The hassle-free way to set up your own online store

Do you own a brick-and-mortar store that’s experiencing less foot traffic due to the economic downturn and restrictions on movement? Would you like to serve more customers by offering them your products or services online?  Do you have knowledge and skills you could sell as a consultant, or services you can offer to specific markets? Or are you an entrepreneur, fired up to sell a great new product far and wide? Are you a small agribusiness looking to grow your customer base?

Whatever your circumstances, if you’re in business retailing products or services, it’s time you considered e-commerce and your own online store.

Globally, online shopping has been increasing steadily – and exponentially over the past 2 years. Starting your online store will give you a competitive advantage and be an investment in growing your business. Setting up your website doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. If you have the budget, a professional website designer and developer can assist. But there are so many online resources you can learn from to set up your own secure online store.

Let’s explore the easiest way to get your online store live and trading. There are tools that make e-commerce simple, so you can get your business online faster and start generating sales.

Building your online store

The first step is to create your own e-commerce page on a platform that lets customers transact with ease on their smart devices. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are an option, but so are many ‘build your own e-commerce website for free’ platforms that you can find online. They offer templates that you can adapt to your needs by simply adding text to boxes and uploading images. So, you can create an online sales platform even if you have no web design skills.

An important step is choosing a domain name that captures what your business offers. Once you come up with a name that will attract online traffic, you need to check if that domain is available. If it isn’t, you’ll need to consider an alternative domain name. You’ll need to list the goods, products or services you offer customers, with relevant and enticing images. Ensure that your photographs or graphics are appealing and professionally produced.

Keeping track of shopping carts

Your store also needs a shopping cart, where customers can add items that they like as they browse through your merchandise. Make sure that they can see the number of purchases in the cart and the total price as they keep shopping.

Sometimes customers abandon full carts, not proceeding to checkout to buy the goods or book a service. Usually, it’s because they were distracted, were not happy with your shipping terms, or not ready to buy in the first place. It’s key to make sure your online store allows for a seamless shopping experience that prompts customers to proceed to the payment point. You could optimise your website to allow the customer to ‘save and store’ carts until a later date. Your website could also automatically send out reminders at a specified time after carts are abandoned, to prompt customers to resume their shopping.

You may also want to offer an expedited service for those in a hurry; some customers are happy to pay more for faster delivery.

Choosing a payment gateway

Your store needs to be linked to a secure payment gateway, to authorise or decline online payments between the customer’s account and your bank account. The payment gateway acts like a card device in a retail shop – it’s a secure platform that handles customers’ card information and processes the payments for you.

Nedbank clients have several payment gateway options. DiVert allows retailers to request payments instantly by phone or email. There’s also LITE, an efficient platform that processes online transactions in real time, integrates easily with a number of payment solutions, and keeps full transaction records for 6 months. Other payment gateways that Nedbank clients can use include Paygate, PayFast, Altech, Ecentric, Wirecard, Peach Payments, Transaction Junction and PayU.

You want to use an established company with a great track record – especially regarding data security – to provide your payment gateway. The gateway will handle the checkout and a secure, encrypted payment process. Collecting and protecting your customers’ information to perform transactions online is a function best left to dedicated professionals – that way, your store and your customers’ information will be harder for cybercriminals to hack.

Apart from a great security record, other factors that can affect your choice of payment gateway include the scale of your business, the type of goods or services you offer, and how many different payment solutions you want to provide. Some payment gateways are better suited to large-scale operations, while others cater to small businesses. Some payment gateways are more focused on specific industries; others are more general. Some can accept only a few payment methods; others will accept a whole range. Research your options online, according to your needs – or speak to a Nedbank banker or sales consultant.

Most payment gateways offer a month-to-month contract. This is a good option when you are still assessing a suitable fit for your business. If you’re considering a longer-term contract, pay attention to any termination costs that apply.

Choosing your payment solutions

There are many different methods of payment available online and an online retailer should try to accept as many as possible. Your payment gateway should accept all major credit cards. Other options include EFTs, PayPal, AmazonPay, Stripe or ApplePay. The more payment solutions you can accept, the less likely you are to lose customers at checkout. That’s why it’s important to choose a payment gateway compatible with all the payment methods you’d like to offer.

You should only accept card payments via 3D Secure protocols. This involves cardholder authentication – a one-time password (OTP) or Approve-it message requiring customer confirmation when they are about to make a payment to your store. This is essential if you’re giving customers the option of paying via EFT, but advisable for all payment solutions – the customer must confirm the payment on an independent platform, so you are protected if a purchase is disputed as a fraudulent transaction.

Efficient delivery is essential

If your online store sells goods, rather than your expertise or services, ensure that you choose a reliable courier service to ship your products. An efficient delivery system of the correct items, as advertised, is the final test of a customer’s online shopping experience. Develop a reputation for excellence in that area, and the repeat business will be key to the success of your online store.

Once you’ve set up your online store, you can improve your reach and be accessible to many more customers if you register your business on Avo SuperShop.