ecommerce, ecommerce websites, how to create an online store, online selling, online stores, Small Business, small business websites
September 18, 2020
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In order for our new online store to be successful we first need to plan it out. After all, as Benjamin Franklin once was misquoted for saying, “failing to plan is planning to fail.” And with ecommerce websites there is a lot to plan out, from the technical side of things, like the service, web host and plugin/extensions to use, to the offline process, like sales tax, processing the orders and figuring out who’s in charge of the website.
Okay, so we’re feeling a little bit more knowledgeable about ecommerce.
We’re starting to learn more about it. We know about some of the pitfalls that could hurt us. And we know about some of the options we have to build our online store.
So now it’s time to plan. As Benjamin Franklin once allegedly said, “failing to plan is planning to fail.” We don’t want to fail, so now is the time to plan out each step in building our online store. And by the end of it, we’ll have an actionable list of items to do for our ecommerce website. And while things will likely change as we get going, at least we have something to fall back on.
So today, let’s plan out an ecommerce website for a fictional floral store that’s just getting started. And from now through the rest of the month, our efforts are going to be focused on creating a website for this floral store.
Before we get too far along, if you want to follow us along this ecommerce journey, be sure to hit the subscribe button and ring the bell for notifications.
Now let’s get started.
Pick a web host/service
The first thing you need to figure out is what service are you going to be using for your online store. The cheapest and quickest option is going to be Shopify. You can simply sign up, add in your products, use one of their templates and have an online store running in a few hours, though you don’t have a lot of control over the site.
You also can use an open source content management system, like WordPress, Drupal and Joomla, and a various array of ecommerce plugins and extensions. This takes more time to set up and costs a little bit more right out of the box, but you do have a lot more control over your website. And it’s a little bit easier to scale up if your business grows.
Finally, there’s always the completely custom route, however this really is only for medium to large size businesses that need a system to conform to their business. And if you’re just starting out, you don’t really need that.
And if you’re going with an open source content management system or the completely custom solution, you’re going to need a web host for your website.
Here you’re not going to be able to last with $5 a month hosting. Those web hosts are more of a challenge. The reliability of those web hosts is questionable. And you need your website running 24/7 and you don’t really need to be questioning whether it’s going to be running today or not.
So GoDaddy and Bluehost are probably the cheapest you can go. I know with WordPress, you also have WP Engine, LiquidWeb, Pantheon, SiteGround and Flywheel for hosting options. And all of those are great hosts that you can’t go wrong with.
I personally use WP Engine for my websites. It’s only $29 a month for a single website, and that gets me web hosting that rarely ever goes down, daily and on demand backups, a content delivery network for page speed, a library of StudioPress themes to use for free and many more tools.
So for our fictional store, we’re going to go with WordPress and WP Engine as our web host.
Determine the plugins/extensions you need
If you’re using Shopify, you can go ahead and skip this section.
But if you’re using a content management system, you need to figure out what plugin and extensions you’re going to use to create your online store.
And there are a ton of different options if you’re using one of the three CMSs I mentioned before. All you have to do is search for “ ecommerce plugins” and you’re going to come up with a list that you can choose from. You will have to sift through them and do your own research to figure out which one is going to help you the best.
Since we’re going with WordPress, our best options are WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads, BigCommerce and Ecwid. I talked about each of the four plugins in more detail on Wednesday, so I won’t rehash that talk here.
But since we’re going to be selling physical products, in this case flowers, we’re going to go with WooCommerce.
Settle on a predesigned template or theme
Now whether you’re using Shopify or a content management system, you’re probably going to be using a template or theme to display your website. That is unless you’re hiring someone to build that theme or template for you.
But in most cases you’ll probably going to be wanting to use something that’s prebuilt. And that’s perfectly fine. You just need to know a few things.
First, make sure you like the theme. This should be obvious, but make sure that it’s showing off your products the best it can. Make sure that it supports whatever ecommerce plugin or extension you’re using.
Next, make sure the functionality is good. Functionality matters more than design, so make sure the design doesn’t inhibit users from doing all of the things they need to do such as navigating through your website, adding products to their cart or checking out.
Finally, make sure it’s well maintained. If you see that it hasn’t been updated in more than a year, avoid it. You might not get the help you need, and you open yourself up to more security concerns.
Personally, I love StudioPress’ line of WordPress themes. They’re relatively cheap and they all look so good. So for this site, we’re going to be going with the Essence Pro theme.
Figure out which payment processor(s) you will use
Also, something you need to go ahead and figure out is what payment processor are you going to use to take payments. And you need to make sure that this can connect with whatever ecommerce plugin or extension you’re using.
There’s obviously the tried and true PayPal. It’s super easy to set up, and your customers have probably used it in the past, so they’re pretty familiar with it.
Personally, I prefer Stripe. It’s super easy for people to enter in their credit card information. And the payments I receive automatically go right to my bank. I don’t have to worry about manually accepting money and then sending it to my bank.
But the good news is that we can use both on our website to make it super easy for customers to use whatever option they prefer. WooCommerce has extensions for both. So we’ll use PayPal and Stripe.
Organize your products and content
Before we create the website, it’s a pretty good idea to go ahead and organize our products and the other content for our website. That way when we get to that part of creating the website, whether building it on our own or hiring an agency or developer to build it for us, we’ve already got our ducks in a row. Trust me, the struggle with content has derailed many a project.
So go ahead and create a spreadsheet with all of your products. Make sure you have a name, the price, a description and that you categorize all of them. If it has any options, say colors or size, be sure those are also listed. This will help you get a good visual of the products on one screen and will make it easier to enter into your website once you’re ready.
Also, go ahead and start creating content for your website. Write your about page. Work on your messaging on the homepage. Decide what you’re going to write for your contact page and your store page.
Right now is the calm before the storm. So use it to your advantage to knock out one of the hardest parts of the process.
Determine who is responsible for the website
Finally, you need to determine who is going to be responsible for the website. Who is going to manage it? Who is going to take the orders that come in and start the process of fulfilling those orders? When something goes wrong, who is going to fix it?
If you’re the only person for your business, then this is pretty easy. It’s you. And for the example that we’re using here, I’m going to be that person.
But if you have more than one employee, then the decision gets a little bit more challenging. You’re probably going to want to find someone who’s tech savvy or the one who’s most willing to learn. They don’t need to be an expert in the website right now, but they should be able to quickly learn that. And they have to be the person that you can trust to turn to if things go sideways.
So take some time to figure out who that’s going to be right now.
So what questions do you have about planning an online store? What are your concerns? Are you excited about something? Be sure to leave your answers down in the comments section below.
Next week we will discuss product pages, WooCommerce and payment gateways. To make sure you see those videos and other videos about ecommerce, WordPress, digital marketing or other website related topics, be sure to hit the subscribe button and ring the bell for notifications.
Until next time, I wish you and your business the best of luck.
How to Plan Out Your New Ecommerce Website