The great thing about ecommerce is that you can start a business anywhere in the world once you pin down just the right idea or product. And with PrestaShop, you can do it right now, for free. But before launching any new business, there are a few big questions you should consider...
PrestaShop was at the Salon des Entrepreneurs in Paris early February, where an estimated 65,000 future business owners came to learn from some of the world’s most successful startups and industry leaders. The PrestaShop stand was crowded with visitors who came to learn about the new fully-hosted PrestaShop Cloud, our ecommerce solution that allows anyone to create an online boutique in just a few clicks. In addition to answering questions about our free platform, our in-house expert Christophe Bernon went over some of the fundamentals of setting up an online store during two well-attended workshops.
Here are the ten questions he recommends asking yourself if you’re thinking of opening an online store.
What domain name should I choose?
The domain name you choose will have an impact on how much traffic your site attracts. Consider a keyword-rich domain name inspired by words related to your products or sector, or a brand-based domain name. A coherent strategy will help you to quickly build traffic flow from search engines. Read on to learn more about choosing your domain name.
How do I choose a hosting provider?
Hosting is essential and comes in two varieties: shared and dedicated. If you’re just starting out and you only have a few dozen products, you might want to start with a shared host to keep costs down and migrate to a dedicated host with more capacity (and therefore speed) when you grow. You could, for example, start with the fully hosted PrestaShop Cloud. There are a few other things to consider that can help make the decision easier: speed, customer service, storage, domains and security. Read more about choosing a hosting partner.
What payment options do I need to offer?
Checkout is one of the most important elements of the shopping experience. Trust plays a major role: you need to make your customers feel safe and secure when they get ready to pay. If you’re just starting out, integrated payment solutions that people know and trust--like PayPal are a safe bet. As you grow and learn more about customers’ payment preferences, you can add more options. Find out how to create a positive payment experience.
What about shipping and logistics?
It’s pretty easy to put a personal touch on packaging and shipping when you’re just starting out. But as you grow--and you will!--you’ll need to think about automating inventory and order management, and streamlining shipping, to save time and money. Most merchants start out by packing up and sending out products on their own. Then as their business grows, many outsource to logistics companies. If you opt for dropshipping, be sure you spend time reworking product data sheet information into original content. Otherwise your store will sound just like every other store who uses the same provider… Eventually, the cost of outsourcing may come to outweigh the benefits; that’s when hiring someone dedicated to managing logistics in-house becomes interesting. Get advice on managing logistics.
How do I get people to notice my site?
You’ve set up your store and everything is in place. Now how do you drive that famous “traffic”? In addition to optimizing your site content for SEO, consider starting a blog that you’ll update regularly--consistent content is key to any marketing and communication strategy. Don’t forget about social networks--they’re great places to learn about your customers and stay in the conversation. Revisit your site content often, updating product descriptions, adding new products or categories and highlighting best sellers. Your ecommerce business is alive and growing- your online store should be too. Learn five fool-proof tips for increasing visibility.
How do I create customer loyalty?
Once you start attracting customers, you’ll have to think about how to keep them coming back: cultivate a positive relationship by making it easy for customers to get in touch and providing attentive service. Your before and after sales service should reflect your overall philosophy. And if someone is unhappy, don’t ignore them--word travels fast on the web. Read on for advice about building customer loyalty.
How do I handle exchanges and returns?
How you handle the return and exchange process tells your customers a lot about your business ethics. Build trust and avoid legal disputes by having a clear policy that addresses: what can and cannot be returned; refund amount; where products should be returned to; the return period; exchange conditions; and any special conditions (such as sales). Learn how to create a clear exchange and return policy.
What's an ecommerce platform and how do I get one on a small budget?
An ecommerce platform is a software solution that allows you to create an online store. With PrestaShop Cloud, you can create your online store in just a few clicks and for free. Just visit the PrestaShop website and enter your domain name and email address. Our goal has always been to remove the technical and financial barriers to creating a business online by giving all entrepreneurs access to a free, easy-to-use solution that they can get started with right away. Learn some ecommerce lingo then start your own store.
What if I need help?
PrestaShop offers a number of support packages that can help you develop your online store. We’re also partners with more than 150 web agencies and freelance developers, who would be happy to help you create a successful ecommerce business.
How can I get started?
PrestaShop just launched an eBusiness Plan Competition: send us your business idea and enter to win one of five prizes that will help you launch your online business with PrestaShop Cloud. So what are you waiting for? Send us your big idea! Deadline: 6th of March 2015.