Here are our top tips for setting up an on-line shop.
1 Do your homework
The more you know the better decisions you’ll make. Read e-commerce articles and sites, go to trade shows and expos, and if you can talk to some on-line sellers as well that will be a great help. When you shop on-line observe carefully the various processes and experiences you have. Check out your competition by searching the web.
At this early stage the more you find out, the better equipped you’ll be to cost out your options, find the best advisers for you and if you’re going to make mistakes – make them early and cheaply.
2 Make sure e-commerce is right for your business.
If you plan to sell goods that customers don’t need to touch, taste or smell before buying, at a fixed price, the internet will be the place for you to sell. Even better if your products are hard to find on the high street or specialist in some way. If this is you, an on-line shop allows you to give advice and knowledge to the customers as well as sell the item they are searching for.
Have a think about why people would buy from you, and what experience works best for customers. For example, if you insist customers create an account, and don’t have a rapid guest check out option, will you lose sales?
3 Keep control of the costs
On-line shops can be a low cost investment, but it is easy to get carried away with the technology available to you. The less you spend on technology, the more you can spend on marketing your site. In the early start-up phase look at tech solutions that are low cost, meet your needs now but can be upgraded later.
4 Which tech do you choose?
The answer is – a tech solution that works: pick the software solution that others are using. You know it works and many business owners have tried it before you. Always buy a main stream product after you’ve research and trialled it – most give you a free trial first.
Think about the links
At this early stage think about what you need too. The on-line shop needs to integrate with your accounting software and your payment collection methods too. You may also want, now or later, detailed analysis of your website so make sure you buy this or can upgrade over time. With some solutions you may have to pay for technology to link the online shop to your accounting software. So think about it now. It’s no secret that we are the go to accountants for Xero in the East, so based on that here’s an examples to get you thinking.
Check out the simple, controllable solution that is RocketSpark with Vend and Xero. Ecommerce connected to Xero – streamlined accounting from the start, you update your site (or get someone to do it for you, depending how deep your pocket are) and the basics of the accounting are done as part of the process. Helping you focus on getting the shop noticed. This solution joins up a physical shop/salon/cafe to your on-line shop. Ideal for those with a business like a salon, who now want to boost profit with product sales. Food for thought.
Oh and don’t forget – the best solutions have a free trial and a support line. See what RocketSpark are saying about a linked up solution for your on-line shop.
5 Make sure your on line shop is reliable
You may need a third party to host your website – or with a total ecommerce solution they may provide this. Ask about uptime (their availability figures) and downtime statistics as well.
6 Consider the risks for you
If you buy a fully hosted solution, consider that you are dependent on your provider. This means if you don’t trust them, or haven’t made good enough checks on them – your business could be gone in a flash, the site goes down and so do you. On the up side – for a new brand, or a new business, a hosted solution will mean a lower investment, and it is the route many small businesses take.
However, if your brand is established and you consider yourself to be a bigger fish in the pond give very careful consideration to who your on-line shop business relies upon.
7 Security of data
You and your customers need to feel confident you have adequate protection against hacking and fraud. Choose an ecommerce solution that has a well-developed track record. The industry standard is PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard), so make sure your provider is fully equipped.
From the world’s largest corporations to small Internet stores, compliance with the PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is vital for all merchants who accept credit cards, online or offline, because nothing is more important than keeping your customer’s payment card data secure. This is also part of the homework you need to do.
You can boost your knowledge here.
8 Choose a payment solution that fits with how you sell.
All on-line shops have to take card payments. Look at the options and make your decision. Also consider if you want to take PayPal payments, and if you need a mobile card payment solution as part of promoting your on-line store. For example if you do a pop up shop in town, or an expo event. Again, think through the end to end processes that you’ll need to work.
9 Marketplace or own on-line store?
You can use market places like e-Bay and Amazon to sell straight away.
They can deliver visitors to your online shop from day one, and it’s fairly straight forward to set up. Many businesses with their own websites also sell through Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Notonthehighstreet.com and others. Check out this link to see what’s involved with joining a market place.
Find the market place that best suits your products.
Be aware of the costs of selling on a market place. It may fit well as one of your marketing/selling pillars.
Be aware that you need to comply with the strict policies of each marketplace or you can be removed.
The disadvantage? Big, big competition. As it’s easy to set up there is a constant stream of similar sellers. So, consider this as one avenue to market your on-line shop, but market the shop as well.
10 Set it up yourself? Or go Pro?
Decide whether to set it up yourself use a professional.
The deciding factors here are usually; budget, technical knowledge, if you need customisation, time, availability of good photos of stock and whether you like this bit of the business. You might find you do some bits and outsource others. With a constrained budget consider a good photographer, or buy a camera yourself and spend some money on a techie if you need help as you go.
An ecommerce package can enable you to create a good-looking, fully functional site quickly – at low cost, you will still need good photos as well. A web designer will add a professional finish and enhanced features that could boost sales, but will cost you more.
And finally, don’t forget sales and marketing
Once the site is ready, make sure you have budget left to promote and market the site. Think about how customers will find you and why they will buy. When you plan the costing of your e-commerce business never under estimate this part – no sales means no business, no matter how good the site looks.
Need a Xero expert Accountant who knows about on-line shops? We can tell you the pros and cons. Make your business life less of a strain and get the right expert involved. Call us on 01603 516 304 or visit our website to see what we offer.