E-commerce: The 7 Commandments

One of the most alluring elements of setting up an online presence via an e-commerce website is that it can drastically alter your sales and marketing efforts. Using e-commerce, your business could be transformed into an international business in the blink of an eye. However, the world of e-commerce can be a daunting arena for relative newcomers, where one poor decision could deal a killer blow to your e-commerce aspirations. We have compiled a handy step-by-step guide to help you navigate the murky waters of setting up an e-commerce website for your business.

1. Thou shalt choose your domain name wisely

The domain name is seen as one of the most important aspects of your e-commerce website and is tied in heavily with the equity of your brand. When choosing a domain name, it needs to be short and significant. In theory, the shorter your domain name is, the easier it is for your customers to type, remember, and also communicate to other people. For example, which is more memorable: rspca.co.uk or theroyalsocietyforthepreventionofcrueltytoanimals.co.uk?

In terms of significance, you should try and choose a domain name that is relevant to the main keyword/keyword phrase that you would like to be associated with. For example, if you were looking to buy a cake for a friend’s birthday, which would you be most likely to visit?

  • www.birthdaycakesonline.co.uk
  • www.thomasjamesbryson.com

I’m sure I can safely assume you would be more likely to choose option A, it’s memorable, to-the-point and snappy. Furthermore, it is also worth considering that a country specific domain name will help you to rank higher on a country specific Google search results. For example, a site with a .co.uk domain name will rank higher on a google.co.uk search page.

2. Thou shalt have a visually appealing site design

Your site’s design is an incredibly important aspect to consider when building your e-commerce website. The visual aspect of your site design is one of the most pivotal elements to consider; in the same way that physical stores have shop windows to try and entice shoppers in, your site needs to be visually appealing so that customers’ will take the time to browse.

In an interesting turn of events, designer clothing brands such as Burberry and Alexander McQueen are now designing their physical stores so that they mirror the design and user experience of their online stores. This highlights the influence that a site’s design has as an indicator of brand quality. There are a wealth of design agencies (such as these guys) that possess an abundance of knowledge and experience in site design. Look for a partner who can create a professional looking site individually tailored to your needs.

3. Thou shalt choose your e-commerce platform wisely

When selecting your e-commerce platform, you are presented with two choices: whether you want to create your own e-commerce platform from scratch, whether you would prefer to choose one of a bewildering number of e-commerce platforms. By choosing to create your own, you can save money by not being required to pay certain license and maintenance fees, as well as not having to pay a percentage of your sales in exchange for using someone else’s technology.

However, in order to do this, you need a high level of both knowledge and budget in order to create an e-commerce platform that is fully functional. In contrast, platforms such as WooCommerce, Magento, and Shopify provide you with everything you need to sell your products online, including templates that help you design your website and accepting credit cards.

This option tends to be more expensive initially, however, these platforms possess the threshold knowledge that is required to create a fully functioning e-commerce platform. Moreover, having them look after your e-commerce platform, means that some of the risk is shifted away from you (and your already heavily burdened shoulders).

4. Thou shalt put serious thought into the hosting of your e-commerce website

As well as creating a fully functioning e-commerce platform, the aforementioned providers will also host your website for you as part of their services, which generally will include secure SSL encryption and unlimited bandwidth. If however, you may decide that it would be more beneficial for your e-commerce website if you hosted it yourself internally.

If this is the case, companies such as Servers Plus can provide a range of rack servers, tower servers and blade servers, depending on the size of your business. Once again, companies such as this are able to provide you with invaluable knowledge and experience in making sure that hosting your own server can improve website performance, increase data security, and lower overall costs.

5. Thou shalt covet thy ideal shipping partner

Deciding on the right distribution channels for your e-commerce website is an incredibly important decision to make; after all, your business depends on getting the right merchandise, to the right person, in the right quantity, at the right time. Therefore, depending on the nature of your products, you will need to decide whether you want to ship locally, nationally, or even nationally, and also how you want your items to be distributed.

In addition, you are undoubtedly going to want a build a strong working relationship with your shipping partner, and it is therefore of extreme importance that you are willing to trust them with your merchandise, as they will affect your reputation with your customer (and most importantly, whether they will buy from you again). I would strongly advocate taking your time to choose the right shipping partner that is best suited to your individual needs.

6. Thou shalt choose an optimum payment gateway

When choosing a payment gateway, there are generally two different options available to you. One option is to set up an internet merchant account; this needs to be acquired through a bank and will allow the customer to remain on your website whilst they make payments. This is because your chosen payment gateway partner will act as the middle man between your website and the bank, which makes it an extremely secure and professional option.

However, it is somewhat more complicated than the second option, which is to use a non-gateway merchant, such as PayPal or Google Checkout. These gateways can be set up using only a valid e-mail address, which will allow you to quickly set up a payment gateway for your website. These non-gateway merchants tend to be very popular with small or start-up businesses; moreover, you are not restricted to just one, meaning you will not be limiting the number of potential customers that can purchase from your website.

7. Thou shalt play by the rules

If you want to set up an e-commerce website, you will need to ensure that your website adheres to current legislation, which can be somewhat ambiguous and complicated. Thankfully, there are resources out there to help you. For instance, if you have decided to choose one of the numerous e-commerce platforms available, they will automatically ensure that your website follows current legislation, and will inform you of any changes that may need to be made.

Again, this will help to remove some of the responsibility. However, if you have decided to go it alone, sites such as websitecontracts.co.uk can supply you with downloadable legal contracts and agreements if you are in the UK. Alternatively, if you are in America, krinternetlaw.com can provide you with a website terms and conditions drafting service, which will ensure that you and your assets are protected.

Craig Bradshaw has recently completed a Masters in Business & Marketing Management at Newcastle Business School, where he gained a Distinction. He has a keen interest in fashion, music, art, and film, which he writes about in his own blog, All Things Ubiquitous. He is also a keen long-distance athlete; he most recently competed in the Edinburgh Marathon, where he finished in less than 2 hours and 50 minutes.