What you need to know to start an online store
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Starting an online store may seem intimidating but the barrier to entry for becoming an online retailer is actually quite low. That’s because e-commerce platforms enable you to easily set up shop on the web - even if you’ve never done it before.
Hosting your e-commerce site
To set up an online store, you’ll need a website listing your products for sale. The three key elements you’ll require at this stage are a registered domain name, a hosting account, and an HTTPS connection.
Your domain name is your site’s address and makes it possible for customers to find and browse your store. Choosing an easy-to-recall name will help drive visitors to your site.
Your hosting provider will manage the server where your website is stored. It’s important to choose a provider that you’re comfortable working with on a long-term basis because this will be an ongoing relationship. Before you choose a hosting partner, review each option’s customer service. Look out for 24/7 availability, quick responses to queries, and clear explanations.
At xneelo, we register domain names, provide high-quality web hosting and reliable customer service. We also host plenty of top e-commerce stores, so you can be assured you’ll have everything you need to get started.
Essential e-commerce security
E-commerce involves asking customers to trust you with sensitive information, including their credit card details. SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates enable HTTPS, a secure connection between web browsers and your site’s server, so your customers’ information isn’t likely to be stolen. Free SSL is included in all of xneelo’s Web Hosting packages.
Choosing your e-commerce platform
Now that you’ve got your website hosted and its security sorted, it’s time to choose an e-commerce platform. These platforms make it easy to display your products and accept payments online. You can choose between platforms like Shopify or WooCommerce - the latter can be easily added to your WordPress site.
‘Hosted’ platforms, like Shopify, don’t require hosting infrastructure, which seems like an advantage. The downside: they limit your control over your content, along with your design and development choices.
With a self-hosted platform, you have ultimate control and flexibility over your store’s content and design. WooCommerce offers extensions to help you with shipping, display options, social media marketing, data analysis, and more. In other words, you can fully customise your store to your exact needs.
Selecting your payment gateways
Once you have a platform and hosting in place, you need to decide how customers will pay for your products. Choosing the right payment gateway to offer is no small task. After all, you want to be sure that your customers’ payment information is in good hands.
Fortunately, popular e-commerce platforms tend to support multiple well-known payment gateways:
Many of these payment options are quite affordable. For example, PayPal and PayFast are available on both WooCommerce and Shopify with no upfront costs. You’ll have to pay transaction fees, and there’ll be costs required to upgrade. For a store that’s just getting started, these options are strong choices. Other options you could consider are SnapScan and MyGate.
With South African e-commerce expected to grow almost 9% annually over the next five years, now is the perfect time to get into online retail. Fortunately, you now know what you’ll need to start an online store.