Over the last couple of weeks, we have had numerous enquiries about what is involved with setting up an online store. How quick and easy it is to move your business online? Can it work with services as well as products?

With the unusual circumstances businesses are having to operate in looking as if they could be lasting up to a year, we thought we would put together a quick FAQ guide on the options for building eCommerce sites and online stores.

How long does it take to start an online store?

Generally, not as long as you might expect! Our average customer turnaround for an online store is between 2 to 3 weeks. This does depend on a number of factors, namely; 

  • What condition your current website is in
  • What system your website is created in (WordPress/Magento etc)
  • How many products/services you offer
  • The complexity of your sales process

If your current site is a WordPress site that we can add online shopping features to, we can potentially have you up and running in 7-14 days. If a new store needs to be created from scratch, you would be looking at 14-21 days on average.

 

How much does it cost to build an online store?

We like to keep things simple here. Many sites will break down costs for hosting, eCommerce plugins, SSL certificates etc. The only recurring cost for a website (outside of payment processing costs which you would incur in any business set-up) is your hosting costs. These run at approx. £100 per year (inc SSL Certificate) for a local, fast and reliable hosting company.

Costs are predominantly driven by complexity of features and functionality as well as the number of products and services offered.

A simple online store for upto 50 products with a single payment option, basic search and filtering capabilities and click & collect / home delivery could start as little as £1,500.00

A more sophisticated online store with several hundred products, multiple product configuration options, multiple payment methods etc would be closer to £2,500 - £3,000

 

What features can an online store offer?

The options really are nearly limitless! One of the main reasons we use WooCommerce is it’s flexibility. It allows us to add lots of additional features by installing various plugins. There are literally thousands of specific plugins that can be used to extend an online shop’s functionality, offering extra features like automatic booking, subscriptions, payment and shipping platform integration, etc.

  • All of our online stores are offered with the following basic features:
  • Search and filter by all key categories
  • Shopping cart and wishlist integration
  • Order online and/or click and collect in store
  • Multiple payment and shipping options

 

What software do you use to build an online store?

We use a combination of WordPress and WooCommerce to build our online stores.

WordPress is the most popular website builder on the market. Over 35% of all websites on the internet are currently built using WordPress. WordPress allows users to build an online store or full eCommerce platform from scratch, or add shopping cart functionality to an existing website.

WooCommerce is an open-source eCommerce platform that makes it quick and easy to start selling products and services online. Over the years, it has become the most popular eCommerce platform in the world used by millions of small and large businesses to power their online stores.

 

Can we manage our online store to save on costs?

Yes! This is one of the main benefits of the technology we use to build websites and online stores. It is easy to make changes such as pricing, product specifications, adding new products and services etc. Whilst we are always on-hand to answer questions and help in any way we can, we love seeing our customers take ownership of their sites and stores and develop them further over time.

We always include full user training on all essential functionality before the site goes live. We will guide you through the first updates you make until you are confident you’ve got the hang of it.

 

What Kind of Products I can sell with WooCommerce?

You can sell any kind of products or service through an online store, providing it is configured properly for your business. If you are supplying physical goods (products that require shipping), There are extensions that allow you to integrate dropshipping capabilities, auction site and multi-vendor marketplace features.

For services, there are plugins to use your store as a booking platform for example. One of our latest online stores is for a beauty clinic. The store allows customers to book times for treatments directly into their diary and take payment in advance. Read the Glam Skin case study here.

 

Can I integrate Dropshipping into an online store?

Yes, you can. In fact, WooCommerce is the most popular choice to build a dropshipping store. There are several excellent plugins that allow you to easily handle orders, manage vendors, and basically automate the whole process.

 

Why not use a SaaS eCommerce platform instead?

These are definitely options worth considering if you have the time and experience yourself to build your own online store. One of the key questions we ask our customers is whether the intention is to create an online store simply to get through the current unusual economic conditions or, if you are going to keep the online store going when things return to ‘normal’ – whatever that may look like.

Whilst the up-front costs can be lower using an eCommerce platform provider, you will find your monthly/annual cost significantly higher. The standard costs of the two most popular eCommerce platforms is circa £80 per month and the advanced packages are circa £250 - £299 per month. There can be other additional costs incurred through payment processing for example. If you do not wish to use the proprietary payment solution offered by Shopify, they will charge you an additional +2.0% fee on top of the 2.9% charged by the likes of PayPal and Stripe for example.

There are many other factors to consider in this scenario, but to try and keep it simple, when building your own online store, you are paying more up-front to build a site specific to your requirements that you will own outright in perpetuity. With a SaaS platform provider, you are renting space to create your store with lower up-front costs, but are tied into much higher monthly charges.