Selling products online can be extremely rewarding and really should be part of every business who sells physical products. However, getting started is always one of the hardest parts about anything. Today I'm going to show you how to plan an online store.
The first thing you need to do anytime your're creating a website is determine a goal. Since your creating an online store I'm going to assume your goal is to sell products. In some instances you may have one product you want to sell, others may have a handful, and then still others may have an entire catalog of items they're looking to sell.
Determining the number of products you intend to sell on your website is important when it comes to creating a structure for your online store. If you're selling a single product you may be able to get away with a simple three to five page website and a buy now button. But if you're selling an entire catalog you're going to want to be able to keep a database of all those products along with their prices and descriptions.
There are some things you're going to need regardless of the number of products you're selling. One of those things is a way to accept payments online. Generally that means you're going to need the ability to take credit cards.
There are three main decisions you're going to have to make when it comes to setting up your online store.
1. How are you going to accept payment?
The most popular way to accept payments online is via credit card. Some of the other popular alternatives are through PayPal. PayPal is a good secondary option for accepting payments but you really need to take Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover to drive the most revenue through your site.
Traditionally getting the ability to accept credit card payments has meant going through an underwriting process a lot like getting a loan. However, now several companies have simplified that process. At WebStarts we've partnered with WePay from Chase Bank. When you install the Store App onto your WebStarts website you're instantly able to begin accepting Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover all for a 2.9% transaction fee, which is about the industry average for online transactions. In the event you already have a payment processor WebStarts support additional processors like Authorize.net and Stripe.
2. What shipping options will you be offering to your customers?
There are a lot of variables that come into play when talking about shipping products. If you have large items you're probably going to have to ship them differently than a store that has small items. Other things to take into consideration are your location, the cost of various shipping options, the speed at which your customers expect to receive their shipments, the quality of service you get from a particular carrier, whether they provide tracking numbers, and how to get those tracking numbers to customers.
Free shipping has become a huge deal on the internet. By offering free shipping you take the guesswork out of the price for the consumer so they love getting free shipping. It's pretty easy to build free shipping into the price of your products but it's not easy to absorb the cost of free 2-day or overnight shipping. This is where you need to be careful about the products you're offering and the expectations you're creating about when your customers will get them.
Flate Rate Shipping
Flat rate shipping means that you're gong to charge your customers a fixed shipping amount. For example you could have a flat rate for overnight, 2-day, and ground.
Ship by Weight
Shipping by weight means the shipping price will be based on the total weight of the products you're shipping. When you create a product you have the opportunity to enter a weight. That weight is used to calculate shipping.
Ship by Quantity
Shipping by quantity means the price of shipping is based on the total number of items in the order.
Ship by Price
Shipping by price means the price of shipping is calculated based on the total amount of money spent on an order.
Custom shipping are whatever rules you want to create for your orders.
There are a number of different carriers whom with you can ship. Here's a breakdown of the most popular.
USPS is probably the cheapest shipping and there flat rate boxes make shipping costs somewhat predictible but they're the worst in terms of reliablity. So when it absolutely, positively, has to be there don't choose USPS. Their tracking data isn't on par with UPS and Fedex either. They provide tracking numbers but the route a package is taking and the exact delivery date can be vague.
Fedex is a reliable courrier. However they typically have higher rates than UPS.
UPS is the most cost effective of the reliable shipping options but it's till a bit more expensive than sending via USPS.
How are you going to make sure your customers can track, receive, and return their products?
Providing your customers with tracking information after they've made a purchase is critical so that you don't end up spending all your time taking phone calls from people wondering where their package is at.
In WebStarts you're able to view order information, mark as fulfilled, and send tracking information to the customers.
Before you begin creating products you should think about the number and types of products you have. If you have hundreds of products they should be split into categories. It's daunting for a customer to sort through page after page of products that appear to be in no particular order.
WebStarts allows you to create product categories but you assign the products to the categories as you create them. So it's best if you come up with your categories prior to creating all your products.
Product variants are used when you have a product that comes in different sizes, colors, materials, or other options. You can use the Variants features of WebStarts to create custom variants and set prices for each specific one.
If you have a lot of products it's going to be easier for your customers to shop by specific category than to sort throough pages of products. When you create a category you can choose to show the category menu on your store page.
Testing your store
Before you give your link to the public and start selling products online it's recommended you run a test transaction. This will ensure everything is working the way you expect. You can run a test transaction by clicking on the Settings tab. You will find a toggle switch in the top right, toggle it to the Test Mode position. You can then run a text transaction using a real card or you can use the test card number below:
4242 4242 4242 4242
Use any expiration date in the future and enter any three digit code. The transaction should go through as it would in live mode, but without making a charge to the card. This will give you the opportunity to see the receipt your customer will receive, the notifications you'll receive as the store owner and the confirmation page your customer will see after purchase.
Don't forget to put your store back into live mode when you're done testing. If you accept real transactions while in test mode you're not going to receive payment for them.
That's everything you need to know about how to plan an online store. You can sign up to create a free online store at WebStarts.