It’s no secret: there are thousands of online stores in the UK and people love to buy online. It is easy and convenient.
According to ONS back in 2014 we spent around £718.7 million per week buying stuff online!
As you can imagine, the Internet offers a lucrative market for businesses of all sizes. It’s easier and cheaper to set up an online store than a “bricks and mortar” one. If you run a business, you may be keen to get started selling online.
Before you do, check out the following 10 things you need before setting up an online store:
- Domain Name
When you visit any website on the Internet, you will type in a “domain name” into your browser’s address bar.
Domain names are cheap and easy to buy. Of course, the hard part is thinking of a suitable domain name for your online store. You should make a list of possible names and get feedback on them before buying one.
That way, you’ll end up with a memorable domain name for your online store.
So far you’ve secured a domain name for your online store. But, you need to link it to a physical server: a “host.”
There are lots of hosting providers out there that can offer this service. Many provide a range of useful features such as lots of disk space. And most also offer cPanel administration to their customers.
When you search for a host, it’s important they meet your needs. For instance, if you’re setting up a British online store, make sure your server is in the UK. That’s because it’ll offer the fastest speeds to your users.
You should also make sure they offer scalability. That way, you can upgrade your hosting package in the future should your hosting needs change.
It’s likely that potential and existing customers will want to email you at some point. Most good hosts will offer email facilities as part of their hosting packages.
Are you a serial emailer? If so, you might prefer to use a third-party solution such as Gmail for work or Microsoft’s Office 365. The good news is those third-party solutions can get integrated with existing hosting solutions.
Be sure to offer email addresses for specific departments in your business. For example, a general enquiries email address could be something like “info@…” or a sales one might be “sales@…”.
You should ensure that your online store makes it easy for people to contact you by email. A contact form is always a good idea, but you should also publish your primary email addresses on the site too.
- SSL Certificate
When you sell online, your customers will only buy from a secure website. You can tell when a site is secure because the address begins with “https://” followed by a domain name.
To ensure data sent between your site and your customers are secure, you need an SSL certificate. In a nutshell, they “encrypt” the data transmitted back and forth.
The good news is that SSL certificates are affordable and easy to install on your website.
- Dedicated IP Address
Every single website on the Internet has an IP address linked to it. Without boring you with technical jargon, an IP address is a unique set of numbers.
Many websites share one IP address (for example, on shared servers). But, if you wish to have an SSL certificate, you need a “dedicated” IP address. That means your website will have an IP address that isn’t used by any other sites.
Dedicated IP addresses get supplied by your hosting provider. If you want an SSL certificate, you need to get a dedicated IP address first.
- E-commerce Platform
So far you’ve sorted out the “low-level” stuff for your online store. But, what about the online store itself? At the moment, you just have a server that isn’t doing much. What you now need to do is install and configure an e-commerce platform.
In layman’s terms, it’s the software that powers your online store. There are several ecommerce platforms that you could use for your website. Some popular examples include OpenCart, osCommerce and WooCommerce.
It’s important that you configure your new e-commerce platform before you start using it. That way, you can iron out any potential problems before you go live.
- Payment Gateway
Are you giving away all your products and services for free? If not, you will need to charge your customers some money for them! It’s easy to take payments from your customers online through your online store.
Some security checks must get carried out during the application process. It’s recommended you apply for one once you have installed your e-commerce platform. That’s because the process could take a few weeks.
- Product Descriptions
As you know, your payment gateway application may take a while to get processed. While you’re waiting, you can start populating your online store with products!
Without them, you won’t be doing any selling on your website. It’s crucial that your product descriptions grab the attention of your customers. It might be worth hiring a copywriter to come up with content that packs a punch.
Each product on your online store should also have a prominent “call to action” – i.e. “Buy Now”! You can usually arrange the layout of your call to action through your online store’s admin area.
- Product Photos
Words are great at helping you to sell your products. But, you also need some photographs too! If you are selling items made by other companies, you could use existing photos. Of course, for your branded items, you’ll need to take some pictures.
There are two ways to achieve that goal. The first is to invest in a good quality camera and studio equipment. That way, you can take professional studio-quality images. The second option is to hire a photographer. They usually charge per product, and will take pictures at their studios.
- Search Engine Optimisation
You’re almost ready to go live! The last thing you need to do is ensure your online store is SEO-friendly. For example, product and category pages should use “human-friendly” URLs.
Many e-commerce platforms come with SEO plugins that you can use to optimise your site.
Have you got any suggestions? Any tools that could be used?