Start Building Your Online Store

There has never been a better time to start your online store than today! Retail stores without an associated e-commerce website are quickly losing customers to the stress-free and convenient online shopping experience. This trend is convenient not only for the shoppers, but for small business owners as well. Starting an online store and marketing it to the target market is much easier than purchasing retail space and advertisements. By following a few simple e-commerce tips when setting up the online store, small businesses are better able to compete with bigger retail stores.

Getting Started

When starting your online store, there are several platforms to choose from. Each has its own pros and cons, but I personally prefer to use BigCommerce because of its ease of use and professional appearance. No matter which you decide to choose, here are a few steps that should not be overlooked.

Selecting a Domain Name:

While the domain name may seem like a minor detail, you should put a bit of thought into the word choice and make sure that it is relevant to your store and your target consumers. The domain name will affect your e-commerce website’s ranking on search engines for certain keywords, driving more consumers your way. For example if you are selling watches, you might want to consider using the word “watch” in your domain name instead of something like “BobsStore.”

Selecting a Payment Plan:

While many platforms, such as BigCommerce, include their own payment gateway, it’s important to familiarize yourself with it and make sure that it is easily accessible for the customers. After all, this is the way you will get paid! If you don’t already have a payment plan set up, there are a few different options. Typically an e-commerce website either has a payment gateway and/or a merchant account. It is most efficient to have both, but either will do. A payment gateway is an e-commerce service that authorizes payments of the online store. PayPal is a commonly used example of this. A merchant account allows your store to accept Credit or Debit Card payments on your e-commerce website. Be sure to research the best options for your individual store.

Pricing Products:

When pricing the products in your online store it’s important to keep in mind the price of your competitors’ products to make sure that you are not pricing products too high or too low. The other important thing to remember when pricing is to include the different options that can alter the price of a product (i.e. size, color, quantity, etc.). BigCommerce has very helpful tutorials that can walk you through the process or adding and pricing various product options.

Selecting a Shipping Method:

An obvious difference between shopping online and in a store is the actual receipt of the product. If you are selling a tangible product, you need to be sure and include a shipping method for your customers and make sure that the shipping costs are fair for both parties. There are three basic shipping strategies to use with your online store: free shipping, flat rate shipping and variable rate shipping. In my opinion it is best to use a combination of these three strategies. For example, offer free shipping (or a low flat rate)for any purchase over $100 and a variable rate for anything below that amount.

Setting Up Google Analytics:

Google Analytics is extremely useful in showing you pertinent information about visitors to your e-commerce website. Google Analytics is easy to use and it tracks the visitors from search engines, online advertisements, e-mail campaigns, etc. It also gives you information about how often each person visits, and how well your different online advertisements are doing. The best part is that Google Analytics is completely free, so there is no reason not to use it!

Designing Your Online Store

Now that you’ve gotten started, one of the most important aspect of the website is the layout and design. Most platforms will offer you generic templates to start you off, but there are still some key small design techniques that can make a big difference to the customer. You want to always be sure to keep the website clean, informative (without being too wordy) and unique.

Keeping it Clean:

Nobody likes a messy store where she has to dig through heaps of clothes to find the size she needs. It’s the same for online stores. If the customer has to put forth more than a minimal amount of effort in looking for the product that she wants, it isn’t clean enough. To keep the e-commerce website clean, stick to the following three guidelines: 1) Keep the product search bar easy to locate on all pages of the site, 2) Keep the amount of words and images on the homepage minimal so as not to overwhelm the customer (reducing the number of images will also reduce the amount of time it takes the page to load), 3) Use simple colors that do not clash — an unappealing website will deter customers.

Including Just the Right Amount of Information:

While I mentioned above the homepage should not be too wordy, you need to make sure that the customer has enough information to know the name of the store, the types of products sold, and a reason that this online store is superior to others that may seem similar.

Differentiating the Site:

Differentiating an e-commerce website can be done in a million different ways. It just takes going beyond the basic template and adding a touch of your store’s unique personality to the design. This can be anything from background music to a unique rotating banner.

Although many people, like me, do not possess the technical know-how to develop a unique and professional online store, Big Commerce design partners can help to modify the templates or even create completely new templates according to the individuals’ preferences.