Starting an Online Store – Guide
Why start an online store?
There has been a significant growth in ecommerce over the last few years and with this it is expected that online sales will become more and more prevalent in coming years. Customers are getting more and more used to searching for products online and ordering their chosen product from the comfort of their home computer, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. With this guide, we want to support you in creating an online store that taps into this new behavioural trend and will show you that it’s neither rocket science nor does to cost a fortune! We’ve therefore prepared the following topics for you:
- Who is this guide meant for?
- How to create an online store
- Technical realisation: A comparison of online store systems
- Outlining the key parameters of your online store
- Defining the content for your store
- Deriving the store structure
- Being successful!
1. Who is this guide meant for?
This guide, and the compared store systems, are mainly addressed to small business owners like food manufactures, handcraft producers, small retail stores that want to sell online and many more. The advantages of an owning a website is clear: your online store operates day and night, you can sell products and win new customers without extra employment of staff.
This is the reason why many producers and retailers are starting to expand into the online environment as an added trade channel, with the ability to sell products online. Most notably, for small businesses like food manufacturers, the step into the online world can be like a riddle wrapped up in an enigma. How can I create my own online store? Can I even afford it?!
It’s our mission to impart the needed know-how to the small businesses, so that they can set up their online store and start selling products immediately. So let’s start creating YOUR online store today!
2. How to create an online store?
We have reviewed different store systems, which are all based on so called website builders. What sets our solution apart is that it’s possible to start a new online store in no time at all, without any previous knowledge and on a limited budget.
An important factor to decide up front is which store set-up solution best suits you in terms of time, know-how and money. Is it possible for you to focus on the new online store full time, or do you have other duties and want to start the store as a side project? Do you already have some experience with online projects, do you have previous knowledge of HTML or online marketing?
3. Technical realisation: A comparison of online store systems
Below you’ll find the a range of store systems for which you don’t need any previous knowledge. You also don’t have to engage an expensive agency and you keep full control of the complete web store.
Our recommendation: The online store system based on the website builder Jimdo meets the latest requirements to legal issues and offers an easy to use and fast setup. The other store systems listed may also suit your needs, but Jimdo is in our oppinion the most cost-effective solution that suits most requirements. For more information on Jimdo click here.
4. Defining the Key Parameters of your online store
Before you start to actually setup your new store you should take your time and think about what you want to offer. The folowing questions are designed to help you with the online store design process. Answer the following questions and create a scope of work that you can later refer to and ensure you are staying on track with your original goals.
What concepts do already exist online? To get inspiration it’s often a good idea to look at competitors in your desired field. Take your time to research by Googling the keywords and phrases your potential customers would look for. Which and how many websites exist in your intended field of operation? A lot? If you find a few competitors don’t get discouraged, pay attention to the best practice, that means what are your competitors doing really well and not so well? Get inspired by things you like about a site and try to find solutions for issues that you think could be improved. You will start to get a good sense of what your future customers will look for.
What do you want to sell? How many products do you want to sell now online, how many in the future? There are some store systems that limit the total number of products offered within the store.
Focus vs. general store: What is YOUR product? It can be easy to lose sight of your original goals by getting caught up in adding new items to your product offering. The result of this is that you end up with a generic online store that has no unique offereing or point of difference, which means it won’t last long. Stay focused and keep your goals in sight to ensure your web store lasts in the long term.
Example: If you sell honey from your own bees, then stick to it and communicate what is so special about YOUR honey, do you have a partucular type of flowers that give the honey it’s unique flavour? Don’t start selling tea mugs, or books about beekeeping and so on. Stick to what you are passionate about and what you do well.
Who is your customer? The most important point in your new online store should be the customer! No customer, no money in your pocket. Think about the person at the other end of the computer. Who are they? Is it a private buyer or a professional retailer, do you want to sell to an existing cooperation partner or directly to the end consumer? Women, men, families? There are a lot more questions I could ask, but the key is in having a clear target audience to whom you are adressing your store that you carry through to everything, from the products to the store design, the language you use and how you speak to them.
5. Define the content for your store
Products, pictures and description: Sure, the products are extremly important in an online store. Within a store the product presentation with high-resolution images and detailed product description are crucial. This means that when your products are not presented properly and professionally you will have a problem from the start. These days the online shopper is sophisticated and knows how to read the cues that tell them about product quality. Good presentation is a must.
Additional information besides the products: Besides information on the product itself, the customer likes to know who is behind the store and if it’s trustworthy. It makes sense to write a short, personable description about the company, what inspired you to start it, and why you are passionate about what you sell.
Answer questions: What happens after ordering a product, what about delivery? How much is shipping and handling? Answer these questions in an FAQ section, or even better, implement the answers directly within the ordering process at positions where the customer might need the information. This kind of communication builds trust. Offer contact possibilities, like a phone number or email address that shows that a human being and not a robot is behind the store.
Build trust: Use seals of approval when possible and testimonials from existing customers.
6. Derive the store structure
Store structure: From the above defined content you can now derive the structure for your new online store. Clarity and an easy user experience are the most important characteristics of a great store structure.
Call to action: What is the user supposed to do on your website? The ultimate goal ist to encourage them to buy! Don’t make it too hard for the user,. Avoid adding unneccsary banners and animation that detracts from the products themselves. Make it clear what action should be done on one site, that could be a product teaser or a order button.
Categorisation of products: Aid navigation by categorising your products. It’s not always easy to decide on a precise category, but this problem mostly applies to growing shops with 100+ products.
7. Be successful
Right now you are at the starting point of creating your first online store and you will learn so much just by doing it. We hope this guide has been useful. Good luck, and remember to have fun with it!
vom 17-11-2013 | written by Dirk Fuhlhage
Source Images: © Do Ra – Fotolia.com, © bluedesign – Fotolia.com