How to start an eCommerce website

With online shopping continuing to grow in 2019, it’s no wonder that more and more people are setting up their own eCommerce websites; but what do you need to do to ensure the success of your startup?

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Toby Osborne - Web Developer

About the author

Toby Osborne

Hi, I’m Toby, a web developer with over eight years experience. My professional goal is to educate businesses in the use of technology to streamline their workflow.

Surprisingly, the principle behind starting an eCommerce site isn’t too difficult. Find a product, create a website, start to sell; but we all know there’s a lot more involved than that, but that doesn’t mean that it needs to be hard.

Like anything, take it one step at a time, treat every completed task as a “win”, stay motivated and plan meticulously. I’m sure you’re looking for more than that so let’s start right at the beginning.

#1. Choose a product

I’m sure that you’ve got an idea of what to sell already, but if you don’t here are a few ideas:

  • Handcrafted jewellery
  • Homemade baked goods
  • Wholesale items

Got your idea yet? Great, now think about who will buy your products, and no “everyone” is not the answer. No matter your product there will always be a target audience, the type of people that are most likely to buy or benefit from your product.

Once you’ve got an outline of your customers, give yourself a cookie, because you’ve completed the first task on our list; nice work!

#2 Choose between an Agency or a website builder

This is the most significant decision you’ll make, both have good and bad points, and your choice here will affect how your eCommerce site looks, feels and works.

Web agency meeting

Website Builders

There are plenty of eCommerce website builders around nowadays, and to their credit, they aren’t that bad, choosing one is usually a toss-up between WIX and Squarespace, but the benefits and disadvantages of each are similar:

  • Cheap
  • Includes everything to start selling
  • You know what you’ll get
  • Unfocused designs
  • Restrictive
  • Tied into them
  • Takes a lot of your time

Web Agencies

The benefits of having a good web agency behind you are impactful but straightforward. Be careful though as there are plenty of opportunistic agencies out there.

  • Advice, support and reassurance
  • Skills and experience tailored to creating eCommerce websites
  • Continued guidance in your business venture
  • Time-saving, we’ll do the nitty-gritty
  • Customer focused design
  • An outside perspective
  • Better results
  • Faster results
  • Can be expensive
  • Can take longer to get setup
  • Easily missold (Please, be careful)

Remember, whether you choose a web agency or a web builder, your customers are the most essential aspect, so think about what they need.

#3. Choose a payment gateway

It’s easy to get tied up thinking about your products and website, but don’t forget you’re going to want to take payments and to do that you’ll need a payment gateway.

eCommerce payment gateways

There are plenty to choose from, and some are better than others. When considering your options think about:

  • Cost. Most charge per transaction
  • If you need physical payments as well
  • What your website will support
  • Reviews
  • If it’s hard for customers to use
  • Public perception, if your customers don’t want to use it, they won’t

Good news if you chose to use a website builder, you likely have little or no choice.

If you do have a choice, I recommend avoiding the older gateways like WorldPay, SagePay and Global Iris, their systems seem outdated, and there are plenty of better options.

Find out more by reading our Choosing the right payment gateway post.

#4. Choose a shipping provider

Another thing that shouldn’t be left to the last second is choosing a shipping provider; you know the guys that will get your product to the customer.

eCommerce Couriers

You all know at least one delivery company, but shop around to find the best deal, phone them up and negotiate; but also talk to your web agency, as a developer I can tell you we can do a lot more with some systems than others.

There are a few things you should consider:

  • What you’re shipping
  • Cost
  • Their Platform
  • How long it will take to process orders
  • Delivery Times

We go into detail of what to look for when choosing a delivery company in our post Choosing the perfect shipping service.

#5. Choose a web host

We’re so close, we just need to get the website on the internet, and to do that we need a web host.

eCommerce web server

A hosting provider will be responsible for where your website is stored online, think of it like a computer that is always on and accessible to others.

Please don’t fall into the trap of believing cheaper is better; they’re not all the same, and you could find yourself in a sticky situation if you do go with the cheapest.

The three things I would recommend looking for are:

  • Security
  • Reliability
  • Speed

Check out our guide explaining what web hosting is.

#6. Set a price

Your website is coming together, you’ve got a payment gateway, you’re settling on a contract with a shipping service, and the site has somewhere to live, what’s next?

Well, we haven’t talked about the price of your product, you may have thought that would be done in the first step, but how can you set a price without knowing your costs?

There are quite a lot to think about when setting a price but remember this,

Your prices should be high enough that you can do discounts.

Seriously, It’s great to say we charge the lowest we can but, people won’t believe you, so it’s best to charge that little bit more and do discounts.

You can also consider this even more and think about what sells best, some examples are:

  • People usually buy from companies with free shipping even if the products cost more.
  • £10.99 seems more expensive than £11, notice the lack of decimals.

That’s all you need to start an eCommerce website

Okay, it’s an overview, in reality, you need to market, negotiate and research a lot more, but these points will get you on the track.

A good web agency will help you from start to finish, so I recommend getting in touch with one.

Be honest with your budget and see what they can do to help; I can’t talk about other agencies but we at Digital Duck, can and will cater prices around you and do everything we can to make your venture a success.

Need a little help?

We’re excited to see you taking an interest in making your website better.
If we can help in any way, let us know.

Book a consultation send us a message or call +44 (0) 1258 917 311.

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