How do I create an online shop?
Creating an online shop is an excellent way to ensure that your business can keep expanding. Compare top UK designers today
Online shopping is big business and creating an online shop is an incredibly sound decision in the modern world.
In the UK alone, ecommerce was worth £133m in 2016. Wanting a slice of that pie is enticing enough, however what’s really notable is that this figure represents a 16% increase on the year before.
Knowing how to make an online shopping website is absolutely crucial to future success for business owners.
Create an online shop – the barriers to entry
The reality is that your fear of the barriers to ecommerce is likely greater than the actual barriers themselves. There are a wealth of tools available online, and web hosting is a cheap business outlay – your only real question should be: ‘how to create an online store?’
When you make a web store, you need to think about adding the shopping facilities to a great website. This means a way to browse products, shopping cart functionality, and then a method of secure payment transaction. Alongside this should be a website that markets your products, entices customers, and sells your brand.
So, when it comes to making an online store, what are the steps you need to take?
Build an online shop – step by step
Knowing how to make an online shop is not as tricky as you may fear. Follow these steps and you can confidently create an online shop for your business.
The list below includes the main steps that you will need to consider when building an online shop:
- Collating information
- Building online store
- Install shopping cart
- Build catalogue
- Order fulfillment
- Improve offerings
As a newcomer to creating an online shop it can be tempting to piggyback onto other hosts, such as Etsy and eBay. However, in reality you’re upping your direct competition, handing over control, and not giving yourself a good platform for your business branding.
Hosting your own site as you set up an online shop is the best way to make an online shopping website work, and is entirely possible with the help of easy-to-use ecommerce platforms.
Collate Your Information
Before you begin with the practicalities of how to make an online store, you need to make sure you’ve got your planning done. Otherwise, you’ll be distracted from the main task in hand, and potentially cost yourself more, especially if you have chosen to use a web developer.
In hand you should have your name, logos, main products and ranges with prices, all ready to roll, so that you can make a web store around it. You’ll need a domain name and a web host.
You’ll need to consider your ecommerce platform or payment gateway to enable your customers to pay online, as they expect with this form of retail.
Build an online shop
Now it’s time to get building. With the domain name and hosting sorted out, you can begin to create the website that will surround your web store. An easy mistake when people consider ‘How do I start an online store?’ is to jump in without the above groundwork. To ensure you create an online shop that works for you and makes your business efficient, whilst honing branding and marketing, you need to get the above steps right first.
With easy to use templates, and basic coding easy to grasp, you may choose to create your own website. Your shopping facility can sit alongside this. If you opt to use a web developer they will be able to offer advice on the best route for your business.
Make sure your website puts branding at the forefront. Remember, you’ve chosen to self-host so that you can really capitalise on this advantage.
Install the shopping cart functionality
Different ecommerce platforms have different configuration processes. However, if you select from a reputable and well-known one such as Shopify or Magento, you will be able to follow their intuitive set-up wizard. Once set-up you’ll be able to ‘play around’ and make the system work for your particular needs.
You should now be able to customise the online store in line with your website and branding. You’ll have access to different features, templates, reports and more. You’ll also discover that there are different add-ons available if you have particular needs.
At the moment you still need to be thinking about the basics of creating an online shop – the framework if you like. Use your knowledge of the types of products and ranges you have, to get the bare bones in place. Set up your categories accordingly, but don’t worry yet about populating them.
Build your catalogue
With the right framework in place you are now ready to truly create an online shop by filling in the detail.
If you have limited products to sell then this should be a fairly straight forward task. If, on the other hand, you have a large, complex, and frequently changing range of products, then you may need to go back a step and choose an add-on that allows you to import new products from Excel or another database.
Order fulfilment and shipping
With the products in place it’s time to customise the shipping and payment methods. This is where you customer will be redirected to your chosen payment gateway, for example PayPal.
Get confident with how to make an online shop
You have now mastered how to make an online shop, but there are still further actions you can take to truly make a web store that works for you. For example you may want to add discounts, or some FAQ, or more.
You may now be stepping very much outside of your comfort zone, and if that is the case, then it’s time to get a web developer on board if you haven’t already. You will usually find that the upfront costs of employing a professional web developer to set up an online shop are recuperated quite quickly.
Maintain your site
A fundamental ongoing requirement of creating an online shop is maintenance. You’ll need to run tests and continually make sure it’s not only up to date, but secure. If you already have a site and need to find out more about this stage, our website redesign page may be useful.
How do I start an online store and choose an ecommerce platform?
Using an ecommerce platform is the way of retaining control over your brand and your online shop without the complexities of programming. You’ll pay a monthly fee and in return get help and assistance with technical problems, security upgrades, storage and more. Customisation is still possible but you are following a set ‘model’.
The UK’s top ecommerce platforms, enabling you to build an online shop are Shopify, Big Commerce, Woo Commerce, and Magento.
Shopify is probably the most recognisable name, with around 7000 online shops using them. It’s a good option for beginners and has some enticing themes. It’s linked to a whole heap of payment gateways including PayPal and Stripe.
Additionally, Shopify do all the ‘tech’ groundwork for you, such as search engine optimisation (SEO), making sure your products are found. They also offer 24/7 support. Shopify comes with a really in-depth app store for add-ons meaning you can link it to marketing, sales, inventory management and more.
Not quite as popular as Shopify, but it’s almost a direct equivalent. There aren’t any limits to the amount of product uploads, or indeed how much you can make, whilst also being pretty simple to use. Discount functionality is built in, as is a blog function. Customisation is possible down to the finest level because you have HTML access to make changes, or to get a web developer to do so.
You’ll need to use Bluehost with Woo Commerce. Then Woo Commerce is on a par with offerings of Shopify and Big Commerce. It’s basically WordPress based, so content focused, and therefore great at getting potential shoppers to your site. You can customise it relatively easily and it’s a fairly intuitive system. What it’s particularly great for is digital downloads.
Magento, with Zoey, is favoured by many web developers as you can really go to town on customisation. If you sell across borders, or want to offer different sorts of accounts, then Magento can be a good choice. Magento is scalable and that means it can grow as your business does.
Starting an online store makes sound business sense. By following the steps above you can feel confident about how to create an online store that will really work for your business. It is also a worthwhile investment creating a website for your business, even if you do not intend to sell online – find out about costs on our ‘how much does a website cost?‘ page.
Compare online shop design quotes
The information on this page should help you to understand what sort of options are available when it comes to creating an online shop. For the best information though, you should speak to suppliers – we can help here.
To compare quotes from top UK web design agencies, simply complete the form at the top of this page. The process is free, quick and easy, and it could help to save your business both time and money.