After coming up with an idea for an E-Commerce site, developing a business plan with the details of what merchandise will be offered and at what prices to ensure profitability, and registering with your Secretary of State, the next step for most businesses is actually launching the website. And though this might sound like an easy and trivial process, the website will make or break an online store. The ability to navigate, ease of shopping cart use, and appearance will all play a dramatic role in whether or not customers use your site. Here at PremierFactorySafety.com our web developers and SEO team are taking great pains to ensure visitor experience is exceptional and easy to navigate. Additionally, the costs to actually launch the site can be devastating for a start-up if there is not a specific plan in place to ensure only the essentials are implemented early on.
The first step in launching a website is picking a domain name like we did. This name will represent your company, so it needs to catch the attention of a potential customer. It also can – though by no means has to – be informative in nature, if that makes sense for your business model. Once a domain name is selected, you need to ensure it is not already a website or is not already owned. You can do this through any of the hosting services out there, which will allow you to search for any domain name to see if it is available to purchase.
Once you have settled on a domain name, you need to choose a hosting service. This is an important step, as it will be one of the first expenses associated with the business, and can be a long-term commitment. This hosting service will impact the visibility of your website, the accessibility of your website, and, potentially, its customization. So while you are picking out the hosting service you also need to consider how you want to build your site. Will you use a drag and drop template from the hosting company, will you have your hosting company create a site, or will you hire a professional web designer to build your site? If you have it built, will you use a CMS like Drupal or WordPress or will you have a custom site built?
As you answer these questions, you need to consider costs. While a state-of-the-art site with every added feature that is custom built just for you may sound great, the costs can add up very quickly. It may not be worth $10,000 in startup costs to build a site that is only slightly more functional than a free site or a $500 WordPress site. So weigh your options carefully and remember you can always add to your site.
Next, you want to think about a shopping cart and merchant services. If you had a custom site built or worked with a web designer, that person probably helped you pick a shopping cart. But if you are doing it yourself with a free drag and drop tool or even with WordPress or Drupal, there are a number of free shopping cart options which will allow customers to buy items from your website. Some have merchant services embedded in them – meaning they allow you to accept ACH, Credit, and PayPal payments in exchange for a fee, while others allow you to find a merchant services processing firm to utilize with the shopping cart. If you are going to look for your own, you can look at your local bank or any of the myriad online payment processing firms. But this, too, is an important decision because the rate you negotiate will impact your profits on every sale.
Finally, you need to actually launch the site and make it available to the public. Once it is built, the shopping cart is integrated, and you have a method for accepting payments, you want to get your site on the internet as quickly as possible to, hopefully, start doing some business to recoup those startup costs and begin to turn a profit.