Six things you need think about when setting up an e-commerce website

Want to start an e-commerce website? Read six things you need to think about before launching your first online store.

These days you don’t need a physical shopfront to start a retail business – it’s possible for businesses to exist entirely online with an e-commerce website. Not only does this save you money in rent, furnishings and shop staff, but it also means you can sell to customers around the world, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Six e-commerce things you need to think about

But, like any business, an e-commerce website takes thoughtful planning. And to help you get a head start, business writer Patrick Vernon explains six things you need to think about when setting up an online store.

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1) Online security

From time to time we hear about targeting high profile multinational corporations. But just because your e-commerce business is tiny, it doesn’t mean you’re not vulnerable to attack too. Indeed, according to statistics, as many as 30,000 WordPress sites are hacked every day.

With no IT department on hand, this means you’ll have to take steps yourself to protect your website and e-commerce platform. Investigate anti-virus software and firewalls, a strong password policy, SSL certificates, encrypted customer information, and an impenetrable web hosting solution, such as 100TB Dedicated Servers.

2) Automation

If you are going it alone, the prospect of managing everything from suppliers to shipping can be quite daunting. Luckily though, today you have your pick of automation opportunities to help you get more done in less time.

Pick the right automation technology, and let it take care of your customer relationship management, accounting, credo control, project management, and email marketing software.

3) How consumers will find your website

Don’t assume that your target market will be able to find your website straight away, or simply stumble upon it accidentally. With millions of other online stores battling for your customer’s attention, you need to be clever about helping them find you.

If you can afford the investment, hiring a marketing or PR consultant or social media manager can give you a big head start over your competitors. If you don’t have the money, you can tackle your content marketing and social media yourself. (Read our top 10 stories on social media for tips and shortcuts.)

4) Focus

It’s very tempting, when you’re just starting out, to try and jump on every potential opportunity that comes your way. The more you do and sell, you reason, the more money you can make.

Say, for example, your business is buying cheap smartphone cases from China and selling them on for a profit in your own country. This has lots of moneymaking potential, but it’s easy to lose sight of profitability if you try to take on additional ventures, such as designing your own cases or branching out into tablets and laptops.

Instead of being focused and building a successful, single-minded business (and gaining valuable experience), you spread your time, attention and budget trying to juggle several business ideas. And ultimately doing none of them particularly well.

So stay focused, keep your ambitions in check, and wait until your initial enterprise is booming before you consider diversification.

5) Persistence

Some e-commerce enterprises will launch with the right product at the right time and enjoy overnight success. But in reality, it will probably take a great deal of patience and persistence to achieve online prosperity.

So don’t be disheartened if your business isn’t crazily busy on day one. Or month one. Slow and steady wins the race, so keep plodding on, learning and tweaking your business as you go. As long as there are signs that customers appreciate your offering, you’re going in the right direction. So stick to your vision and don’t give up.

6) Your customers

You might not come face-to-face with your customers, but their influence remains critical to your online success. Customer feedback, good and bad, is brilliant for your business. It tells you what you are doing right (so you can do more of it) and what they don’t like (so you can improve).

You don’t have to act on everything your customers say or suggest, but are more likely to buy from you again in future if they feel respected and valued.

So seek their opinions and reviews, and respond to them – thanking them for the good ones, and politely addressing any complaints or criticisms. (Read five ways you can use customer feedback to improve your business.)

Need more tips on starting an e-commerce business?

You’ll find more advice for setting up an online business in these articles: