Best practices for creating an online shopping website

Setting up an online shop and selling things online might sound like a sure fire way to make some good money.

Often it is, but you have to do some planning first.

The reality is, there’s a lot to think about before you start, and a lot of work involved in setting it up.

If you have a full IT team at your beck and call, go crazy! But if you’re a small business and have to manage the whole thing yourself, it pays to do your research first.

So, here are some of the things we suggest you think about before getting started…

…(grab your pen, paper and a cuppa tea now…we’ll wait)

1) Join an online storefront, or host your own?

There are a number of ways you can sell online, so you have to decide whether to join one of the big players (like eBay) or create your own self-hosted storefront.

With sites like eBay, Amazon and Etsy, everything is done for you. You simply enter your store details, and pay either a listing fee or a percentage fee of the sales you make, or both.

It’s simple to manage, but you have no control over the customisation of what your store looks like. Fees can also hit you hard if you’re selling big-ticket items.

Hosting your own online store lets you control everything, from the layout and design to the payment options. There is quite a lot of work involved loading all your products in and setting up stock inventories, but once all that is done it’s easy to maintain.

If you can’t decide between these, you can always do both and see which one yields the best results.

2) What currencies do you want to sell in?

What countries do you want to be able to sell to? If you want to sell internationally, it’s great to be able to have multiple currencies on your shop so your customers don’t have to manually covert the prices.

This then leads onto shipping. If you sell and ship products internationally, you’ll need an international shipping company and will have to work out your costs involved with this.

Keeping things local to Australia will simplify your website needs and make shipping easier, but will you be missing out on a good market share? Think about your products and where your customers are located.

3) What kind of payment security will you need?

All online shopping requires security, regardless of what you’re selling and whether or not you’re storing credit card information.

Your customers need to know that their credit card details are going to be secure when used on your website.

In fact, lack of obvious security is a big factor in last minute cart abandonment at the checkout!

Make sure you have a secure website and SSL certificates if you accept credit cards. You’ll also need to find the right payment gateway and perhaps set up an online merchant bank account.

4) What are your legal policies, terms and conditions?

These all need to be sorted out and put in writing on your website before you start selling.

Let customers know about things like:

  • How long delivery can expect to take
  • What your policy is on refunds, exchanges and store credit
  • What happens if a product is damaged when it’s received
  • What happens if a product gets lost in the mail
  • What the customer can do if they are not satisfied with their product
  • How you’ll store a customer’s personal information

You really need to think about every possible scenario and have an answer or solution in your terms and conditions.

5) Who will look after your customer support?

Selling products online certainly comes with some admin and customer service.

You are highly likely to get enquiries about your products and people asking questions before they buy. They might need help in making a decision on what to purchase, depending what you sell (sizing, for example).

You’ll also need someone to manage post-purchase enquiries and sort out matters when shipping goes wrong.

At the very least, you’ll need someone to put orders together and ship parcels.

6) Will you have a content management system?

So someone buys what you’re selling.


But then what?

The best approach is of course to contact them again (with their consent of course) and re-target them, cross sell and up sell.

For this, you’ll need a content management system such as Infusionsoft, Salesforce or Zoho. This captures their data, what they bought and when, and can filter them into automated marketing campaigns based on their behaviour.

7) Do you even need an online store?

Just because everyone else has one, doesn’t mean you need one too!

Will an online store bring more customers than your current physical shop? Is it worth the effort and hours involved?

This is something to seriously consider.

8) Make your store look smart

A cheap, quickly thrown together website isn’t going to do much for your sales conversions, particularly if you’re selling high-end items.

Your website needs to be safe and secure to instill confidence in your buyers, needs quality images to show off what’s on offer, and needs copy that describes exactly what the product is and why the reader can’t live without it!

If you’re considering setting up an online store and the task is a bit daunting for you, be sure to have a chat with us. The retail world is certainly moving online more than ever, and the rewards can be substantial if you do things properly from the start.