How to build a successful independent station? Website building tools, newbie minefields and successful case exchange
Joining an independent website is only way for cross-border e-commerce merchants to develop an omnichannel business. Owning your own e-commerce website is a new revenue growth point that helps build and grow a brand without being tied to a platform.
So how do you build a successful e-commerce website?
Step 1: Find Right Website Building Platform
The first step to building an eCommerce website is choosing a website building tool platform that suits your needs. This is a relatively simple, fast and inexpensive way.
Currently, well-known website building tool platforms are Shopify, Wix, and BigCommerce. Which one to choose can be decided according to your business needs and business scale because they all have their advantages and disadvantages.
Alternatively, if you have programming skills, you can use an open source website building system like WordPress or Magento to create an eCommerce website. This process is highly technical, you may need to hire programmers and use servers, cost and time are relatively high.
Check your website builder
If you can't decide quickly, I suggest you sign up for free trials of several website builders to test and compare them to find right platform for your company and product. You can use following points as a guide for selection:
oIs it easy to choose a template/theme and make custom changes?
oIs website template right for your business?
oIs it convenient to add products and categorize them?
oCan I edit navigation bar or add new pages?
Step 2. Choose perfect package
Once you've tested and validated website building tools platform, you'll need to subscribe to right package before moving on to next step in website building process.
Different plan levels have different functions. Which package is best for you depends on size of your business and development goals.
Summary of starting prices (per month) for top five website building platforms:
As a general rule, more products you have and higher your turnover, higher package level you need.
Also, it depends on what features you need. In short, more features you use, higher monthly package fee will be.
You can compare features of similar packages across platforms. If you're unsure, it's a good idea to start with cheaper package first and then upgrade package as needed.
Step 3. Get a domain name for your store.
A good domain name is key to success of an online store. This builds trust of your customers and helps build your brand.
Let's take Nike as an example. Below is Nike URL with domain name in bold:
This is primary domain name. This is what customers see in their browser's address bar and in Google search results. We can say that domain name is your signature.
You can buy domain names from platforms like Shopify for around $10-$20 per year. Alternatively, you can use a domain registrar such as Domain.com to purchase a domain name and link it to a website building platform.
4 tips for choosing a domain name:
oChoose correct country/region code. According to nature of international e-commerce industry, choose globally prevalent .com domain name.
oAvoid using brand names. Including brand or product names in your domain name can lead to legal problems.
oBe innovative and unique. A unique domain name can set you apart from competition, but it shouldn't be so obscure that you risk losing organic search traffic.
oAdd keywords. Adding popular search terms to your domain name can help you improve your site's search engine rankings, and in a sense, traffic is sales.
It's important to note that after registering a domain name for one year, set a calendar to remind yourself that you can renew domain name before it expires, otherwise misappropriated.
If you already have a domain name, you can transfer website name to website builder and terminate agreement with original domain name provider. In addition, you can link original domain name to current website builder page.
Step 4. Choose an e-commerce template
Using templates (also called themes) can make your website more functional, enhance look and feel, and save you time and effort.
All you have to do is select a template from your website builder platform.
How to choose right template?
Three questions to think about to decide which template is right for you:
1) What features do you want to have in your store?
2) What style of homepage do you want?
3) How do you want customers to view your website? What about navigation bar requirements?
Before choosing your favorite website template, it is a good idea to select a few templates that you think might be more suitable for testing from templates provided by platform and make a careful decision as some web building tool platforms sites do not allow you to change template.
In addition, main color of site should not only create a comfortable environment for people, but also match temperament of your industry.
(SWL Seller uses Shopify to create a clean navigation bar layout and beautiful website design; source: websitebuilderexpert.com)
Step 5: Customize website template
Once you've chosen a template, you'll need to navigate to your site's administration tools to begin customizing it. You can make almost any change, including:
oText size and font
oIntegrate social networks
Most website building platforms also allow you to embed apps. They can be found in app market and used to populate features not yet on platform.
This is an e-commerce website built with Wix ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence) in just a few minutes. Secondary editing and custom templates are very easy. Sellers only need to replace images, texts, add videos, or change colors. You can customize template to suit your branding and design:
Step 6: Add Your Product
(ZeroGravity.com uses Shopify to style their product pages; source: websitebuilderexpert.com)
With website builder, you have full control over your product pages. The image above is a great example of how style can be combined with minimalism to create a unique look.
Product content to be added mainly includes:
oWeight (physical product)
Documents (for downloadable products such as eBooks).
Different website builder platforms have different limitations:
oNumber of products that can be loaded
oNumber of options per product (same product but different size or color)
oNumber of product options
The three key elements for a product upload are: Product Description, Product Image, and Product Category.
Your product description should not only be compelling, but should not include:
Here is an example of a good product description:
(Firewire Surfboards uses BigCommerce to combine detailed product descriptions with multiple images and videos to attract customers; source: websitebuilderexpert.com)
Another thing you should keep in mind when writing your product description is SEO (search engine optimization). Therefore, your product description should contain several relevant keywords.
With regard to product images, in addition to usual requirements for high image quality, you also need to pay special attention to image optimization. Since more images you have, longer your site will take to load, you need to find right balance between quality images and site speed.
Step 7. Set up a payment method
Payments are an important step that affects number of conversions.
Website builders can help by connecting you directly to a range of different payment methods such as PayPal, Visa, Apple Pay and Mastercard.
Three popular payment methods for e-commerce websites include:
1) Merchant account and payment gateway: you work with a bank and they take your payment and transfer it to your corporate bank account.
2) Payment Gateway Software Package: You are using complex software that connects a shopping cart in a store to a card processing network.
3) Simplified credit card payment processing: You use a checkout service that integrates with your website builder platform, such as Shopify's own payment gateway. Buyers don't need to leave your site to make a purchase.
How is payment security guaranteed?
Web building platforms take care of this for you with SSL certificates. SSL can encrypt your user data to keep your purchases secure.
Below is home page of a store built with Shopify. You can see green padlock in top left corner:
Not only will this increase customer confidence, but it will also make Google trust your website more, which is good for rankings.
Step 8. Arrange Shipping Options
Different website builders offer different delivery options.
There are two things you need to do when setting up shipping in your store:
1) Add correct shipping address to make sure shipping cost and taxes are correct, then you can print shipping labels and get a quote.
2) Define delivery area. Shipping rates vary by country and region. Website builders allow you to charge your customers different rates depending on region they are in.
What are delivery options?
oShop or pickup
oPaid according to price of order
Additionally, platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce have partnerships with big shipping companies, so if you use a website builder, you also have option of getting shipping discounts and real-time shipping rates .
Step 9: After Pre-Testing, Launch Your Site
An important step before launching a website is testing, and with help of website builders, you can also test and review your website very easily.
When testing, you need to check following elements:
1) Payment verification
You need to make sure that:
oOrders support all payment methods
oYou have entered correct shipping method and cost
The items and prices in your cart are correct
oDiscounts or promotions available
OAfter customer enters address, page can display tax
The easiest way is to complete order yourself and immediately return money. It also checks your return process and email notifications.
2) Check if website is working properly
Make sure any clickable buttons or links work properly. It is recommended that you ask friends and family to test your website and leave some comments and feedback.
3) Check website content
A lot of content errors can make your site look unprofessional. Therefore, you need to check spelling and grammar. At same time, it also checks optimization effect of all images.
4) Check if website is optimized for mobile devices
Your store must be responsive on mobile, tablet and desktop.
5) Check if website supports different browsers
Your customers may not only use different devices, but also different browsers. The website builder platform supports most major browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, and IE, and is usually not a big problem.
What do I need to do to check settingsmy site?
Before launching website, be sure to carefully check website settings, otherwise it may affect normal operation of website.
You will need to go to "Store Settings" section of platform and set your preferences for following:
oLanguage: Select language your customers will see on site
oCurrency: select your preferred currency
oTimezone: Setting correct timezone will help track your order
oAddress: shows your contact information
oShop name. Name that appears in store emails, website homepage, and search engines.
oContact person: public phone number and email for customers
oOrder settings: Specify whether product price includes tax
oProduct settings: You can decide what information to show your customers, such as weight or class of product.
At this point, a qualified independent station is considered complete.
The path to an independent website is long and difficult. Successful website development is just beginning of a merchant's business. Follow-ups and conversions are all challenges sellers need to overcome.