Online selling is by no means a simple task. To sell products online not only requires making use of high end marketing strategies but also involves lots of planning. This article is meant for those of you who intent to start an online store. It is intended to give you a fair idea of what you would need to do and what you need to avoid while planning an online selling business.
The following are various steps that you would need to take in order to open a successful online store
1.) Designing a website that sells
The first most important aspect of online selling is to have a professional looking website that is designed to sell. You can go about creating website from code up using web designers or simply go for readymade website templates. If you are purchasing website templates, be sure to go for templates that are professionally designed and have option of shopping carts. Buying templates from providers who offer allied services like template customization, web hosting; SEO etc would be even better. Some template providers like ?buytemplates.net? offer allied services irrespective of where you actually purchased template from. To get a rough idea of how your site should be designed you can take hints from successful online stores like http://www.ishopage.com, ?gap.com? and ?bestbuy.com?.
2.) Hosting your store online
There are many factors that you need to take into consideration before selecting your web host when it comes to online selling. Some of major factors are discussed as follows.
a.) Secure servers
Firstly you got to make sure if your web host offers you with SSL encryption which is very important for secure money transactions online. Most web hosting companies would offer you with SSL secure server facilities along with a regular package whereas a few would charge you an extra amount for service.
b.) Up time guarantees
Your business is only as good as it remains online. Make sure to go for web hosting service providers who promise you an uptime guarantee of 99 %. Also check to see as to how they back up their data and what kind of back up systems they have in place in case of emergencies.
c.) Private CGI-BIN
A CGI-BIN directory is a location on your web server where you can upload your binary scripts or interactive programs. This is very important for payment processing and shopping cart management. So be sure that hosing company gives you a private CGI BIN directory.
d.) Web logs and web statistics
Web logs and statistics are vital for your online business. Studying web logs can give you much needed information about your customers and your sales records. Understanding your customer behavior can help you retain customers and attract new customers.
e.) Customer support
Get as much information about hosting company?s support policies and type of support they offer. Go for web hosting companies that offer 24/7 customer support.
Most web hosts promise you lots of goodies but may not live up to it. Make sure to test web host?s credibility by asking them for references. The existing customers of hosting company can give your first hand information on service that you can expect to get.
In addition to this you should also look for services that offer you Mysql database and PHP scripting, unlimited emails and a minimum space of 10GB.
3.) Deciding on shopping carts
If you are selling more than a handful of products then having a shopping cart on your site is a good idea. You have three major options of getting yourself an online shopping cart. First one is buying a shopping cart software program; second is using services of an ASP and third is programming it yourself.
Your best option as a beginner would be to go for ASP services. These services are cheap and come with flexible options. As time passes and you online business develops, you can hire programmers to design yourself a customized shopping cart or buy shopping cart software programs that can be set up in your server. Some good ASP?s that offer shopping cart services are ?SecureNetShop? (SecureNetShop.com) and ?GoEmerchant? (GoEmerchant.com).
Shopping cart software programs are a costly option for beginners and can cost you anything between $ 150 - $ 800. Some good shopping cart software programs are ?shopfactory 6? (shopfactory.com) and ?storefront? (strorefront.net) One more option as already discussed above is making use of ecommerce website templates. These ecommerce templates have pre installed shopping cart systems and can help you set up a store in minutes. Some of these template providers also offer template customization services that would allow you to get your ordinary templates in selling modules.