Developing an E-commerce or Online Store

E-Commerce

Have you ever wanted to have an E-commerce or Online Store to sell your products, if that is the case, then the information within this article will help you along of just doing that. The information below is a guide to help you with different areas within operating an E-commerce / Online Store. I’ve written this information out based upon my experience and knowledge as to what goes into establishing an e-commerce or online store. If you have any question about any of this information, please contact me.

STEP 1: Set-Up Process

To set up an E-commerce or Online Store, you need to first start off with having a domain name and hosting server. You can get both of these at godaddy.com for a reasonable price.

The next step is to choose a Type of Platform to use; such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal or Zen Cart. Now depending upon how many products you have, or will have from now in the future determines on how to choose the best type of platform to go with. So if you will be starting off with 20-50 products and your product count will increase to the hundreds, any of these type of platforms would be great to use. I recommend using WordPress, reason being is that there are several great plugins to use towards developing an E-commerce or Online Store with.

WordPress plugin I recommend using when developing your e-commerce or online store is: WooCommerce.

If your product count will be less then 10 and will never increase, you can still go with any of these type of platforms mentioned above, or you can just develop the product pages in using your basic .HTML pages by either hand-coding your .HTML pages or using a program such as dreamweaver.

Already have a website, and thinking of adding an online store?

If you already have an existing website, and thinking of adding an online store to your site, the best approach to this would be to use a sub-domain name and installing one of the platforms mentioned above. Here is an example of a sub-domain name: store.yoursite.com. By going with this method, it separates the coding from your existing website to any codes being used within your online store such as JavaScript’s or jQuery from canceling out one another. This has happened before by using WordPress, and using certain plugins, where combining or using several plugins at once, that contain similar or exactly the same variables, and if that is the case, one plugin will stop working all together or, they both cancel one another out.

Even if you don’t have an existing website, and are having one built from the ground up where you’ll be having a store area, its still best to keep your E-commerce or Online Store separated from the rest of your site. This opens up room for your E-commerce store as in development, design aspects, and makes both area of your site run smoothly, so there is no type of interference from plugins within using WordPress.

STEP 2: Product Information

There are several key pieces when it comes to Product Information towards an E-commerce or Online Store. This list below is intended for EACH individual product and is REQUIRED.

  • Product Name – This is the name of your product, keep it short and to the point. If your a Fashion Designer, always put “by name of designer” at the end.
  • Item Number / SKU Number – This is how to keep your products organized within the system.
  • Product Image(s) – You can have more than one image to a product, and if you do, select which images would be the primary image to that product. The other product images are called Alternate Images or Views; such as having a Front View, Side View, Back View, or if the image comes in different colors.
  • Product Description – This is a description about your product. Specify key points about your product by using specific keywords. A product description can be 1-2 sentences long, and this part is good for search engines to help find the product online.
  • Price – Put what the selling price of your product is.
  • Size(s) – If your products come in multiple sizes, such as Small, Medium, Large, or can use numbers, 0,2,4,6 etc.
  • Color(s) – If your product comes in multiple colors, list out the full names of the colors such as, White, Black, Red, etc.
  • Fabric Content – If your products are Shirts, Dresses, Hats, any thing that you can wear, its always best to list the type of fabric the product is made of, along with specific information about how to wash the item, such as if the item is Machine Washable, or Dry Clean Only.
  • Category product falls under – Associate your products with a category. This help sorting out your products on your site, and users can also browse for your products by a category.
  • Shipping Rate – If you wish to specify an amount for each individual product, if not, just use your default settings within the type of payment gateway system you are using.

NOTE: If you have a product that comes in multiple colors and has the same cut or design (such as a T-shirt or Dress, etc..), the one thing you should NOT do is create a product detail page based on each individual color. Instead you create 1 page for that 1 product, and by using a drop down menu, include all colors. The same goes for having multiple sizes.

Naming The URL of The Product Detail Page For Each Product

This is an import factor when creating a Product Detail Page, is naming the URL of that page. The best way to name your pages is by using the Item Number or SKU number, because this is more unique for search engines to pick up. This seems to work best if you have a huge collection of products, or/and if you are a Fashion Designer.

If your an Individual or Band selling products or merch, its then best to use the Product Name as for the URL.

Example:

Say a Band has a t-shirt they are selling at there gigs, and they wanted to place this same t-shirt within an e-commerce or online store, the best way for search engines to pick up this product online is to name the url by the product name. So if the t-shirt was black with the bands logo on it in white, the URL for this product would be: store.yoursite.com/[name of the band]_white_logo_black_t_shirt/

Do not include the “[ ]” when adding in your band name, and if your band name has more than one word separate your words with “_” an underscore.

The URL then has several keywords within it for search engines to find this product for users to buy online. Keywords in this instance would be: Name of the Band, Color of the Logo, Color of the T-shirt.

Submitting Product Information to a Web Developer / Designer

The best way to submit product information to a web developer / designer is to put all information about each product into an Excel file. Its the best way to keep the information organized of all products. Here is an example of how the Excel file should be set-up…

Image1click to view larger

Download Excel Spreadsheet Layout

Also when creating and filling out the Excel file, when you submit it to your web developer / designer, be sure to include ALL the Product Images.

Naming Your Product Image Files

To have your images correspond with the products listed within the Excel file, its best to Name the Product Image Files by the Item / SKU Number. This makes it easy to find the right image of the product to go along with the information regarding that product on the excel file. To re-name each image file, RIGHT CLICK on the file, then go to PROPERTIES on the menu. On the pop-up, delete the current name of the file, and put in the appropriate Item / SKU Number of that product, click OK.

STEP 3: Payment Processing

There are several types of Payment Processing systems, or known as Payment Gateway systems to process your orders that come in. The systems that I recommend using are PayPal, CCNow, or/and Authorize.net.

For Companies / Bands / Individuals that are on a Low or Tight budget use either of the following:

  • PayPal – For selling products on your site, you need to have a Business Standard account. Its easy to use and is FREE to sign up. Customer’s do NOT need there own PayPal account when checking out on your website, they only need a valid credit card or if the customer does have there own PayPal account, they can use that. https://paypal.com/
  • CCNow – Is also easy to use, however there is a sign-up fee involved, but there prices are reasonable. http://www.ccnow.com/

If you have a Large Company, and are well known within your industry, then its best to use Authorize.net.

STEP 4: Shipping Information

Depending upon the type of payment gateway system you choose, either yourself of your web developer will have to configure shipping information, such as shipping rates, and what companies to choose for sending out packages.

Companies (Small or Large) / Bands / Individuals Within the United States:

  • UPS – Shipping domestically for medium / large boxes.
  • USPS – Shipping internationally for medium / large boxes, or domestically for small boxes.

Other parts of the World shipping TO the United States, use either UPS or your Local Postal Service.

Additional Information

Separating Your Merchandise

If you have a physical store, where people can walk in, or if you in a band where you set-up a merch table at your gigs, its best to then separate your merchandise between people being able to purchase items in person and people purchasing your items from your online store. This will prevent any type of backorders, or orders you may have to cancel if you do not have anything in stock of the item a person is wanting to buy off of your online store. Also you can add in the quantity number of each product to your online store, where once it runs out, the system will automatically prevent the next person to being able to buy it since it’s out of stock. Besides that, you can then figure out as to what items sell better between in person and from your online store. If you have a product you sell in person but doesn’t sell well online, then you can come up with some advertising towards that one product to increase sales, or can just take it down from your online store and use it to only sell in person. Also the other way around, if a product doesn’t sell well in person, but does well online, then instead of selling the quantity of that item in person, just sell it only online then. Either way you get money from selling your product.