There’s no denying that businesses love using open-source e-commerce platforms. From OpenCart to osCommerce, there is a wide array of choice out there.
The beauty of using open-source software is that you have the option to adapt the underlying code as you see fit. When you use a hosted solution, you don’t have such control. That means you have to rely on the mercy of the vendor to resolve your queries.
There’s a great support network made up of other users and programmers for open-source e-commerce platforms. Of course, one can always use a third-party firm for support, should they need it. Without further ado, these 10 easy steps will help you get started with your online store:
1. Buy a domain name
Before you can start selling online, you’ll need to give people your site address. If you don’t have a domain name, you can’t go any further with your e-commerce plans. It’s as simple as that!
Domain names are cheap and easy to get. There are millions of vendors that sell them! All you need to do is choose one local to you that offers good pricing and support.
2. Organize some hosting for your website
The next stage is to link your new domain name to a Web “host” or server. This is the physical system that will store and serve your site files to visitors.
Most platforms use the PHP language, so it’s crucial your Web host supports it. They will also need to use the MySQL database system. Again, it’s pretty standard with most hosting providers.
3. Protect your e-commerce site with SSL
An SSL “certificate” enables your site to encrypt data sent and received to it. Pricing for such certificates vary, but you can get them as cheap as £10/year.
I recommend that you select an SSL certificate that offers 256-bit encryption. Examples include Comodo and RapidSSL. An SSL certificate is a must-have to protect the privacy of your users.
4. Choose a payment gateway for your site
Next, you will need to determine how your site will accept payments. Aside from PayPal, you can accept card payments if you set up a payment gateway and merchant account.
Companies like SagePay, WorldPay and Skrill, are often used by e-commerce sites in the UK. The application process can usually take a couple of weeks, so bear that fact in mind.
5. Set up a cloud hosting account
You might be thinking that you’ve already got a hosting account, so why do you need another one? The answer is simple: speed. For SEO purposes, it makes sense to serve static content like images from a cloud server like Amazon S3.
The brilliant thing about cloud hosting is that your fees will usually be just a few pence each month.
6. Install your e-commerce software on your server
Now you’re ready to install and configure the system you wish to use on your server! You can download the software direct from the author’s website. Of course, many hosts offer a one-click installation process through the control panel system.
Be sure to always use the latest version. That way, you won’t have to worry about issues like bugs that affect older releases.
7. Get some help (if you need it)
Do you have limited IT or technical knowledge? If so, it makes sense to hire a firm that provides technical support. For example, let’s say that you want to work with the excellent Magento platform.
It’s easy to find a firm that can provide you with Magento support. They can help you with setup issues, customisation and bespoke development work.
Yes, there’s plenty of free online support, especially on user forums. But, sometimes it’s just easier and quicker to get a pro in to sort your site out for you.
8. Customise the look and feel of your site
A default theme will comes with your chosen e-commerce platform as standard. But, I recommend that you either select a different one or get one created for you. The last thing you want to do is have your site look like others online!
This is going to be your virtual shop front. It’s essential you make it eye-catching and memorable.
9. Add your products
You now need to start adding product details and photographs to your installation. Be sure to make each product attractive with good sales copy and photos.
If you need to, hire a copywriter and product photographer to make your products stand out. Yes, that means spending more money. But, it’ll be worth it when you get flooded with orders!
10. Start selling
Now you’re ready to start selling from your e-commerce site! Make sure that you market your site both online and offline. Thanks for reading, and good luck!