How to Set up an Online Store
An online store, just like brick and mortar, allows you to sell, interact with clients and process payments, only that all this is online. Digital stores are fast gaining popularity owing to the convenience they offer shoppers.
Online enterprise is also less capital intensive as selling using this model does not require a physical store or the requisite personnel. Establishing an online store can be incredibly overwhelming with all the options out there so we will look at some critical essentials for set up.
1. Domain Name Registration
Before you set up, your business will need a virtual location. A domain name is to an online business what a physical store is to a brick and mortar shop. Without a website, your target clients will not be able to find you.
Something to consider when scouting for domain names is it helps if your domain name is the same as your business name. While this is not always possible, having a matching domain makes it easier for shoppers to find, recall and trust your brand.
2. Find a Webhosting Service
Once you have settled on your chosen domain name, you will need an excellent web hosting service where shoppers will access your store. Web hosting service providers have a wide range of solutions to suit every need.
Some hosted ecommerce solution providers like Shopify offer all-inclusive packages that make the setup and running of your online business so much easier. A typical web hosting provider will host your site on its server for. However, if you’re using licensed or custom ecommerce software, then you will need your hosting account.
3. Retail Solution Platform
There is a lot more to an online business than creating a website. Just like in a physical store, online retail requires listing and displaying of products, adding a shopping cart feature, tracking customer orders, processing payments, and so much more. Ecommerce software comes in to solve this problem.
Broadly speaking, there are three kinds of ecommerce solutions, namely hosted, licensed and customized. With hosted solutions, virtually all aspects of your e-store run automatically. Licenced software offers some automated technical assistance while custom software means all systems run in-house.
4. Designing Your Store
Now we are getting somewhere. With a website up and domain name registered as well the best ecommerce platform or solution for your business in place, it is now time to set up your store. Designing layout, building product catalogues, developing a user interface and more
Hosted solutions like Shopify require that you sign up for the service, key in some business-relevant data to configure settings and the rest handled for you. Hosted services have a wide range of design templates to suit every need and taste
Licensed or custom-written ecommerce software, on the other hand, is a little more user-driven and will need some level of knowledge to set up, install and run. Self-building an e-store will often require uploading and configuration of files via FTP.
5. Adding products and Services
Now that your store is taking shape and your software is up and running, you can add your inventory to the store. Depending on the software type your business is running, adding of products and service will be manual or via spreadsheets or CSV files.
When adding products to your e-store’s virtual shelves, it is essential to ensure that items are clearly labelled, categories accurate, and that your product names and description are easy to find and remember. Wherever possible, product naming should be with SEO in mind.
6. Payment Processing
Online shoppers will almost always use their credit cards to complete purchases. In some cases, buying online is done using cyber currency, or in the case of integrated multi-store retail, a shopper may opt to pay in cash at a physical location and complete the order online.
Whichever the case, an online business needs to give its shoppers payment options, requiring investment in software to run cross-platform payments processing. If a company runs on an ecommerce platform like Shopify, this feature is built-in.
If your business runs its ecommerce systems in-house, you will need to obtain licensing to operate a merchant account or link up to a third party payment gateway.
7. Testing Online Store Systems
Like a rocket on a pad, your online store is now almost ready to launch. However, before firing up those engines and taking to the skies, it is a good idea to go on a test run. Your store is multi-faceted and multi-functional, which calls for testing of each feature to see that it works as it should.
A great way to test your online store systems is to log in remotely and browse as a regular user would. From sing up and log in to browsing products and adding to cart, to final check out, all operations of the site should be seamless and glitch free. If everything works, it is time to launch.
8. Lift off!
Your online retail store is now ready to go live. Now comes the part where you need to advertise and create awareness. If you are to sales at your e-store, there are a few steps you need to take to get the traffic rolling in.
One of the main ways to direct traffic to your store is by link building. Link your store from your other sites or blogs, including your store’s URL in your email signature. Also, remember to submit your store’s URL to major search engines.
As an online business looking to become profitable in the shortest possible time, promoting your store to attract shoppers to it is crucial. There are techniques that an online business owner can employ to increase traffic to an e-store.
In addition to free link building, pay-per-click (PPC) ads, social media promotions, SEO and traditional media advertising are some more great ways to promote your online store.
Remember, analytics is a rich source of data for any online business, and it is, therefore, essential to track and report all operations. From sales to customer profiles, information gathered from captured user data can significantly improve efficiency and profitability.
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