Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more customers are making online purchases as many shoppers are more comfortable making purchases online rather than in person. EMarketer predicts that in 2020, U.S. adults will spend an additional 24 minutes a day on their mobile devices, and that click-and-collect sales, in which customers purchase online and collect their items at the curbside, will increase by 60.4%. These shifts in consumer habits are predicted to stick even when we return to pre-pandemic conditions.
An online presence is becoming increasingly important to maintain the long-term success of a small business. As the world prepares for an increase in online shopping, follow these three steps to get started on creating your website and online store:
Determine your website and e-commerce goals
Consider your business’s goals and objectives, or what you want to accomplish with your business. Have your goals shifted in response to changing market needs? Think about how you can use a website or ecommerce platform to accomplish your goals. For example, you may want to generate awareness for your company or generate sales online. You can align your business’s goals with website features.
Decide on website features
Keep in mind, some features may cost more than others. Here are some basic functions you may want to consider:
- A custom domain name, such as yourbusiness.com (which typically has a cost ), or a subdomain URL, such as wordpress.yourbusiness.com (which is typically free)
- A blog or news feature allows you to share updates or create content around your business, products or services
- Forms, such as various fields users can utilize to contact your business, sign up for a newsletter, etc.
- A calendar will allow you to feature classes or events
- A content management system (CMS) enables you to create and edit content on your website via a user-friendly interface, rather than code
- An on-site search allows users to search for content within your website
- Social sharing buttons make it easy for users to share content from the pages of your website to their social media platforms
- E-commerce allows you to sell goods or services using the internet
- Product or services features, such as food or drink menus, list of products for sale, or explanation of services available
- Password-protected areas of the site, such as customer account login
- Other things to think through: desktop and mobile friendliness, ability to access real-time data, optimizing for search
Decide who will build your website
You have a variety of options. You can hire someone to create a website for you, use a website builder service or do it yourself. Your list of website functionality needs and wants will help you select the right option for your business.
Hiring someone to design and build your website frees up your time to focus on other tasks, but this option is typically costly. Ask your network of small-business owners or mentors for recommendations on who you should work with. You can also use sites such as freelancer.com or upwork.com or do an online search for a local expert to find someone to build your website.
Website builders are online services that provide drag and drop tools and templates, making is easy for anyone to build a website, regardless of their coding knowledge. Some of these services offer hosting, e-commerce and URL services all in one place. According to PCMag, some of the best website builders are Duda, Wix and Gator.
Creating a website yourself gives you more flexibility over using a website builder tool and can also be less expensive than hiring someone to build a website for you. You’ll purchase your own domain, secure website hosting and implement a content management system (CMS). You can also add an e-commerce platform (more on that below).
For in-depth information, check out Forbes’ easy-to-follow guide on creating websites for small businesses.
Develop an e-commerce strategy to sell products online
Like website builders, e-commerce platforms make it easy for anyone to create an online store, regardless of their technical knowledge.
Think through the features that are most important to you, such as cost, mobile friendliness or speed. According to the Balance Small Business, some of the best e-commerce platforms are Shopify, BigCommerce and Wix.
If you’re looking for more creative control and are able or willing to learn how to code, e-commerce extensions could be an option. E-commerce extensions are fully customizable, open-source platforms that allow you to tailor an online selling experience for your business. One of the most popular is WooCommerce.
There are other resources for selling goods or services online. If you’re selling physical goods, you can work with sites such as Amazon, eBay or Etsy. Restaurants can sell and deliver food online using services such as DoorDash or Uber Eats. Service providers or business owners looking for an easy option may consider billing customers through online payment services.
Payment services facilitate taking payments from customers in a secure, online environment, such as Apple Pay, PayPal and Payment services. Most marketplace, food delivery and payment services options charge for their services, so be sure to review these details before selling your products or services through their systems.
Practice safe cybersecurity
Familiarize yourself with local, state and federal laws for selling products and services online. As you build your website and online store, always make sure you’re creating secure environments for your business and your customers.
As a small business owner, you have a lot of considerations to make when it comes to getting started. Nationwide’s Business Solutions Center can help provide you with tips and tools to guide you on the path towards success.