1Ask yourself if a website is the right sales channel for your business. Weigh up what you are trying to achieve. For example, do you want your site to sell directly, offer post-sales support or act more as a marketing tool for your products and services?
2Consider setting up on a marketplace. You can create an eBay shop or sign up to sell through Amazon to keep your start-up costs down and test your market before committing to creating your own ecommerce website. This is also a good way to quickly reach an audience of buyers.
3Use an off-the-shelf package. These provide you with a framework you can use to create your online shop. Typically they include product catalogue, shopping basket and credit card payment functions and handle the technical side of things for you. Ecommerce packages are available from companies like 123-reg, Volusion and Shopify.
4Make sure you can update the site yourself. You don't want to have to pay someone every time you need to add new products, change prices, add special offers or sales information.
5Choose suitable web hosting. Your web hosting service will affect the speed and reliability of your website. Make sure you choose a provider offering good technical support and the option to upgrade if your shop expands. Most off-the-shelf ecommerce packages come with suitable hosting.
6Assess how user friendly your site is. Make it easy to navigate each page and include a comprehensive search function. Aim for the eight-second rule – people unable to find what they want within this time are likely to go elsewhere.
7Make sure your site works on mobile devices. People are increasingly browsing websites and buying online from their smart phones. Choose an ecommerce package or design that works on these small screens too.
8Work out the best way to take payments. To start with you may wish to use the payment functions included with your off-the-shelf package. You might also use a third-party service, like PayPal or Stripe. Once you are more established, you may find it more cost-effective to get a merchant account from your bank.
9Try and offer a range of payment options. Different people like to pay for things in different ways. In addition to offering payments via major debit and credit cards, consider allowing people to pay by cheque or cash on delivery.
10Ensure your website is secure and reassure customers. If you are taking online payments, your website must be encrypted. You can gain customers’ confidence by showing information about security on your website. Some sites carry a badge to show they have been independently tested.
12Fulfil orders efficiently. You can delight customers by getting products delivered to them quickly. Choose a reliable delivery service and make sure you have a good returns system in place. (Brush up on your distance selling obligations, too.)
13Encourage feedback. Successful websites build a dialogue with customers — consider user ratings or a comments facility. Alternatively, creating a regular email newsletter with special offers and details of new products will also persuade visitors to revisit your site.
Work out exactly what you want from your website
Consider an off-the-shelf package at first
Make your site easy to navigate
Neglect IT security
Let your website get stale – update your key pages