Understatement of the decade: ecommerce has drastically changed the way merchants do business. With more consumers turning to the internet for information on where to shop and what to buy, it’s no surprise that revenue from online shopping is expected to reach $370 billion this year.
Although the idea of taking your business online may seem intimidating, it’s a necessary step for many businesses to take to grow. If you’re one such business and are ready to make the leap to ecommerce, but aren’t quite sure where to start here are 5 steps to take your business online.
PURCHASE A DOMAIN
The first thing you’ll need when you take your business online is purchase a domain name. This is the web address for your website. Come up with a few otpions of what you’d like your web address to be and then visit a hosting site like Hostgator, InMotion or Hostinger. You’ll need to create an account with one of these or another hosting service before purchasing a domain. Once that’s complete, search the hosting site to see if any of your desired domain names are available. Short web addresses tend to work best. Once you purchase your domain name, you’re ready to move on to the fun part: designing your online store.
SET UP YOUR WEBSITE
Once you’ve got your domain purchased, now you actually need to build your website. you will The website should be an extension of your brick and mortar and when customers visit your online store, the experience should mirror a visit to the physical location. The website should also be easy to use – customers should be able to intuitively find the information or products they’re looking for. At the very least, your online store should have:
- An about us section that describes who you are, what you offer and why people should care
- Contact information and any corresponding instructions
- Your store’s physical location and business hours
- Easy, organized navigation
And of course, the site itself should be attractive while matching your business’ brand and aesthetic. If designing an online store sounds completely out of your wheel house, you have a couple of options depending on your budget. You can hire a web designer to custom code it, or you can make it yourself by learning code or by purchasing a website template. Fortunately, there hundreds of great ecommerce templates available for purchase. Some like TemplateMonster, Envato and TonyTemplates and more have clean easy-to-use designs, intuitive layouts and follow the latest web design trends. If you end up doing it yourself, you’ll also need to select a content management platform. This is tool with which you’ll upload any templates and actually build your website. There are several content management tools to choose from. If you would like to figure out which works best for your needs, this website is a great resource and allows you to compare different platforms side-by-side.
A couple of design principles to abide by when it comes to taking your business online are use purposeful, high quality images, minimize text, make it mobile friendly and embrace white space. Ultimately, don’t over think this. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Think about their wants, needs and what would make their shopping experience delightful and design accordingly.
ADD A PAYMENT GATEWAY
Once your website has been put together, you’ll need a way for customers to purchase your products online. The tool you’ll need for this is called a payment gateway. A payment gateway is the online equivalent of a POS system. It authorizes you to take card payments directly from your website by acting as a mediator between your website and your payment processor. Payment gateways securely pass transaction details from the website to the merchant account and issuing bank of the credit card used.
Your payment gateway is arguable one of the most important parts of taking your business online. A seamless checkout experience is extremely important to ensuring your customers are happy with their overall purchase. Your website should move customers through the checkout process quickly and efficiently.
The final step to taking your business online is promoting your website and keeping it up-to-date. You can promote your website through several channels:
- Social media: if your business is active on social media, make sure all of your profiles link back to the website. And post content that links to products, information or promotions hosted on your online store.
- Email Marketing: start collecting interested customer’s contact information in-store and online. Once you have a good list, send emails at strategic intervals promoting certain products, sales, or special offers like free shipping or discount codes that are valid for online shopping only. Place clear call-to-actions in your emails that entice readers to visit your website and shop.
- In store: Place signage in your brick and mortar store announcing your website and network with your most loyal fans to let them know about your new online presence so they can, in turn, spread the word within their own circles of influence. The more people who know, the more traffic your website will get. You can even offer incentives for customers to let others know about you. For example, have customers share your online store with their friends and followers on social media or other platforms in exchange for a special discount code or entries into a giveaway.
- SEO: The biggest key to generating website traffic is making your site SEO friendly. That means incorporating SEO keywords into your product titles, page titles, descriptions and messaging in order to get your website to rank higher in search engine results. To do this, make a list of all the possible words and phrases a person might use to search for products or services like the ones you offer. Then, strategically incorporate those titles and phrases into your website. Making your website SEO friendly can be a tricky process so if you want to learn more about how this works, this article is a good resource.
Finally, make sure you’re constantly maintaining and updating your online store. Just like a brick and mortar, an online store can fall apart if it isn’t being properly maintained. Make sure all the information is up-to-date and correct and invest in making sure your site is functioning at a high level. Work to reduce lag time, broken links and content that doesn’t work well with mobile devices. These little touches will go a long way in making sure your shoppers have a great experience with your online store.