Last Updated on December 13, 2022 by Ryleigh Stangness
Your website is an extension of your brand
Your website is your store, so take the time to build a functional, beautiful site that will appeal to your customer base. If you have the technical skills, you can build the website yourself, or you can hire a developer and work with them to design the websit
Luckily, there are a lot of easy-to-use solutions available to business owners today, and it is much easier to build your own website today than it was even five or ten years ago. With Helcim, you can quickly put together a quick and simple Online Checkout to seamlessly include this as part of your website checkout experience. Whether you decide to use a developer or build the website yourself, you will want to ensure a few key elements are included to give your customers the best user experience possible.
In this article we will discuss not only the benefits of an online store, but what you need to include, 3 details to be mindful of, and tips on getting started.
Also, be sure to check out our video guide to optimizing your website for sales.
Benefits of having an online store for your business
Let's dig into the importance of having an online store and those benefits a little deeper before looking at the next steps to determine exactly which features you should look for when comparing your options and how to get started creating an online business.
Benefits of having an online store include:
- Having an online presence
- Connecting with more customers
- Another way to generate income
- Low overhead costs such as rent, utilities, and staff wages
Read on to learn the basic requirements every business needs to include on their eCommerce website.
8 must-have sections to include on your eCommerce site
1. Recognizable domain name
You will want to make sure your domain name aligns with your business's name and is recognizable to your customers. By keeping your domain name consistent with your business's name, it will be easier for customers to find your website and to know immediately that they are on the right page.
An easy way to get a custom domain name is by purchasing one from a domain registrar like GoDaddy.com, so you do not have to use the default URL provided by the site-builder.
2. Home page
The Home Page of your online store is the site's first point of contact with your customers when they go to your site's main URL and will likely account for most of your website traffic. It's important that your home page provides easy navigation to anywhere else on your site that people might want to visit before making a purchase. You can also use your main page to highlight any current promotions or featured products that you might want your customers to be aware of.
3. Product catalog and product pages
Your Product Catalog and Product Pages are where you will share all the information related to the products you're selling to your customers. To increase the likelihood that customers are going to understand the value you're offering and make a purchase, it's important to write detailed and informative product descriptions. If you want to know more about how to manage your product catalog, you can check out our article on How to Create an Easy to Use Product Catalog with SKUs.
4. About Us section
If your customers are looking to learn more about your company, they will visit the About Us page. This page is a great place to share your store's mission, and why you decided to go into business. This is your chance to share your story with your customers and to develop a relationship with the people who are visiting your online store. People are more likely to identify with your brand and your products if they're able to personally identify with your story.
5. Shipping policy and terms & conditions
Unlike your standard brick-and-mortar stores, because your business is based entirely online, you will need to have a clear idea of how you will be shipping products to customers. Once you have the details of your shipping strategies and options, adding them to your website ensures that customers understand the nature of your business's return policy, shipping times, and any associated costs that they will need to cover. By clearly outlining your shipping policy and terms and conditions, you are setting customer's expectations to align with what your business can deliver.
6. Contact Us section
Your customers are going to have questions, so be sure to list your contact information along with the timeframe for responses, so they can get in touch with you. There is nothing worse than having an already frustrated customer get even more frustrated because they can't find how to contact your business.
7. Header and footer menus
You can use your header and footer menus to make it easy for customers to navigate through your website and find the information they are looking for quickly. A website header is one of the most valuable areas of your website because it can direct customers to wherever they want to go within your site. Once you design your website, have some friends or family members review your site. Having a fresh set of eyes look at your site can let you know if the navigation is intuitive and easy to use, or if it could use a few edits.
8. Eye-catching images
Complete your site with great visual media such as hero images and beautiful product images that showcase your products and brand clearly to customers. People are visually motivated, and great images can make all the difference in making a sale. If you don't have the photography skills yourself, you can partner with local photographers, or use stock images for your website.
3 critical details of a successful online store
Your online store should offer a seamless transition for customers going from in-person to online interactions with your business. This attention to detail in branding can significantly impact how customers feel and whether they decide to complete a purchase or share your products and services with others. Consider using a payment processor that makes it easy to set up and host your site, while also offering different design and customization options so you can ensure your online store matches your brand. Easy to use tools mean you can forgo hiring programmers and incurring additional costs to your business.
Other features to seek out or build into your online store would be the ability to add discount codes, configure your tax calculations, and either create custom content pages or ensure you are able to edit them without going to your developper every time you need to update a typo. Your business could also create community updates or a blog to share information with your audience, and help you better connect with your customers in an online environment.
Storing customer information can be helpful for strategizing internally while also making it easier to process future payments for your customers. You should be able to customize your data fields when someone is completing a transaction so you can gather the information that matters the most to your business. Whether you are using virtual terminal credit card processing or facilitating online transactions through your online store, all your payment data should sync across your account.
Choosing a payment processor that offers multiple payment acceptance tools can help you integrate subscription models or set up recurring payments to meet your business needs. Additional features like a secure card vault and a self-service customer portal can make it easy to store payment information and allow customers the opportunity to update their information or view their payment history at any time.
If you're going to accept online payments, it's important to set up a secure website for your business. If you’re not building your website from scratch, look for a credit card processing company that sets up your online store with an SSL certificate. Be sure that this is automatically installed, so your business does not have to purchase this from a third-party and incur additional expenses. It's critical that your payment provider can securely store sensitive data in compliance with industry standards, as to avoid costly fines.
Seek out additional security requirements like multi-factor authentication, password protection, and daily data backups that can all help protect your business and your customer's sensitive payment information.
A provider can offer you transparency and make these processes and tools clear and easy to use but make sure to look to see if they have a readily available customer service team to assist your company if ever needed. Hint: selecting a provider that is already trusted by thousands, with a solid reputation for protecting sensitive business data can help give your business peace of mind.
Tips on how to get started
Now that you have a solid understanding of what features to prioritize when creating your online store, and some of the core features you should look for when selecting your online store provider or developper, you're ready to get started. Here are some things to keep in mind when you're first setting up your online store.
It's okay to start small:
Don't feel like you have to add all of your products or service offerings online right away. It's okay if your online store is not a replica of your in-person store. You can always add new products over time as you adjust to selling online. You can also choose to use your online store specifically for seasonal or temporary promotions, for example, a holiday collection, special gift packs, or pre-orders for hard to get products. One caveat about hiring third-party web designers and developers is that it can be hard to add or change things after the fact, and can end up costing you more. It can be hard to make changes if you can’t get ahold of your developper as well, so make sure you have access and easy-to-use pages and templates.
Learn as you go:
The best way to learn how to sell products online is to get started. Once you launch your online store and start getting offers, you will see what products customers are most interested in and what sells the best. From here, you can adjust your product descriptions, images, and how you promote your store to increase your sales.
Take great photos:
Having beautiful images that accurately represent your products is a great way to encourage sales and help customers feel confident in their purchases. Even if you're not a professional photographer, you can add a mix of customer photos, supplier images, or your photos to highlight your products. Try to include multiple images for each product to give customers a good sense of each item.
Organize your products:
Sorting products into categories, collections, and brands can make it easier for customers to find what they are looking for and for you to highlight specific items for sales or promotions. Using the available organizational tools in your online store helps keep your store easy to navigate.
Add your business details:
Having clear merchant policies on your shipping, return, and warranty policies is an important part of operating your online store. Once you have these policies covered, we also recommend including a brief About Us page so customers can begin to build a relationship with your brand. Adding blog content and articles is another way to regularly connect with your customers and drive traffic to your online store.
Let people know:
Once you have set up your online store, it's time to let people know about it. Include a link to your store in your social media profiles and regularly encourage customers to visit your online store to check out new products in your social posts. Ensuring that you mention your online store in all your advertising materials lets more customers know they can connect with you online and in-person.
Ultimately, what works for you will depend on your business, the products or services you sell, and how you want to interact with your customers. If this is your first time looking at the available online store options or hiring a developper, you might find the different choices overwhelming. As long as your final store is easy for you to use and helps you accept payments, you're in good shape.
Here are the features that we think are great to look for in an online store:
- Fully-hosted so you don't have to worry about paying for web domain hosting or a server and can start selling faster.
- Integrated payments and shopping carts to avoid the need for third-party integrations and trying to get multiple pieces of software to work together.
- Customization options allow you to design a store that looks and feels like your business so you can maintain a consistent brand whether customers are shopping with you in-person or online.
- Shipping integrations that make it easy to create and track orders as they are submitted. If you want to ship products to customers, integrations can make it a lot easier to manage these orders.
- Tax calculations to ensure you charge customers accurately every time they place an order with your store.
- Discount codes and promotions to reward your top customers and incentivize more sales.
- Ability to add custom content and messaging to your online store, including an about us page, blog posts, and custom thank you pages. Taking the time to add extra content and details to your website helps your existing customers stay connected to your brand and lets new customers get to know you better when they first discover your online store.
These features will help you get started in offering an online shopping experience for your customers. As you adjust to online sales, you can continue to add more features and integrations to reach more customers and improve their shopping and checkout experience.