E-commerce. Everybody’s doing it. Every day, we see articles about self-made millionaires who started with a tiny e-commerce site that took off and built them an empire. It sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
How To Get Started
But how do you get started? Doesn’t building a website require coding, bandwidth, and programmers? How does the money get from your customer to your bank account? Where do your products come from? How do you get from having a great idea for an online shop to having a great online shop?
There are many things to think about when considering how to build an e-commerce website. Let’s take a look at the basic steps that will help you get from thought to profit. While there will still be plenty of decisions to make and actions to take along the path, these steps will help you lay the framework for your new online business.
Step 1 : Your Product
You might think that finding success through e-commerce begins with having a good website, but that’s actually the last step in the process. Before you build a site, you need to know what you are selling.
For some people this decision is easy, while others struggle with brainstorming a cohesive and profitable range of inventory. After all, it seems like the sky’s the limit when it comes to what can be sold on the internet.
Break the secrets of the most successful eBay and Amazon sellers: get access to over 8,000 low-cost verified dropshipping suppliers to maximize your revenues.
Start with selecting a niche that interests you. Perhaps you love to travel. Maybe you’re a huge fan of yoga. Or, you could be very gifted in a specific craft (some ideas here). Find something to sell that you actually want to sell: this passion will be reflected in your interaction and enthusiasm for the business. Your customers will be able to pick up on your interest in your business, so be prepared to immerse yourself in your product line. You’re about to become a trusted authority!
What About Inventory?
When it comes to selling things on the internet, remember that you aren’t limited to DIY efforts, nor do you need to maintain a huge warehouse of inventory. Drop shipping is a very popular option for online retailers. In this scenario, customers place their order from your website, but the product is actually shipped from a warehouse maintained by the manufacturer or seller of the product. We’ve discussed the many benefits of drop shipping, which include having little to no inventory to track, no shipping deadlines, and no “deadstock” to worry about.
You’ll also want to consider if you want to sell to customers directly (B2C), or to businesses who distribute directly to customers (B2B). For a more detailed explanation, check here.
This choice will actually impact some of your website functions later down the line, such as sales levels, shipping volume, and even payment processing options.
Read also: How Dropshipping Works + Free Webinar
Step 2 : Your Brand
Once you’ve decided what to sell, you need to consider your e-commerce business identity. Take your time to carefully select:
- The name of your company
- Your logo
- Target audience
- Your voice
This may seem very distant from the process of building an e-commerce website, but think about it: you’ll need to buy a domain name. How do you know what to buy unless your business has a name?
You’ll also need to consider User Experience features for your site, like color scheme, fonts, photos, videos, and where to put the links. Knowing what your logo looks like can help you seamlessly incorporate your brand identity into every facet of your website’s UX.
Everything that you’re about to post on your e-commerce site should relate to your brand. This will help you gain popularity in a specific audience, as well as give you the foothold to establish yourself as a valid and trusted business within your niche.
Let your customers know what to expect from your brand, and ensure that every detail of your site, from the website name to the product photos, reflect the values your brand represents.
Step 3 : Your Website
Once you know what you’re going to sell and how you plan to connect with customers, it’s time for the fun stuff!
Building a website consists of many moving parts. You’ll need to:
- Buy a domain name
- Select an e-commerce platform
- Design your site
- Set up your resources
Buying a domain usually sounds easier than it is. You may have the perfect domain in mind, only to find it’s currently owned by someone else. Domain buying and selling is actually a business of its own, so you might need to do some workshopping before you are able to select a web address that is easy to remember and reflects your brand (instructions here).
You’ll then want to select an e-commerce platform. This is essentially where your website “lives” on the internet. Just as you would rent or buy a brick-and-mortar location from a shopping development to sell products in person, you’ll need to select a platform that can host your site.
Some people prefer to use a platform specifically designed for e-commerce. Shopify is a very popular e-commerce hosting site for a variety of small or start up businesses. Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace also offer e-commerce features to help you get your business through its early days.
WordPress is also a very popular site for brand new online business owners. Not only is the “drag and drop” design technology easy to use for beginners, but several plug-ins are available to help shop owners build their site as business takes off. WooCommerce is one such plug-in, with features that will help maintain secure online payments, organize shipping functions, and even allow for remote access to your website via app.
When it comes to designing your site, you’ll want to consider the overall functionality of your site. How easy is it to move from page to page? Is everything legible? Does it make sense to click on a link or button at the top of the page or the bottom?
Customers don’t want to spend all day wading through fluff before they get down to business. Make sure your site offers readers multiple ways to get to various pages without getting them lost in internet space.
Accepting Payments and Set Taxes
You may need additional resources to make your business run correctly. Commerce and money go hand-in-hand, so make sure the financial functions of your website are set up correctly, as well. If you select a platform like Shopify, you’ll have a selection of payment options available to you.
A plug-in like WooCommerce will also help you set up how taxes should be calculated, the cost of shipping based on the customer’s location and shipping preferences, as well. However, if your platform doesn’t offer a built-in payment processing program or plug-and-pay options like PayPal or Stripe, you’ll want to ensure you have these functions set up. Pay special attention to sales tax, since that can vary from state to state.
Learn also: How to accept payments on WordPress
Shipping to Your Customers
If your business is supported via drop shipping, you won’t need to worry about a shipping function. However, if you’re going to be mailing inventory directly from your warehouse/office, you will also want an inventory and shipping function to your site.
There are several sites that automatically manage inventory for you as items are purchased. You’ll also want to be able to track order numbers so you can keep an eye on where your product is headed, even after it leaves your hands. Being able to explain to a customer that order #5 was mailed to 123 Main Street on December 8th will go a long way towards establishing a reputation for excellent customer service.
Once you’ve built your e-commerce website, you’ll have plenty of work to do in building amazing content, establishing your presence on social media, and implementing your marketing plan. However, if you put special consideration into selecting your product, building your brand, and creating a website that is easy for both you and your customers to use, you’re definitely starting out on the right foot.