Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Our top tips on opening an online shop!

Opening an on line shop isn't as difficult as some people might think. OK, OK now I'm not saying that web design it's not an amazing skill, but writing code and web architecture is no more the sole domain of computer geeks! We can all pretty much open a web shop/web site, control the look, design etc. and with a few HTML code tweaks... but let's not get side tracked by that yet! I know, "HTML is exactly WHAT?" you ask! No worries. Let's start it off by keeping it nice and simple.

Starting your own hand made business can be both exciting and terrifying in equal measures. But with hand on heart I must admit that it's by far the best thing I ever did! Having a bricks and mortar shop is expensive so the next best thing -and I hear all the kids are doing it now, shopping on the net is absolutely phat or some shizzle like that!- so lets get started with a few essentials.
If you already have an on line shop then maybe this isn't for you but I truly believe that having more then one can be a good thing too.
For example I have an Etsy, Folksy and my own independent web site so as long as you follow these tips you should be selling in no time! If you're yet to take the plunge then please read on...

  1. Be accurate! Always measure your product, give a true description on materials and any other relevant information which explains the use, safety and manufacture of your products. Also suitability... if you make things with small parts by law you need to reinforce the non suitability of usage of your product by small children. May seem obvious but you really must.
  2. Have your products photographed so they look the best they can! Try not to use a busy back grounds or too many props which deter the eye from the actual thing you are selling. Out of focus, dark snap shots will not sell your product. There are lots of on line tutorials regarding product shooting so investigate before you pay for an expensive photographer... though if you have the funds maybe it'll be worth hiring David Bailey for the day!
  3. If you have more then one on line shop/retailer make sure your prices are consistent. If you sell through a bigger on line retailer then be prepared for a lower profit but this should all balance out with your own sales. Having one price makes it simple and doesn't have your products in direct competition with each other! Over all you win!!!
  4. Create a few services that will make you stand out like free gift wrapping or even free shipping!
  5. Add as many payment options as you can. There are lots of on line payment apps which you can download and add to your on line shop. Consider taking on telephone payments if you have a personal credit card terminal.
  6. Make it as easy and stress free for shoppers to buy on line! Your terms and conditions should be simple but in line with distance selling laws. Your postage fees, return policies etc should be made clear and available to the buyer so they can read before purchasing. You might want to read this: http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/regulation/distance-selling-regulations
  7. Find your own image through branding and having an overall look to your web shop will make you memorable so take a look at your product, packaging and even down to the font you use... it all collates into showcasing the best of YOU and what you are trying to sell!
  8. Be available to answer queries and to be as helpful as possible so make your contact details obvious! Some people won't buy/order if they don't see any contact details. In their eyes it might be a scam! Well would you order something from a place which you can't contact/ trace back in case of an issue/refund or even a missing order? You don't need to add your home address or your phone number but if you are serious about business then maybe get a mobile which is used solely for your business might help. Add a contact name, an email address and even a contact form if you have that option.
  9. Don't be afraid to promote! Tell everyone about your on line shop! Lots of these on line shop hosts will have apps which you can add to social media so don't just open up a web shop and sit in the back ground... get it out there and promote it!!!
  10. Make it personal! Your web site/ web shop should be friendly and personable... it's a reflection of you and your work. Don't be tempted to make it too corporate looking as your shoppers are after something different so don't fall into the trap of making it look like the big boys' on line shops! People who buy hand made in principal do so because they want something unique and different so be yourself! Adding a brief history of who you are and what you do is brilliant but keep it short. By making people aware of the person behind the brand it will make your company that little bit more attractive to the hand made buyer.

image source

So you have the products, the skills and the passion and you still want to open an on line shop?
Choosing the right on line or e commerce provider can be a mine field but it doesn't have to be! Look at what you want from it and if you're not sure research. Find others like you and take inspiration. Find your target buyer and even ask people what they'd like from you and your products. OK, you can't please everyone so take all comments and suggestions as market research and tailor the results to your business and listen to your costumers. They'll let you know what they like through the power of purchase!!!
Still unsure about the size of  do it yourself web shop you want? So it takes a bit of shopping around and commitment... is there anything in life worth doing that doesn't?! If you really want it go for it. And in order for you to go ahead with less labour and more smarts...
Research, research, research! Ask your peers and designer makers for suggestions or who they use. If you see a nice looking web shop then ask. Some makers will have a web designer but many do go for the DIY option especially when starting up.
Reviews on line in forums and groups are also a good place to discuss options and find out what's hot and what's not!

Below are some favourites which can get you started. We've added only a few as we don't want to overload you so these are ones we've tried and tested and loved.
So if you're looking for a simple on line shop with a community to support you and a small commission on sales then try...
For free web hosts which include a shopping cart...
Paid wed site hosts which also have a shopping cart but you may want to add an external shopping cart which I will mention after this...
E commerce /commercial on line shopping carts -note: Ecwid can be added to your existing web site- and web shop hosts...
Remember DIY web shops/web sites need to be maintained, all products need to be uploaded, text needs to be written, edited,  etc. etc. etc. so it's not a magical portal into an easy career!
BUT it's great to have the overall control of your business web site and shop and besides you can always get some help when you make it big time!

I hope these tips and info will help you on to a successful and fruitful journey... maybe into a pretty awesome commercial adventure.
So go on, you made it so get out there and sell it!!!

image courtesy of http://beetrootpress.wordpress.com

Please note that all the for mentioned web sites/ hosts/ service providers have been featured not because we're promoting them -we haven't been paid in anyway by any of them!-  but because through experience they proved to be of an outstanding quality and fitted our needs though please do research into other possibilities and other providers as they might not be suitable for your business. You do so at your own risk.

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