Important Considerations When Setting Up Your eCommerce Business

ecommerce

Credit: Fosforix

So you’re about to take the plunge into business entrepreneurship for the first time, and as I am sure you have realized, there are ever changing considerations that need to be taken into account. For an eCommerce business (electronic commerce) in particular, where you have the opportunity to open 24/7 with no need for a physical store presence, you will find that there are many benefits to running this type of business.

One of the most desirable benefits for those interested in starting an online business is the low expense compared to the usual costs of starting a business. Due to this affordability aspect, however, many people rush into eCommerce without careful consideration which means that their businesses tend to flag as the hard work kicks in. In fact, over 90% of internet start-ups fail within the first three months.[i] To avoid being part of this shocking statistic, here are some vital elements to consider when setting up your eCommerce business.

The Idea

This needs to be refined, even in the initial stages of thinking that you may wish to start your own business.

Firstly, decide what it is you want to sell. Although this may seem fairly simple at first, this decision will determine everything about your business, so give it some serious thought. For instance, if you choose to sell furniture or hardware, you will need an entirely different storage space, audience focus and delivery option than if you were to sell organic food or stickers.

Currently, the market is dominated by global department stores such as Amazon which have billions of products to suit every need and more. Unless you think you stand a chance competing against the likes of Amazon, which is forecast to earn an incredible $90 billion in 2014 alone, it may be better for you to try and carve out a niche at first.[ii] At the other end of the spectrum you have more room to focus solely on one thing, whether this be wallpaper, groceries or light bulbs, you will be able to excel in a niche before expanding, if you choose to do so later on.

Once you have your business plan set, the next step is to choose your new business’ domain name. For an eCommerce business especially, your domain name will be part of your brand’s identity, plus they are not particularly easy to change so it is vital to pick one you intend to keep. Your domain name will be one of the first things that a customer sees in relation to your website so you need to ensure that it is:

  1. Memorable – if people cannot remember your domain name they will not be able to find you online
  2. Easy to type – if it is too long or too difficult to spell people may be deterred when they don’t get the result they’d expected. They will probably type in ‘Amazon’ to get what they need there instead
  3. Related to your brand’s ethos – if you have a serious and reputable brand, having a silly domain name simply won’t fit and your audience won’t take you seriously, you don’t see wackojackos.com for specialist heritage riding clothes do you?

Essentials

So now that you have the perfect idea and the wheels are finally getting in motion, there are several necessities to take on board when setting up your business:

Insurance

Any business, whether online or on the high street needs to have the correct business insurance for its purpose by law. It is a legal requirement for any business to have employers’ liability insurance if you employ any individual, even if it is only for work experience. Similarly, a minimum of third party motor insurance is legally required if your company will be using a car. However, there are also other insurance options that are voluntary but incredibly valuable to the success of your business should anything go wrong. Policies such as protection against risk of compensation claims and legal action provide a lifeline if, for any reason, someone claims compensation for an incident which is out of your control. You can even get specialist insurance to provide cover if you or any other vital member of staff becomes ill and unable to work.

Financial Security

All companies are heavily reliant on the smooth running of their finances, so it is integral to your business’ survival that you keep your accounts in order from day one. This means keeping all transactions and receipts together in an organised fashion, and also working out your liabilities to tax and all essential outgoing payments such as wages. Depending on how competent you are at this, you can opt to manage your finances yourself which can save accountancy costs, especially if you can take advantage of specialist cloud accounting software. Alternatively, if accounting is not your forte I would strongly recommend employing a bookkeeper or accountant to handle this responsibility on your behalf, even if it is merely to check your accounts quarterly to see that you are on top of things before it gets too late.

Security

Due to the internet being largely unregulated and unmanaged, there are many risks and threats to eCommerce sites from hackers that could seriously impact your business. Aside from accessing vital information, hackers could alter your website and potentially use viruses to corrupt data which could lead to financial loss and a damaged reputation. More seriously, criminal charges can be pressed if certain legalities such as the Data Protection Act are found to have been breached.[iii]

As well as online security you need to be sure that your stock is protected, and in fact this is usually necessary for many insurance policies. Insuring your stock is also essential, even if you think your site is secure there are inevitably the dangers of fire, flooding and so on. In many cases using specialist door hardware can be an effective deterrent for thieves, but it could also be worth investing in specialist security such as CCTV or remote alarm systems to ensure that your products are as safe as possible.

Appearance

For an eCommerce business your website design is just as important as any shop window, and its structure must perform as well as any pristine aisle in a store. Your web design is the face of your brand on the internet and your only chance to show your customers what you are about. For this reason it is important to go to a web design company that understands your vision and knows what your brand is about. Take your time with your decision, meet with various website designers and view their portfolios. You can even take examples of what it is you are looking to have on your site to ensure that you are both on the same page.

Must Haves

Technology

When running an eCommerce business you will be incredibly reliant on technology, especially computers, so it is essential that you know what you’re doing with the software and hardware that you are using. If you are not entirely confident with this it is a good idea to outsource or employ IT support from professionals, as if anything goes wrong it will be your business that is at stake. Although this may be seen as an additional expense on a tight budget, the cost of IT downtime when running an online business can be far more devastating so it is better to be safe.

With regards to what hardware to choose from, there is the ongoing debate of PC versus Mac, but at the end of the day it is what works best for you that matters most. Windows machines are cheaper which can be a bonus when starting up a business with limited funds, plus in some cases there are more programs developed for Windows PCs. However, if you prefer the smarter Apple hardware you can still get refurbished iMacs as an affordable alternative. Apple hardware is generally very robust and so getting one second hand does not necessarily compromise on quality.

There is now an abundance of eCommerce software for companies to choose from which means you are more likely to find one suitable to your preferences. Which one you prefer can be discussed with your website designers in the initial stages as they can outline the benefits of each one related to your site’s needs.

Marketing

There are so many different ways to market any company, but as an eCommerce brand focusing on the internet and going to your target audience directly offers an excellent approach. Digital marketing techniques that include SEO (search engine optimisation), PPC (pay per click) and social media management are excellent for giving your brand an authoritative online voice. Generally speaking, PPC advertising is often seen as a quick win as you pay for each time a user clicks on your ad, while SEO is seen as a natural growth that slowly pushes your site up the search engine rankings, following the fact that more search engine users click on the highest search results first.

What is proving to be a great marketing source to start-ups is social media because of its affordability and the very personal nature of its reach. Although there are paid options, having a social media account on any of the main platforms is free for everyone. This gives you, the company, a chance to interact directly with existing and potential customers for nothing. Just as you would like to tell all the people walking past that you have some great offers in your store, you can create a social post to do the same and invite visitors directly to your site with a link.

Aesthetics

At the initial concept stage you should have decided whether your new business was to be entirely online or whether you would also have physical stores too. Or perhaps it’s the other way round and you have a physical space you work from but in expansion you have turned to eCommerce. Regardless of the reason for it, if you have any customer facing elements to your business these need to look as good as possible. Today it is easy to combine practicality with aesthetics thanks to the interior trends of mixing textures and materials. In particular, Industrial vintage furniture is great if your eCommerce business faces customers but does not focus on this element as it looks great but is also very sturdy and reliable.

Environment

One important consideration in running a business that is so easily overlooked when starting out is its long-term maintenance. This is not so much a problem for online stores and studios where appearance there isn’t key, but you still need to look after this space to keep your business running smoothly. Recycling and energy efficiency are highly rewarded by local authorities, plus they naturally save you money so think of this wherever possible. Moreover, there are other tricks which will ease your carbon footprint, which in this day and age, could encourage customers to shop with you over your competition. Many recycling specialists are now able to create energy from waste which has a dramatic effect on minimizing landfill altogether.

So here you go, some of the main considerations to make when you are setting up your own eCommerce business in order to have the best chance of success. First and foremost beyond all of these tips, however, should be the organization. If you and your business are organized effectively you will be fully aware of incomings and outgoings, meetings, important deadlines and areas of concern so that you can be prepared for any eventuality.

[i] http://www.chrisducker.com/internet-business-failures/

[ii] http://www.forbes.com/profile/jeff-bezos/

[iii] http://www.findlaw.co.uk/law/small_business/business_operations/e_commerce/securing_your_e_commerce_systems/556.html

About Mohit Tater

Mohit is the co-founder and editor of Entrepreneurship Life, a place where entrepreneurs, start-ups, and business owners can find wide ranging information, advice, resources, and tools for starting, running, and growing their businesses.

Speak Your Mind

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.