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Setting up an e-commerce site

With lower start-up costs and a wider reach, a growing number of entrepreneurs are setting up online rather than opening up a physical store front. As the Internet and ecommerce continue to evolve, many businesses have used their website to generate additional revenue, yet some are trading exclusively online. So why should you start an online business and how should you go about doing this? This article aims to explore these key questions to get you up and running.


Getting started online
For retail businesses, an e-commerce website offers the advantage of being open 24/7 and is always accessible to your customers. However, as with any business, the first thing to do when setting up is to conduct market research to identify your target audience, demand for your product online, competition and prices etc.


You’ll need to research and plan how your selling process is going to work including payment processing, invoicing/receipts, delivery and returns/exchanges. You’ll also need to think about where you’re going to operate from and how you’re going to manage your stock. If you don’t have room to operate from home then you may need to consider renting a self storage facility or an industrial unit. Getting the research stage right is crucial since this can determine whether or not your business will be successful online.


Domain name
Once you have conducted your research and you have proven there is need for your product, the next step is to come up with a domain name. A domain name is your web address on the internet and the first step to setting up a website. Make sure your name echoes your business and is both memorable and easy to spell, so that visitors can find your website easily. There are a number of websites which will allow you to find and register a domain name including Names‎, Go Daddy and 123 reg.


Email address
Although you may have an existing email address that you would like to use for your online business, creating a business email is a great way to make your business look professional and trustworthy. Remember that you email is going to be on your business cards, your social media profiles and website etc. so it is best to create one specifically for your business. When you register for a domain name you will usually be given the option to set up an email address specifically for that domain (e.g. info@domain.com).


Adding content to your website
Now it’s time to build your store front. A website can be an effective marketing and promotional tool. There are a variety of ways to go about creating your business’s website. The first decision you’ll need to make is whether you should do it yourself or employ an agency. Although creating your own website can save you money, the quality may not be as high.

Fortunately, if you are on a tight budget, there are a number of DIY websites and hosted e-commerce solutions that are affordable and can range from just £20 per month such as Fast hosts and Go Daddy ‎. All you have to do is choose your website template then add your pictures and text.

You’ll also need to include your contact details, privacy policy, exchange and refund policy and general terms and conditions, so that both you and the customers are aware. Remember to monitor your site and keep this updated.

After uploading all your content, you are now ready to go live. However, do test your website thoroughly before the launch to ensure all links are working and that there are no mistakes. This could also mean getting feedback from family and friends to see what they think of your website and whether it can be improved.


Search engine optimisation
Now that your website is now live, you’ll need to start promoting it. You may have heard the term search engine optimisation (SEO) being used by many online businesses. This is crucial if you will rely on customers finding your website though search engines. Both technical and creative elements are required to improve rankings, drive traffic, and increase awareness in search engines. Google provide clear guidelines on optimising your site for search and you may also wish to take advantage of the numerous SEO tutorials available on the web to help you better understand SEO principles and to find ways to optimise your site.

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