Say you’ve determined what you want to sell n end who you can sell to – it’s now time to get the ball rolling and plan out the technical details of running your online store.
This can be a complicated process for a first timer, but we’ve got you covered from choosing a platform to deciding how to process payments. Here are 5 questions to guide you before you begin your journey as an online entrepreneur.
- Hosted or self-hosted?
Unless you have your own server with enough storage, automatic back-ups, and 24/7 maintenance, you will need a hosting provider to start selling.
A great hosting site offers several options to match your shop size. As you grow, your host should be flexible and give you room to expand without hurting your pocket. Start by finding one within your budget, but also keep an eye out for basic features and reviews. You wouldn’t want to invest in a long-term subscription only to experience frequent downtime and lapses in support later on.
- What software should I use?
When choosing an e-commerce software, you have to think about what products you’re going to sell. Some software are better suited for physical goods, and some support virtual goods best.
An e-commerce software like Shopify, for example, is best for selling clothing items as it has features that allow you to organize inventory and provides point-of-sale support. Explore what the best platforms in the market can provide and decide which one perfectly suits the shop you want to build.
- Do I have a security plan?
The entire online buying process involves a lot of sensitive transactions, and a leak of a single mailing address or credit card information can severely damage your reputation. It is necessary that you only start selling with a security plan in place.
When choosing a platform, take time to check the security essentials that come with each subscription option. An SSL certificate and secure password storage are the first things to look out for as these ensure that credit card information and log-in credentials aren’t stored as plain text. In addition, the platform must guarantee not to permanently store customer data.
Some hosting providers offer a firewall and regular maintenance. These services complete a reliable security plan, but it still helps to be aware of bugs, phishing tactics, and newly discovered vulnerabilities.
- How do I process shipments?
If you plan on accepting international orders, it is important to plan logistics for shipments. There are several factors that must be considered, including package sizes, departing and destination countries, as well as your customers’ preferences on tracking and package insurance.
There are three shipping options to look at: free shipping, charging at a flat rate, and charging real time carrier rates. If you have done some online shopping yourself, you would have noticed that free shipping is a popular enticer, but it requires additional cost on your end. Decide on this by taking a good look at your costing and comparing rates among local couriers. If free shipping would require you to price your products unreasonably high, charging a flat rate where you divide shipping costs with the customer might be a better option.
Once you’re set with shipping costs, partner up with a courier that can handle logistics for you. If you plan to serve customers in various countries, it is recommended that you send through top couriers who have excellent track records, such as DHL Express and UPS.
- What modes of payment should I offer?
It is important to make payment convenient for your online shop. Manual bank transfers take time and defeat the expedience that makes online shopping so popular.
Start out by allowing several credit cards and PayPal. Most of the time, e-commerce softwares provide an option to include a checkout page. If this is not provided in your subscription, you can add a separate payment gateway to your website. Look out for an online payment processing option that is supported by your e-commerce platform and one that has a good reputation.