Image of small boxes with shopping cart icons sitting on a laptop keyboard with a credit card in the foreground

5 key considerations when setting up an online store

Whether it’s the state of the world today, or something you’ve been considering for a while, there’s no doubt that adding online sales to an existing business, or setting up an online store from scratch, is a lucrative opportunity.

Online sales capability extends your market reach beyond your local area to national and even international markets, it runs 24/7, and the barrier to entry, with the right preparation, is reasonably low. Many of us, myself included, prefer to shop online.

Every competent sales process starts with discovering your unique needs and requirements. Building an effective eCommerce solution is no exception.  It’s our job as developers to put the solution together, but the intrinsic understanding of, and passion for, your business is yours.

The following steps will help you prepare your business for eCommerce.

1. Consider your target market

It might come as a surprise but we’re not setting up an online store for you, we’re setting it up for your customers.

Understanding both the demographics and psychographics of your target market influences the design of the site, the content, and the marketing strategy.

Who are you selling to, where are they located, age, gender, occupation, language. Where do they hang out, interests, hobbies, personal taste, what influences their buying decisions, what problems are you solving for them?

The more you can articulate the characteristics of your ideal customer the better we can design a site that meets their needs.

2. Do competitor analysis

Know, or research who your competitors are, analyze who they are marketing to, and how, then determine your unique value proposition.

What is it about your business that sets you apart from your competition and makes people want to buy from you? What problems do you solve, is there a gap in the market that you fill, what exactly is your point of difference? Your website content should answer those questions.

3. Prepare your products

Successful brick-and-mortar stores pay a lot of attention to the presentation of their products. A lot!

Where products are placed, how they’re displayed, and the customer journey through the store is constantly evaluated and reviewed. A digital store is no exception.

In a typical eCommerce site, for each product, you have images, short description, full description, additional information (tech specs.), and reviews. Whether you have ten or a thousand products, each of these elements should be carefully crafted, for each product and product variation, for both the buyer experience and for search marketing focusing on the product keyword.

4. Decide how you will accept payments

A critical element of setting up an online store is deciding how you intend to accept payments.

This is normally achieved by using one or more readily available Payment Gateways, but the solution can become more complex if you wish to integrate an existing point of sale system, or bank merchant facility.

A payment gateway securely collects customers’ card or third-party payment details and sends them through the card networks for processing. 

Popular options include Stripe, Shopify Payments, WooCommerce Payments, and PayPal. They all provide easy integration into eCommerce solutions like WooCommerce and Shopify. You will require an account or merchant facility for the processor(s) you choose.

Extended payment options like Afterpay are also easily implemented providing you have a merchant facility.

Pay careful consideration to the transaction fees charged by your payment processor and ensure you’ve factored this into your pricing.

5. Shipping

Shipping and fulfillment is a vital component of your customer’s experience of your online store. Customers know and expect to wait for products to arrive, but how long they wait, and how they experience the transit process, may determine whether they become repeat customers.  Shipping costs can come as a shock at checkout, causing shopping cart abandonment.

When setting up an online store, ideally at the outset of planning, you should research and determine your shipping and fulfillment strategy.

Fortunately organisations like Australia PostSendle and more can be easily integrated into your eCommerce solution if you plan to use a real-time shipping cost strategy, but it’s important to consider other strategies like fixed-rate, or free, shipping and how that is factored into your prices and profit margins.

In addition to preparing your products for display and marketing, they need to be prepared for shipping. Physical products should have their packaged weight and their length width and height metrics entered into your eCommerce solution for accurate freight cost calculation.

Setting up an online store can be an exciting and ultimately profitable experience. The complexity of online stores means there’s more preparation upfront, and there certainly are other factors to consider. Putting some effort into the above 5 considerations will prepare you well for the initial discovery page of your project.

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