Writtten by Geoff Austin
Ecommerce continues to grow and is worth over $304bn in the US right now. The peak online selling period has started and will run until Xmas. Black Friday which comes at the end of November is worth $1.2bn in sales. So it’s easy to see the benefits of selling online. Yet according to the NSBA, 72% of small businesses are still not selling their own products online.
For the small business owner juggling the demands of running their own business, ecommerce can be something that seems beyond their capability and belongs to bigger businesses who can hire someone to do it for them.
In this post we show you how easy it can be to create an online store yourself. Even if you’re not very tech savvy, you can start selling your own products online with the minimum investment in time and money.
The Challenges You Face and the Options Available
Most small business owners have a lot of different roles to fulfil when running their own business. It may be that you’re short on time, or your technical IT skills aren’t up to scratch.
Therefore it makes sense that you’d want a solution that enables you to start small, that won’t make a huge dent in your budget and is easy to setup. If you’re successful then you can afford to invest more time and money into it, since you’ll have seen the results first hand.
Hosted Ecommerce Solutions
For this reason I suggest looking at a hosted solution for starting your online store. This means your store is hosted by an ecommerce provider who’ll usually take care of all the technical and operational things for you. There’ll be less work involved for you in setting it up and maintaining it, meaning you can concentrate on growing your business.
Starting with a hosted ecommerce solution simply involves signing up to the service, paying the fee, connecting your website domain or using the one provided. Then choosing and customizing a store template, and adding your products.
The benefits of choosing this option include:
- Built-in speed and security
- All the features necessary for selling online
- Add-ons and apps are often available to extend your store
- Easy design customization
- Technical support for your store is included
- Continual upgrades
- The handling of credit card transactions meet the required standards (PCI Compliance)
- A solid, reliable platform
Hosted solutions come in many different flavors, and it can be a challenge to know which one to choose that is the right one for your needs. Here are some of the pros and cons and things to look out for.
For Serious Ecommerce Websites
Solutions like BigCommerce and Shopify are two of the most popular for ecommerce businesses. They are designed for selling a large range of physical products and if you need a more complex ecommerce store that is used as your website.
It will mean a bigger investment on your part, since the monthly cost of this kind of store can be anywhere from $30 to $179. You’ll likely want to customize the look of your store with one of the many off the shelf store themes available. Prices vary per theme, but expect to pay around $180. You will need to factor in the costs if extending your store’s functionality with special apps, or if using a web designer to help design your store and it’s easy to see how things can get pricey.
No matter which solution you choose, here are some of the common things to take into consideration.
Payment processing – whichever ecommerce platform you choose there will be a cost of processing the credit card payment which tends to be about 2.9% + 30c per sale. Depending on the provider and plan you may also lose 2% to the ecommerce provider as a “transaction cost”.
Being mobile friendly – isn’t a nice to have, it’s now essential to have a website and checkout process that is mobile friendly and works well on a tablet or Smartphone. 160 million people in the US own a Smartphone, and 42 percent of US adults now have a tablet. In addition to this, 32% of all online purchases are made using a mobile device.
So check your online store is designed to work well on a desktop, Smartphone or tablet, no matter what the screen size. This is often described as “mobile responsive” or “mobile first” by the different hosted online store providers.
Your checkout needs to be quick and easy – give the checkout a test drive before you decide on the ecommerce tool to use. You want something that is simple and quick for the customer to use. Ensure that a customer can purchase without having to register. Otherwise this will cost you sales. The other challenge for small business owners is that mobile shoppers are even more likely to abandon a purchase if they have trouble with the checkout process. If a checkout has too many fields to complete or if your site is slow to load, they’re gone, and most likely off to a competitor’s site.
Ecommerce Website Builders for DIY
The good news is that there are a range of website builders available such as Weebly, Squarspace, and Wix are designed for the non technical user. Each has an ecommerce plan for $20 to $30 per month. These tools are good for business owners who want to build a website with ecommerce built-in and don’t mind investing a moderate amount of time and effort.
Tip: If you want a shortcut to selling online and you already have a website, you could add a hosted shopping cart to your existing website navigation. Another shortcut is to add a store to your Facebook Business page.
The important thing is that you can be a small business that is selling online.
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Start Small and Build Up
Remember big ideas are great fun, but it’s better if starting something new to take one small step to sustain huge.
Why not start with an even smaller investment to test the waters? All of the above options will require a moderate amount of work to get up and running. If you don’t have the time or resources to invest in a store built with these solutions, there is a short cut. You can create a store in an hour or two with a small number of products using a tool like Selz.
Selz: A Shortcut to Creating an Online Store
Selz is an ecommerce tool that is designed for people to use with no technical skills. It handles the end to end payments process and takes minutes to get started. It keeps costs to the bare minimum and is a good way to start out. You’ll even get a free Facebook store which you can integrate with your business page.
Step 1: Register with Selz
It’s completely free to register an account with Selz. Simply go to Selz.com register with your email address or using a range of Social Networks including Facebook and Twitter.
When you create an account with Selz you receive a free hosted store, with a web address like “mystore.selz.com”. If you don’t want selz.com at the end of the web address you’ll need to buy and register your own domain name. Sites like GoDaddy make the process simple, enabling you to be up and running in minutes with prices that are as little as $3 per domain.
Step 2: Go to Apps Store
Here you’ll want to select the “Store Pro” and “Custom Domain” options which have a 14 day free trial.
You’ll also want to use the “Shopping Cart” app, along with the PayPal payment option which can help with increasing your sales by making the checkout process smoother, and providing additional ways for people to purchase from your store.
Step 3: Customize the Look of Your Store
Choose one of the themes available and install it. You can now customize your store look by displaying a logo, choosing different colors to use, or set the number and type of products to display on home page.
You can also create your own pages which can appear in the main navigation and in the footer. You can create a page for an “About Us” which talks about your business and a page with contains a contact form. To do this you click on Themes in the side toolbar.
Step 4: Create an Item
Next you can start creating your products. To create your first product, navigate to “Items” in your top navigation and click “Sell An Item”. Choose whether you would like to sell a Physical or Digital product, or a Service.
Then give your product a detailed description, a preview image, price and category. You can also set the quantity available and create your own discount coupons. When you’re done click update and your product will be listed for customers to buy. Repeat this process for each product you want to sell.
Step 5: Add Google Analytics
You’ll want to know about how you are getting visitors and customers to your site. Selz comes with business reporting built in, but you can also use the powerfully free Google Analytics with a Selz store. Google Analytics is one of the best free reporting tools, and you can use it to identify the sources of the most valuable customers, or to measure the return on investment from any paid advertising you run.
All you need to do is plug your Google Analytics ID into Selz. Follow the step by step instructions below to get started. Don’t worry this only takes a few seconds and is easy to do.
- Create a new profile account in Google analytics using your Selz store URL.
Hint: Google Analytics will ask you for the URL when you set up a new profile. You can find your store URL by logging into Selz and navigating to ‘Store’ in ‘Settings’.
- Copy your ‘Tracking ID’ for your profile you just created in Google Analytics. The code can be found under the ‘Tracking Info’ tab within Google Analytics and should start “UA…”.
- Head to ‘Store’ in ‘Settings’ in your Selz dashboard, if you’re not already there and paste the code in the ‘Google Analytics’ field and ‘Save’.
You can now use Google Analytics for your reporting (allow 24 hours for Google to start collecting the data)
Promote Your New Store
Next is the most important step. Promoting your store and focusing on the marketing, the blogging, the SEO, or using social media to build visitors to your online store. You can also experiment with paid advertising. You’ll be able to measure the results and find what works and doesn’t work in generating sales with the Google Analytics reporting you set up.
You will need to think about your own requirements, budget, and commitment. You can then weigh up the hosted ecommerce options that best suits you. Remember to check that it is mobile friendly and ensure the checkout is quick and easy to use.
Don’t forget you can start small and build up your online sales. Using our shortcut tip, you can have your own online store in a few minutes and with the minimum of work. You can use your new store as a simple website, or link to it from your existing website or blog if you have one.
The important thing is that you can be a small business that is selling online.
If he is not busy sharing stuff about start-ups and helping smallbiz, Geoff Austin spends his time being chauffeur to twin daughters. Keep up with Geoff on Twitter, or Google+
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Featured Image on Pixabay by Jarmoluk
How To DIY An Online Store For Small Business Owners is a post from: ConverStations