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Many businesses are now taking advantage of the accessibility of the internet, which is particularly useful if you do not have access to a physical store. Nowadays, you can turn your hobby into a profit-making venture with one of the many available options for setting up a successful online store. However, deciding to set up an online shop can be a daunting process, especially if you do not have extensive technological or business experience. Therefore, it is essential to develop a good plan and do your research. For some guidance, this article will give you insight into how to set up an online store.

What Is the Purpose of Your Online Shop?

Firstly, you need to decide what goals you want to achieve with your online store and what services you want to offer your customers online. Decide what you will sell on your online store and whether those products translate to a digital context. Do you want your customers to pay for products online, or do they have to pick up and pay for your products in-store? If you solely operate online, you will need to consider delivery processes and how you will receive customer payments.

For example, say you want to set up an online shop with a limited product range to prompt more customers to your physical store. The website you need will be very different from the one where you only operate online.

When setting up an online shop, there are various factors you need to consider. These will vary depending on the capabilities you want your online store to have. Ideally, you should give thought to:

  • your domain name;
  • your website’s visual design;
  • SEO management;
  • whether you need online payment processing capabilities;
  • your website content;
  • international vs local sales capabilities;
  • delivery matters and shipping fees;
  • managing inventory;
  • cybersecurity issues; and
  • meeting your online legal obligations.

On top of this, you will also have the usual considerations in setting up a new business if you are starting from scratch. These include tax obligations and various record-keeping requirements.

Choosing a Platform

Once you have planned what you need for your online store, you need to set up your online shop using a platform that meets those needs. There are lots of options out there, including: 

Selling on an Online Marketplace

Build a store page on a marketplace like Trade Me or Felt, from which you can sell your products. These are easy to use, and you have less responsibility. However, you lose a lot of control and compete with other sellers.

Building Your Own Website

You could operate from your own bespoke site. You will need to register a domain name and find a web host. Building your own website is difficult if you do not have coding experience, but you can pay someone else to do it. You are responsible for ensuring the site meets any legal requirements, such as having secure payment protocols.

Using an eCommerce Platform

You can create your shop’s website using an eCommerce platform, such as Shopify or Squarespace, which provide technical and administrative services. They can also provide useful templates and tools for your business, such as sending automated invoices and shipping notifications to your customers. These platforms will usually charge you a fee.

There are benefits to each of these options, so you must do your research and find one that works for you. A good option is to operate both on an online marketplace and have your own store webpage, whether that be your own bespoke website or with an eCommerce platform. You can take advantage of the customers the marketplace may bring you and direct them to your larger online store.

Building Your Store

Once you have decided the form your online shop will take, you need to create it. This process will vary in complexity, depending on the platform you decide to use.

The first page your customers see on your online store is like your shop window. If designing your own website or using templates by an eCommerce platform, you want your store to be:

  • professional-looking;
  • easy to navigate;
  • secure; and
  • informative.

Ensure that product listings are clear and accurate and that descriptions are concise and to the point. It is a good idea, when you set up an online shop, to integrate your site with your social media pages. Services like Google Analytics can tell you things like which pages or links customers clicked the most and where you rank in internet search results. Make sure you are aware of your privacy obligations linked to this.

Your store should have:

  • a home page;
  • an about page;
  • your contact details;
  • clear product listings with accurate photos; 
  • secure payment options if you want customers to pay online;
  • a terms and conditions page;
  • website terms of use;
  • a privacy policy; and
  • other robust and comprehensive store policies suitable for your context.

Key Takeaways

Setting up an online store can be a great way to diversify your business and find new customers. Make sure you are clear about your goals for the store from the start to plan appropriately. If you would like more information or help with setting up your online shop, contact LegalVision’s eCommerce lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an eCommerce platform?

An eCommerce platform is a third party service that offers website-building functions for online stores. They handle the technical side, such as online payment options, and you can focus on actually running your business online. They will charge you a regular fee.

What do web analytics do?

Web analytics will use cookies to analyse what visitors do on your online shop. They can also measure your SEO and provide insights into your web popularity.

Should I build my own eCommerce website?

You can build your own website for selling your goods and managing an eCommerce business. However, this can be difficult if you do not have the necessary know-how or experience. If you want to do this, you should get expert assistance to ensure your site is secure and functions correctly.

What policies does my online store need?

If you deliver goods to your customers, you should have a shipping policy. You should have a returns and exchanges policy that details when customers can return goods and a privacy policy that details how you handle personal information.

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