Getting Started with Ecommerce

This isn’t a definitive list, don’t take anything as gospel but it hopefully gives you some research ideas. Straight forward links, no affiliates or anything. By the way, I’ve written this as if explaining to a complete novice to e-commerce so please humour me if I’m teaching you to suck eggs.

Hosted Ecommerce Websites

All do free trials, have a check of the features, check the themes then play with the most likely candidate to see if it suits your needs.

Opensource Ecommerce Websites

See below hosting, most of these companies have one click installers for the above – simples!

Hosting & Domain Name Companies

Too many of these to list, they’re all much of a muchness in my opinion. I host 2 shops, 2 websites and am building 2 affiliate stores (in progress) for £4.99 a month and have yet to face issues with anything. I expect to upgrade this if things get busier though – all small niche stores.

Payment Gateways

Also worth choosing a platform then seeing which gateways integrate natively, most commonly supported seems to be SagePay, anything can be made to work, but if you haven’t already got a merchant account you might as well consider compatibility with the platform.

Where To Look For Themes

Plenty more on Google just search “<shopping cart software> themes”

Useful sites/things to look up in Google

Google Webmaster Tools

Google Analytics – very useful

Google Adwords Advertising, prepare to lose a lot of money whilst learning!

SEO – Search Engine Optimization – You’ll need to know a bit about this at least.

DSR – Distance Selling Regs.

PCI Compliance

SSL Licences (available from your domain/hosting provider)

Multi Channel Integration (Ebay & Amazon etc)

Some (possibly all?) can pull your ebay/amazon products and add them to your new store – saves time if you have 12,000 products to add to a new shop! However, all of these CAN add your stores products to ebay/amazon without having to re-do them so definetly saves time if you’re new to ebay/amazon.

I believe that Shopify & Volusion have a built in multi channel solution, as does EKM Powershop and probably other ones do also.

Things To Note (from my experience)

  • Magento is good, but it’s hard to setup and requires better, more expensive, hosting (see DX3 Webs) – it is undoubtedly an amazing opencart shop, but might be overkill for most projects when there are easier, lighter packages out there.
  • Opencart/Prestashop/Etc are much easier and can be ran effectively on cheaper shared hosting
  • Pick a platform that will fit your needs, not just because someone else on the internet is using it. Do you need product variants, special filters etc? If you just need a basic store then most will do the trick, more complex stuff may require a developer. Look at the main stores and see what features and “add on” modules fit your needs the most – counter to this though, most of the big opensource stores can do anything so anything is possible really.
  • In my opinion it is good to start on a hosted site as they are generally quite easy and you don’t have to worry about software, hosting etc so can concentrate on making sales. They can however be limited so check the features first as theres no point starting on a hosted site that doesn’t fit your needs. You can always move to an opensource store in the future when it takes off and you can afford someone to set it up properly, and if your store doesn’t work out, you’ve not lost too much.
  • Opensource generally means that anything is possible, but it will come down to cost. i.e is there a module available already, if so how much is it and if not then how much for a custom module to be made for you.
  • Building the site and adding products is the easy bit. Making sales is the harder bit! Don’t expect it to take off as quick as your eBay store. You’ll need to build the site up, get it ranking in Google, do SEO, continue to list on ebay/amazon and look at other paid advertising methods to generate traffic.

Conclusion

Most of the hosted sites above are good, just check the features, costs etc and choose whichever suits your needs the most. E-commerce doesn’t have to be hard, the worst bit is deciding on what to do, do I go hosted do I go self-hosted, do I go Magento do I go Shopify. It’ll drive you crazy and if you’re like me, you’ll always be looking at pros and cons of other systems, but at the end of the day if it works, does what you need and has opensource flexibility you won’t go too far wrong. Try not to let yourself waste your time looking and playing, like I seem to do!

I’m not an expert but hope the above is of some use and I welcome anyone to add/remove/correct me on the above.

With thanks to Craig Walker www.globalcache.co.uk for this excellent guide.

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  1. Jaye Mason said:

    About to set up an online store, a bit daunted!

    • Aerin said:

      Hi Jaye,
      The trick is to take your time and enjoy developing your store. The least important part of the process is the theme (people really don’t care which one you use). The most important part is how you sell the products. This means great imagery, inspiring descriptions, easy to use navigation and lots of trust marks so people know who you are and how to get in contact. If you are really good at selling stuff you should find it easy to build the site. If selling and marketing isn’t your strong point then you may need some help.

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