The next process involves setting up the online e-commerce portal. Developing an e-commerce website from scratch involves the following steps: obtaining a domain name, roping in a web hosting provider, integrating a payment gateway, a platform to build the online store with product listing, initial capital to fund the manufacture of products and packaging the final product for delivery and shipping.
Web Hosting service and registration of domain name:
What’s in a name? A lot actually, especially if it’s a domain name. It’s important to choose a suitable, available domain name for one’s business or brand. Some tips in selecting a name are:
- The name should be connected to the business line: Its best to pick a name that gives customers an idea of the product offerings. The name should clearly highlight the focus behind the online business. In case of an unrelated name, the e-commerce business would have to invest significantly in marketing and branding initiatives to win customers mind share and have a better connect.
- A short name is easier to remember for customers. It would also result in fewer word entries and hitting the correct website in no time. This might improve visits to the web page and enhance sales conversions.
Registration of the domain name: Having zeroed in on the domain name, one needs to register the same via a domain registrar by paying the requisite fees.
Selection of the e-commerce solutions: This is the crux of the entire e-commerce business. The e-commerce solutions depend on the following parameters i.e. type of platform, size of the business, desired features and budget.
Type of platforms: The following are the two available platforms:
- Self-hosted solution: These are open source platforms by which the one would have to set up, host, run and maintain the online store with the help of a technical developer. There is considerable flexibility as regards the features, customizations and options in this case. They require advanced technical knowledge as the design needs coding in order to be implemented. While the software is free, there are costs towards server fees, development and maintenance fees and hiring skilled labour.
- Fully Hosted platforms perform the functions of setting up, hosting and maintenance. These are easy to understand and use. Even non-technical persons can create a website on their own in this option. There are easy drag and drop features with sample templates and in-built key functionalities like stock management, marketing and other presentation tools. The platforms include a fee towards subscription and is influenced by product, user and sales volumes, desired features etc. The updates or feature release will be entirely dependent on the solutions provider. The merchant has limited options as regards customizations and would have to opt for the existing themes.
Evaluation of options: Its best to research the pros and cons of both the options before taking a decision.
- Trying it out: It might be a good idea to opt for a demo version or free trail period to confirm the quality of the interface and the reliability of the platform. One can even list a few products and gauge the customer response. Alternatively, one could browse the site and judge the speed and response rate.
- Communicate with the sales team: One can also discuss one’s specific requirements with the solution provider and get an understanding of the process and support services.
- Check the track record: It would be prudent to obtain feedback from a few merchant clients as to their satisfaction with the e-commerce platform. Often social media provides useful reviews on a particular solution and help take a decision.
Evaluate the features on offer: It is advised to consider the additional capabilities being offered like SEO optimization, brand building via social media etc.
Integration with add-ons: Often one may plan to integrate the portal with a payments gateway, accounting software or logistics and shipment facility. The platforms must support such external add-ons and continue to function smoothly.
Establishing the e-commerce website is a highly technologically intensive stage and most important stage of an online business which could impact the success of the online business model. In case you want to have an operational site in a quick turnaround time, it is best to opt for hosting platform. However, if one wants to customize a site and adopt a gradual site building approach, the open source solution might work better. In continuation with this series, we shall discuss the next step i.e. the crucial money matters. In other words, the selection of the appropriate payments partner to ensure timely and smooth customer payments.