ONE OF THE MOST APPEALING ASPECTS OF E-COMMERCE IS THAT IT HAS THE ABILITY TO HAVE AN IMMEDIATE IMPACT ON YOUR SALES AND MARKETING EFFORTS.  THROUGH E-COMMERCE, YOUR BUSINESS COULD BE MAGICALLY TRANSPORTED FROM A LOCAL, TO A NATIONAL (EVEN INTERNATIONAL!) BUSINESS OVERNIGHT.  HOWEVER, THE WORLD OF E-COMMERCE IS A PROVERBIAL MINEFIELD FOR THE UNINITIATED, WHERE ONE WRONG STEP CAN PROVE FATAL FOR ALL YOUR E-COMMERCE HOPES AND DREAMS.  TO AID YOU IN YOUR JOURNEY, WE HAVE COMPILED A HANDY CHECKLIST OF SEVEN THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN YOU ARE SETTING UP YOUR OWN E-COMMERCE WEBSITE.

1. DOMAIN NAME
The domain name is seen as one of the most critical elements of your e-commerce website and is tied in heavily with brand management.  Your domain name needs to be two things: SHORT AND SIGNIFICANT.  With reference to SHORT, I mean that the shorter your domain name is, the easier it is for your customers to type, remember, and also communicate to other people. 

In addition, it is also worthwhile bearing in mind that your domain name should be country specific; this will help you to rank higher on a UK user’s Google search results if you have a UK .co.uk domain name.

2. Site Design
The design of your site is an important element to consider when creating your e-commerce website.  One of the most important elements to consider for your site design is the visual element.  In the same way that physical stores have shop windows to try and entice shoppers in, your site needs to be visually appealing so that customers’ will take the time to visit.  In an interesting turn of events, designer clothing brands such as Burberry and Alexander McQueen are now building their physical stores to mirror the design and user experience of their online stores.  This signifies the power that a site’s design has as an indicator of brand quality.  There are a host of design agencies with a wealth of knowledge and experience in site design, who will be able to create a professional looking site that is individually tailored to your needs.

3. CHOOSING YOUR E-COMMERCE PLATFORM
When choosing an e-commerce platform, you are faced with the choice of whether you want to create one from scratch, or choose from one of a bewildering number of e-commerce platforms.  Creating your own can mean you can save money by not having to pay certain license and maintenance fees, as well as not having to pay a percentage of your sales in exchange for using someone else’s technology.  However, you need a sufficient level of knowledge (and budget!) in order to create an e-commerce platform that looks professional.  On the other hand, platforms such as WooCommerce, Magento Commerce, and Shopify provide you with everything you need to sell your products online, including templates that help you design your website and accepting credit cards.  Despite being more expensive initially, they possess the threshold knowledge that is necessary to create a fully functioning e-commerce platform, as well as minimising some of the risk for you.

4. Hosting your e-commerce website
Similarly, the aforementioned e-commerce platforms will host your website for you as part of their services, which generally feature secure SSL encryption and unlimited bandwidth.  However, you may feel that it would be more suitable for your e-commerce website if you hosted it yourself internally.  If you decide to take this option, there are a number of choices available depending on the size of your business. Companies such as Servers Plus  can provide a range of rack servers, tower servers and blade servers, depending on the size of your business.  Once again, companies such as this are able to provide you with invaluable knowledge and experience in making sure that hosting your own server can improve website performance, increase data security, and lower overall costs.

5. Choosing your Shipping Partner
Selecting the right distribution channels for your e-commerce website is another extremely important decision that you will have to make; after all, your business depends on getting your merchandise to arrive at its destination on time.  Therefore, depending on the nature of your goods, you will need to decide whether you want to ship locally, nationally, or even nationally, and also how you want to ship your items.  Another important element to consider when selecting a shipping partner is trust.  You are undoubtedly going to want a build a strong working relationship with your shipping partner, and it is therefore important that you are willing to trust them with your products as they will influence your reputation with your customer.  I would highly recommend taking your time to choose the right shipping partner that is best suited to your individual needs.

6. CHOOSING A PAYMENT GATEWAY
There are generally two different ways you can approach selecting your payment gateway.  One way is to set up an internet merchant account, which needs to be acquired through a bank; this will allow the customer to remain on your website whilst they make payments, as your chosen payment gateway partner will act as the middle man between your website and the bank.  This option is an extremely secure and professional option.  However, it is somewhat more complicated than the second option, which is to use a non-gateway merchant, such as PayPal or Google Checkout.  These gateways only require a valid e-mail address for you to set up a payment gateway for your website, which means they tend to be very popular with small or start-up businesses.  Furthermore, you are not restricted to just only one, which means that you will not be limiting the number of potential customers that can purchase from your website.

7. Keeping it Legal
If you want to set up an e-commerce website, you will need to play by the rules and ensure that your website adhered to current legislation, which can be a proverbial minefield.  Thankfully, there are resources out there to help you.  If you have decided to choose one of the many e-commerce platforms available, they will ensure that your website follows current legislation, and will inform you of any changes that may need to be made; this will again help to remove some of the responsibility from your shoulders.  However, if you have decided to go it alone, sites such as websitecontracts.co.uk can supply you with downloadable legal contracts and agreements if you are in the UK.

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