Every entrepreneur understands the meaning of competition. Because most of your competitors’ goods have a similar quality to yours, where to purchase is always the customer’s choice. Of course, there are exclusive products which are individual and unique, but they are less prevalent, and, odds are that’s not what you’re looking at (pretty much everything that can be on the market is). So, how do you make your products advertise themselves?
While it was up to the seller in the past (traditional broadcast marketing made it this way), that’s no longer the case. Thanks to technological progress, it is possible to create the necessary conditions to advertise and sell products online by automating the supply of what your target customers demand. Today, we are talking about online stores.
An online store is a an entrepreneur’s dream. Contemporary consumers spend most of their time on the internet, so they can shop without even leaving their bedroom in the morning. You can and should get a slice of that pie.
But, you need to answer some questions first: Why does a customer make a purchase quickly and without hesitation through some websites? And, why is it so difficult to find what they’re looking for on others? The answer lies within the components of an online store (prices, payment terms, delivery, warranty).
There is an exciting marketing model called AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action). According to this model, a website visitor should be made to take four steps: pay attention to the product at the beginning, get interested in the product, have a desire to buy the product, and take action (in your case, buy a product) by the end.
So, you should build your online store according to this model. But, it can be expensive and requires significant investment. If you’re on a budget, especially in the initial stages of your business, you are forced to save money. However, it is pertinent not to overdo it.
A cheap online store won’t deliver your desired profit and you can’t market a product online without an aesthetically appealing, trustworthy online store. Standard design, old interface, programming errors – that’s what you can get if you don’t invest enough in the development of an online store. So, what are your options?
How to Create Your Online Store: Developing Options
Now, the central question is: How can I create an online store so that interested customers will choose to buy my products or services? An online entrepreneur can solve this problem in one of three ways:
- Consult a development company, where specialists will create a site according to best practices. Web-studio can offer the custom-made or off-the-shelf online store.
- Make an online store with a Content Management System. Choose the site management system and the plugin which provides the online store functionality or specialized engine, where the online storefront is created off-the-shelf.
- Create an online store using an eCommerce platform, which is designed to create high-quality websites for its further effective promotion.
Let’s look in detail at each of these options.
Method #1: Hire a development company to build your store.
Setting up the online store by a professional web-company. Let’s consider the simplest type of project, which includes the following stages:
- Preparation of technical specifications
- Design/ theme creation
- Creating content
- Online store testing
Certain professionals are needed for each stage: Usually, it is a project manager, designer, programmer, and coder, but sometimes other professionals are required. The undoubted advantage is that an agency takes care of all organizational and technical issues. As you work, your project will always be approved by you, and as a result, you will get a unique, finished online store that you can fill your products. So, a customized website will be made exclusively for you, according to your specifications, wishes, and requirements.
What are the terms?
The total time spent on an eCommerce project will vary from one to three months, taking into account the extra time on the project approval by the online store owner. Therefore, one of the drawbacks of this method is the lengthy development time.
What does the cost of the project consist of?; this is the salary of employees involved in the creation of the online store + advertising, office rental + margin (everyone has a different idea of it) = cost of creating an online store. And this sum can vary from project to project. Hiring someone else to build you store can be the most expensive yet easiest method.
Method #2: Create an online store yourself using a CMS.
For those who can modify ready-to-go solutions for themselves, there is a possibility to develop a site based with a Content Management System (CMS). A CMS provides a so-called site engine or skeleton that has the necessary functionality with ready-made design themes. Webmasters need only to upload files to the CMS server, configure it to their needs, choose the design, and install necessary extensions. That’s all. The project is ready; you just need to fill it with content.
Pros of using a CMS to build your store:
- A CMS will almost wholly solve your problems related to the creation of the site – installation and configuration of the engine are simple and not time-consuming.
- To change the text or add a page to the manually created website using HTML and CSS, you need to edit the code. In the content management system, everything is done through an admin panel with a user-friendly interface.
- Websites based on the CMS are dynamic, they can contain tens of thousands of pages. They are easy to expand and operate, their design can always be changed, minimally interfering or even without touching the system code.
- A CMS usually provides a superior platform for blogging, which will help tremendously with content marketing.
Cons of using a CMS to build your store:
- You may need a developer’s help if you do not have the proper knowledge and experience, as you will have to adjust the engine by yourself to suit your needs.
- You will need to buy a hosting service, where your site will be located.
- You will have to integrate the payment systems into your website on your own as well as to install and purchase the programs and modules needed to keep the site working.
The first question for those who have decided to create their online store this way is: which content management system to choose. Content management systems can be free or paid. Paid CMS is recommended to use in business to create promotional websites, online stores, corporate resources (NetCat, UMI.CMS). Free CMS is enough for personal blogs. For example, WordPress, Joomla!, Drupal. The cons of free CMS are that the module for the free engine can be developed by anyone. That’s why extensions are not always safe.
Method #3 Build your online store with an eCommerce platform.
An eCommerce platform (Think Shopify or BigCommerce) is a service where any user can create an online store using a convenient and straightforward visual editor. Most of them are designed to work with different sites with varying difficulty: you can create either a “business card” website – basically an online brochure – or an extensive online store. Most eCommerce platforms offer step-by-step help for the creation of your online store, starting from home page design and ending with security issues.
Here are the main advantages of an eCommerce Platform:
- They are easy to use. Everything is done step by step. You don’t need to deal with complicated programming languages.
- Separation of text and design: the layout is stored separately from the text. If you want to change the layout – just make a few clicks, and everything is done.
- Availability of ready layout templates (for the creation of which knowledge of HTML is usually needed).
- Easy image uploading. Images can be added without closing the browser so they can be immediately placed on the pages. The user can create galleries or make them a part of the layout design.
- Dozens of templates.
- Access to an array of eCommerce tools. For example, Shopify even provides a free logo creator for users. You’ll find everything from inventory management to tracking update tools to automate your processes
- Immediate publication of pages. If a user makes any changes, they are displayed immediately.
- Reliability – all files are stored on the platform server. Therefore there is no need to worry about backing up data, or the possibility of hacking. It is a responsibility of the website builder support team.
- Readily available design tools that allow you to create your unique, attractive store.
- Adequate technical support. Qualified specialists from a programmer to a designer will consult you at any stage of the store creation with the help of this resource.
- A free trial period (generally about 14 days).
- Adaptive and mobile-optimized design. Your online store will display correctly in any browser and on any device (desktop, tablet, mobile phone).
- Integration with social networks.
- Possibility to choose the payment system that meets your needs.
Here are the disadvantages of using an eCommerce platform:
The disadvantages are different for each eCommerce platform; here are the most common:
- It is often impossible to move your site to another hosting platform.
- There are some limitations in working with graphic elements of the store.
- There may be some shortcomings of the functionality and user interface.
- It is usually hard to remember the address of the page which was made in the free version of online store builder.
So which method is the best?
It is better when the end justifies the means. Everything depends on what you want to create and the results you want to get in the end, and most importantly, what resources you have. Then the choice of the method will be more apparent. The only thing you need to keep in mind is that if you want to sell products online, you need to create an efficient and profitable online store that can be set up in a short time. You tell me – which method would you rather use?