How to create an awesome ecommerce site without spending a fortune
So you’ve got your product ready to go, your marketing strategy is locked down, and the only thing that’s stopping you from finally launching your business is getting your online store up and running. Now, if you’re like most small business owners, you’ve probably had a scary quote from a local developer, and while their work is brilliant and worth every cent, it just doesn’t quite fit in your bootstrapping budget (read: it blows it out of the water). Maybe you’ve dabbled with offshore development too, which can be really tricky, especially if you’re not accustomed to the web development process. And the whole thing has been sitting in your “too hard basket” for a while now, but you know you’ve got to get this store going and get the product out the door and those dollars rolling in.
Good news. When it comes to online stores, there’s been an enormous amount of change in technology, and it’s easier than ever to do it yourself. You don’t even need to know how to code. If you have your product photos and logo ready to go, plus an idea of what visual style works best for your brand and audience, then you can have your own, totally professional online store up and running on the Internet in a matter of days. To make things even more straightforward, I’ve broken it down into nine steps with links to resources and further reading.
1. Choose an eCommerce platform
There’s a whole host of self-managed eCommerce platforms out there, and the most common ones for getting started without a developer are Shopify and WooCommerce. If you have a domain name (that’s your web address or URL) and hosting already, then you can set that up within your eCommerce platform, if you don’t have one both platforms offer a temporary option. Both platforms have great customer service and user-friendly setup guides and tutorials, so you won’t feel unsupported.
2. Get the right look and feel for your brand
One of the most fantastic things about Shopify and WooCommerce is the ability to choose your own theme. Wondering what a “theme” is? I was too. It kind of acts like a skin over the bones of your eCommerce platform structure. You can browse a smorgasbord of online store designs and choose the one you want for your site. Many themes are free and there is also the option to purchase a theme for as little as $50, which is pretty great when you’re just starting out. Make sure you take into account what kind of functionality you will need – if you have a lot of products you might need filtering or search functionality, and if you have just the one hero product you might need a content and image-based theme to really tell that product story.
3. Make your theme look professional
Once you’ve “installed the theme” you can jump right in and start to customise fonts and colours. It’s great to just get in there and have a play, but if you want to have things look super professional it’s a good idea to make the most of these two free resources: Google Fonts and Canva. Google Fonts will allow you to work out which fonts compliment each other best for your headings and body copy – getting this right can be the difference between a good online store and an all out fantastic online store. Same goes for nailing your colour palette, and that’s where Canva can help with 100 colour combinations that totally work. A great place to start when designing the look and feel of your own online store on a budget.
4. Only use high-quality product photos
While online stores are absolutely essential for retailers in this day and age, one of the biggest downfalls of an online store is the fact that it’s online. Meaning, you’re not there to explain your product, communicate the benefits and showcase what customer problems your product solves. So you’re going to need really good product photos to do the job for you. We’re talking about all the angles, close-up shots and full length product shots, even a 360 degree rotation if you can swing it. It all helps educate your customers and build trust towards your brand.
5. Invest in video
Since you saved a heap of money building your online store yourself, maybe you’d like to direct that budget towards product videos? It’s one of the best ways to replicate showing your product in a store or show room, and has the added benefit of currently being Facebook’s preferred content type, so you’ll get some use (and hopefully traction) on social media too.
6. Spend time crafting engaging (and accurate) product descriptions
Again, you’re not there to demonstrate to your customers just how awesome your product is, so you’re going to have to weave that pitch into your product descriptions. Be clear about the specifications and features, and make sure the benefits are clear. Sometimes it helps to use tabs or accordions to isolate key content like product specifications, shipping information and return policies too.
7. Put key information in the menu and footer
Everyone knows how important it is to include links to key pages in your menu bar, but many people overlook the footer. And that is often the first place website visitors head to find shipping, returns, and contact information. Next time you’re browsing an online store, pay attention to where they keep their key content and think about what content you could include to help customers trust your brand and buy your products.
8. Don’t overlook the “About us” page
Did you know that people love a good story and that a narrative is built into our instinctive communication frameworks? So, having an ‘about us’ page is a great way to share your purpose and your journey, as well as build rapport with your customers and trust in your brand and product. It’s super tough to write about yourself. Instead, you could put some bullet points together and ask a friend or partner to help write out the rest. It’s amazing what fresh perspective can achieve.
9. Set up your payment gateway and brand your checkout
You’ve got your online store ready, and now you need to be able to take payment. Customers love options when it comes to payment, from PayPal (to help with shopper confidence) to Stripe (super convenient for you), Afterpay and ZipPay or even ApplePay, the more options you can offer, the better. Another important step is to ensure your checkout is branded with your colours and logos so that customers are confident they are not being ported off to a scam site when checking out online.
There you have it, nine easy steps to get your online store up and running in a matter of days. Feel confident and empowered because you have come so far on your entrepreneurial journey, and the last step is to nail your online presence and start selling. You’ve got this!