Launching an online store doesn’t need to be daunting. Whether you’re starting a business or adding a web store to your existing enterprise, there are plenty of resources and services available that can help you to start selling online with a minimum of time or cost.
With recent trends showing that e-commerce is on the fast track to leaving traditional shopping in the dust, now is the time to take your business online regardless of whether it’s new or established. If you’re starting a business, then e-commerce makes it easier than ever to start selling your products, and if you run an existing brick-and-mortar store, a web store can help you reach new customers outside of your local area.
To get you started in online retail, we have detailed the three basic steps you’ll need to take to open your web store:
Step 1: Launch your Website
Just like a brick-and-mortar store, you’re going to need an online property to build your web store on. First, you need to register your domain by obtaining a web address or URL. Using services such as Go Daddy, 1 & 1, Namecheap or Moniker, you can register your domain for as little as $10 a year.
Next, choose a web hosting company – they provide the services necessary to make your website accessible to the public and provide you with online data storage and email addresses. Depending on your needs, you can expect to spend anywhere between ten and a few hundred dollars to host your site.
If this is your first time setting up a website, we recommend you join or visit forums that deal with topics related to domains and web hosting. For example, Reddit has several sub-forums where you can find these discussions including r/webhosting, r/entrepreneur, r/smallbusiness, r/ecommerce, and many more. Web Hosting Talk is another forum filled with people who can help you navigate the finer points of registering a domain and finding the right hosting service for your online business.
Building your site
Once you have your domain and hosting service set up, it’s time to build your site. If you have some knowledge of web design, now is your time to show off. If you don’t, leave it to the pros. Depending on your budget, you can hire a professional designer, or to save cost you can purchase a web store builder, select the template that’s right for you, and fill it with your products or service offerings.
Web store builders allow you to choose from a selection of customisable, pre-made templates which you then fill with your own product and service offerings. Some builders also include a variety of tools such as inventory control, customer relationship management, site visitor analysis and email management, typically for a monthly fee.
Remember, the most important thing for any e-commerce site is to be user-friendly and professional. Your potential customers should feel comfortable using your website and should be able to view your physical location and get in touch with you by phone oremail if necessary. We can recommend the DalPay-supported free modules from WooCommerce, which allows you to add a web store to an existing WordPress site, and PrestaShop, which allows you to build an e-commerce site from scratch.
Step 2: Accept Payments
In order for your customers to complete their purchases, you will need to be able to process online payments. When choosing a payment processor, there are several factors to consider: Are they secure? Can they handle domestic and international payments? Is their customer support reliable? Is their fee structure clear and reasonable? Does the system work with third-party shopping carts?
When it comes to meeting your needs, DalPay has you covered.
Security: DalPay looks after your bottom line by offering built-in fraud protection and protects your customers with a secured hosted checkout system.
Versatility: With DalPay you can process domestic and cross-border credit card payments, making it your all-in-one processing solution.
Dependability: DalPay’s customer support team is available to help you get set up and can help answer any questions you may have before, during and after integration.
Transparency: Payment processors are notorious for their hidden fees and penalties. If you’re not careful, these can wipe out your profits and set you back to square one. DalPay’s philosophy is to provide a simple and fair fee structure. Our clients are partners in success: you succeed, we succeed.
Accepting payments is more than just being able to process payments, you also need to provide your customers with a shopping cart so that they can choose and pay for your products. Their shopping experience should be intuitive – they should be able to find just what they’re looking for and go from shopping to buying as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Pre-made, customisable shopping carts such as the DalPay-supported OpenCart and UltraCart can be easily integrated with your existing website. These and other shopping carts allow your customers to select and purchase multiple items and automatically calculate the total and add any applicable taxes and shipping costs.
Businesses operating both a brick-and-mortar store and a web store can’t overlook this detail. When choosing an e-commerce platform for your web store it’s important to make sure your point-of-sale (POS) system can be integrated with your online system. If your online and in-store purchases are not synced, then you’ll encounter all sorts of complications involving inventory and product information.
Step 3: Promote your Business
Now that you’ve launched your website and set up a DalPay account to accept payments, it’s time to get people through the door (figuratively). Even though an online storefront gives you the ability to reach a much wider audience, you still need to promote your business and build consumer awareness.
This is where SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) come into play.
SEO is a set of techniques designed to make your website appear as high as possible in the search results page on Google, Bing, etc. For example, by modifying the structure and content of your website, you can incorporate keywords that are relevant to your products and that your target market is using to search for similar products on the web.
SEM is SEO’s younger sibling, and can be even more important for an online business that’s just getting started. By mastering SEO your website can be shown in the top position of search engine results for free, but usually takes some time and work. SEM, on the other hand, can give your company visibility right away by letting you purchase ad space on the results page for keywords that relate to your business.
More traditional forms of marketing can be effective as well, such as email marketing, maintaining a social media presence, and getting your business reviewed by popular blogs and news outlet.
If you think your job is done once you’ve made the sale, think again. Customer service is just as important to the overall success of your business as the three steps listed above. In the age of social media, a bad review can spread like wildfire and severely impact your ability to reach new customers. Good customer service is equally effective at growing your business, by encouraging repeat customers and word-of-mouth recommendations. Let visitors to your website know how they can reach you, and offer several different methods of contact.
If you have any questions about selling online feel free to contact us, and keep visiting the DalPay blog for more e-commerce advice and tips! We’ll be posting articles that can help you get the most out of your e-commerce business each week. If you have suggestions for an article, or questions you’d like to have answered, let us know.