In the past few years, the Internet has completely revolutionised many areas of life – but perhaps none more so than the way we shop. In 2019, Internet and e-commerce sales accounted for approximately £2.7 trillion ($3.5 trillion) of sales, a considerable increase from just £1 trillion ($1.3 trillion) back in 2014. At current growth rates, Internet sales are expected to reach £5 trillion ($6.5 trillion) by 2023.
Indeed, through the recent Coronavirus, pandemic e-commerce sales flourished as people were forced to stay home during lockdowns. While we all hope the virus will pass soon, it’s quite likely this shift to shopping online will remain and industry experts are predicting a tough time ahead for traditional brick-and-mortar stores.
Considerable opportunities exist for entrepreneurs to operate online, free from the confines of rent and other costs associated with physical retail premises. Here are five steps you should consider when starting your own e-commerce store.
Search Google for competitors
You should already have an idea what you intend to sell, so do a Google search to check how much competition there is in your target market. Remember, competition isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it can equally be viewed as an indicator that your business idea is popular and viable. In particular, check if competitors are advertising. If a company is paying for advertising on Google, it can be a very good indicator that the business is profitable.
Develop the site alone or use a web design company
Web design has come a very long in a short time and these days it’s possible for even users with very basic knowledge to start up all sorts of websites – including e-commerce sites. However, in the main, when it comes to developing an online shopping site, you would be best advised to consult a professional design company.
Templates are suitable for blogs and hobbyist sites but there are considerable online security threats inherent in running an online store that you simply won’t have the skills or knowledge to counter. Companies like Bluelinemedia (Bluelinemedia.co.uk) have vast experience of developing secure e-commerce sites and will offer unrivalled advice and support throughout the entire lifetime of the project.
Choose a domain name
If your company is going to operate purely online, your choice of domain name will be particularly important. As a rule, you should aim to keep things short – preferably with a name that in some way hints at the product or service you’ll be providing.
Remember, your domain name is going to house your virtual shop so will be the only way clients find and shop from you. In recent years, many companies have opted for names which directly incorporate the products they sell e.g. “bathroomsonline.co.uk”. Try to be creative with the name – but most definitely try to keep it short. When choosing the domain name, you should also check it’s available for use on all the main social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc).
Select a hosting company
Clearly, your website is going to need a ‘home’ and web hosting to make it viewable by your clients. Web hosting comes in a huge variety of shapes and sizes. However, the main considerations you should check are the reported uptime of a server company along with any bandwidth considerations or limits.
Decide how you’re going to stock and ship products
In recent years, there’s been a growing trend for Internet-only companies to use order fulfillment services to stock and ship their products. Order fulfillment is the process of using a third party to receive, process and deliver orders to clients and can have a dramatic effect on the profitability of a company. It can also hugely cut down order processing times.