Creating an online store is easier than one would think and may only take a day or two to set up depending on the size and type of site and resources available. It also opens up tremendous potential for expanding your customer base.
The actual period of time you'll have to invest will be determined by the design and scope of the site, the amount of products featured on the site and how tech savvy you are.
Claim Your Domain
The first step in setting up your online store is claiming a domain name. If you do not already have a website that can function as an online store, you will need to register a domain name. There are many free sites software like WordPress that with some addons can be used for an online store or there are professional sites that can be purchased.
Hosted or Software
The next step is actually creating your online store. There are two general options when launching an online store. You can either choose PHP software or run a hosted site. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages, and both will give you the desired end results. It is better to go with the option you are most comfortable with and personally like.
If you're the technically inclined type, you could choose software like osCommerce or Zen-cart, since they're free to download and use. If you're not, it's probably best to find a more turn-key solution. Some web hosting companies, such as
1&1 eShop offer this, but don't be fooled by the many Ecommerce hosting packages out there. Most are nothing more than regular hosting accounts with a couple of e-commerce related features included in the package like an SSL certificate and a dedicated IP.
Once you have your online store set up, you can now add products. Depending on the script used, products can be added in bulk through an Excel file or they can be added one by one. Pictures and professionally worded descriptions can be very advantageous and contribute a great deal in creating successful sales. A site without misspellings, missing pictures or signs of neglect will do a lot to increase the customer's trust.
Design Your Store
The design of the store should include a good layout, easily readable and easily understandable instructions, descriptions and titles, user-friendly navigation tools and clear product images. If your online store is frustrating to use for your customer, you will quickly lose their business. Be sure to include an About Us page and Contact Information, this builds trust for your customer and will leave them feeling secure enough to spend money at your store.
Depending on the location of your business, the law may require that you have full business identification present on your site. This is quite often the case in Europe where distance selling is heavily regulated. Avoiding fines means more profit to you. Besides, if the customer feels like he can easily get in touch with you, that you're not hiding behind the largely anonymous Internet, your chances of closing that sale improve quite a bit.
Shipping and Payment
Add appropriate shipping and payment options that cater to your product list. You will need a merchant account for online credit card processing and payment gateways. There are modules available that will integrate your preferred payment gateway with major shipping carriers like FedEx and UPS. Online credit card processing is essential when setting up an online store.
Do pay attention to fraud detection techniques and services. When dealing online, fraud and the resulting chargebacks are one of the worst enemies of merchants. Leaving aside the chargeback fees themselves, which have the potential to eat quite a bit of your profits, getting too many of them can result in your merchant account being closed.
As with everything worthwhile in life, with a little motivation, patience and attention to detail, you can set up an online store for your business and begin earning a profit from online sales.
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