There are many similarities between operating a physical brick and mortar storefront and an online ecommerce site. Both must be taken seriously and handled professionally, otherwise your visitors will leave without making any purchases. We can all understand that the product illustrated could be amazing, but if the potential buyer can’t make it through the purchase process, they will leave and buy somewhere else.
If you are considering an ecommerce option for your business, you must make decisions that will fit the product(s) you are selling and the customers who will buy. The process should be easy to navigate and easy to use.
What does it take to set up an ecommerce site?
Before you even begin to consider the nuts and bolts of setting up the actual store front, you must be aware that the platform on which you build the store must be a solid foundation that will support what you are doing. It’s the same idea as building a skyscraper on sand. If there is not a strong enough base, the entire project will collapse – after driving you crazy with all the little problems you’ll have every day until the day of the big crash.
Although we know our clients are eager to proceed with all the exciting elements of building a digital store, here at NuMedia Marketing we know that the first steps are the most important. Technical details regarding the website such as hosting decisions, content management systems, website templates, security essentials, backups, and server capability are critical first steps.
To completely nail those items down, there are several decisions to be made and steps taken before you can even think about developing the actual online store:
- You should have a domain name, a web host, a dedicated IP address for your website, and a private SSL certificate.
- You should have a website.
- What are the products?
- What are the prices? (Be sure to include costs of business such as payment transaction fees.)
- What payment methods will you accept?
- What merchant account(s) will you use?
- How will the product be delivered?
There is one more element you must consider when launching an online store. You must protect it, just like you would protect your physical location with alarms and security, you must protect your online store from hackers and other digital problems. Be sure to have backups and protections in place that will operate behind the scenes to keep your business secure.
After having answered these questions you have much of what you need to move forward with two other components of an ecommerce site: selecting a payment gateway and a shopping cart.
Payment gateways for your ecommerce site
You must have an idea of what you are selling, how it will be paid for and how it will be delivered to decide on the best ecommerce platform, or shopping cart, and payment gateway provider. Some shopping carts are better for certain kinds of products and not others. Many gateways, like PayPal, accept credit cards, but some people might not be comfortable using PayPal. Decide what you want to use and be comfortable understanding the fees that will be charged for transactions.
The payment gateway will integrate with your merchant account, and they must be compatible, so that is one of the first considerations. Don’t worry, because most merchants integrate with most of the payment gateway applications, but you do want to confirm this point when making a selection. Fees can also vary and the amount of time to have funds reach your accounts. You will also want to fully understand how returns and refunds will be handled for your merchant and for the gateway.
Shopping carts, platforms for your ecommerce site
How do you want your store to operate? Immediately upon entrance to the website or as a separate place on your website? i.e., via a tab? Shopping cart apps (or platforms) set up your store database and provide you with links to your shop and the admin area behind the store.
Options offered by shopping carts vary, but can include:
- Tracking products in stock
- Different tax classes and rates
- Category and product population processes
- Report generation
- Notification of orders and other communications
- Order fulfilment and shipping options
- Integration to the payment methods and payment gateways
- Configuration options: columns, sale, discounts, FAQs
You can customize the cart to reflect your business branding, including your logos, your name, and the contact information – address, phone, and email – in headers and footers. You will want to be able to customize the pages so that it is consistent with your business branding for marketing purposes.
Remember that the online store represents your business and will be your business home on the internet. You will refer customers you meet face-to-face to it for their business, so you want it to flow seamlessly with your business brand message.
An ecommerce site is not set it up once and leave it
Even if you get through everything and are happy with the look, feel, and functionality of your ecommerce site, you must recognize that it must be maintained. Reasons are various:
- Adding new products
- Removing discontinued products
- Updating prices
- Changes in tax rates or processes
- Changes in shipping rates or processes
- Special sales, discounts, or offers
- Digital and internet updates and changes
Just like in a brick and mortar retail operation, shelves must be maintained and product rotated, so must an online store. Be sure to set aside time and energy to dedicate to your store maintenance.
Running a retail operation is complicated, whether it is a physical storefront or a digital storefront. There are many different balls to keep juggling. An online store will, indeed, increase your reach and, in many instances, provide many other benefits. But it is as serious an operation that must be maintained and protected as a shop full of inventory and customers.
Ecommerce sites are serious business
We don’t have to tell you about the potential that an ecommerce site can have for certain businesses, you see it every day. If you want to get in on the stream of business the digital platform can open up for you, we urge you to take it very seriously, and to do it right. There is nothing that can hurt your business more than an online store that is not functional. It provides a picture you don’t want to give your customers or deal with day by day.
Here at NuMedia Marketing, we have lots of experience developing and maintaining ecommerce sites. Give us a call at 317-563-7235 to set a time we can meet and discuss what an ecommerce site can mean for your business. We’d be happy to help!