Here's how

Three steps to launching your e-commerce site

STEP 1

Write a simple business plan, not just what you want to achieve but how much it is going to cost, who is going to run it, whether costs such as packaging and delivery will reduce margin, and try to work out a revenue forecast over time to show when the site becomes profitable.

Although your image and core messages are going to be similar to those of your physical store, this is a good time to freshen up the look and feel of your business and translate this into your website, paying attention to the use of fonts, colours, graphics and images. Consumers like a clean, welcoming and professional-looking store, and that applies to your website too.

  • Make sure that you understand what Responsive Design is – it enables your site to display correctly on desktops, tablets and mobiles – and choose a platform that automates this
  • Study the security requirements (SSL certificate, enabling ‘https’ etc.), understand consumer protection laws and tighten your T&Cs
  • What can your suppliers provide in terms of product descriptions, images, pack size, ingredients and RRP etc.?
  • Research SEO techniques such as tags and keywords, plus site and page descriptions
  • Research email marketing automation

STEP 2

The vast majority of new online stores today choose to go with a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution with a low entry cost, hopefully no technical headaches, payment portals and a framework for growth.

Make a list of e-commerce sites in the health food sector that inspire you, and ask them how they did it. Have a look at the reviews they receive and whether they have a tribe of social media followers.

Look for a SaaS platform with a great community of people both running the platform and using it who will testify to their success. Get on their forum, check out their blog, and take a peek at their support materials.

Website builders and SaaS platforms such as EKM, Shopify, BigCommerce, Wix, Squarespace or Weebly offer affordable ecommerce plans. Your basic requirements are likely to be:

  • A page, or series of pages, on which customers can browse your products. You can build on this as you expand your offering
  • A shopping cart
  • A method by which to securely take customers’ payments
  • Email automation

Each e-commerce platform will come with its own configuration process, but it’s worth opting for one that has an intuitive set-up wizard that’ll guide you through this early building process, or better still, a team of human assistants.

You will want to focus carefully on securely taking payments from credit/debit cards. Choose an e-commerce platform that guides you in this, bearing in mind that some are more thorough than others – your peers will have plenty to say about this.

STEP 3

Talk to your suppliers to understand how they can help you with channel diversity – there are multiple places where you can list and advertise your online store – and consider expanding your shipping capabilities so you’re not dependent on a single method of delivery.

Initially, you will probably use your physical shop as the distribution centre, but what if demand outstrips your shelf and stockroom supply? That’s when suppliers and wholesalers may be able to step in to help.

Also see Sian Anderson’s ‘Guide to Facebook Shops’, and a case study on Wild Oats in Bristol.

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