In the time our blog has been up and running, most of our texts have been focused on the advantages of using an online chat for your ecommerce business, or strategies for improving the support you give your customers. For this article, we decided to create something simpler. We’ve put together a tutorial of 19 steps that you should take when setting up your online shop. If you follow them all, you’re sure to be a lot closer to starting to sell your products online.
1. Register your domain and choose a host
We’re going to base this list on the assumption that you’ve already decided what products you’re going to sell, and chosen a name for your virtual shop. The process for registering a domain name varies from country to country, each offering different prices and services. After you’ve registered your domain name, you need to sort out your web-hosting service, which is where your site will be located on the web. Sites such as HostGator, eHost and BlueHost, amongst others, offer different payment plans and web-hosting options for your ecommerce site.
2. Choose a site to build your online shop
With the domain and hosting sorted, it’s time to set up the site itself. You’ve got three options. If you’re a web designer you can build your own site from scratch, and if you’re not, you can hire one. As both options will cost you, the first in time and the second in money, we recommend the third option for those that lack the knowledge or the capital necessary. This is using a specialised site for creating ecommerce sites. There are quite a few options, and the features they offer and their pricing vary. To save you trawling the internet trying to find the right site, we’ve put together this list of 20 options for websites to start your ecommerce
3. Choose a theme for your online shop
The next step is deciding what your site will look like. Although lots of the sites above offer their own themes, you can also create your own or opt to purchase a different theme for use in your online shop. Services such as ThemeForest have millions of themes available, at a range of different prices.
Important: Check if the service plan you choose at step two allows you to use external themes before purchasing it.
4. Create your visual identity
Whether you do it yourself, employ a designer or buy a readymade logo, you need to create a visual identity for your online shop. Platforms such as 99Designs make it easy to contact and employ designers. A cheaper option is 19 Dollar Logos, which has a series of lost-cost logos, ready to use as soon as you pay.
5. Customize your shop
The first stage of the process is nearly complete, you just need to customise the remaining elements of your virtual shop: fonts, menus, categories, and which pages will appear on the main menu, amongst others. Other options when you’re customising your shop are adding in plugins — in the case of shops built with WordPress — or links to search engines.
6. Create the ‘About’ section for your shop
This is one of the most important steps when you’re setting up your shop. This is where you’ll explain to your clients what your shop is about, what you sell, and a little bit about its history. Try to avoid turning this section into an essay. A succinct description which talks invitingly about the shop and its products is all you need.
7. Remember to make your operating hours and contact details clear
If there’s one thing that will frustrate your consumers and immediately distance them from your business, it’s when it isn’t clear how to get in contact with your customer service. That’s why it’s important to have this information on your home page and ‘About’ page, along with your operating hours and days of the week. If you’re setting up an online branch of a physical shop, remember to provide your address as well.
8. Choose the country in which your business will be operating
It might seem obvious, but ecommerce platforms might not automatically know which country you’re operating in, so you’ll need to add this information in the control panel. This isn’t just a detail, it’s a strategic decision. If you’re selling digital products, like eBooks or digital gaming codes, your location doesn’t make a difference, but physical products are more limited, seeing as shipping overseas isn’t always a viable option.
Note: If you work with products in other languages, JivoChat lets you automatically translate messages.
9. Choose the currency in which your products will be sold
This is another important item, and it’s not always configured on digital commerce platforms. It’s worth remembering that some countries, including the United States and Brazil, don’t allow you to sell products in anything other than the local currency.
10. Configure the user experience
With details like the customisation and location sorted, it’s time to establish what the user experience will be like. If they add something to their shopping cart, will they be taken straight there, or will they be able to keep making other purchase? Will there be different language options? Will the user receive a chat invitation, after they’ve been on the site for a while, or if they click on a specific page? This is the moment when you need to decide the steps a customer will take to get to the checkout.
11. Add your catalogue
Now it’s time for the hard work: adding your catalogue of products. There isn’t much guidance we can give you on this, as every platform works differently. Some allow you to add different products all at once, whereas others, for example, let you import a .csv file and build your inventory from there. Time to get to work!
12. Establish your exchange and returns policy
It’s vital to establish an exchange and returns policy for your virtual shop and make this information clear to the visitor. Not having one could simply make you seem untrustworthy, but it could also leave you exposed to fraud, and not having it visible could mean you lose credit, or even end up with dissatisfied customers taking legal action against you. We suggest that you have your policy set out on a separate page, with a link in the ‘About’ area, and have it in full on the purchase confirmation page.
13. Establish your shipping policy
Just as with the previous point, you need to make the methods you will use to send products clear. It’s important to explain how the process will work, as well as offering an estimated arrival date, including any exceptional circumstances that could mean it takes longer. This can also be included in the ‘About’ section, and written out in full on the purchase confirmation page.
14. Decide if you will sell to order, or if you will stop selling a product once it’s sold out
Some platforms, like Shopify, let you administer your inventory in two ways. The first is letting the consumer continue buying a product that is sold out, like a kind of pre-order. The second is simpler, simply stopping sales once a product has sold out. Decide which method you’ll use, and which products on your online shop it will apply to.
15. Add shopping cart script
16. Add digital payment services
This is essential, unless you’d rather take the old-fashioned approach and only receive cheques through the post, which, let’s be honest, is never going to happen. PayPal is the most popular option, and comes highly recommended, as you can also include optional additional services. To help you decide, we’ve also listed 8 alternatives to PayPal.
17. Install JivoChat for your online customer service
Another essential tool for your online shop, or even for your blog, JivoChat is a definitive online chat solution. JivoChat offers proactive chat invitations, a responsive design, which adapts to the size of the user’s screen, and apps compatible with web browsers, Androaid and i0S, as well as with Google Analytics, amongst other features. It can even be integrated into your own app.
18. Carry out periodic system maintenance, and inventories of your virtual shop
With your virtual shop up and running, remember to maintain it, looking out for security updates, as well as updates to the programs and services you’re using, like JivoChat and your shopping cart script. Always remember to update your inventory after new products arrive, add new products and remove products that won’t be sold on your shop anymore.
19. Optional: create a blog for your virtual shop
Creating a blog is a good way of gaining a following on social media and for your ecommerce to rank better on Google. Through this, you’ll be able to make announcements related to the shop, as well as share relevant information and studies. Although this step is optional, we highly recommend it.
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Have you managed to take the first steps towards setting up your virtual shop?
We hope this tutorial has helped you get to grips with the steps you need to take to get your ecommerce up and running and start a prosperous business. To take it further, don’t forget to check out our post on 30 ways to achieve your first online sale, and find out about the different plans and advantages we have to offer!