Adding Products to your eCommerce Website

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Adding products to your website is a very important step when establishing your eCommerce website. Indeed, not having products for your customers to buy on your sites will result in no income.

The products that you can add to your website may be physical, stuff you use or enjoy daily, such as clothing or ornaments. Or, adding products that are downloadable, such as software, eBooks or games may suit your business model better.

Let’s have a look how you can add these two types of products to your website.

Adding products that are physical to your site

Most of us are familiar with physical products.  It’s like visiting the local shopping mall to buy a pair of jeans (a product that you can touch). However, the way we shop for physical products has changed.

Nowadays you’ll most likely first have a look online to see if the jeans is in stock, or what price other stores are asking for it. Most of ecommerce websites are trading with physical products.

Al Davis (Torque) suggested the following preparation that newbie eCommerce website owners need do when adding products to their sites:

Product Images

The product image is the visual representation of your product and your store as a whole. Al recommends to use a professional photographer take product images whenever possible. However, if you can’t afford a photographer, and need to source images elsewhere, you may find these tips helpful:

  • Make sure all your images are the same size. By having your images all the same size, you will get a nice clean grid when it comes time to display your images.
  • Make sure your images have the same orientation. Having the orientation of your images all the same (either landscape or portrait) is another way to make sure that your display is clean and crisp.
  • Make sure your backgrounds are consistent. If possible, you want to have a clean white background for your product shots.

Product categories

A product category is a way to organize products in your store by the type of products you sell. Indeed, categories are one of the main strengths of an eCommerce website. “It’s not only better for the search engine crawlers to understand your site, but it’s also better for your potential customers”, according to Unamo.

Your customers will navigate more easily if you have product categories when they visit your site. It’s similar walking around in a department store with products in the same category that can be found at the same place. Hence, eCommerce stores with an orderly product category system will enhance your customer’s online experience.

Product categories can with little effort be created in eCommerce platforms such as woocommerce.

Product pricing

When your customers visit your eCommerce site, the first thing they’ll do after looking at image of your products, is to glance at the prices. There’s a number of pricing strategies that you may consider to get your customers to buy your online products. However, for now it may be best to consider these two strategies – suggested Victoria Elizabeth in Ometra:

  • Market-oriented pricing. With this pricing strategy, you should position your products against that of your competitors. You should therefore offer the most value at the best price for your customers.
  • Consumer-oriented pricing. Here you are considering your customers instead of the market. Who are they? Why would they visit your store? What motivations do they have to buy your products? You can then personalize the pricing of products to a specific customer’s profile.

Other important aspects that go with pricing are:

  • Shipping fees – can be included in the price, or a flat rate or priced where the delivery takes place. The shipping fee usually shows when a customer adds a product to her cart.
  • Return fees – if you decide to charge the customer for shipping and handling when she returns the product, you need to tell her so (return policy);
  • Taxes – make sure you add taxes and duties where needed, especially if you sell across borders.
  • Currencies – most payment gateway apps (e.g. PayPal) only accept the major currencies as payment. This is an issue when you use dropship suppliers such as AliExpress or Oberlo and try to do business in South Africa…

Managing your products

After adding products to your site, the customers will stream to your site and click on the order button and the big money will pour in… Wrong!

Now the big job starts:

  • Marketing your products – use digital marketing tools such as social media, emails, banners and search advertising to tell customers where to find your products;
  • Analytics – use Google and Facebooks analytics to see who visited your site; what did they like (and what not); and where are they living.
  • Trends – Google Trends is a super tool to see what people are looking for on the web.

Adding products that your customers can download from your site

Downloadable products are not physical products. Indeed, according to Magento is a downloadable product anything that you can deliver as a file, such as an eBook, music, video, software application, or an update.

Because the actual download doesn’t become available until after the purchase, you can provide samples, such as an excerpt from a book or a clip from an audio file that the customer can try from the product page.

So how does the online selling of downloadable products compare with the online selling of physical products?

Downloadable products
Physical products
·         Instant delivery;

·         No packing and shipping costs;

·         No returns (no place to return to);

·         No reorders;

·         Entry barriers are low – anyone can sell downloadable products;

·         Licencing and reuse rights may restrict what downloads you can sell online.

·         Delivery may take weeks;

·         Additional costs for packing and shipping;

·         Return can be as high as 30% of sales;

·         Customers may return to reorder;

·         High entry barriers – because of advertising and return costs.

Presenting downloadable products on your eCommerce website

When you are busy with a CMS platform such a WordPress, there’re a number of 3rd party ‘plugins’ that you can download on your site to help you presenting the downloadable products. WordPress’s woocommerce plugin are used by millions of eCommerce businesses, to sell both physical and digital goods in all shapes and sizes, offer product variations, multiple configurations, and instant downloads to shoppers.

Concluding

Adding products to your eCommerce website must be done after you’ve established what your customers need and how your products can solve their problems, or give them information and make the feel good.

Once the sale is made, it is up to you to deliver the product on time, at the right price and place. Not doing so can harm your brand.

Read also: 7 Steps to Start an Online Business

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Starting Your Web Store – How to Receive Payments Online

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A very important step when starting your web store is to ensure that you can receive payments online. You’ve created your web store because the online retail channel means that your customers can buy 24/7 from anywhere. However, your web store is not the only one online. So, if you customers have problems to pay for your products, they will leave your site and try elsewhere.

Let’s have a look how you can receive payments online.

How to receive payments online

The way we buy and pay for our products has evolved with the internet. As a result, there a number of ways your customers can choose to pay for your product online.

  1. Credit cards

For online shoppers, the preferred method of payment is still a credit card. Accordingly 42% of people are making online payments using credit cards. Also are Visa and MasterCard the two most popular card scheme brands. The use of credit cards for online payments is popular because of the following:

  • Credit cards have already been in use for decades in offline trading.
  • Credit cards are available and accepted worldwide.
  • To pay with a credit card is simple – it involves entering the credit card number along with the name of the card owner into a form.
  • Credit cards are generally convenient for the buyer.

There are however some disadvantages when receiving payments online via credit cards:

  • Credit cards do not possess a good security mechanism. If an attacker steals a credit card number, it is sufficient to buy products online.
  • Credit cards are not anonymous. When a product is purchased, the owner of the credit card and its number become known to both the seller and the banks involved in the transaction.
  • It is expensive for web store owners to receive online payments via a credit card. Credit card institutions and banks require the seller to pay relatively high basic charges as well as a percentage of sales to them.
  • Credit cards are not suitable for payments between private individuals.
  1. PayPal

PayPal is a credit card-oriented payment system. In contrast with credit cards, makes PayPal payments between two private individuals possible. In order to be able to use PayPal, it is necessary to register with it. The receiver of a transaction pays PayPal a fee which depends on the turnover. This is deducted directly from the amount received. However, web store owners need to monitor their PayPal accounts closely.

“While making payments via PayPal is fairly simple, receiving payments is where things get a bit more complex. This has to do with South Africa’s exchange control regulations, which state that you cannot hold money paid to you in foreign currency for more than 30 days. You also cannot use foreign currency that is sitting in your PayPal account to pay to another PayPal user” according to Maya Fisher-French of “Maya on Money”.

  1. Electronic funds transfer (EFT)

EFT is the electronic transfer of money from one bank account to another. It is also one of the oldest electronic payment systems. EFT is considered to be a safe, reliable, and convenient way to conduct business. The advantages of EFT include the following:

  • Reduced administrative costs
  • Increased efficiency
  • Simplified bookkeeping
  • Enhanced security

One concern with the use of the EFT payment system is that criminals may fax or email you a fraudulent proof of payment certificate. So, when you complete that transaction, you may discover that the funds are not showing in your bank account. The best way to prevent this fraud is to wait for the funds to show in your bank account before delivering the goods.

Concluding

Although there are many innovative digital payment methods and systems known, credit cards, PayPal and EFT are the most important one to have when you start doing business with your web shop. Remember that there are costs and risks involved to receive online payments. However, without it – well…?

Read also: 7 Steps to Start an Online Business

Note

Meier, A. and Stormer. H. 2009. eBusiness & eCommerce: Managing the Digital Value Chain, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

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eBizplan

Choosing an eCommerce Platform for your Web Store

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Choosing the right eCommerce platform is one of the most important business decisions you can make. It’s just as important decision  you make when shopping for a house, a car or a business location. “You have to look at what you are shopping for, what you want, what you need and what the trade-offs are among all your choices” says Nate Shivar from ShivarWeb.

There are hundreds of eCommerce platforms to choose from. However, they can broadly be placed into three categories:

  1. eCommerce platforms that you develop yourself;
  2. Subscription platforms; and
  3. Open source platforms.

Develop your own eCommerce platform

This is not for the fainthearted!

Developing your own eCommerce platform is only an option if you are a website developer or if you get a developer to do the job for you. The big advantage of developing your own eCommerce platform is that you can do it exactly as you want it to be. A real disadvantage is that you’ll spend more time developing your website than selling your products.

Also, you can’t use the themes and apps of third party developers. It’s expensive if you don’t develop the platform yourself and too many tests runs are needed to get it right. And, if your business starts to grow big, then you may experience scale problems with your custom developed platform.

Developing your own ecommerce platform is more for web developers than want to do some online retailing.

Subscription platforms

When you decide to use subscription platforms you are actually ‘renting’ an eCommerce platform. Shopify is an example of a subscription platform. The great advantage here is that you don’t need to design your website yourself. That’s good news for non-tech savvy retailers! In addition, Shopify can help you with technical or operation issues. Another advantage with Shopify is that you can start your business right away. Just add your products and start selling…

“If you are looking for a simple e-commerce website that won’t require much housekeeping, but still has a classy design and great customer service, go with Shopify”, suggests Jason Parks CEO of The Media Captain in the Entrepreneur. Indeed, Jason mentions that using subscription platforms such as Shopify requires minimal technical capabilities. Moreover, he recommends Shopify for the theme store, plugins and built-in tutorials. And lastly, says Jason, “Shopify is all-inclusive when it comes to an eCommerce platform, meaning you can get all you want in a ‘one-stop shop’.”

Some disadvantages of Shopify. Shopify is not free says Manthan Bhavsar from Metizsoft Solutions. For example, there’s a 1 – 2 % commission fee when you use a third party payment gateway. Even more, Shopify does not allow you to change the coding of your website, so you are totally dependent on them for updates or upgrades of the platform.

Open source platforms

Here you are more in control of your eCommerce website.

This is only for those who feel truly adventurous, and are willing to take on a challenge. However, Zorzini from ECommerce Platforms cautions that although open source platforms are completely free, they are coming at a cost. You still must learn how to set them up and how to design the themes. Moreover, you need to decide which plugins will enhance your newly built store the best.

WooCommerce is a free WordPress plugin that adds eCommerce functionality to your WordPress website so you can have an online store. WordPress is probably the easiest and most powerful blogging and website content management system (or CMS) in existence today (iThemes). As a result, WooCommerce is a popular open source eCommerce platform, especially for small businesses.

You need to pay nothing more than you hosting fees to use Woocommerce. Furthermore is it supported by a huge online community of developers and experts and therefore the glitches and bugs are quickly sorted out. It’s simple to use and have lots of plugins and themes to choose from. To add and change products with Woocommerce is however not so straight forward.

Joe Robisin wrote in Practical Ecommerce when to use and when to avoid Woocommerce:

When to use Woocommerce

  • Your website is primarily a blog. If you have an established site or if you have a new one that is blogging-centric, don’t change it just to sell a few products. In that case, adding on a WordPress ecommerce plugin is a good solution.
  • Limited product catalogue. While a Woocommerce can carry several thousands of products, it generally performs not as well as dedicated eCommerce platforms with the big numbers.
  • Simple products. If your products have limited variations and no customization options, then a Woocommerce will function well. Examples of products requiring no customization might be small electronics or home goods that come in only one style and color.
  • You are familiar with WordPress and need a quick store. If any of the above requirements apply – your site is primarily a blog, you have a limited product range, and your products are simple — then adding a WordPress eCommerce plugin is a good way to quickly get your store live.

When to avoid Woocommerce

  • You don’t have a reliable developer. If you’re an eCommerce owner and you don’t have your own developer and you’re not a developer, it will be difficult to keep your Woocommerce store running long-term.
  • Complex products. Creating complex and variable products takes significant customization. For many WordPress ecommerce plugins, you’ll need to add in additional third-party plugins to get what you want.
  • You don’t want to manually update WordPress and the plugin. In addition to keeping the WordPress core updated, you’ll also need to update the eCommerce system that you are using with WordPress.
  • No time to test the upgrades. If you’re not a developer or don’t want to pay for a developer’s time when your website’s backend needs updated, Woocommerce might not be the best choice.

Concluding

All platforms have costs associated with them. Which means, if you’re coming out the gate with a new business or product, make sure you can support the cost of an eCommerce platform before you spend the money.

Further reading:

  1. Are Websites Obsolete? Not so fast, some says…
  2. 7 Steps to Start an Online Business
  3. Planning Your Online Business
  4. Choose a Domain Name and Hosting Company for your Online Business

Woocomerce vs Shopify

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Choose a Domain Name and Hosting Company for your Online Business

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The second thing to do after planning your online business is to choose a domain name. After that, you need to decide who is going to host your website. Choosing a domain name for your website is critical for the success of your online business. Karol K. writing in Winning WP concurs: “Choosing a domain name is something every website owner needs to ensure they get right — ideally before they do anything else, and ESPECIALLY if the website will be serving a commercial purpose.”

Also important is to get a reliable company to host your website. “It’s crucial to select a hosting provider carefully since your business will depend on it” advised Syed Balkhi in the Huffington Post.

But let us first discuss how to choose a domain name for your business.

How to choose a domain name

It is mostly great fun to search for a domain name. I do it as follow:

  1. I go to a domain name search facility e.g. GoDaddy.com;
  2. Then I type my first choice domain name to see if it is available;
  3. If the name is already taken, then I try my second choice, and so on;
  4. Once I’ve it the ‘jackpot’ (a domain name that is available), I’ll quickly register and pay for it.

However, there are more structured ways to choose a domain name. Brainstorming is a good way to generate a list of potential domain names. Still, many of us battle to get a name to start with.

If you battle get a domain name to start with, have a look at your mission and vision statements that you’d designed in the planning stage of your online business. For example, if your vision statement is: “We want everybody to wear our garments”; then www.garmentsforall.com may be an appropriate domain name. Or if your business’s name is “The Coffee Shop” the www.thecoffeshop.com is an easy choice.

However, since most of the generic .com domain names are already taken, you need to be more creative. Then it may be a good idea is to choose an unusual, but catchy domain name like www.zop.com.

There are several things to consider when you want to choose a domain name for your business:

  1. The size of your domain name. A short domain name is better because users can remember it easier. They are unlikely to misspell your domain name while searching for your business online. The domain name for this website is “ebizplan” which I think is easy to remember and relatively easy to spell.
  2. Consider a domain name that resembles your business. Ideally, customers will be able to guess a domain name from the firm’s name. If this isn’t possible, then find a functional name; a unique name (Yahoo!); or one that expresses an emotion or attitude associated with the brand, person, or mission 1.
  3. Choose a unique name. If you choose a domain name that is too similar than existing domains, you’ll start your business on the back foot. First do a Google search of the domain name you’ve got in mind. You’ll quickly see how many domains have similar names and also if they do similar business than you planned to do.
  4. Choose “.com” first. Dot com (.com) websites are by far the most popular domain extension on the web. “If your number one name choice isn’t available, then try your second choice before accepting other top level domains. Remember that some browsers accept address-only entries in their address bar. If you type just the domain name (and who knows how many of your users will just do that?) they will return, by default, to the ‘.com’ site”, suggest Ogi Djuraskovic and FirstSiteGuide team.

Deciding which company will host your website is the next step after you’ve acquired your domain name.

Choosing a hosting company for your website

Your website needs to reside on a hosting computer somewhere.  Because when you buy website hosting you basically rent server space on a server where your web files will be placed. So whenever somebody will look up for your website by entering your domain, he or she will get directed to your website.

Therefore, it’s crucial to choose a reliable web hosting company to ensure that your website remains safe and accessible all year round. Also, a web hosting company makes it possible for your website to be accessed by everyone on the web.

Syed Balkhi writing for Huffington Post gives the following advice when choosing a web hosting company:

  • Understand the different hosting options available – there are various web hosting options available such as Shared, VPS (Virtual Private Server), Dedicated and Managed Web hosting;
  • Excellent customer support is a must – the internet never sleeps. So, look for a provider that offers excellent customer support;
  • Choose a host with an excellent uptime track record – the hosting provider you choose should take every precaution to ensure maximum uptime;
  • Cost should not be your only consideration – as the saying goes, “you get what you pay for.” As a business, you cannot afford to experience extended downtime;
  • Ability to scale – as your business grows, your website will tend to generate more traffic. For that reason will the ability to scale be increasingly important.
  • Good reputation is essential – once you have narrowed the list of important features you require, the next step is to find a host with a top-notch reputation.

Now that you’ve a registered domain, and hired a capable web hosting company, you may start thinking of choosing your eCommerce package.

Concluding

Congratulations! You are now one of at least 330 million registered domains owners on the internet. I’m afraid so say, the easy part is over. From now on it will be guts before glory.

The third step to take when starting an online business is to choose your eCommerce package…

Further reading:

  1. 7 Steps to Start an Online Business
  2. Planning Your Online Business

Note

1 Thomas, L. 2011. The McGraw-Hill 36-hour course: online marketing, McGraw-Hill Education.

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Planning Your Online Business

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Planning your online business is the first step you need to do in order to start making an income online. The internet and digital technology have revolutionized about everything we do and also the way that we conduct our business.

However, the planning of your online business needs to take place in a world that is changing faster than we can learn. Indeed, concurs Barry Ritholtz in Bloomberg:   “Creative destruction caused by technology is so rampant that it is practically a cliche. It is easy to ignore not only the speed at which disruption caused by technology is affecting society, but the acceleration in the pace of change. This acceleration and its effect on markets, companies and labor are astonishing.”

The offline retail sector took the brunt of the digital revolution. Hordes of retailers went out of business because they failed to adapt their business models to fit in the new online channel. They couldn’t better the value that online retailers offered to their clients. Online retailers had a cost advantage that enabled them to lower prices with the same if not better margins than offline retailers. Furthermore, they offered a wider selection of products; and increasingly better service because of personalization and interactive communication.

Although the pace of change around us seems to increase exponentially, you’ll still need to do the planning of your online business in a structured way.

Planning your online business in a structured way

Most of us want to be in business to win, to outperform our competitors, and most importantly to make money. However, before your register a domain and creating a website, you need to know where you want to be with your business and how you’re going to get there.

In other words, you need to have a vision, mission and goals.

A Vision for your online business

You have to be able to communicate a vision of what your online business is all about and where it wants to be in the future. A vision needs to describe the aspirations of your business.

Jeff Boss writing in Entrepreneur.com list the following eight ways a Vision Statement adds value to your business:

  1. A Vision statement offers guidance. It articulates what the company aspires to be at some point in the future.
  2. Vision statements set decision-making boundaries. Every decision that employees make should be governed by the company’s overall vision.
  3. Vision statements serve as behavioural boundaries. They may include the values that companies holds dear which, in turn, outline ethical – and subsequently, unethical – behaviour.
  4. A Vision statement instils emotion. It reminds us why we chose our place of work and give us reason to perpetually pursue the purpose for which the company stands.
  5. Vision statements spur growth. A compelling vision acts as a call to action for individual and organizational growth.
  6. Vision statements keep curiosity spurning. It is one way to keep the mental hamster wheels spinning because achieving a vision isn’t necessary the intent, but learning along the way is.
  7. The Vision statements allow difficult conversations. You can easily refer to the vision and ask, “How does your behaviour support our vision?”
  8. Vision statements enable leadership. It reminds current and aspiring leaders to fulfil their leadership responsibilities by adhering to the strategies set in place to pursue that vision.

Here’s the Vision Statement of eBay (Smart Insights):

eBay pioneers communities built on commerce, sustained by trust, and inspired by opportunity. eBay brings together millions of people every day on a local, national and international basis through an array of websites that focus on commerce, payments and communications.

And now for your online business’s Mission Statement…

Your online business’s Mission Statement

The mission statement communicates the overriding purpose of your online business. It’s also about how your business is going to get there.

Your online business’s mission sets the stage for the entire life of the business, and it should convey the following 1:

  • It should clarify the reasons why that business exists;
  • Which are the target markets for your business?
  • What types of needs will your online business be addressing?
  • With whom and where will you do business?
  • Which are the products or services that will be provided to the markets?
  • What technologies are you going to utilize to do your business? and,
  • Which innovative and differentiated approach will you pursue in relation to the potential competitors?

The vision and mission statement of Amazon.com is the following: “Our vision is to be earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online” (The Balance).

The vision/mission statement of Amazon.com communicates exactly what their business is about.

Business Goals – realizing your vision and achieving your mission

The mission statement sets a clear direction for organizational activities and establishes a focus that facilitates joint efforts toward predetermined long-term goals. However before you can pursue the long-term goals and objectives of your online business, you need to develop strategies to determine the course of action to take and the allocation of resources necessary for carrying out these actions 3.

Therefore, whether a firm is an incumbent or new entrant, it must formulate and execute an online strategy if it is going to have a sustainable competitive advantage. This entails answering four important questions 2:

  1. Where is the firm now?-that is, how well is it doing? What is the basis of its performance? What are its strengths and weaknesses? Are there any threats and opportunities that it faces?
  2. Where does the firm go next? Given the firm’s performance, its positioning relative to its rivals and competitive and macro environments, it may want to pursue different goals.
  3. How does the firm get there? Pursuing new goals usually means finding different ways to achieve them.
  4. How does the firm implement the decisions to get there?

The business plan – putting your planning together

After you have analysed your market research, set your goals and identified what you need to start your online business, you may write it all up in a business plan. A business plan is a formal statement of business goals, reasons they are attainable, and plans for reaching them.

The structure of a business plan typically looks like this:

  • Executive Summary.
  • Business Description.
  • Market Analysis.
  • Organization Management.
  • Sales Strategies.
  • Funding Requirements.
  • Financial Projections.

Visit eBizplan’s Business Plans page for more info and a quote…

Conclusion

If planning your online business is not done, or not done properly, you’ll be left with a bad website. According to Digital Impact (UK), over 70 percent of people claim they wouldn’t buy from or use a poorly designed website. A bad website isn’t just not helping, it’s a dead weight tied around your business, alienating your users and holding your business back.

And a poorly designed website is in most cases the result of an online business without a business model and business strategy.

Next read: Choose a Domain Name and Hosting Company for your Online Business 

Notes

1 Gandellini, G. and Venanzi, D. 2013. Strategy for action–II: Strategy formulation, development, and control, Springer Science & Business Media.

2 Afuah, A. and Tucci, C.L. 2001. Internet business models and strategies, New York: McGraw-Hill.

3 Andersen, T.J. 2013. Short introduction to strategic management, Cambridge University Press.

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7 Steps to Start an Online Business

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Having your own online business is a dream that many of the readers of this blog may have. There are however important steps to start an online business that needed to be followed.

Starting an online business, although it operates in a different channel, is not that different from starting a Brick and Mortar business. In both cases you need no do certain things in order to get your business up and running.

The 7 steps to start an online business

Starting a business may be for most people a chaotic and emotional episode. However, if you have a guide to do the right at the right time, the process may be smoother that you think. So, here are the steps:

Step 1: Planning

A Business Plan is a detailed action plan or road map outlining every conceivable aspect of the proposed venture. The plan describes what, how, when, where and why with regard to the new venture. It is thus a structured guideline for achieving your business goals.

Therefore, if you want to start an online shop, you should at least ask the following questions:

  • What kind of products do I want to sell?
  • Are there any competitors that will be selling the same products as me?
  • What should my website look like?

Read more: Planning Your Online Business 

By this time you should already have an idea what your business is about. Also about a name for your business…

Step 2: Register a domain name and choose a hosting company

If you already have the name of your shop, it is time to start setting it up. The first thing to do is to register for a domain name. However, good luck! According to Tek Eye (2017), there were 330 million domains registered for over 1.8 billion websites last year… So I think all the obvious domain names is already taken.

In spite of all the best domain names already been taken, you should try to get a name that can best represent your products or services. Registering a domain name should not cost you more than $10 (R120) for a .com extension. Visit SA Domains to see if a domain name is available.

After getting the domain name, you need to find a good hosting company. Look for a hosting company that has good servers and that will be able to run your online store e.g. Texo Webhosting.

Read more: Choose a Domain Name and Hosting Company for your Online Business 

Step 3: Choose your E-commerce package

You can build your online store through hosted solutions or self-hosted solutions

Hosted solutions:

Many hosted solutions provide a good experience to users with you doing very little on your end. However, when you use a hosted solution, you should be prepared to lose a lot of opportunity for customization.

The following three are among the top solutions:

It’s easy for anyone to set up an e-commerce site with Shopify. Some of the features you will enjoy by setting up a store with them include a custom mobile template, unlimited server bandwidth, SSL security, and a personal app store. You can try it for free for 14 days or choose a package that will suit you. Pricing starts from $14 to $179 (R180 – R2300) per month depending on the features and functionalities you are looking for.

Yahoo! Merchant Solution. The layout of Y!MS is fairly straightforward and can be easily customized. Y!MS ecommerce plans start from $19.98 to $224.96 (R260 – R2925) per month depending on the package and features you need.

BigCommerce is similar to Shopify but has limited features. The website has a clean interface, making it easy for users to sign up. You can easily add users, products, features and take payments online in just a few minutes. BigCommerce pricing ranges from R325 to R3900 a month depending on the features your need.

Self-Hosted Solutions:

If you do not want a hosted solution, you can make your own e-commerce scripts or use other open source or commercial shopping cart scripts.

Zen Cart is a popular open source script that will work in most web hosts. The script is free to download. The only downside of using the script is that your website will feature a “Powered by Zen Cart” message at the bottom.

Magento is another good script you can use for your e-commerce website. The script is written in PHP and is frequently updated. As is the case with Zen Cart, you will feel more comfortable using Magento if you are well-versed with HTML and CSS.

If you are comfortable using WordPress, you can easily set up an ecommerce store using various free and paid plugins. Examples of popular plugins that will enable your WordPress site and have ecommerce capabilities include WooCommerce, WP e-Commerce, Cart66, and others.

Read more: Choosing an eCommerce Platform for your Web Store

Step 4: Taking Payments Online

Credit cards provide customers with an easy way to make payments at your store. Apart from credit cards, customers may also wish to pay through other methods such as PayPal. You will want to accept payments through the methods that your customers trust and use. To accept credit cards online, you will need a merchant account.

Read more: Starting Your Web Store – How to Receive Payments Online

Step 5: Add Content and Products

After you have set up your domain name, hosting and shopping script, you are ready to start selling online. You now need to add your content and products. From this point onwards, you will also need to do some maintenance and tune your website design to match the needs of your customers.

Indeed, “The quality and relevance of the content of a retailers’ webpages can mean the difference between a sale and a bounce” writes Douw G Steyn recently in Bricks2Clicks.

Read more detail about Adding Products to your eCommerce Website

The next important step is to get the product that your customer has paid for, to its destination.

Step 6: Shipping and Fulfillment

Like a physical retail store, you need to maximize the visitors at your store. However, you cannot simply hand over products over the counter. Also, shoppers expect a seamless shopping experience — no matter where they are, what device they are using, or how they choose to shop. Order Fulfillment – taking the right product, putting it in the right box, shipping it, and gaining the customer’s approval – is a demanding task (Bricks2Clicks).

Step 7: Marketing your online shop

One of the biggest challenges you may face as an e-commerce store owner is generating traffic that converts on your store. There are a number of digital marketing channels that retailers can use in the online channel:

  1. SEM (Search Engine Marketing) consists of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and Paid Advertising (e.g. PPC – Pay Per Click advertising).
  2. Content Marketing includes Blogging, e-Mail marketing, e-Books and video marketing.
  3. Social Media Marketing is marketing on social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

So these are the seven steps to start an online business…

Concluding

Just as with Brick and Mortar shops, there’s no easy way to just star and make money. If you follow these steps to start an online business, you may soon identify your strengths and weaknesses as well as opportunities and threats that exist in the marketplace.

Good luck with you new venture!

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You can create a Website in less than 20 minutes – then what?

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It’s very easy to create a website. Why not? Almost every business and professional person of note has a website. Surely, if you create a website your business will flourish, and with billions of web users to target – wow, the money is there to be made.

A recent blog page by wix.com “7 Tips for Creating a Stunning Website for Free” achieved 3.7 million likes. Indeed, the people want websites.

So you can start to create a website. It’s very easy…

How to create a website

There are many posts that instruct you on how to create a website. The most mentioned steps are as follow:

  1. Search the internet to find a credible website host (e.g. Texo.co.za);
  2. Choose a website hosting plan;
  3. Pick a domain name;
  4. Fill in your details;
  5. Finish your registration; and
  6. Create a password.

A website host provides server hardware and network infrastructure so that your website can operate optimally. Texo, for example, also hosts WordPress, a free and open-source content management system.

In fact, WordPress powered 26% of the internet in 2016 (Manage WP).

Types of websites that you can create with WordPress

With WordPress, you can create about any type of website that you want. The Theme Country listed the 12 most popular WordPress websites:

  1. Blog or Personal Website – creating a blog or personal website is one of the most common reasons for using WordPress.
  2. News and Magazine Website – WordPress makes it easy to set up a news and magazine website.
  3. Business Website – you can choose from thousands of business themes for your WordPress site and then tweak the layout to better represent your business.
  4. eCommerce Website – there are several high-quality WordPress plugins and themes that incorporate eCommerce features.
  5. Online Job Board – create a community job board using WordPress. By using a forum theme for WordPress, you can easily organize job categories and create a space for people to post or find jobs.
  6. Business Directory – you can also use WordPress to create a business directory.
  7. Online Communities – create your own online community dedicated to a topic that you love. Share information with other people and use the subscriber option to build an email list.
  8. Portfolio Websites – showcase your talents with a portfolio website. There are hundreds of premium and free WordPress themes for setting up your own online portfolio.
  9. Knowledgebase / Wiki Websites – start building a large knowledgebase or wiki-style website using WordPress. One of the great features of WordPress is the ability to use categories and tags to categorize your content.
  10. Niche Affiliate Websites – affiliate marketing can be a useful way to earn extra money, especially if you go about it in the right way.
  11. Photography Websites -as with portfolio themes for WordPress, you will have a large variety of photography themes to choose from. These also focus on the images used on your website, instead of the content.
  12. School or College Websites – WordPress could be a useful option for creating a school or college website. You can easily design a professional website for the school or college while adding resources that faculty and students will find useful.

So, you’ve created a website, and chosen your website type – what now?

Because it’s relatively easy and cheap to create a website, many people only think about what to do with their site after it’s been activated. Some people spend lots of money promoting their new websites with AdWords and Facebook with little or no success.

As it should be with any other business, you need a business plan for your website. You can read more here: Every Business Needs A Business Plan. After you’ve established what business you’re going to do with your website, you need to find out where your business will come from.

If you want to make money from your website, you to make the following happen:

  • Get people to visit your website;
  • Give the visitors what they was looking for on your website;
  • Get them to subscribe, buy or contribute to your site;
  • Let their online experience be so great that they bookmark your site and tell their friends about it.

You therefore need to know:

  • Who are your audience? (your target audience).
  • What do they want from your website (their needs – problem solving, entertainment, etc.)
  • Where and how can you communicate with your target audience (your digital marketing strategy – e.g. on Facebook or Google’s AdWords?)
  • Who else is after your target audience? (Who are my competitors?)

I think you’ll now start to realise that it takes a lot of planning, money and knowledge to get your website to work for you.

Concluding

So, next time you click on a link like: “How to make a million dollars with your website in 20 minutes”, you’ve helped the owner of the website to achieve her goal – getting traffic to her site. It’s good for her business (ad income), although not many users will return or register with her site. Then again, there’s billions or other users looking to make money online…

If it’s too good to be true, it is probably just that. To make honest money online takes a lot of time and resilience.

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PixaBay.com

Video: Raiken Profit

Living Your Dream – Your Own Business at Last!

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Everybody has a dream, a dream to own your own business perhaps? Like Sipho*. Sipho is a South African that grew up with his granny in a corrugated iron shack in Alexandria. Their shack was right next to the affluent city of Sandton. Now let’s learn more about Sipho’s childhood…

Sipho had a difficult childhood. He lost both his parents when he was only ten years old. For that reason his granny took care of him. Many nights Sipho had gone to bed hungry, because his granny’s social grant was too little…

The school that Sipho attended was not far from their shack. However, it was overcrowded and underfunded. He had to attend classes with about 50 learners in rooms fitted for only 30 pupils.  Also, there were not enough textbooks and the teachers were many times not there to teach them.

In spite of Sipho’s dire situation, he was not blind to the wealth and extravagant lifestyles of his neighbours on the other side of the fence. He was dreaming to live and prosper on the other side of the fence…

Sipho is dreaming of having his own business

We’ve heard many times that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the most important sector in most economies. In fact, SMEs are the principle providers of jobs in developed economies. Yet, in developing economies, like South Africa’s, the informal business sector contributes significantly to the GDP. According to South African Market Insights, the size of the informal economy is estimated between 7% and 13%.

Even more, South Africa’s informal sector is supporting 27% of all working people and it provides goods and services to millions of people on a daily basis, according to Natalie Greve in FIN24. In fact, Stats SA has found that almost 70% of people who start an informal business do so because they are unemployed and have no alternative source of income.

Image eBizplan

Getting into the formal business sector

Sipho will probably not enjoy the glitter and riches of the Sandton community by selling loose cigarettes, sweets and small packets of corn chips on busy street corners. He needs to enter the formal business sector which will give him access to venture capital and, if he is lucky, government support.

For Sipho, however, it won’t be easy to enter the formal business sector. Although there may be lots of opportunities in the sector, the costs of starting a business are high. And then there are things like rates and taxes, government’s ‘red tape’; labour issues, political uncertainty and fierce competition.

Sipho will need the all the help he can get, and lots of good fortune to start his own business and cross the fence to Sandton…

Concluding

There are many people like Sipho in South Africa. They are poor, hungry and desperate. Maybe the answer for them is to join the digital economy. Government and private sector can facilitate access by means of free Wi-Fi at internet cafes near the homes. It is a place where they can get information about ‘starting a business’ and also to join a group on the social networks.

Read also: Home-based business – Important Startup Strategies

Main image: Pixnio

 

Making Difficult Decisions are Necessary to Keep a Business on Track

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Managers making difficult decisions are mostly taken for granted. Someone has to make a decision, and that’s a manager’s job, say most of us. “When you consider why some leaders are successful and some are not, the difference between a successful and unsuccessful leader is often directly linked to the choices and decisions they make”, says Peter Barron Stark, President of Peter Barron Stark Companies.

However, decision making becomes difficult when uncertainty is high, as it is now in the digital era. Indeed, technical and market uncertainty make decision-making difficult and, because information is often complex, understanding a problem is a challenge and often impossible before the problem is solved 1.

Making difficult decisions in times of uncertainty

Uncertainty is the difference between the amount of knowledge necessary to perform a task and the amount of knowledge already available within the company 2. Therefore, uncertainty refers to a lack of information regarding potential outcomes. So, it seems that knowledge is a critical element that is needed to make sound decisions.

Not so, says Malcolm Gladwell, (Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking):  “The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.” Decisions that seem to be the most difficult are those that require a deeper level of thought.

Kescia D. Gray suggests in the Corporate Wellness Magazine the following five steps that will help you to make better decisions in times of uncertainty:

Step 1: Identify your goal. Identify the purpose of your decision by asking yourself what exactly is the problem that needs to be solved? And why does this problem need to be solved?

Step 2: Gather information for weighing your options. It will help you to better understand what needs to be done in solving the problem, and will also help to generate ideas for a possible solution.

Step 3: Consider the consequences. In this step, you will be asking yourself what is likely to be the results of your decision.   How will it affect you now?  And how will it affect your future?

Step 4: Make your decision. Now that you have identified your goal, gathered all necessary information, and weighed the consequences, it is time to make a choice and actually execute your final decision.

Step 5: Evaluate your decision. Once you have made your final decision and put it into action, it is necessary to evaluate the decision and the steps you have taken to ensure that it works.

Concluding

All right, according to Psychology Today, in the real world, most of our choices only need to be good enough, not perfect. Nevertheless, to understand the decision that you must make, you need recent, reliable and relevant information. Also, try not to make the decision on your own. By involving your team, the decision that you make may be accepted and understood more. As result of this, making difficult decisions may become easier.

Read also: The Humanity of Decision-Making: A Business Perspective…

Notes

1 Sweere, R.A. 2009. Improve Understanding and Decision-making in Standardization and Technology Licensing Projects by Applying Soft Systems Methodology and Scenario Thinking to Wicked Problems, Dissertation: Master of Science in Innovation Management, Technology University of Eindhoven.

2Liu, R. and Hart, S. 2011. Does experience matter? — A study of knowledge processes and uncertainty reduction in solution innovation, Industrial Marketing Management, 40:691-698.

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The Humanity of Decision-Making: A Business Perspective…

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Even with Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and Decision Support Systems, humans mostly need to make the final decisions regarding which business strategies they will pursue. As result of this, we can’t escape the humanity of decision-making in business environments.

Nevertheless, because decisions are made by humans, they are influenced by human-like behaviour such as emotions (think about the primary emotions 1: love, joy, surprise, anger, sadness and fear). Since emotions affect our decision-making, without emotion decision-making becomes ineffective says Erik Larson in Forbes.

Indeed, every decision that we make has an outcome. The outcome can be good, bad or nothing…

The humanity of decision-making – success

We all strive to be successful in our businesses. Therefore, if we make the right decisions the financial rewards are great! Even better are accolades that go with decisions that had worked out well – promotion, invites to join the top management strategy workshops, overseas visits… Is that true? Hardly…

Mark Suster made the following remark in ‘Both Sides’: “Have you ever noticed how many leaders are afraid of offering promotions to individual superstars because they’re worried about the impact on the rest of her teammates?” So, if you made a decision to earn or save your company millions of dollars, don’t hold your breath to be rewarded or recognized – you may die suffocating

But what happens when your decision went wrong and is costing your company money?

The humanity of decision-making – failure

Decision-making is about things that will happen in the future. Because nobody can accurately predicts what will happen in the future, many decisions that we make go wrong. Also, there may be dire consequences for decision makers when the decisions they made go south. Somebody needs to be blamed…

One of the reasons that contribute to a series of decision failures is the perceived invincibility of the decision-makers. Praise from others and routinized “success patterns” contribute to managers’ beliefs that their decisions are unlikely to fail. As a result, they make decisions and then move on to the next initiative without considering the outcomes of the earlier decisions 2. A disaster waiting to happen…

And what if no decisions are taken? That’s even worse.

The humanity of not making decisions

“Inability to make decisions is one of the principal reasons executives fail. Deficiency in decision-making ranks much higher than lack of specific knowledge or technical know-how as an indicator of leadership failure.” John C Maxwell quoted in BrainyQuote.com.

So if you not able or if you’re afraid to make decisions in your business, you’re in anyway screwed. Good luck for you and your business should you stick around…

Concluding

Decision-making is done by everyone in an organisation. The higher the position of the decision-maker, the bigger the consequences of his/her decisions. That’s way people sometimes behave differently when confronted with making a decision. This piece is an introduction on a series of post about decision-making to follow.

Further reading:    The Reasons Why Start-up Businesses Fail

Notes

1 Shaver, P., Schwartz, J., Kirson, D. and O’Connor, C. 2001. Emotional Knowledge: Further Exploration of a Prototype Approach, In G. Parrott (Eds.), Emotions in Social Psychology: Essential Readings, 26-56. Philadelphia, PA: Psychology Press.

2 Shimizu, K. and Hitt, M.A. 2004. Strategic flexibility: Organizational preparedness to reverse ineffective strategic decisions, The Academy of Management Executive, 18(4):44-59.

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