Guides By Eshop Hosts 19.2.2012 3 Comments

How to Start Your Own E Shop: A Beginners Guide

This brief tutorial is aimed at people who want to set up an ecommerce website who are unsure of the required elements and steps of the process involved.

This How to Start Your Own E Shop guide is intended for beginners and will try to explain in laymans terms each step of the process of setting up an ecommerce website from the very beginning so you dont need to have prior knowledge of computers or websites to use this beginners guide to help get you started with an ecommerce website of your own.

The Steps

Here are the steps involved to create your ecommerce website. Each of the explainations will give you an insight as to why they are required and in future we will create new posts to explain each of the individual parts of the process in more detail, offering further and more detailed advice and tips for each of the process parts for when you have grasped an understanding of the basics.

1. Choosing and Registering Your website Domain Name

This is probably the most important part of setting up any website and especially so for a trading website. A domain name is something that you register on sites like E Shop Hosts for a set amount of time, usually in yearly periods and then renew at the end of these periods. A domain will look like YourShopName.Com or YourShopName.Co.Uk and so on, once registered, that domain is not available to anyone else to register, its yours until you don’t renew it. Having a domain name is like registering a unique address or post code for a brick and mortar shop but having that particular domain/business name does not mean that you have the shop premises to go with the name (yet!).

There are lots of opinions and pitfalls of choosing and registering domain names, ideally you should choose a domain name that best suits your selling activity, that is as short as possible, spelt correctly and is brandable and memorable and one that doesnt infinge any copyrights or trademarks.

2. Web Hosting

To get your ecommerce website visable to visitors on the internet you will need to have Web hosting. Web hosting is where your website files, images, database and content is stored on a computer referred to as a server, usually in building called a datacentre that is connected to the internet network. To buy a hosting account you will need to use the domain name that you have registered, think of it as renting the shop area you will trade from and then putting up your Shop Name on the outside so people can see its address to be able to find it.

When you have a web hosting account, you will have access to an administration panel commonly referred to as a cPanel, this allows you to set up your email accounts, upload files and images etc direct onto the hosting server from your own computer as long as you have internet access.

There are lots of different hosting packages available with varying costs and they can appear confusing to the uninitiated. The costs of the hosting plans are mostly based on the amount of Disk Space and Bandwidth allowances that they will cater for. Disk Space is the amount of server memory or space that you will be allowed to use and Bandwidth is how much data you can send through the server/internet network, eg. file uploads and downloads, website page views by your visitors or anything else that involves the transfer of data to and from the hosting server.

If you are just starting out and will only have a small to medium sized ecommerce website in terms of amount of products, images and visitors then a starter plan will be sufficient for your needs, E shop Hosts offer Starter plans that will more than cater for a small to medium sized EShop for under £30 per year and hosting plans are scaleable so you can always upgrade to a larger allowance plan when your online shop grows.

3. Shopping Cart Software

There are many Open Source (Free) shopping cart programs available to use for your E Shop which are widely used to give store owners a platform to list items for sale in organised category structures with an administration area that only the store owner has access to where they can add their inventory for sale, configure product options eg sizes, colours etc, set their shipping charges and manage their customers orders and more. These shopping carts are the framework for your for your online shop and you can customise them to appear how you want them, sometimes from within the administration area and sometimes by editing their template files.

While most free shopping cart programs offer the same set of default features and functions, they all have some differences and different administration usability levels. So its not a case of some are better than others but a case of some will be more appropriate for your requirements than others.

Some of the most popular free shopping carts that are used are Zen Cart, Open Cart, Prestashop and Os Commerce along with many more, all have a range of modules that can be installed to improve a web shop appearance or add new functions and all have active support forums where users post questions and answers related to the software. It is worth drawing up a list of what features you will require in terms of function and the usability level for your web shop and spending some time researching each cart to establish the best one for you to use.

Once you have decided which shopping cart software you want to utilise for your web shop, the required files will need to be uploaded and installed onto the web hosting server and the database set up. A few hosting providers, like E Shop Hosts will install your chosen Shopping Cart software for you at no charge as part of their hosting support along with helping you set up and configure your website.

4. Product Details and Images

Once your webshop is installed and your administration area is accessable, you can now start setting your product category structure and adding your products so they appear on the publicly viewable part of the website. This part of adding content to your web site should be given some thought and consideration as this content is the ‘deal clincher’ that will decide if you get sales or not. It is best if your product pages have good quality images that aren’t too big, or too small and you should make time to create descriptive product information text.

Ideally, if you are using a supplier who is giving you product data sheets then you should re-write this data in your own unique wording, the reason for this is so that your site is seen by the search engines to offer unique content which will help your site pages feature higher in the search engine results pages. If your site content is the same as many other websites, say the ones also using your supplier and who are using the data sheets information as-is from the supplier then the search engines will view your site as unimportant as it has nothing new to offer and list you very low in the results.

5. Online Payment Processors

To be able to accept payments on your web shop to complete sales, you will need to have an account with at least one Payment Processor. Many of the Shopping Cart software available have pre-installed payment modules that you can use for the main Payments Processors such as PayPal, Google Checkout, Nochex and many more. To use them you will need to sign up for an accounts with the Payment Processors that you want to use and then configure the modules on your webshop with the usernames and passwords that you use for your payment processor accounts.

All Payment processors will charge a fee for handling your website payments so these cost will need to be factored into your product prices to avoid reduced profit or even loss on your sales.

Most Shopping cart software can be configured to accept ‘Mail In’ payments such as cheques and Postal Orders or even an Order Online but Pay In Store facility if you want to offer that feature.

6. Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

Your website should clearly display your trading Terms and Conditions, online trading is fraught with risk and regulation so your terms should clearly describe your trading methods and conditions of sale to protect both you and your customers.

As an online trader, if you are transacting with the public you will need to comply with any regulations applicable to your country, eg in the UK and Europe you will need to ensure that your trading practices comply with the Distance Selling Regulations as just one example.

Making your Terms and Conditions easily accessable and easy to understand will pay dividends at it will instill confidence of your website to your prospective purchasers.

All shopping Cart software use things called ‘cookies’, these are small snippets of code that is placed on each visitors computer and contains details of their visit to your site. This information contains details of any products that they viewed, products purchased or just added to the cart and not completed the sale etc. and the reason for them is that when they return to your site the information contained within the cookie is used to show them what they viewed on their last visit or what products they might have in the cart and be able to check out without finding the product listing on your site. With this in mind you should have a Privacy policy that explains why your site does this and what the information is used for and also explaining that the information is not passed onto or used by any other party other than your self.

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