Beginner’s Guide To Starting Your Own E-Commerce Business
Setting up your own online store can feel like a big step, especially when you don’t know how or where to get started. While there’s a vast amount of free resources readily available online, you may have to spend hours sifting through them before you find something that suits your needs.
As someone who’s done it all before, I’ve put together a simple 5-step guide you should go through before registering on an E-Commerce (EC) platform!
01 / Figuring Out Features
Working out what features and functionalities your website needs at this time is important, sometimes less can be more!
While the possibilities may be endless, you’ve got to carefully sift through what each EC platform provides as each plan comes with additional costs.
For example, if you’re using Shopify to host your online store and are interested in providing gift cards, it will cost you an extra $50 a month above their basic $29/mth plan. Being thorough about assessing your feature needs will help you save on unnecessary costs and optimize your overall business plan. So take your time finding a platform that accommodates what you are looking for at a price point you are comfortable with!
02 / Hosting
Your EC website can be either self-hosted or hosted by a third party. There’s no right or wrong option, but each comes with their own pros and cons!
These are companies that provide you with a full service when starting up your online store. You simply sign up with them and they provide various options and features such as Custom domain name, SSL certification, invoicing and so on. In exchange, there will be a monthly fee depending on the plan you choose.
Examples: Shopify / Wix / Strikingly
Most self-hosting platforms are open-sourced so you’ll be able to download their software to use. Just note that you’ll need a server to host it at a monthly or yearly fee and it will be you or your IT team’s sole responsibility to manage.
Examples: Magento / Prestashop / WooCommerce
If you’re wondering what’s the best E-Commerce platform, unfortunately, there isn’t one go-to answer. The best platform for you should complement your business model and its needs. You can read more about the various pros and cons here to help you make a more informed decision.
If you’re looking for a quick way to test the market, or don’t have much experience in web development, Shopify is a great choice. However, if you are looking to scale your business or are planning for the long haul, self-hosted is the way to go. Getting help from experts is another option that’s gaining popularity these days, so try that out to get your online store up and running without a hitch!
03 / Templates
There are loads of both free and premium templates available online that are perfect for businesses that are just starting out and have simple needs. Alternatively, you may consider customizing your template to set yourself apart from the rest, or just to tailor suit your business’ branding and specific needs.
It can be difficult to justify if it’s worthwhile to set aside a larger budget for a customized website template when there are so many beautiful designs readily available online. But if you’re willing to invest in your brand and build a custom-designed store for your targeted consumers, it could give you that extra edge you need.
04 / Product Photos
Once you’ve decided on your template, that leaves you with the task of filling it with good product photos and descriptions. It’s essential to get good photographs of your products as they serve as visual ambassadors to your brand! If your viewers like what they see, they’re much more likely to make a purchase.
If you don’t have any product images to start with, you could consider creating simple design mockups for the time being. This will give you a good start in showcasing what your products would look like to your visitors!
Don’t have an image editor? Keep reading for websites we’ve sourced that’ll provide you with a wide range of product mock-ups and free image editing tools!
05 / Launching Your E-commerce Site
You’ll never feel 100% ready when launching a site. Working towards achieving your dream website is a long process, and takes time. If you’re like me and get stuck spending hours going through ideas and inspiration that you just end up shelving away, my advice to you is — just stop.
Set strict deadlines for your launch and get it done. You will inevitably stumble along the way as you slowly discover what works, which items sell and which don’t, what avenues to take and how to align your goals. Learning is a process, after all, so don’t get too anxious about immediate success.
Instead, consider ways to draw attention to your launch through social media by providing promotions such as offering free shipping and value-adding services. It’s also never too early to start building your mailing list for people to get interested in your brand.
06 / List of Resources:
To help you get started, we have put together a list of useful resources that will come in handy when setting your online store.
Branding / Free Logo Generators
Hipster Logo Generator: Sadly, only the low-resolution version is free for this!
Canva: Simple drag-and-drop interface with great starter templates. You’ll need to register for an account though.
Free Logo Design: Same with Hipster, only the low-res version is free.
Free Tasking / Collaborate Applications
Trello: Helps with creating tasks and checklists and I use this almost daily. It’s not the prettiest but it keeps me on track with my to-do-lists.
Slack: A great workplace MSN.
Asana: It comes with unicorn animations when you mark your tasks as complete!
Free Stock Photos
Use these only if necessary, it’s always best to use your own photography to appear more credible as an E-Commerce store.
Iconfinder: I love the variety this offers but make sure you input “free” in the search bar!
Flaticon: A great database of icons to choose from, just don’t forget to credit the author.
FontAwesome: My holy grail of icons to use for the web.
Free Product Mockups
Mockupworld: They’ve got some great packaging mockups that can come in really handy!
Smart Mockups: Another site with a wide range of mockup options. It never hurts to have more variety.
Free Image Editors/ Optimizers
If you don’t have Adobe Photoshop or any image editing tools, here are some free options to consider. Remember to optimize your product images, they can slow down the loading speed if they’re too large.
GIMP: The interface may take getting used to, but it’s an easy-to-use and free alternative to Photoshop.
Pixlr: Quite a robust browser photo editor.
Optimizilla: Great for compressing large images before using any online editors.
TinyJPY: A compressing alternative if you prefer Pandas to dinosaurs.
Free Monitoring/ Site Traffic
Pingdom: A great way to monitor your website for free. It’s only for one website, but it’s still a sweet deal.
Google Analytics: You can’t forget about Google Keyword Planner, Webmaster Tools and Trends.
GTMetrics: Lets you view your page’s speed and performance. I prefer to use this over Google Pagespeed Insights.
Free SEO/Website Analyzers
Ahref: Track your SEO rankings with this tool!
SEO Site Checkup: Lets you quickly find out if there are any SEO problems with your site.
Hubspot: Assess the effectiveness of your marketing efforts with this website.
Coding for Her: We provide useful insights, articles and coding workshops that may just be right up your alley.
Udemy: There’s just so many courses, but so little time!
Skillshare: Gives you access to online classes provided by a large community of contributors.
If you find yourself lacking the time to delve deep in tutorials or prefer learning together with experienced instructors in a small casual group, sign up for our 1-day guided workshop on how to set up your first online store!
Coding for Her’s Shopify workshop lets you learn not just basic HTML and CSS, but will also help you develop a working understanding of how to customize your Shopify store for your brand.
By the end of the day, you’ll have an E-Commerce website that is ready to launch and take online orders! Our Shopify workshop is tailored to help entrepreneurs who are hoping to start their online store but are feeling a little lost. So even if you’re new to coding you’ll e able to launch your own online store in no time. For more information on what we offer, head to our website!
Launching and maintaining your E-Commerce store is a commitment and it may be a long road to success. Don’t fret over getting everything right the first time and just learn as you go! We here at Coding for Her are excited to help you along the way.
Do you have a favourite website you visit for EC tips? If you do, leave a comment below and tell us more!