Last Updated on July 7, 2023 by IS Back Office
Imagine that you have the best ecommerce website ever, however, you built it on a free e-commerce website builder such as Shopify, Go Daddy, Big Commerce, Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace to name a few. You are then charged monthly to keep your ecommerce website live. Then, once your ecommerce website really starts taking off and sales are going well, in addition to the fees that you have to pay the credit card processor and Shopify for every sale, (correct, most of these “free builder” companies also charge an additional fee for every sale), you begin to see the real cost of that “free website builder tool”. We know of customers that pay over $1000 per month to use Shopify. We also know of other customers using more aggressive systems that are paying over $10,000 per month.
Once your Brand is doing well, why should someone else reap the rewards of your successful ecommerce website?
We believe that you should own your ecommerce website instead of rent.
This mentality is recommended for real estate, your car, and most other investments and tools that you need for work and the like. When you get into easy ecommerce website builders, you are essentially signing up to be a long term customer and a “renter”. If you are in need of a website, assume success from the start and plan ahead.
Going from business idea to actual business launch can be a troublesome or, in any event, tedious process. Fortunately, figuring out how to construct a web based business site to sell your items or services online can be simple.
These “free” ecommerce website builder tools are counting on you to be a do it yourselfer.
Have you heard the saying that if something is free, than you are the product? That could not be more true when it comes to this stuff.
Present day ecommerce website builder tools are incredibly easy to use. They permit you to make a website for your web based business with only a couple of clicks (so to speak). Unlike most other opinions on the subject, we are not going to agree that this is the best strategy.
These ecommerce website builder tools offer key components like secure ways to accept payments from your customers, e-commerce shipping capabilities, and most do not require you to have any coding experience to set up a “nice looking” website.
Staying on track with our logic, assume success from the beginning, and take a look into the future once more. You started with a free ecommerce website builder and your Brand is successful, however, you finally agree with us that the monthly fees and limitations from these e-commerce companies are getting way too expensive and hindering. Unfortunately, in some ways, you could be stuck with them forever.
Yes, you can move away from these systems, but there are costs from the technical people needed to pull this off, and there are risks.
Regardless of whether you choose to rent or own your ecommerce website, here are some basic steps that you need to be aware of. Correct, whether you choose Shopify and the like (rental systems), or you go the custom route (full ownership systems), a lot of the basic needs are similar. Here are some basic things you’ll need for your ecommerce website.
Plan your ecommerce website.
After deciding on a strategy, it’s time to start creating your ecommerce website, we recommend studying the data very closely. This matters later for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) purposes. However, at the basic level, you’ll need the following elements and information:
Logo and other Brand imagery. Branded images will more effectively tell your story. We think your ecommerce website is really a “brand hub” and your story needs to be told properly. The user interface and the customer experience should be based on the data that you have studied and not just “one size fits all”.
Product photos, descriptions, and other product information. Product information is what the customer sees front and center on a successful ecommerce website, hence, this is a critical component of your e-commerce website build. Here is a basic checklist of information to include:
- Clear product photos: Great product photos go a long way. Factor for various devices and how your photos will be displayed on your ecommerce website. One way to do this is by taking photos from several angles, showing your products in use, and more.
- Product videos: These days you don’t really need a high priced production company to produce a slick, and expensive video to sell your products and services. We have a friend that took the expensive route before truly understanding their business. They focused more on super high quality photos and videos, spent all kinds of money and one year later, they are only getting 400 hits per month to their ecommerce website. If you guessed that 400 hits is not enough to make that many sales, then you are correct. Back when they started, we urged them to balance the budget on other things. Today, they are stuck in an iron clad contract with the ecommerce website developer that they really can not get out of. Back to videos… Authentic and real-world videos are proven sales tools, and you can capture these with your cell phone.
- Detailed product descriptions: We do not mean detailed in terms of the amount of words, we mean the type of details that minimize customer emails and phone calls. Great product descriptions on an ecommerce website answer questions and convey important details simply and quickly. At a minimum, include the size, weight, and material for each product you sell and add answers to a frequently asked questions section.
- Product options: If you have “variable” products that include options like size and color (these are called “variants” and/or “variables”), all e-commerce platforms let you create these multiple variables (*). Just plan ahead, including the ability to scale for product line growth, etc.
- Product SKUs: Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) are important, especially if you plan on selling to retail stores, Amazon, etc. Plus having good manufacturer’s codes in place is simply good practice. SKU’s also go on product labels and more.
- Product pricing: We are assuming that you have studied the data to determine your pricing, so most e-commerce platforms allow for single-item and group pricing options, sale and discount pricing (*), wholesale customer pricing (*) and more. You need to be able to track your product costs for reporting (*).
- Item size and weight: Think of this one for shipping reasons. Most platforms and shipping systems use item size and weight to determine real-time shipping costs (*) and to print labels (*). Planning ahead is not only a time saver later, it can also automate your shipping process.
- Inventory: You should have the ability to easily insert the amount of stock on hand for each item available to your customer(*), as well as to track your inventory (*) as products are sold.
* One of those “gotcha’s” on shopify (and other free builders), where this ability is often an extra fee.
Customer service pages. Outstanding customer service and support keeps your customers coming back. Make yourself available and set the proper expectations by building proper customer service pages. Some key elements include:
- Shipping rates and times: Today, customers expect same day processing, so most customers want to know the rates you charge for shipping, and the average delivery time frames.
- Returns and exchanges: This is where it can get tricky today. At a minimum, explain your returns policy and clearly state who pays for return shipping and in what situations. Surprises are fun on Birthdays, but not when it comes to returns and exchanges.
Payment, Tax, Shipping, And Basic Marketing Tools.
BigCommerce, Shopify, and the like are often complete with built-in payment processing (*), tax calculations (*), shipping label printing (*), and marketing tools (*). These are mostly from other 3rd party providers. Shopify, etc simply makes the process of aggregation easier for you. Ultimately, integration of a few outside services is required to handle these tasks.
* One of those “gotcha’s” on shopify (and other free builders), where this ability is often an extra fee.
Payment processing and taxes.
You will need to be approved by an actual merchant processor. They manage the credit card transaction process. Most have monthly service fees whether you make a sale or not, and some do not. All charge a fee per sale. For an additional fee, some of those free web builders can save you a step by using their own payment solutions. One of those “gotcha’s” on shopify (and other free builders). Again, we’re back to why rent when you can own…
With a custom ecommerce website that you own, you can connect your own payment gateway and merchant account. In this case, you can take advantage of merchant processors that do not have monthly fees just for the account.
Tax rates are based on the locations of your customers and can be quite complex. Most people do not realize that Shopify and others actually report your sales to the IRS. They have to. One of those “gotcha’s” on shopify (and other free builders). After setting up your payment processor, you’ll configure sales tax rates to be collected from your customers. You should also be able to easily generate tax reports to submit collected payments. The sales tax rates you charge depend on your state and, in most cases, your overall sales volume.
Integrating shipping software within your e-commerce platform is a must. It helps you to streamline the order fulfillment process. When done properly, it can seamlessly connect your orders to shipping software so you can select the shipping carriers and the shipping methods. You can also print shipping labels as well as automatically notify customers that their order has shipped. One of those “gotcha’s” on shopify (and other free builders).
Basic email marketing
Customers don’t often immediately check out and complete their purchase. It is for those reasons to have the ability to email your abandoned cart customers. It’s important. Like accepting customer payments and shipping their orders, you need to be able to communicate with your customers. In addition, you should be able to easily build and utilize your customer email lists to connect with customers. Once you have an organic and engaged customer base, you can sell more products, email them promotions and more. All of the above are additional fees with Shopify and the like… One of those “gotcha’s” on shopify (and other free builders).
Building An ECommerce Website: Summary
Yes, for a non technical person, it is easier to build an ecommerce website today than it ever was before. However, if you are here, you more than likely need to understand one of the first rules of business – you can not do everything by yourself. Your ecommerce website is critical and could be one of the first real opportunities to put together a team that you can trust, and that are affordable. Join our mailing list or book an appointment to get a free copy of our Business Style Guide Workbook. It is how the big companies do it, so should you if you want to compete.