E-Commerce Site Strategy and Planning

Business, logistical and technical considerations for those setting up an e-commerce site.

E-Commerce is the fastest growing, and one of the most valuable, industries in the world.

Shopping at home or work online – with a trusted checkout and conveniently delivery – might lead you to believe that the process isn’t that complicated.

As IT Consultants and online marketing specialists, we have helped a lot of businesses grow sales through e-commerce. To ensure you take the quickest and most professional route to get your site up and running, we have listed some considerations below.We also touch on marketing and optimisation to ensure future success.

More about making a successful e-commerce website can be found here.

Set out your Strategy

Starting an e-commerce site can be a time-consuming and detailed process. You have to craft content and individually load each and every product. You also have to negotiate with manufacturers to be able to list their products online, before the actual listing process even begins. If you are already an established trading business then this can simplify things as you will already have stock, pricing and descriptions ready to go.

Unforuntantly just having an e-commerce website doesn’t mean people will find it. You need to ‘optimise’ it so potential customers can find it by searching online. Set up your e-commerce SEO strategy early – give yourself at least 6 months for your site to get established.

What do you call your website?

You might think this is pretty straightforward, but coming up with a catchy, relevant and memorable domain name that no one has thought of already is trickier than you may think. Buying it is the simple bit! There are many domain registrars that you can pick them up for around £10 per year (for .co.uk).

Find a web developer

Without learning coding or development skills, if you want to launch your site in a relatively short time make sure you find a trusted e-commerce experienced developer. Work with them to establish design, functionality and timeframes.

E-Commerce and Website Hosting Platform

There is no point starting from scratch building an e-commerce site. There are many popular e-commerce platforms, for example, Shopify, WooCommerce or OpenCart. OpenCart is open source and the only cost is the customisation and uploading of products.

WooCommerce contains WordPress capabilities which can add some flexibility, but as usual extra functionality comes with a price. Standard hosting costs from £60. SSL (encrypted hosting) costs from £120 per year. If you are taking customer details – and not just payment details – then SSL is something worth investing in. It will even benefit your SEO efforts.

Templates and Themes.

Every platform comes with themes that will resemble the look and feel you are looking for. For about £80 you can save thousands in design fees and get a head start on development.

Although this speeds things up, customising a template can still be a timely process.

Go LIVE

The sooner you can do this the better. Even if your website is ‘Comming soon’ with an about us page. Being live gives you some credibility, help promotion and help SEO (it gives people something to link back to!)

Start Promoting!

Set up your social media accounts, join groups, build email lists, tell friends / family. Use tools like Pitchbox and HelpaReporter. Increasing in the online world the personal approach is best. You need to explain to your audience why you have set up your business, who it is aimed at and what the benefits are.

Share your expertise through your articles or online lessons. Tips and tricks, advice and FAQ are all great content to engage with readers. Send influencers a sample of your work to help explain to them why your service is better than the competition.

Payment Gateway.

We recommend PayPal as a secure, established, trusted provider. PayPal integrates with all the main e-commerce platforms and invests heavily in security. It is likely that a good percentage of your customers will already have an account, but even without one, payments is simple and seamless.

Setting up and validating your business account is a relatively straight forward. You will need a Privacy Policy, Return Policy, Terms and Conditions. You’ll also need a way for customers to contact your customer service!

Google Shopping + Facebook Product Catalogue.

Once all you have your products set up on the system, it is time to upload to Google Shopping. Customers searching using keywords will be shown your product image (if they match!). Use the same data feed from the merchant centre and upload it to Facebook’s product catalogue.

google-shopping-e-commerce
Google shopping – upload your e-commerce catalogue!

Packaging Shipping/Storage options.

How you delivery your items is down to you. Most of the e-commerce websites will have integration with the main providers. There are also some external specialists like www.electiodelivers.com that, based on the number of packages you send, and where you send them, will calculate the most efficient delivery system.

Find Out More

If you’d like some help setting up your online e-commerce website, please fill out our contact form.

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How to Start Selling Online

How to Start Selling Online: From the Occasional Item to Your Own Full Online Shop.

When it comes to selling items online, the way you go about it depends on your circumstances. Are you selling one or two items, regularly buying and selling or an already established shop?

One or Two Items

If you just looking to sell a few second-hand items, then you could consider Ebay or other local listings, for example, Gumtree.

Regular Buying and Selling

If you are planning on buying and selling items on a regular basis, then you could investigate setting up an Ebay shop or looking into the Amazon marketplace. Other sales platforms are available, make sure you research the cost – they typically take a percentage of sales value.

Your Own Online Shop

If you are a shop that currently sells in the offline world and you are looking to start selling your goods online – there are many e-commerce systems that vary in price and functionality.

Selling Online
Start your online shop

Blog or CMS Add-Ons

Some content management systems have add-ons that enable e-commerce. But they don’t tend to offer a complete shop online.

Online E-Commerce Services

A specialist online shop provider will usually charge an ongoing monthly fee (and sometimes transaction costs). They provide a robust fully functioning online shop.

There are many of these types of self-service systems about. You will tend to need a decent level of technical knowledge and support is very often call centre or live chat based.

These self-service systems are great for the higher volume shops that can justify the ongoing monthly price. They will also have an in-house resource to set-up and customise the shop from the offset.

A typical local shop with limited time and experience of setting up online systems might sometimes struggle to get their e-commerce shop online. For stores looking to first service their local market, these systems are probably a little too pricey. They are also not as customisable as a coded system.

Online Customer Solutions specialise in helping smaller shops start selling online. We are experts at implementing e-commerce websites based on the OpenCart platform. This allows a bespoke solution for a one-off price, excellent support and training and ongoing help if needed. Our aim is to grow your business by providing the right online system.

E-commerce websites can be set-up from £750 + hosting (£65 p/a) + design (£80), if you are interested please contact us using this form.

How to Start Selling Online with an E-Commerce Website.

With the right partner, running an e-commerce website is simpler than you may think. After the implementation and customisation, there are a number of tasks that need to be done to get your e-commerce website working:

Adding Products and Stock Level Control.

Using a simple web page, you will be able to give your product a name, price, stock level, images and many other attributes to present your items in their best light.

Taking Payment.

The simplest and most secure way of taking online payments is to use a payment gateway. Online Customer Solutions recommend PayPal, but there are other systems that can be just as easily integrated.

Shipping Options.

For a local shop then click-and-collect might be the most simple shipping option. But printing shipping labels and estimating shipping fees is all built in. All you have to do is wrap the items and post! (For higher volume retailers there are other shipping integration and fulfilment options).

Returns Management.

Built in already is how to handle returns and refunds. Just set your policy terms and conditions and it won’t be something you haven’t dealt with before in your offline shop.

Communication.

The advantage of having an online shop is that you get to capture email addresses. Apart from being able to automatically send order confirmations, you can update the customer when and item has been shipped.

Marketing.

Once you have people’s opt-in and email address you can keep in touch with them. Let them know about special offers, vouchers or just regular marketing updates. For example, new products or seasonal trends. Enable customers to set-up wish lists, write reviews and share their experience with social media sites.

Also built in is Search Engine Optimisation. Describe your products well. Enter a few bits of information and the system will help you start appearing in the Google search results.

Financial Reporting.

Keep up-to-date with the number of customers, orders and sales. Which items are selling the best? Which items are being viewed but not bought? Who are your best customers and how can you incentivise them to buy more. All built-in.

How to Start Selling Online with Your Own E-Commerce Shop.

An e-commerce website is a fantastic next step for a local business.

Contact us today for how we can help grow your business and get you selling online.

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How Much Does it Cost to Set-up a Website?

How much a website costs to set-up depends on what it needs to do.

One of the most commonly asked questions on our keyword report is: How much does it cost to set-up a website? Below we try to give a simple answer, but remember the costs and options below will vary depending on the exact requirements. Or, in other words, it really does depend on what you want your website to do!

Find out how much it costs to set-up a Website

Online Customer Solutions provide the below guidance:

  • A basic 5-6 page website costs £300 + design (c£80) + Hosting and domain name (£65 per year).
  • Customised WordPress site (Blog) or another Content Management system: £450 + design + Hosting
  • E-Commerce (OpenCart) website: £750 + design + hosting.

Read more about how to start selling online here.

Of course, if you want a corporate website with bespoke requirements and multiple languages, the cost from your average web development company is going to run into the thousands. Typically if your e-commerce site requires unique functionality and multiple interesting payment options then the costs are going to be higher.

For most small businesses wanting either a brochure website, blog or e-commerce website, the costs above will be there or thereabouts.

Alternatives to Outsource Website Development

There are alternatives to using a low-cost UK based web development company such as Online Customer Solutions.

You could do it yourself using a self-service website generator, for example, WordPress or other blog type sites. But you’ll tend to find that the free or very low-cost options come with limited options. For example, you tend not to be able to have your own domain name or business email address.

Outsourcing your website development should also mean that it is optimised for search engine results. A web developer will ask you questions like: “Who are your typical clients?”, “How would you describe your services?”, “Can you explain a recent project or product that you provided or sold?”.

Although you will still need to provide some of the website content – after all – no-one knows your business better – your web developer will optimise for keywords pertaining to your site.

All this means is that a web developer should have an appreciation of who your website is likely to appeal to and ensure that your site attracts visitors to boost your sales. This practice is called search engine optimisation, you can read more about SEO basics here.

Slow website growth SEO
Cost of setting up a website is relative to the value of the results

The Offshore Option

Offshore website development companies tend to send a lot of unsolicited emails with eye-catching low prices and promise first page results on Google. Although there will be some reputable companies that could do a good job, getting fast search engine results will undoubtedly mean using ‘black-hat’ SEO techniques that will eventually get your website a Google penalty. Also, many offshore companies will not understand the local UK market and not spend too much time trying to help your business grow. They will just put up a site, get paid and move on to the next company.

Although there will be some reputable companies that could do a good job, getting fast search engine results will undoubtedly mean using ‘black-hat’ SEO techniques that will eventually get your website a Google penalty. Also, many offshore companies will not understand the local UK market and not spend too much time trying to help your business grow. They will just put up a site, get paid and move on to the next company.

Our Process

After an initial fact-find, if a customer wishes to proceed with the website build, the process for setting these things up is fairly straightforward:

  • A service agreement letter is sent to the customer confirming what has been agreed to be delivered.
  • Assuming everything is ok, we then send over some design ideas for you to have a look at and we’ll work out what the site is going to look like. During this stage, if you have any design requirements – for example, pictures you want on the site or colour preferences – please let us know.
  • After the design comes the content. If you have any words (leaflets or existing marketing) that would be a good starting point. If not, we’ll need to schedule a call and you can tell us about – Your background; Services you offer; Typical clients; contact information etc.
  • At this point, we invoice for a deposit, usually 25% of the build cost.
  • Once we have all the information we build the site and put it on a test server for you to have a look at. At this point, you’ll probably have additional ideas or content that you want to include, so we’ll work together until you are happy with it.
  • Once finished, we’ll put the site live and raise an invoice for the remaining 75%.

A Website is Just the Start

Building a website is usually the start of a marketing process. A professional website is optimised to appeal to your target audience. The SEO process then needs to be followed and there are a plethora of online marketing options that should be taken into account when looking to grow your business.

In conclusion, the question should not be: how much does it cost to set-up a website? But instead, “How much will it cost to set-up and promote my website and how much value will it return?” To help answer that, you need a website and online marketing partner.

Why choose Online Customer Solutions?

  • Motivated to deliver business growth.
  • Detailed knowledge of online marketing including SEO, PPC, Email, affiliate recruitment, content marketing, social media and display re-targeting.
  • Experience with Google Analytics and other reporting suites.
  • Technical Knowledge: HTML, PHP, MVC, OpenCart, MySql, WordPress
  • 12 years website and SEO experience
  • Constantly up to date with the latest SEO developments and trends.
  • Proactively looking for new ways to continuously improve the performance.
  • Experienced across a variety of industries.

Find out more

Based in Cheadle, close to Manchester in the UK, Online Customer Solutions specialise in helping businesses grow.

Contact us today, we can advise and provide a range of services, from setting up a website, to improving online marketing and conversions.

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Affordable Web Design Services Manchester

Looking for affordable web design services? Templates and open source platforms are the answer. Affordable website design and development can start from as little as £150. Perfect for small or micro businesses.

Open Source content management systems (CMS), for example, WordPress, are great for creating high quality, low-cost websites. Installation and running of a WordPress site is free. However, the domain name, hosting, setup, template cost and customisation are all chargeable.

It is possible to do all this yourself. However, if you are busy doing the day job, affordable web design services can be a good choice.

Affordable Web Design Services – E-Commerce

Read more about how to start selling online here.

Like most things, the simpler something is and the less time it takes, the cheaper it is going to be. But even for complicated e-commerce sites; using open source platform, for example, OpenCart, can save a lot of time and money. Just that setup and customisation is going to take a bit longer. Find a good web development service and it can be easily affordable to get your shop up and running within a few weeks.

Remember, having a website doesn’t mean everyone will suddenly start visiting it. Have a look into search engine marketing!

Find out more

Based in SK8, just south of Manchester in the UK, Online Customer Solutions provide solutions to a range of business but specialise in helping small businesses grow.

Contact us today, we can advise and provide a range of services, from setting up a website, to improving online marketing and conversions.

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Make Sales Online – E-commerce solutions

Whether you are starting a new business or just a new website, Online Customer Solutions (OCS) can provide everything you need to make sales online.

E-commerce used to be very expensive and take a long time to setup and manage. Small businesses used to spend a fortune (£20k +) getting their shop online. These days there are a number of low-cost platforms that not just save a lot of money, but also provide an exceptional solution.

Solutions include as Paypal, WordPress, Shopify, WooCommerce (WordPress), Magento and OpenCart.

Read more about how to start selling online here.

OCS recommend OpenCart. It is flexible, powerful, open source and has a solid support system via a large number of users. It is a low-cost solution enabling small businesses to make sales online.

The number of features out of the box is huge. All the standard stuff is there; account setup, stock control, order and payment processing (via extensions), email confirmations etc. It is completely customisable, ensuring that it looks exactly as you want.

There are also nice extras including wish lists, newsletter management, built-in affiliate system gift vouchers and much more. 

Setup costs start at £250, and running costs (which includes hosting, management, ongoing support) starts at £50 per month.

Monthly costs depend on how much help you want. OCS can also setup and manage your online marketing and provide help and advice when it comes to social media, content and affiliate marketing.

Make Sales Online

Online Customer Solutions can provide everything you need to make sales online. OCS have many years of development and online marketing experience and can install, setup, manage and market your e-commerce site. We can also provide training.

Based just south of Manchester in the UK, Online Customer Solutions provide solutions to a range of business, but specialise in helping small businesses grow.

Find out more

Contact us today, we can advise and provide a range of services, from setting up a website, to improving online marketing and conversions.

make sales online with online customer solutions
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