When you discover a product or line of products that you want to sell online, you'll probably get a rush of being your own boss, building a brand, and hopefully, making a lot of money. As the process progresses, those feelings of euphoria might be put on hold while you research how that is actually going to happen. Building an ecommerce website and choosing all of the necessary ecommerce components like payment processors and fulfillment and tax management systems are real work. But, with an experienced partner, you don’t have to dash your dreams and they can, in fact, help you become a successful business. This quick guide will give you an overview of what you need to consider to create an online storefront and will get you on your way to making good decisions.
First things first. You’re going to need to build a website, or content management system (CMS), that will support your online store and everything that goes along with that. In most cases, WordPress, Magento, and Drupal are popular choices and most likely offer more than you need (which is a good thing because they can grow with you) and the communities that support them are substantial. They all have designer-friendly features and mobile-friendly user-interface frameworks which you’ll need in order to give your customers a solid on-the-go shopping experience. As well, they are secure, versatile, and are ready to integrate with many 3rd-party applications - more on integration in a moment. All three provide online stores with drag-and-drop features, bulk uploading, and much more.
Once you’ve selected a CMS and have a place to talk about your company and show your products, think next about what the checkout experience is going to look like and how customers will pay. Based on your vision, you’ll need to choose shopping cart software that is customizable, integrates well with your CMS, and supports your choice of payment gateways. A payment gateway is an ecommerce component that links to your shopping cart and enables you to process card payments. Examples of gateways include familiar names like BrainTree, Amazon Pay, Square, and PayPal.
You can choose to connect the payment gateway to your website through an API which will provide a more seamless experience or you can direct visitors off of your site to popular gateways like Square. Some gateways require you to set up a separate merchant account with a bank to process credit card payments while others will do the work for you. Before choosing a gateway compare prices and think about the features you’ll want. Do you want customers to set up an account before they purchase or can they check out as a guest? If shipping and billing addresses are the same, can customers complete just one form? Will you accept international currency? There are a lot of decisions to be made, so document your must-haves and like-to-haves before you shop around or talk to a qualified web firm.
Fulfillment and Tax Management
Congrats! You just got your first order. Now, who is going to package it, ship it, track it, and communicate with the customer? Did you know that most credit card issuers don’t allow companies to charge for an order until it ships? One order may not seem that daunting but what happens when several orders come in at once and when a few of them need to be shipped overnight? What is your return policy and how will you process returns both physically and financially? You can choose to do the fulfillment yourself or you can hire a dropshipper to do it for you. Regardless of who is responsible, it’s important to integrate your website with fulfillment software that can efficiently and accurately manage orders, inventory, and returns.
Tax management software is another must for ecommerce retailers. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have sales tax, so you need to know which products are subject to sales tax and how much. Chances are, you’re not going to be reading through tax codes to find out. A platform, such as Avalara, integrates with websites across industries and helps you know where you are obligated to file, supplies rates and rules based on location, prepares and files returns, and manages exemption documentation.
Sales and Marketing Hub
Pretty much everything you need to run your ecommerce store can be integrated with your storefront including sales and marketing tasks. Choosing a robust CRM like HubSpot or Salesforce will help you automate all sorts of tasks. Based on the data you collect from your visitors, you can dabble in personalization, create campaign-specific landing pages, engage in multichannel marketing, social marketing, and segment audiences for targeted campaigns. The nice thing about CRMs is that they have so much functionality that they are great for both new and experienced marketers, and they do a lot of the work for you.
There are so many benefits to creating a business and building your own ecommerce store, but there are a lot of important choices to be made. And, your decisions can have a big impact on the success of your business. The best step forward is to research what type of experience is best for you and your customers. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, just take some time to note what you like and dislike on other ecommerce websites and start from there. When it comes time to building your ecommerce website, choose a trusted partner like New Target. We have an enormous amount of experience and will help you strategize, build, and market too!
With offices in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, CA, New Target provides digital strategy, web design, web development, data integration, application hosting, and online marketing for prominent national associations, corporations, and government agencies.
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