suitable ones for promotion.
- Be Unfriendly – You must stay friendly with customers in order to build long-term relationships by showing that you understand their needs.
How Should I Handle Product Marketing?
The way a marketing campaign is launched makes a great difference in the results it delivers. Experts believe that it is always better to launch a brand marketing campaign in the early stages of starting ecommerce business.Marketing campaigns that are launched early have more chances of yielding the optimum results. Ideally, it should start before the launch of the product or a brand.
To make your marketing campaign a great success, it is important to research your customers’ demographics. You may want to know everything about the target audience like age group, location, and more as they would let you break down all your business goals into smaller, specific goals. This would make it easier for your marketing plan to be measured effectively.
Here is a list of some free tools to know about the market competition and stay informed about the latest marketing trends, which can be helpful when you are starting ecommerce business:
- Google AdWords
- Bing Ads
- Yahoo Gemini
- Facebook Ads
The landing page is the most important aspect for any marketing campaign and utilizing the A/B tests on landing pages is the key to success and to accomplish campaign-related goals.
Here is an example of a landing page that you may want to follow.
The Impact landing page is quite appealing and interactive. It is the HubSpot partner, but it is not the reason we’ve made it a part of this article. The landing page of IMPACT has long been a source of design inspiration. It is designed using a simple yet engaging layout – from the large headline copy to the detailed featured image, everything is pleasing to the eyes.
They’ve included a checkbox to subscribe to their blog, which is automatically checked. This, indeed, is a great way to increase subscribers.
You may try using online free tools like Google AdWords to understand your target audience and tailor your marketing plan accordingly.
How Should I Handle Product Shipping?
After setting up ecommerce business, the first thing companies struggle with is product shipping. To begin with, the items you sell must be able to get shipped, both legally and realistically. For example, if you sell alcohol, certain places will not allow you to deliver while furniture delivery to a distant place may be a tough task.
Even if the items you sell are completely legal to ship to other countries, the shipping and delivery costs must be calculated into the prices or you must charge for it separately. This is the most common mistake that newcomers to the realm of ecommerce, who are starting ecommerce business, make that leads to great losses. Multiple tools are available to calculate shipping for your online platforms. For example, Table Rate Shipping is a suitable tool for WooCommerce websites that offers highly customizable shipping options.
This plugin defines multiple shipping rates depending upon the product delivery location, price, weight, or item count.
You need to determine how those costs are calculated. There are multiple factors that must be considered when calculating shipping charges:
- Product weight
- Delivery location (distance from where the inventory is)
- Product size
You can tie up with global shipping providers like USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc. to handle shipping easily. While these companies handle the shipping part for you, it is your job to figure out how you will handle the shipping of these items before you get started on site development.
Figuring out how to streamline your product shipping will help you save a lot of time and money, not only of yours but also of your customers. And by offering things like free shipping or discounted rates, you will be able to improve your rate of conversion significantly.
For the beginners who are starting ecommerce business, shipping and packaging can be a hectic task and the wrong decisions can lead to a great loss of conversion and loyal customers. Hence, there are many things that may be considered for effective shipping and packaging. For instance, you should avoid over-packaging because 30% of customers say inefficiently overpacked shipments make them ask if the business knows what it’s doing. While simplifying your packaging could be an effective way to steer clear of such adverse opinion about your business, simplifying it too much is dangerous as you may end up compromising with the safety aspect that may reflect wrongly on your business.
Below are the top do’s and don’ts of product shipping and packaging for ecommerce businesses.
- Show shipping charges beforehand – Customers may be surprised or even irritated if bombarded with unwanted charges for shipping during the last step of the checkout process. It is important to let your customers know about this before. Try including free or paid extensions or plugins that make available “Cash on Delivery” check based upon the Zipcode.
- Package products smartly – There may be various incidents when shoppers get annoyed to find their ordered product not being packaged correctly. Also, it can lead to a defect in the product during the shipment process. So, do take care of the packaging before you send them out to the shipper.
- Create specialized packaging stations – Try to allocate at least one space for packaging shipments. Make sure to stock it with the supplies that are required to satisfy your shipping needs. If it’s possible, have specialized packaging stations for each type of shipment (such as fragile/glass items, computer and related items, clothes, etc.) as it will help speed up your packing speed significantly. This, in turn, will let you get the products out your door as quickly as possible.
- Provide multiple shipping options – Make available multiple options for the shoppers to select their trusted shipping partner for product delivery. The goal here is to reduce any unintentional confusion for the customer.
- Offer free shipping – There is nothing better than offering free shipping to shoppers. Believe us – people just love websites that offer free shipping as it helps them same a lot on the final purchase.
- Make them wait for the product for days – The only thing people hate about online shopping is the time they need to wait for products to deliver. Amazon has done a great job by offering express delivery under which the products are delivered the same day of delivery. However, when you are starting ecommerce business, don’t let this urge for speedy delivery backfire or it will cost you money, time, and reputation, all of which are crucial during the initial stages. The ideal way is to nail down your techniques at first with an eye on timely delivery, and then go on to refine and streamline the process.
- Give away damaged products – As mentioned earlier, it is never a smart choice to deliver damaged products. Always check your product for any damage before you ship it. Also, it is important to package the product safely and professionally.
- Let anyone pack products – It would need proper training to pack the products safely. The inappropriate packing of products can irritate your customers or leave them unimpressed – both of which you would surely want to avoid. You can turn your team into a veritable packing expert by educating and training them on proper packaging techniques.
Creating an ecommerce website when starting ecommerce business can be a great step to improve your overall sales and brand presence. Click To TweetHowever, since online selling has become quite common and widespread these days, there are many other things that must be considered in order to do it correctly. The above mentioned 6 questions will help you determine what the best directions may be for your company’s ecommerce aspirations. So, use them to guide yourself on the road to success when starting ecommerce business and launching your website.
Here’s wishing you good luck!