You’ve decided you want to become an ecommerce retailer – it’s time to start working on your webstore. Your online store is the portal through which you will get sales, push your brand and interact with your customers.
In this article we will:
- Go through the options of how to build a webstore
- Look at the pros and cons of each option
- Look at the important considerations when planning your shop
- Provide you with a list of shop building platforms
What are your options?
When you are deciding how to go about creating your store you have a number of options. You can use a shop building platform which has shopping cart technology built into it. You can have your store built and designed by a developer from scratch.
Or you can hire a specialised developer to create a store for you using one of the shop building platforms.
Each of these methods have their bonuses and when you are deciding which route to go down you will need to think about what your goals and priorities are. For example, do you have a deadline for getting your shop up and running? Are you trying to create a shop with minimum investment?
How important is it that you have complete control over the functions of your shop? The answers to these kinds of questions will help you to pick the option that is most suitable for you and your brand.
Unless you are highly trained in web design the chances are, regardless of what route you go down, you will need third-party assistance to build your store.
“What you shouldn’t do is to try and do it all on your own,” says Andreas Kopatz, business development manager, Intershop.
“It is essential to have trustworthy partners at your side who can support and guide you in setting up your online business. This includes partners for design, shipping, payments and, most importantly, a knowledgeable advisor who really cares about your business. It’s no longer good enough to follow the crowd and have a “me too” shop out there.”
The Pros and Cons
The benefits of a shop building platform
There are a lot of shop building platforms out there that will take the pain out of creating your webstore. If you need to get your shop up and running quickly, choosing from these services will speed up the process for you.
Many of them run on a monthly fee basis which means that you don’t need a huge chunk of initial investment capital to get started – many start from as little as £10 per month.
“The good thing about a shop building platform such as Shopify or 1&1 is that you can start selling almost immediately,” says Kopatz.
“In most cases you don’t have to worry about payment providers, search engines, technical support or other technical issues. You can instead focus on your business, assortment, and product descriptions.”
The downsides of a shop building platform
On the other hand however, if you want complete control over the look, feel and functions of your site – you won’t be able to find this with a shop building platform. There are customisation options of course but they only go so far.
“With ‘Out of the Box’ web stores, the etailer can have lots of limitations that ultimately can lose them the competitive edge,” says Bradley Keenan, founder of E-tale.
The benefits of a site built from scratch
By consulting with a developer you can design your store from scratch. You can work with them to find a design that suits your brand perfectly and has all of the functions that you want to have in place. When it comes to making changes down the line, you will find it more possible as your developer can jump into the coding and make your ideas come to life.
“The self-build approach allows you to create your own shopping world where you share the spirit of your brand and your idea of online selling with your audience,” says Kopatz.
“You can be different and you can provide customer services, create shopping experiences and reflect your brand in exactly the way your customers expect.”
The downsides of building from scratch
Hiring a developer can be expensive and take a great deal of time. You may have complete control over what you produce and how you grow the platform but these elements come at a cost.
You will need to get a good grasp of how the various elements of your site work – you will need to do a lot of research into shopping cart and payment strategies etc. which will add to your work load and slow down the process.
Benefits of getting your site built by a specialist developer using existing shop building platforms
Some of the shop building platforms, such as Magento, are incredibly complex and using an expert Magento developer will help you to get the most out of the platform and help you to customise it as much as possible.
Doing it this way costs extra and still has limitations in the kind of functionality you are able to achieve, but it is quicker and it means you are using tried and tested technology.
What key things should you be thinking about?
Regardless of which route you decide to go down – there are a number of things you need to think about when you are designing your store.
Social media is a fantastics source of marketing for an online shop. When you come to building yours – make sure that you keep this in mind. You might like to create sharing buttons on your product pages, make your Twitter feed a major part of your homepage, allow social log ins which can help to speed up the registration process.
Mobile commerce is rising fast and tablets are quickly becoming online shoppers’ choice of device. With this in mind you need to make sure that your online shop will be usable on these devices.
You could design a separate mobile site which will be served to shoppers when they visit your shop in their mobiles. But the most popular option at the moment is to create a responsive shop. This means that whatever device people are looking at your shop from, it will change its dimensions to fit their screen.
Many of the current online shop platforms have the ability to create responsive sites and of course developers should be able to do this for you also.
Having a customer service phone number at the bottom of your homepage isn’t enough anymore. You need to be open to receive customer queries through many different channels. You might want to consider having a live chat function on your product pages.
You might also want to think about allowing customers to leave reviews. Good reviews are a great way to encourage conversions and bad reviews are incredibly useful as feedback.
You might be planning on only having 100 products on your store to begin with, you might only be expecting 100 customers a day but these things change and you need to know that should you need it – your shop can scale up to meet demand.
This means being able to cope with high traffic, to offer more products, to add videos, to include more payment option etc. Understand the limitations of what you are producing and aim high because the last thing you want is to have to start again should your business grow.
Shop building platforms
There are many store building platforms out there for you to choose from if that is the route you want to go down. They come at varying price points and with different functions – you need to explore all of the options to find the right one for you.
Here’s a quick list of the options available to you in the UK:
- 123 Reg
- Big Cartels
- Hibu Business
Each of these services will have their strong points. You need to have a clear idea of what you are looking for before you start making enquiries to these platform builders. That will help you to discount those that can’t meet your needs therefore helping with the decision process.