Small Business Ecommerce 101

ben francia | by Ben Francia |Last Updated: May 6, 2020

Having an ecommerce site allows you to reach and engage more potential customers online.

Back in the day, ecommerce was largely known to be more of a trend than an actual need. In the Philippines, where people don’t usually have credit cards, small business owners deemed it unnecessary and invested instead in brick and mortar shops.

In the wake of the COVID pandemic and in what seems to be the looming shadow of an almost inevitable recession, small business owners are struggling to find out how to keep themselves alive. It goes without saying that only the most adaptable businesses would survive, and those who saw ecommerce as more than just a passing thing would survive.

In fact, ecommerce isn’t only going to help you survive, it’s going to keep you alive. Consider your website as your very own brick and mortar shop, except it’s open 24/7 and you don’t need to think of utility costs other than your website costs.

You’re also extending your reach since websites are publicly available to anyone with an Internet connection. This allows you to target customers located not only across the street, but across oceans.

Lastly, you’re leveling the playing field in terms of reaching and converting more customers. Most big, traditional businesses are only starting to learn how digital works and, if you play strategically, you can potentially surpass them.

The whole idea of ecommerce being just a fad is long dead. By and large, this trend of smart and adaptable businesses getting ecommerce sites is slowly making its way towards being a norm. If you don’t want to get left behind, you should start building one on your own. 

Truth be told, it’s not particularly difficult to start building your ecommerce site. It doesn’t have to be too expensive either. Here’s what you need to do to get started with your own.

Register Your Domain Name

Your domain name is the line of text your customer types into the browser’s address bar to reach your website. When choosing a domain name, note that it must be relatively short enough that it’s easily remembered. Having a non-lengthy domain name also lessens the chances of people getting a typo whenever they try to access your site.

To start, you can purchase your domain name from GoDaddy. Keep in mind that there are promo coupons that can help you get a discount on your purchase. If you’re targeting a more local audience and want to potentially rank higher in the search engines for location-based searches, .PH domains are the way to go. The thing is, they’re more expensive than your usual GoDaddy ones.

Select Your Ecommerce Platform

Your ecommerce platform is your digital brick and mortar shop. This is where your customers peruse and purchase your selection of products and services. When going about selecting your ecommerce platform of choice, you have two options.

The first option is to subscribe to an ecommerce website builder. Wix, Shopify and Squarespace allows you to build one for a monthly fee. If you’re tech-challenged, they have online manuals that can help you. This convenience comes at a price, however, as you will be limited to the available templates the builder has. You’re also limited to the payment and 

The second option is to work with a website developer. You get more aesthetic choices and options when you build your ecommerce site. With the WooCommerce WordPress plugin, things become much simpler since it gives you the option of just putting up a standard eCommerce template. All you need to do is instruct your web developer on design choices.

If you’re opting for the second option, remember to ask for the developer’s portfolio, credentials and knowledge of search engine optimization concepts. Having an SEO-savvy developer ensures that you have a website that can effectively appear in the search results without issues.

At the end of the day, both options have their own pros and cons. When selecting, it’s all a matter of time, preference and budget. Choose wisely.

Consider Your Payment and Logistics Partners

Whether you’re selling physical goods or services, having payment and logistics partners is what’s going to keep your business alive. In a time of COVID, owning a brick and mortar shop can be potentially dangerous not only for you and your workers, but also for your customers. So having a way to digitally send and receive money is definitely the way to go.

payment gateway is the medium through which your customers can send you money in exchange for goods and services. It is also what allows you to receive the money your customers send you.

In this regard, one of the more popular (and secure) payment gateways is Paypal. All you need to do is subscribe for a merchant account and have it selected as your payment gateway. Its versatility stems from the fact that your users don’t necessarily need to have their own Paypal accounts to pay, and would instead require only their credit cards.

Dragonpay is another gateway option that’s become more popular in the Philippines. Through online banking, e-wallets and other methods that do not require a credit card, you can easily set up your own payment Gateway through Dragonpay.

When it comes to Logistics partners, it goes without saying that you have to consider credibility and trust. Established logistics companies like LBC and JRS express are notable because of their tenure in the industries. Grab Express and Lalamove are rising players, however, tend to be more versatile in their delivery methods.

At the end of the day, these payment gateways and logistics companies will be fundamental to your ecommerce site’s survival. Experiment with options other than the ones mentioned here to see which ones work best for you.

Prepare Your Website Content

Most of the time, preparing for website content is the cause of delay of most web development projects. In this regard, it’s strongly recommended to spend a good week or two in figuring out what you want to feature in your website other than your products and services. Considerations like writing style, tone and voice need to be made in order to give your website an identity that your target audience can relate with.

To start, think of the products that need to be in your featured catalog. If you have around 10-20 products, it’s okay to feature them all. However, if you have more than 20 products, select the top 20 and have those featured. Most ecommerce builders will allow more than 20 products featured, but it’s best practice to have only around 20.

After the selection process is completed, it’s time to write specifically for your products. Put up a Google Sheet and input the necessary information as columns. Fields like product name, product description, product shot links and price need to be laid out horizontally, with products going vertically across the spreadsheet. Consider costing as well because products can be differently priced online as compared to when they’re being sold offline.

Another important web page you have to consider is the About Us page. Now just because you’re running an ecommerce website doesn’t mean you can make the usual, run-off-the-mill About Us page. It needs to provide details that show credibility and trustworthiness. After all, you are taking payments from users online, they need to know who they’re dealing with.

In line with this, write a 1,000-word article for your About Us page. Include in your About Us page the following:

It can’t be helped that a lot of users will feel a little bit overwhelmed with your ecommerce site. This is definitely the case with those sites that have more than a few thousand products in their catalog. Having a frequently asked questions page can help smoothen this transition and help your users purchase from your site more effectively. 

Ask yourself, as a new user of the site who wants to purchase your products, what would you want to ask? Questions like, how do I make a purchase, what are the payment options, how would i receive my products and in how many days are FAQs of most popular ecommerce sites.

As mentioned earlier, content can take a reasonably large amount of time to complete. Commit an entire weekend at minimum to complete these requirements, ask your peers for feedback and decide on building a launching your ecommerce site.

Build and Prepare for Liftoff

After having completed content, the next phase involves the building and launching of your site. There are two ways to go about the building phase, based on the two options mentioned earlier. If you took the developer route, set up a kickoff meeting with your developer and agree on a target deadline and a set of deliverables. Remain in constant contact with this developer until you’ve completed your website in such a way that it’s ready for launch.

If you took the ecommerce builder route, it might take a little more time and elbow grease. So prepare to invest in long hours of reading directions on how to make your ecommerce website work and the like.

When it’s all said and done, do a test run with friends and family before publicly launching it. Ask them to purchase your products through your ecommerce site and watch the sparks fly. Whether or not it goes smoothly, ask them for their feedback. What worked? What didn’t work? What could work better.

All a Matter of Commitment

At the end of the day, regardless of the above-mentioned options you choose and as with all good things in life, making and maintaining an ecommerce site is going to take patience and commitment. By and large though, the benefits of having one far outweigh the cons. 

What do you think? WIll having an ecommerce site save your business from the recession? Share in the comments section below!

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