Building an online store or ecommerce business is becoming a very popular way to create an income. More and more people are looking to either carve out their own way to make money or are expanding a land based business by creating an online presence.
It could be that you are setting up a small business selling your own branded white label products and need an online store. Alternatively you may be selling your own products at local shops and markets and wish to create an online presence so you can sell directly to a wider audience.
Ecommerce has allowed people to set themselves up in business when before it would have been out of their reach. You can use this plus other readily available tools and software to make your business with little investment and little technical knowledge.
- What is ecommerce?
- Why would you want an ecommerce business?
- What are the options for building one?
- Building your online store
- Domain name and hosting
Ecommerce is a way for individuals or businesses to sell products and services electronically over the internet. That means from business to consumer, consumer to business, consumer to consumer and business to business. There are online sites such as Amazon and eBay who help facilitate this and of course private websites owned by sellers.
There are many reasons to open up an online business. The most common reasons would include:
Complimenting an existing shop
It could be you already have a land based shop and would like to start selling online also. This could be to increase sales by shipping further afield or to sell items with reductions. It may just be to raise brand awareness. It could even be that you are planning on closing the brick and mortar shop and operating solely online to save overheads.
To start up a new business
You may have had a business idea for a while and decided the best course of action was to launch online.
To be your own boss
Starting an online business gives you the chance to rid yourself of bureaucracy and do things your own way.
To work from home
your personal circumstances may dictate that full time working elsewhere is problematic. Working from home could suit a variety of lifestyles such as carers, single parents and people with disabilities. Due to the range of options available you could be selling services such as proofreading or graphic design and be able to work completely remotely.
To sell your own goods
Perhaps you have a skill or talent in creating crafts or jewellery. Possibly you have a great idea but cannot find anyone interested so you decided to push ahead and make your own business.
Whatever you are selling and for whatever reason you want to work online one thing is common to all people. You will need a website. Whether this involves a shop or not will depend on your own requirements but for this example it will be assumed that you want to build an ecommerce site with a storefront. You have a few options on creating your site.
This avenue is only open to people who have the time and coding skills to be able to complete it. If you have great coding skills then you are free to build your own store but for most people this will not be an option.
Professional web agencies
This is a great way to get a customised website built with great functionality and with SEO. The downside is it will cost a lot of money. If your budget allows then you can go down this route.
Content management systems
A CMS or content management system is a piece of software that allows you to build your own website by creating content, modifying it and managing it. There are many options online for this type of web creation. Wix and WordPress are two very popular choices. They each have their strengths and weaknesses but one thing they have in common is that you can use them to create a website without any coding knowledge.
These are widgets or plugins that work alongside WordPress and Wix to aid in the building of your website. They let you drag and drop content to build up a site visually much quicker than normal. They have disadvantages in that they can create slow loading websites and you may need to pay a monthly or yearly subscription fee.
By playing with WordPress you can get used to the tools available and how the software works. Once you have drawn out your website by hand it is time to start putting the store together. Please note planning the website before creating it is vital. This is an area many beginners tend to ignore and it is much harder to correct things later on.
One of the least expensive ways to build an ecommerce site quickly and easily would be to go to wordrpress.org and download the WP software for free. Then use this in conjunction with WooCommerce. It is possible to use these tools without paying any fees although there are many widgets you may like to add on to help with SEO and emails. SEO is important for Google rankings and business growth. Be sure to check them out for hidden costs and include them in your monthly budget.
You can use free or paid themes to help you get started and there are many tutorials and resources online to help with questions you might have.
Once you have started creating your design then you will also need a good domain name and hosting.
Choose a memorable domain name that is relevant to your business and not too long. Hosting is also important and visiting FortuneLords can give you some tips on where to host in the UK. You should look for good bandwidth, storage, security with SSL certificates and be able to upgrade. If your business takes off you want the ability to be able to upgrade your hosting without having to migrate.
One of the easiest ways to build an ecommerce site is to use a CMS with ready made ecommerce software like WooCommerce. If you can avoid page builders and unnecessary widgets then you can reduce your costs. By using independent web hosts you have more control over your hosting plans.