Four Easy Steps To Get Your E-Commerce Website Up and Running
The U.S. Census Bureau surveyed more than 14 million business in 2012 and found that 75 percent of them did not have a website at all. All the while, the retail industry in the U.S. grew by 2 percent in Q1 2013, while total e-commerce revenues grew by 13 percent, to $50 billion, according to comScore.
Whether you're in the business of baking cookies, preparing taxes or selling homemade clothing, you are missing out on a golden opportunity to substantially increase your revenues. Some business owners, especially older ones, simply think setting up a website is beyond their capabilities and much too daunting of a task to learn. But setting up a simple website in your business' name is easier than one might think. These simple instructions can help you get a website up and running in a matter of hours.
Buy Your Domain
The magic begins as soon as you purchase your website's name. If your business already has a name, it's best to use that as your URL (domain). You can go to any domain registrar and check the availability of the name you choose. It wouldn't be a bad idea to add a word or two if it will maximize SEO. For instance, if you sell dresses, but your business name is something that doesn't really indicate that (i.e. Neiman Marcus), its best to add a keyword to your domain name. You can register the domain privately so your personal information does not come up in Whois searches. Some registrars charge for this, while others offer it free with all domains.
Buy Your Hosting
Now that you've purchased your domain, you need somewhere to park it on the web. Its best to purchase your hosting package through the same company you registered the domain. GoDaddy is obviously the most popular registrar and hosting service, but shop around for the best deal and fit for you. Namecheap, HostGator and FatCow are some of the more common ones out there. Once you have a hosting package and your domain pointed to the correct servers (don't worry...your host's customer service department can help you with this), it generally takes up to 24 hours for your site to propagate.
Wordpress, Joomla, Etc.
It is at this point where the computer novice believes their expertise will not suffice. Hogwash. Wordpress is the most popular website-building platform out there because its reliable and very easy to use. The interface for Wordpress is easy to learn if you've used software like Microsoft Word before. Once you learn what all the little buttons/symbols mean (which will take a night of tinkering around), you're well on your way. Joomla is similarly easy to use, and is also free. The first time you hit that "publish" button will mean you're open for business online.
Shopping Cart/Pay Here Button
All that's left is a way for you to take orders and collect money online. The simplest way to do this is setting up a free Paypal account. You can give get the "buy now" code from your account and paste the button into the sidebar of your website. You could always opt for retail software from Netsuite to offer your customers a more comprehensive shopping experience Otherwise, simply provide them an email which they can place an order and pay right there once they receive a confirmation that the order was received.
All these steps will take you less than three hours to complete (minus the propagation time) if you sit down and do it all. You'll be thanking yourself a few months down the road when you start breaking your own revenue records.
About the Author: John Nelson
John runs customer service for a Web hosting firm, and finds his creative edge blogging part time for Internet-related publications.