Skip to content

Create an online shop

    Create an online shop


    Selling products and services online can have major advantages for businesses, leading to increased profitability and lower costs.

    This guide tells you about the advantages of selling online, what you need to consider when creating an online shop and the consequences of getting it wrong. If you choose to work with a third party to build your online shop, this guide will help ensure you ask them the right questions.

    The guide also explains some legal requirements and the pitfalls that you should be aware of, as well as how to make sure that customers can find your shop on the web.

    Benefits of selling online
    Selling online has a number of advantages over selling by traditional methods, including:

    Making savings in set-up and operational costs. You don’t need to rent high street premises, pay shop assistants or answer a lot of pre-sales queries.
    Reducing order processing costs – customer orders can automatically come straight into your orders database from the website.
    Reaching a global audience, thereby increasing sales opportunities.
    Competing with larger businesses by being able to open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
    Being able to receive payment more quickly from online transactions.
    Improving your offerings using the data gathered by tracking customer purchases.
    Using your online shop to showcase your products to existing customers.
    Online selling will work best if you have:

    well-defined products or services that can be sold without human involvement in the sales process
    fixed prices for all types of potential customers
    products or services that can be delivered within a predictable lead time
    Many businesses can run pilot e-commerce sites without significant investment. However, creating a fully automated online shop tailored to meet your precise requirements could be expensive.

    Whatever form of online shop you choose, it’s important to take a strategic view. If you launch a website that disappoints your customers or is overwhelmed by traffic, you risk damaging your reputation and losing sales.

    Set up a basic online shop
    The requirements for building a basic online shop are fairly straightforward. A simple setup allows you to sell a small range of products, providing photos, descriptions and prices as well as accept orders online.

    A basic site is low cost and easy to create for a limited product range. However, be aware that the design and functionality may be restricted and it may be less secure than other more sophisticated options.

    Equipment and facilities
    The equipment and facilities you’ll need include a computer, internet access, email, a website and hosting services. Having a firewall as part of your IT security will prevent unauthorised access to your website. A firewall is sometimes included as part of your operating system. See protect your business online.

    You will need a hosting package for your shop. There are many website hosting options and e-commerce web-hosting specialists. It’s worth shopping around for the best deal. While this service is not necessarily expensive, you tend to get what you pay for. It’s important to study the service level agreement and the type of technical support on offer. You should be looking for round-the-clock support.

    Ordering and payment systems
    Most customers shopping online will want to pay by debit or credit card. You can create electronic mail-order forms, using one of the various web authoring software packages on the market.

    These order forms let customers email their orders to be processed offline. If you already have a website, software can add e-commerce functionality. Some companies offer this free, on the condition that they receive a cut of future transactions.

    If you want to accept card payments online, you will need to invest in a more sophisticated online shop. See accepting online payments.

    Set up an online shop with an e-commerce package
    To create an online shop with functionality beyond the basics, you will need an e-commerce package. Functionality can vary, but you can usually expect:

    catalogue management
    enhanced order processing
    a broad range of design templates
    An e–commerce package can provide you with a professional looking design, full ordering and payment functionality. It may also include value-added features such as account information, customer references and customer alerts. However, you should be aware that it may not suit you if you wish to offer more complex products and services.

    Payment security
    You can expect encryption for secure ordering as part of an e-commerce package. Making sure checkout procedures are secure and user friendly are essential if customers are going to feel confident about ordering a product or service. Many people will abandon purchases at the checkout stage if the process is not quick and easy. Using Secure Socket Layer technology to collect card details (denoted by the ‘golden padlock’ symbol in your browser’s status bar) is key to encouraging online sales.

    Order processing
    Some e-commerce packages offer a degree of back end systems integration, ie they connect to your product database and accounts systems, streamlining the order process and keeping the website up to date. If you update your site content regularly, you will encourage customers to come back to you rather than switch to a competitor.

    If you use a broadband connection, you can also receive orders in real time and update your website automatically. Be aware that some internet service providers offer combined web hosting and software packages, so it’s worth doing some research.

    Set up an online shop designed for your business
    A custom-made online shop can provide your customers with a rich, interactive shopping experience. There is a huge range of options for design and functionality that can be built into an online shop designed for your business.

    Features can be added to help you achieve specific business goals. A full purpose built e-commerce website can be a powerful tool for a business with a large product range and a focus on online sales.

    Having a bespoke online shop can also make the running of the business smoother. Software can be integrated with your existing systems to trigger order confirmations and automatically dispatch goods and replenish stocks.

    Cost considerations
    You will need the help of a web design and development company to define your technical requirements, design and build the website and integrate it with your existing systems. This can take time, locks you into one service provider and be very expensive.

    Alternatively you may want to look at low cost options such as open source shopping cart software packages like Magento, NopCommerce, X-Cart, Zen Cart, osCommerce, OpenCart and PrestaShop. These programs enable you to set up a sophisticated e-commerce website that has a wide range of options, features and support – even if you have only basic computer skills.

    Open chat
    Scan the code
    Can we help you?