So you are an online seller who has been selling regularly at the leading online marketplaces. You have seen your share of ups and downs, but the going is quite good. You now want to expand; take things a little further and launch your own website, so that you can sell directly to your buyers. How to go about things?
For starters, figure out your requirements, and try to onboard a tried and tested web development firm.
What you will need
The important steps to go about launching your website include:
- Register your domain name – Settle on a professional name for your website, and proceed to register it. Some good web hosting service providers include – Big Rock, eWeb India, and GoDaddy. Look for a trusted website that will give you a good deal.
Try to avoid using free domain names, as this does not give a professional look to your website.
- Zeroing in on the server related decisions – This has to be the most critical decisions to make before you sign the cheque.
(a) Experts suggest using Platform as a Service (PaaS) service provider to host the server. You will need to discuss with your tech team if PaaS will be suitable for your operations. Using a PaaS model means that your applications are all on the cloud. The PaaS service provider will host the required hardware and software on the cloud, which means you need not spend your resources in setting up the hardware and software.
However, there are disadvantages of using PaaS. If your service provider does not have an adequate security system in place, it can affect your website’s functioning.
If your PaaS service provider does not have a high speed internet, it can clash with your interests.
(b) A user friendly interface is a major requirement. Unless your user has a great experience at your site, she or he is not likely to return. Make the interface and website navigation simple. Have multiple iterations with your website designer and get friends and well-wishers and User Experience (UX) experts to do a look through of your site before you make it live.
(c) Install a secure payment gateway. Your website should be ‘https’, which indicates ‘safe’ and not just ‘http’. To protect your buyers’ sensitive card related information (that you will collect during payment), you will need secure socket layers, or SSL. To get SSL for your website, you have to register for it in advance, and pay the necessary fees to activate the ‘https’ on your website. You can find more details about getting SSL here. GoDaddy, Big Rock, Symantec, and others offer SSL certificates.
(d) Your connection should have good speed. Ben Dyer, CEO of SellerDeck gives a universal advice – ensure that your connection is not slow. If you want your customers to stay, and return for multiple shopping sessions, you should make sure that your site does not take too long to load.
Dyer says, “One of the core things to assess is the speed of the connection, since not only do the search engines penalise slow sites (negatively impacting SEO), but you will lose sales if your customers have to wait. I would always advise merchants to also check the level of support a provider gives, as well as the number of other businesses using the server if it’s shared hosting.”
(e) Your hardware and software has to be in place. The first hardware that you will require is a computer with a stable operating system (OS).
While Macintosh is good, not everyone is familiar with the working of a Mac. Windows is a safe bet, with an easy to use interface and decent speed. However, security is a major concern, so keep your antivirus and firewalls updated. This article will give you a clear list of pros and cons of Windows and Linux.
Next, you will need a device to backup your data. In software, zero in on the most suitable software that can help you build your site. Some examples are mySQL, Linux, Apache, and so on. It is essential to test that your site works fine in all servers.
Information Architecture (IA) helps to structure and catalogue the information on your website in a systematic manner. It is all about filtering the different categories of products on your website in a few steps. Keep your IA simple. As this post suggests, it is a lot more complex and heavy duty for a store like Flipkart or Amazon (with several hundred categories of products) to manage their IA.
Put thought and care into the process
Chetan Chauhan, co-founder of Constapark, a valet parking service that functions in parts of Bangalore, says you should insulate yourself from legal tangles.
“You should create your own terms and policies, never copy and paste them from another website. Your terms and conditions are to be customised for your business; this will protect you in the case of any litigation in the future. When it comes to creating your website, there are quite a few cheap options available, like exclusive ecommerce platform Magento.”
Chauhan also advises online sellers to have a mobile app as well.
“Pay attention to your User Interface (UI), decide what kind of design you want based on the nature of your business. Your backend should also be in place to help understand buyer behaviour. Set up analytics and web marketing tools.”
Chauhan also says to stick to companies that can offer long term support, rather than trying to cut costs by looking at individuals who offer services.
“You need different professionals to handle different functions; a freelancer can opt out of a project anytime, not so with a company.”
No rocket science
Setting up your own website is not a herculean task, says Veena Hegde, founder, Masmara.
“Today there are a lot of templates available online, if you have a little internet knowledge, you can easily set things up,” she says. “For Masmara, my husband handles the technical side of things; he undertook the design and launch of the website. He is in the IT field, so it is not a problem.”
Now that you have a bird’s eye view of the technical requirements to start a website, what are you waiting for? Go ahead, reach for the resources you need, and launch your very own online store! Don’t forget to be active on social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, because you can pick up a large chunk of your customers there. All the best and we hope your website goes live soon!