To be honest, most people who I talk to have already started an ecommerce website or have decided that they want to already, still, it’s worth taking a while to consider whether ecommerce is for you.
Starting Up A New Site
Let’s clear this up straight away, launching an ecommerce website is a big undertaking which shouldn’t be underestimated.
Starting with the site alone you need to decide on an ecommerce platform to use and a design route, be it a pre-constructed template or a unique design crafted by a designer.
Depending on your choices the cost for this can run from a few hundred up to a few thousand pounds or more.
You also need to organise a domain name and some hosting for your site, you can outsource all of this to a web design agency but this will usually incur additional fees.
Seeing as we are talking about ecommerce then another basic requirement is the ability to take payments. Most platforms making linking up to a payment processor fairly straightforward however for the non-technical it can still turn into a bit of a headache.
Jumping through the hoops to get a merchant account and payment processor can take a while, even if you choose something like PayPal as your option.
Once you have these basic prerequisites in place you need to load up all your products and content.
There is nothing more boring than loading products, trust me I know!
Have you got product descriptions ready or do they need writing? What about pictures, do you have good quality pictures? Are they the right size?
Got to this stage? Think you’re done? Think again!
Marketing & Promotion
Marketing your new website is the single biggest aspect people don’t consider before starting an ecommerce project, and it can easily be the most costly.
Once you have your shiny new site how are you planning on getting people to it?
SEO is a long term strategy which will not give instant results. In a fairly competitive sector you can basically forget about generating sales from SEO efforts for a minimum of 6 – 9 months, and that’s with a decent budget being spent on it from day 1.
Often SEO will only start contributing to traffic after a year or two of hard on-going work, the only shortcut here is to throw money at it but that’s simply not an option for most new start-ups.
PPC or Google AdWords is a more instant traffic source however it needs to be setup and managed properly otherwise it can end up being a money sinkhole.
In some sectors AdWords can be a nonstarter if I’m honest, if you have a lot of competition from big players such as Amazon then unless you have an exceptionally managed PPC campaign and a high converting website you could quickly run into trouble.
Social Media such as Twitter and Facebook offer low cost ways to market your business but don’t make the mistake of thinking you can rely on these sources to generate lots of sales, they may eventually become a good referral source for customers but a lot of work is needed here along with a solid strategy for growth.
Obviously we have only scratched the surface of online marketing techniques here, and there are many other online and offline methods which need to be considered alongside the above.
Okay, let’s say you have an ecommerce site and have lots of traffic coming into it who are converting into sales, mission accomplished? No way…
Depending on your products and volume you could easily need a team of people to help run your site on a daily basis. If you need to employ people then you are obviously going to need premises, insurance and all the other costs and time associated with managing staff.
If you intend to manage it on your own then you will still have a ton of jobs to manage.
Dealing with customer enquiries can sometimes be a full time job in itself, for my site I can easily spend half a day or more responding to enquiries at busy times.
When orders come in you have to establish and follow your internal processes to verify the validity of the order, prepare it, arrange delivery, take payment and communicate all this back to the customer.
That’s just the basic tasks. Other jobs which should not be forgotten about include keeping product descriptions up to date, adding new products, managing suppliers, keeping track of inventory, dealing with returns, testing different designs to increase conversion rates, or tracking the effectiveness of your different advertising methods. The list can seem never ending.
Think about something simple like adding a promotion or offer on to the site. You will most likely have to create banners, load them into your sites design, adjust prices on promotional items or setup discount codes. This process alone can quickly swallow up lots of your time.
Apologies for the seemingly negative article. Ecommerce can be very rewarding both personally and financially, don’t get me wrong, I love it and earn a very good living off it, but it is a lot of hard work.
I think a lot of failed ecommerce businesses would never have been started if the owners realised exactly how difficult it can be.
Don’t let me put you off though, if you’ve got to the end of this article and are still raring to go then good luck to you.
Hopefully if you read through some of the other articles here you can find some hints and tips to help you get started or progress your ecommerce business even further.