Photo by Lyza Danger
When you decide to create an e-commerce store, there are about a thousand first steps you can make. Maybe you should figure out your payment and shipping arrangements before you do anything else. Or perhaps you need to set up your shipping cart and associated web apps in order to ensure that your store is flawless.
You need to do all of these things, and probably a dozen more items that are just as much of a time suck. But, first, you need to answer the most essential question. What are you going to sell?
There are two ways to go about answering this question. The first would be to just identify the core products you want to sell, and figure out how to best display it in an e-commerce store. For example, if you’re already selling products in person, you probably know what your customers like, and you’ve created product lines that appeal to them. Or maybe you just want to sell one product, like an app or ebook, so you don’t need to spend much time debating what to sell.
But if you’re not sure what to sell, or suspect that you might be able to expand your product line, you can start by thinking about the store, and then shape your product line to accommodate it. For example, if you want your store to provide customers the ability to customize their orders, you might consider creating add-ons and other ways to differentiate your products. Or, if you know that you want to design your store to make it friendly to browsers, you can focus on ways to increase the number of products you offer.
In other words, by imagining what you want the browsing and buying experience to be like for your customer, you can create products and a store that meet your needs. Here are a few steps you need to take when setting up your e-commerce store:
Make Great Products Look Great
As anyone who’s ever paid a premium for a brand name product knows, it’s often the marketing that sells the product. Whether you’re selling three products or three hundred, you need to invest time, and maybe some resources, into making your products look as good as possible. Here’s where you can invest:
Photos—High quality photos of your product can make it stand out from the rest. This is particularly true if you’re selling clothing, furniture, or anything else that people will want to see from every angle. To start out, you should hire a professional photographer to shoot your products. But, if you need to shoot products on a regular basis, consider buying a light box and a better camera to make your work easier. If you need some idea to inspire you or your photographer, check out this list of e-commerce sites with great photography.
Product Description—While good photographs sell many products, an enticing description is equally important. In addition to providing all the information your customers need to know about the product, you might experiment with writing product narratives that give your customers a story to go with your products. For a quick writing guide, follow this advice.
Find A Store to Meet Your Needs
While deciding what to sell and how to sell it is a lot of work, building an online store doesn’t have to be. Here are products we like for almost any budget.
One-size-fits-all Solutions—If you need an online store with a full array of features, there are a number of solutions out there. While Shopify provides an out-of-the-box solution for everything you’ll need, it’s expensive and doesn’t allow you to host your own store when you’re ready to move on to the next level. For a more versatile solution, try Magento, which is used by small and large businesses alike, or CartKeeper. You might also check out Zen Cart, which is free.
E-Commerce with WordPress—For those who are already accustomed to working with WordPress, setting up an e-Commerce site is easy. From Shopper Press to MarketPress eCommerce to WP e-Commerce, WordPress plug-ins make it easy to start an online store. If you’re selling digital downloads, try WP Secure Downloads, which lets you sell digital products online without turning over a cut to one of the major online retailers.
Start Building Your Store
If you have good inputs—quality product photographs and descriptions—you’re laying the groundwork for a good output, an e-commerce store that will draw in customers and convince them to buy your products.
Check out the next post in the “Starting Your E-Commerce Store” series, which covers payment gateways and merchant accounts, right here.
Interested in creating an e-commerce site?