5 things to consider before starting an ECommerce website

ecommerceBefore starting your Ecommerce adventure there are a number of elements that a lot of people fail to consider.

You may recall our Managing Director provided Ecommerce expert advise in the worlds best selling Web Design Magazine .NET, well now we’re back with a quick refresher for 2014!

1. What sort of Ecommerce solution do you need?

Here you have essentially 2 options.

Rent a Shop: The first option is using an online Ecommerce provider such as Shopify. The benefit of using these solutions are they are a low start up cost, at around £30 per month you can get a store, upload your logo, pick a colour theme then add all your products to start selling. So these are ideal if you are on a budget and want something to just get you up and running. The downfall with these are that you cannot have your own individual design, you cannot build onto them in the future or add any custom elements, you are restricted in terms of Search Engine Optimisation and lastly you become tied in to monthly payments forever, so if you do want to move away to a professional shop in future you lose everything you have done thus far.

Your own Shop: The second option is having a custom developed Ecommerce solution for you. The benefit of this is you get a custom design, they are future proof for custom edits, unlimited options in terms of quality Search Engine Optimisation, you get a custom login area to edit and add your own products at your own set prices but most importantly you fully own the website yourself rather than being tied in or locked down. The downfall with these is they are a more expensive startup cost, however if you outweigh this against the monthly payments over time then they do work out more cost effective in the long run.

2. The laws of Ecommerce

Before considering selling online it’s worth looking into the rules  and regulations of online sales. These include your terms and conditions and the legal implications you are bound by. Remember selling online is governed by the same rules as selling via a high street shop, along with some additional laws thrown in! These can all alter depending on what your product from food to toys to windows! Online sales laws also alter depending on whether you are selling direct to the public or to business. Unless you talk to someone in the know you may find yourself having to issue unwarranted refunds or worse being sued.

The important thing to remember here is that it is not your website providers job to do this for you, luckily at inLIFE we work closely with Digital Law expert Stuart McIntosh from McIntosh Law whom we recommend out Ecommerce clients talk to when considering a new Ecommerce solution. Stuart also recommends Ecommerce newbies take a look over. Download the UK E-Commerce regulations provided by out-law – click here

3. Payments

Surprisingly one of the last things Ecommerce entrepreneurs consider is how they are going to take and manage payments. If starting off small then using payment services like Paypal and Worldpay are ideal as they are trusted sources, take all regular card payments (without the need for an account) and also manage all credit card legalities for you. The downfall with these is they take around 3.5% per transaction, so if you are selling in big numbers you would be better starting off with direct card payments.

To take direct card payments is a little more complicated in the outlay but does give you more credibility as an established and trusted online store. To do this firstly you need an SSL certificate. This will allow your website transactions to be made though a secure (HTTPS) area of the website and cover you against a level of credit card fraud. It means that YOU are responsible for customers credit card details rather than the likes of Paypal or Worldpay taking the onus on your behalf.  You will then also require a merchant account from your bank and lastly become ISO registered to state you are handling personal data. However do not stress as your web developer should help advise with all of this!

4. Store Management

Now you are ready to start selling, have you considered how you are going to manage your store? How often do you check your emails? If the answer is once a week or a couple of times a week then things are going to have to change. You will need to check your mail at very least twice a day to respond to questions, log orders and organise delivery when required. If you do not keep your customers happy you will risk getting a bad name and not be the kind of business that any online users will want to deal with. With quality Ecommece solutions some of this will be covered for you by automatic email responses to orders and automatic emails sent once you mark items as delivered. This helps keeps things efficient.

5. Pro active marketing

The mistake a lot of people make is thinking that once you are online the flood gates will open for orders! This is a big misconception, you are a very small star in an expanding universe of online stores. For this reason you will need to be pro active with marketing, talk to your developer about SEO and consider targeting locally before hitting a national scale (unless you have a very big marketing budget). You will need to be pro active yourself in spreading the news of your shop to related online forums, groups and offline via friends, family, business networking meetings and more. Be pro active in monitoring your sales too, view your sales reports for what works and what doesn’t, get your best sellers promoted on the homepage and ensure you have cross selling techniques ie ‘customers who bought this also bought’. Like any business startup it will be a slow burn, but stick at it and you will get there! *The only exemption to this rule is if you are in an extremely niche market with very few competitors and a high product demand, but remember this may not be the case for long.

There are of course other areas to consider with Ecommerce such as the possibility of tapping into an eBay store first, voucher code promotions and more.. however we have found these 5 tend to get asked the most. For any more advise drop us an email to infi@inlife.co.uk