Things to take in account when setting up an E-Commerce Site

We have set up many e-commerce websites over the years.  A few things keep coming back over and over again when we are working with clients. Therefore I have decided to write this step-by-step guide for those of you wanting to become the next Amazon.com.

Get organised

The first thing you have to do is to work out what kind of shop you have.  Are you going to sell a few products, or hundreds?  If you only have a few products that don’t change very much then you can have perhaps one page with all your products on it.  You will also need to get pictures and descriptions for your products. Generally, unless the shop is very small, you will need to put the products into categories.  So, here’s the order of priorities:

  • Decide on the name of your site and register the name. Note that .ie domains are more expensive than .com, but if your clients are exclusively in Ireland, then this might be better.
  • Hire someone like us to set up the site and choose a design to match your corporate image.  Make sure that the technical person you are dealing with really knows their stuff, as too often graphical companies think they can do this well, but an online shop is a sophisticated piece of computer software.  You wouldn’t have an interior designer or a painter build your house now would you? Likewise you wouldn’t have a brickie choose the shade of cerise on your curtains either.  That’s why we team up with skilled designers to give you the best of both worlds.
  • Decide what eCommerce system you are going to use.  These days we mostly go with WooCommerce and WordPress, unless there is a good reason not to.

I only have a few products

Lucky you. This is the easiest kind of shop to manage. You only need to get together some pictures, descriptions, and prices, and then add each one to the shopping cart software you chose above.

I have lots of products (100+)

If this is the case, you will need to be prepared to put in a fair bit of work and planning into setting up and keeping your online shop running. You should think about assigning each product an SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) to uniquely identify each product you have. You might also want to choose a shopping cart that has some sort of stock tracking.

Uploading Pictures and Managing Products

Most e-commerce systems allow you to go in to each product individually and upload a picture or pictures.  This is a great way to work if you only have a few products, or have most of your products online already and only need to tweak one or two of them each month. However, if you have say 1000 products, and you want to update the price on all of them, doing it this way could take 1000 x 5 minutes = 83 hours !  Luckily many systems now have an option of uploading a csv file (which is a type of Excel spreadsheet – you can make one using Excel).  However you have to be quite precise to get the full benefit from this, as computers as we know are completely stupid, and only do exactly what you tell them, so if you don’t provide the products in exactly the format they expect, and I mean EXACTLY, it won’t work.  Having said that, once you get the hang of it, this is a very efficient method of managing lots of products quickly.

We also install a system that allows an Excel like interface to our online shop which is very very useful if your shop has lots of products.

Shipping

Decide where you are going to ship your products to, how you are going to ship them, and how much you are going to charge.  If you have  a physical shop or premises, it often makes sense to offer a Local Pickup option to allow your customers to collect in store, as shipping costs can often cost you a sale.  Also consider offering free shipping on orders over a certain value.

If you want to have completely optimised shipping, you will quickly find that this is a very difficult task unless you are shipping very simple products. Our advice would be to use one or two shipping providers and stick with them, otherwise any money you will save on shipping will be quickly eaten away by the admin headaches of working with many shipping companies and the resulting dissatisfied customers.

Payment

Decide what payment method you want to use : Stripe is the one I recommend as it is easy to set up, no merchant account needed, low fees, and it works worldwide.  Set up an account with your chosen provider. I personally am not a fan of PayPal, as if anything goes wrong, or someone buys something with a stolen credit card, you can have your account frozen, together with all payments from everyone at that point. However if you are selling to consumers, they often expect a PayPal account. Also remember that people from different countries often have unique ways of paying for things, e.g. ELV in Germany.

Also with the complex VAT rules now in existence across the EU, you also need your shop to be able to handle VAT properly for various countries.

Search Engines

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO): WordPress has some excellent plugins for this.  We can teach you how to write your content to help you promote your new site via SEO. Please ignore people telling you that they can get you to #1 of Google. SEO is something you have to do yourself, as only you knows all about your own products and services and how to explain them.  Very important for search engines is to have content that changes quite often.

That’s all for now.  I am going to make additions and improvements as I work on various projects going forward, so check back soon.