Anyone can have their own website these days. It can be a very exciting prospect for someone with a good business idea but not the technical ability to create their own. Before you get all excited about the many possibilities, keep in mind that like many things that are marketed at the masses, the task is not necessarily as simple as it’s portrayed to be.
Thanks to the likes of WordPress developers and similar CMS platform developers like those for Drupal, Joomla, etc., anyone can get a fully-functional e-commerce website for under £50. It may be basic, and require more outlay for added-on functionality later, but it’s a start and a very important one when setting up a new e-commerce business.
Newstart E-commerce setup
A basic CMS platform with shopping cart lets you easily upload the products or services of your choosing. Seeing your barebones business offering in such a concise format helps you to assess and shape it to suit the target market – presuming you know who you’re targeting. You can then set your pricing strategy and monitor the response. E-commerce has the advantage of fast-access statistics that facilitate decision-making. You may find the statistics help you to see an advantage adjusting your business to take advantage of unforeseen demand from a different target audience.
Tweak the settings, add in some inviting content and marketing, and you effectively have your very own automated web-store. In theory.
While the idea sounds glorious – particularly for newstarts on a shoestring budget and little time – setting up a successful e-commerce business is not as easy as the e-commerce platform developers would have you believe. Many online businesses offer internet marketing tools such as sales page generators, opt-in form creators, lead-generation funnels and the likes, yet so many (if not all) the people who go on to buy these tools never even make a single penny out of their use.
It takes much more than just buying a licence and customising the template. While the options are plenty, you can also buy licenses from hard-coding developers who have taken the liberty to develop e-commerce sites and then sell off the licenses to them with the support to go with. People tend to think it’s as easy as deploying the solution, plugging in your payment processing methods like PayPal and the likes and then the cash will start rolling in all by itself. Without adequate time and budget, growth is likely to be slow to the point where the prospective entrepreneur may deem the project a failure and give up, or else simply lose interest.
Traditional business in transition (the difference)
Successful e-commerce sites are often those which are established as an add-on to an existing core business, such as being able to buy car tyres online and have them delivered to your door to be fitted by a professional. There is an underlying business there that already makes sense and can be clearly communicated to an established audience. In that instance, you could say the e-commerce portion of the business was an afterthought, but perhaps a better way to refer to it is in saying that it’s an additional marketing channel for the existing business.
New e-commerce businesses must aspire to be an established business and that means behaving as one. Strategy, evaluation and cohesion are key. Consider growth management, including how the website will cope with that traffic and how to handle customer service.
Bringing in the pros
The car tyres website may belong to a well-established family business, but has been set up by a web agency. The professionals at the agency will find out what the family’s goals are for the website – why have one at all? Perhaps the family wish to expand their business and their customer base in the wider region. In this case, the agency may suggest that the family business name is lower priority and set up branding for the website that would better achieve that goal. The knowledge of an established web agency – even on a low level – is invaluable for guidance and technical expertise that can iron out the bugs that inexperienced e-commerce management invariably produces.
So while there are many options for the manner in which you can start your own e-commerce store, the first port of call has to be a well-defined product or service offering. The CMS e-commerce platform can provide a setting (literally the platform) on which to begin that process, but consider carefully your long-term plan for taking the idea from an online work-in-progress to a profitable success.