Web Design Articles

A Hitchhiker's Guide to Ecommerce

By Adrian Stein

If you're thinking about starting an ecommerce store, here are a few tips to get you started in online business:

Have you done your research?

It pays to have a serious think about your proposed online store and come up with a business plan. In particular I'd recommend the following:

  • Research your target market. Is there potential for these type of clients to purchase your product or service online?
  • Does your product or service lend itself to being ordered and delivered online?
  • Have you checked out the competition? Are there any ways you can improve on what they are doing?
  • What makes you different from your competition? If there's no point of difference, you'll need to compete on price.

Do you want to make a million bucks overnight?

I might just have to stop you there. If you view online business as a quick way to make millions, you're barking up the wrong tree. Unless you have an idea that's going to take the world by storm, you need commitment, dedication, tenacity, and hard work to make an online store work. You need to offer something of true and lasting value to potential clients, and have the patience to stick with it and make it work. 

Consider the expenses

You need to be aware of some costs associated with running an online store. If you wish to collect payments directly on your website via credit card, you'll need the following: 

  • A merchant bank account with your bank, which has online payments enabled. This will incur a monthly fee, with prices depending on your bank.
  • An account with a "gateway service" such as eWay or Paypal's Payflow. These are the guys that make the credit cards talk to your bank account. They ensure that everything's up to date and that the bridge between the two works - now and in the future. Again, this will incur a regular fee.
  • An SSL certificate. This encrypts credit card numbers before they're sent across the internet, so that undesirables can't intercept and appropriate them. These start at around $140 / year depending on the level of encryption.
  • Obviously... a fab website! (That's where I come in). 

Specific costs will depend on your needs, so do your research before you embark on the journey. If (like many people) you don't feel you necessarily have to collect the credit card numbers directly on your website, you can sign up for a standard Paypal account and they can take care of payments. Basically, when your customer completes their shopping cart, they'll be redirected to the Paypal site where they pay for the goods. Paypal verifies everything, takes a small percentage, and adds the balance to your account, which you can withdraw to your bank account at any time.

Get on the radar

You did it! Your new website is up and running, you've written engaging content, your products are uploaded and the site is open for business. You've done well - but remember that building a website and putting it online without any promotion is kind of like opening a lemonade stand without any signs. Yes, word might get out eventually, but business will be pretty slow for a while.

Try to get the word out there through newsletters, word of mouth, getting your website linked from other sites, advertising, and online promotion. Marketing is obviously one of those difficult areas, but if you know your market and offer a quality product you'll get there. 

At this point you might like to think about online advertising as well. One such service is Google's Adwords, which matches up your ads to appear on appropriate pages and you "pay per click".

Keep it fresh

If you don't want to pay for advertising you might like to get to the top of Google's "organic" search results (i.e. the natural, unpaid ones). The best way to do this is to keep writing relevant content for your website and updating it frequently. When it comes to search engine optimisation, content is still "king", and people interested in your product will definitely be interested in reading about it. You'll also generate natural links to your website which will help enormously. 

Apart from adding news or articles to your website, you can also generate in the site by adding new products, having specials, encouraging people to interact, or sending newsletters.

Retire to the Caribbean

Well, maybe not... but we can dream, right? It's certainly possible with the right combination of research, uniqueness, dedication, quality, and perhaps a splash of luck. Ecommerce isn't the way of the future - it is now and it's also an inseparable part of our lives. So if you've got something unique to share with the world, why not have a website built and get yourself out there?

Blackbird Solutions creates professional ecommerce websites for business of all shapes and sizes. Please get in touch today for a quote tailored to your individual needs.