What Does It Take to Set up an Online Store? – A Checklist

E-Commerce is the retail wave of the future as more people are opting to spend their money online. You will have more and more competition in the e-commerce world, so it is important that you make sure to have not only a vision for success but an actual e-commerce business plan. Here is a checklist for you to consider when setting up your own e-commerce company:

  1. E-Business Plan Structure

Business Plan

If you were to take a course in e-commerce structure and it?s the basic foundation of an e-business plan, it would include the following elements:

Software platform: Many elements of e-commerce are unique to this type of retail selling like how to market inventory and display product features, so you would be wise to choose a platform that specifically is designed for an e-commerce business.

Merchant account Understand that there are several types of merchant accounts, so focus on an e-business type of transaction instead of a point of sale one. This means you want to set up something that will process a cardholder not present transaction (CNP) or a mail order/telephone order account (MOTO). Also, ask about all the fees that could possibly be included with each transaction. This may include:

  • Monthly user fee
  • Discount rate fee
  • Per transaction fee
  • Termination fee
  • Extra fees including refund fees

When you choose a merchant account, consider what the needs will be for your e-commerce business in terms of volume of merchandise that you intend to sell as opposed to higher-end products that may sell for more but not in large quantities. This relates to the fees as well.

Accounting package: Once again, you need to consider an accounting system that specializes in e-commerce activity. There is an entirely different type of inventory tracking to consider when you have an e-commerce business that needs to be a part of an accounting package. The idea of even trying to do it with a simple accounting software or even manually is an impossible task. As your business grows, the software must be easy to upgrade.

Because e-commerce is becoming so popular, there are many software companies that offer these three basic components as an ?all-in-one? package. Many will offer you an online model store that you can use to test out their software.

  1. How Can Your E-Commerce Site Be Unique from all the Rest?

MarblesYou will have a multitude of e-commerce sites competing with you to entice a consumer to click on their link. Here are some ways you can set your e-commerce business apart from the rest:

  • Unique Site Design: According to e-commerce web designer John Atkins, your site needs to be convenient and easy to maneuver around as well as pleasing to the consumer?s eye or they will be gone in a matter of minutes. This includes detailed descriptions of each product and a focus on the products themselves and not the quantity of the products that you offer. So, it is vitally important to explore specific online models for e-commerce design. Each item needs to be presented as originally as the next so that the products do not blend one into another and lose their value to the consumer.
  • Niche Items: If you offer the same type of products that ten other e-commerce sites offer that are listed right along with you, then you will not stand out at all. But, if you offer several unusual products or services that are hard to find or even only found on your site, it is worth a consumer?s time to click on your site and take a look at them even if they are not intending to buy this item, it will pique their interest to enter your e-commerce site.
  • Deals, deals, deals: The name of the game in competition is usually who can offer the best deal for the same product, and many consumers only choose an e-commerce site based on this. So, making sure that you are undercutting the competition without hurting your bottom line probably one of the most important business decisions you can make. Then, you will be known for the site the gives the best deals, which will make you unique in the eyes of the consumer.
  1. What are My Competition?s Weak Points?

You cannot set yourself apart from your competition if you are not familiar with what your competition has to offer. You can consider some of the following strategies:

  • What are they missing on their site that you offer? This gives you an opportunity to market to one specific product or service that you know is not offered by the competition and you can say so in your advertising.
  • Read customer reviews on their website: Customers will tell you everything you need to know about the shortcomings of your competition through reviews of products and services that they offer to them. Have a dedicated team on staff to review these and note where they are falling short and offer the customer what they are missing.
  • Hire a company to track the number of visitors that a competitor is getting. Someone you perceive as being your greatest competition may, in fact, be getting far fewer customers to their site than you.
  1. SEO Strategy

Richard Lazzazera, a well-known e-commerce blogger on Shopify and expert on e-business strategies, says in his weekly blog, The Lemonade Stand, that there are six things to consider when putting together an e-commerce marketing strategy before you jump into spending marketing money

  • Up-Selling
  • Abandon Cart Follow-up emails
  • Customer Referrals with bonus offer
  • Retargeting

You can accomplish this by beginning with a simple marketing plan:

  • Unique visitors: First, you don?t want to grow so large in the beginning that you can?t handle the traffic, so an initial goal of 50,000 unique visitors per month is manageable.
  • Keywords and phrases: Google is king when it comes to searching for online shops, so become familiar with the words your customers will use to find your products or services to optimize the amount of traffic you will receive. There are a multitude of keyword tools like wordstream.com to use to become familiar with consumer keywords.
  • URL overload: Make sure to embed your URL anywhere that you advertise whether it is something in print like a business card or in every email you send out to a customer.
  • Free advertising: Make sure your site is listed on Google?s shopping search engine Froogle. It is free and many consumers go there to comparison shop.
  • Advice: This is also free. Talk to other e-commerce business owners and see what is working for them.

Just working your way through this checklist of important things to consider when you begin to plan an e-commerce business will put you on the right track to initial success and long-term e-commerce growth.

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