Embracing modern living means coming to terms with technological innovation. Concepts such as e-commerce are no longer buzzwords but have indeed become facts of life. The heady early days may have proved challenging, but it’s obvious that we’ve weathered the storm, and anyone with a smartphone can purchase something they need (or don’t) from a merchant halfway around the world.

E-commerce is convenient and is “shopping made easy” in every respect. It remains a debate that e-commerce is a threat to physical stores. While that rages on, giant retailers have become solid e-tailers, leveraging the power of web technologies. They have successfully given up their fear to become even more powerful in the retail industry.

Similarly, small businesses are using the same technology as a launchpad to thrive in an ever-growing ecosystem. Perhaps their most powerful lesson to learn is that there’s ample space in the sky for every one of us.

E-commerce is about opportunity. Despite being highly competitive, it’s possible to succeed even as a new business. This guide aims to show you how to begin your e-commerce journey and win.

The place to begin is to have a functional e-commerce website. Now, fret not! We’re not turning you into a geek. We’re giving the entrepreneur in you more room to shine. Here’s what you’ll learn in this guide:

  • Principles of Web Design for E-commerce
  • Choose a Domain Name that Works
  • How to Choose and Compare Different E-commerce Platforms
  • 3 Strategies to Make Your First Sale and Keep Selling
  • Setting Up and Managing Your E-commerce Analytics
  • Shipping and Fulfilment for Beginners
  • Other Web Resources

Principles of Web Design for E-commerce

An e-commerce website is similar to any website you know. It has a name and contains content people want to see, and is available to customers. But, an e-commerce website has a unique purpose, and the design has to match the purpose.

Here are ten e-commerce design principles that’ll help turn your website into a robust online store.

  1. Have a unique design.
  2. Pick your market and target them with your design.
  3. Make your e-commerce website user-friendly.
  4. Make your site secure for users.
  5. Your site should load lightning fast on any user device and browser.
  6. Keep your design lean and mean.
  7. Don’t forget to include a “Search” tool on the website.
  8. Use detailed product descriptions.
  9. Ensure that customers recognize your brand by using it on every page.
  10. Use Calls-to-Action that increase your conversions.

Choose a Domain Name that Works

Domain names are difficult to choose, just like any other type of name. Since you’re already aware of the kinds of products you’ll sell and your business’s name, you’ll also like to pick a platform to build your store on. The platform will likely offer you a domain similar to youronlinestore.theplatform.com.

You may also buy a top-level domain similar to youronlinestore.com. Here are a few factors that make a unique domain name inevitable:

  1. Your domain name is your permanent online address.
  2. Your domain name can help increase awareness about your brand.
  3. Your domain name can help you gain customer trust.

So, what tips can we share to help you choose a domain name:

  1. Make it snappy and inviting.
  2. It has to be unique.
  3. Choose a top-level domain that matches your vision and passion.
  4. Choose a domain name that you can grow with.
  5. Don’t pick something close to a competitor’s domain name.
  6. Where all else fails, use a name generator.

How to Choose and Compare E-commerce Platforms

It’s easiest to begin your e-commerce site setup by using e-commerce platforms. They are more convenient, less expensive, and take way less time than using a professional web developer to build your website from scratch.

A common strategy that seasoned and emerging e-commerce businesses use is to use commercial platforms that allow them to focus on strategic aspects of the business.

There are these e-commerce platforms available, and you should deeply understand their specific strengths and weaknesses before picking one. A small business like yours is unique on various levels.  severaTherare many factors that make you different from large businesses. Similarly, the platforms suitable for you are not the platforms that serve the big businesses adequately. So, here are the ones you can use to begin your e-commerce journey:

Shopify

The leading platform for setting up an e-commerce store. Nearly 500,000 websites use Shopify, so you’re in good company. It’s a great choice for selling clothes, furniture, and digital products.

Shopify plans range from $14 through $79 tiers, and you’ll get enough community support to help you before, during, and after you’re live on the web.

BigCommerce

If you’re considering expansion in the future, BigCommerce is the e-commerce platform you need. It features a built-in content management system and integrates with several third-party providers for services you need.

Security is top-notch on BigCommerce, and you can be sure there’ll be no downtimes as your traffic grows. The interface is clear and intuitive too.

Volusion

Are you looking to sell equipment, home furniture, and outdoor stuff, Volusion is a good choice. It caters to tens of thousands of store owners, including big players like Disney or Motorola.

If you need help with your product, site design, search optimization, marketing, and processing orders, Volusion helps you succeed. You may also use their domain name, credit card processing, and fraud protection services.

Unique Volusion features include affiliate marketing, loyalty rewards program, mCommerce, and Social Store Builder,

WooCommerce

This platform is available as a free WordPress plugin. It allows you to have heavy customization of your website, but the learning curve may not be for you.

WooCommerce has plenty of integrations with fulfillment services. You can use more plugins to make your site better though this can cost you more than you bargained for.

Magento 2.0

Released in 2017, Magento can help you with conversion, user engagement, and site navigation.

Magento is highly flexible and extensible to fit your website’s unique needs. Fulfillment centers have created shipping integrations for Magento stores.

These aren’t the only e-commerce platforms available. But, use the following guidelines when you pick one to use:

  1. Ensure the platform meets your goals.
  2. Ensure the integration ecosystem is relevant to your business.
  3. Ensure it’s an excellent fit for your products.
  4. Ensure you have a platform good enough to match or out-do your competition.
  5. Choose a platform your budget can handle.
  6. Choose your hosting option.
  7. Put backend features into consideration.
  8. Use compatible payment gateways and shipping options.
  9. Ensure there’s ample support and a thriving community for the platform.
  10. The platform must take security seriously.

3 Strategies to Make Your First Sale and Keep Selling

There are a few ways you can make your first sale as soon as you launch.

  1. Go social.
    Tell your friends on Facebook and Twitter, or businesses on LinkedIn. Video marketing is powerful because of its high engagement ratios, while Instagram will help you win the trendy gang online.
  2. Make your website search-friendly.
    Put your business on Google and proceed with extensive search engine optimization (SEO). To avoid spamming, understand SEO thoroughly, and you’ll be in touch with the right audience.

    Also, study e-commerce web analytics to have a comprehensive understanding of how marketing channels work, and which one serves your business best. Wouldn’t you like to know what days of the week guarantee the most orders? Your site’s analytics will deepen your understanding of buyer behavior and allow you to make significant changes.

    Mobile-friendly websites rank high on Google, so make your site mobile-friendly. Get into blogging, content marketing, and email marketing. You can try Google AdWords, join online forums, do affiliate marketing to oil the wheels of your sales machine.
  3. Now, go beyond your website.
    Product reviews and press releases help people know that your website exists and can help them. Make your product sell itself and resell it to other retailers.

    Put together a sales team that understands selling and give customers something for stopping by your online store.

    Build an excellent relationship with suppliers and do everything to get them to trust you.

Setting Up and Managing Your E-commerce Analytics

With everything else in place, it’s time to integrate analytics into your e-commerce shop. Analytics tell you a lot about your customers and their needs and preferences. Analytics will teach you to interpret your customer’s moves from data.

Prepare to collect all types of data and to use them in making decisions to grow your business. Critical analytical metrics include:

  • Time on site
  • Pages per visit
  • Unique visitors
  • Returning visitors
  • Conversion rate
  • Bounce rate
  • Customer lifetime value
  • Customer acquisition cost

These values can indicate where your product, page, or website is lacking and how to fix it. Analytics prepare you to make smart business decisions that limit risk and maximize benefits.

Shipping and Fulfilment for Beginners

Shipping and fulfillment are challenging for even the big e-commerce players. It’ll get more challenging as your business grows in size. There are various shipping options, and you must choose when to use each one in your e-commerce operations.

  • Self-Shipping Service, where you handle everything yourself.
  • Third-Party Fulfilment and Shipping, where you handle shipping and fulfillment from a third-party warehouse you prefer. The inventory is yours, however.
  • Dropshipping, where you maintain a dropshipping partner who receives your orders and delivers on your behalf.

Shipping is often expensive for customers, but three ways to deal with that include:

  1. Offering free shipping
  2. Charging the exact shipping amount
  3. Offering flat-rate shipping

Packaging

As a small business, you can take a lean approach to packaging:

  1. Check the product type to ship.
  2. Select the most suitable packaging material.
  3. Protect the goods with a reliable seal.
  4. Put a label on it.

Where Do You Go From Here?

Starting and running an e-commerce business is challenging. It’s a life of continuous learning. Here are a few guides to help you with every aspect of the journey.

Building a Website and Opening an Online Store

  1. An E-commerce Guide for Small Businesses
  2. Benefits of Selling from an Online Store
  3. Ecommerce Business Blueprint: How To Build, Launch And Grow A Profitable Online Store
  4. How to Start an Online Store in 2017 (Step by Step)
  5. SEO for E-commerce

Shipping and Fulfillment

  1. E-commerce Fulfillment versus Drop-Shipping
  2. E-commerce Fulfillment Definition, Process & Resources
  3. Understanding DIM Weight Pricing

The Legal Side of Ecommerce

  1. A Legal Guide to Ecommerce
  2. Ecommerce Legals and Law
  3. Stay Legally Compliant