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May, 09 2011

OPENING AN ONLINE STORE

Opening an online store, like any other new venture, requires the right information and the right tools. So, here's your guide to start one.

IF you gather all the information you need before you start your online store, you will be far ahead of most people who start online stores. Many people launch e-commerce sites only to realise they lack some essential element. So, assemble everything prior to the launch. It will save you numerous headaches.

Hire a web designer

Developing an interactive online store, which eventually contributes to the bottom line, requires much deliberation. Hiring a web designer may just do that. He will turn your vision of the store into reality.

Assessing who's the one for you

You can choose between a local player, established player or a freelancer. Usually, the cost of designing a website varies, a local company may charge around Rs 1-1.5 lakh, an established player may cost Rs 3-5 lakh and freelancers may charge Rs 35,000 to 40,000.

While hiring a company, you should check their previous works/projects and then decide. Local companies are more economical than the big players in the industry. A big fish might have a good appetite but may surprise you in the end with the product, leaving you wondering why you compromised, so choose wisely.

Smart Start Tip: Hiring a freelancer for the whole process is not a good idea, as he will have expertise only in few domains.

Acquiring web space, bandwidth and servers

As one needs to upload product pictures, videos or specifications, having the right amount of web space will be a significant enabler in deciding the performance of the e-store and leaving the scope for further portfolio expansion. There should not be any space constraint. Ideally, one might need to have unlimited web space (150 Gb) that will cost you USD 4 to 5 a month (Rs 250/month). Depending on the requirement, one can double this space.

Getting an unlimited bandwidth for the website is also very important. This unlimited bandwidth will ensure maximum speed and website will not take too long to open. Websites having late response time have less visitors. This might prove a prospective sale loss.

Picking the right server

Speed, availability, crash and responsiveness are the key elements of e-shop to make it a pleasant or odious experience for customers. No one will like to shop from an e-shop that is not responding or it is very slow or crashes while making payment. Think of a shop in real terms that remains close most of the time or does not has anyone to entertain a query. No one would like to visit that shop again despite the fact that the shop has good products.

A client, typical a web browser or web crawler, initiates communication by making a request for a specific resource using HTTP and the server responds with the content of that resource or an error message if unable to do so. The resource is typically a real file on the server's secondary memory but this is not necessarily the case and depends on how the web server is implemented, making it all the more critical.

Smart Start Tip: Indian servers are good but generally encounter more of downtime (the period for which the system fails to perform its primary function). South Asian servers perform constantly well and the speed is also good.

Registering domain name

Getting a domain name involves registering the desired name of the e-store with ICANN through a domain name registrar. This involves going to a registrar, paying a registration fee that costs around USD 10 to USD 35 for that name. This needs to be annually renewed for (usually) the same amount per annum.

Smart Start Tip: Various websites like Godaddy.com, Dotster, etc offers almost all the domain names. Getting a dotcom name costs Rs 450-500 per year and extra Rs 300, if transfered from another registrar.

Create a secure payment policy

One needs either a credit card or a PayPal account to pay for the domain. It will allow you to claim and get the domain name immediately on application. Having a payment option alone will not ensure profits, one needs to make sure people believe that they will not be cheated and that their transactions are safe.

Acquiring an SSL certificate

An SSL certificate ensures e-retailer's and customers' safety by protecting the information that's flowing to and from your website. It encrypts names, addresses, passwords, account and credit card numbers and hackers and other online criminals can't read them. An SSL certificate serves as an electronic passport. It establishes the website's authenticity and credibility and enables the browser and web server to build a secure, encrypted connection.

The VeriSign Trust Seal is a dynamic, animated graphic that displays web pages secured by VeriSign SSL certificates and websites authenticated by VeriSign. Similarly, PayPal allows payments and money transfers to be made through the Internet.

Both Verisign and PayPal are secure options of payments, both provide SSL certificate to the client, which ensure no eavesdropping by encrypting important information of both the parties. Both provide a bundle of operations like net banking, credit card, shopping cart, buy button, etc.

Smart Start Tip: This kind of payment feature is gaining popularity but is subject to area and reach. It increases cost too. People in India are reluctant using their credit/debit card online. To ease that, most online companies have started taking payment on delivery, which is proving to be successful.

Upload pictures and videos

Uploading pictures is quite easy but the challenge is to retain the quality and actual essence of the product. The main purpose of uploading picture is that the customer is able to see the exact product, so don't try much of visual.

Choosing a camera

Choosing the camera from a wide range is challenging. Advisably, have a DSLR or hire a professional photographer, he'll also manage models if you have a requirement for that. It will be quite hard for you to manage the entire thing, so don't compromise on a professional photographer.

Smart Start Tip: If you have hired models for product, then project only half face. This will reduce the cost and secondly, it will be more focused as you won't be showing dazzling faces or expressions. The customer will only notice the product's material, colour, texture, etc.

Inserting video

Inserting video can prove beneficial for businesses like fashion and lifestyle. Don't forget to give the description of the model, her height, weight, waist and other relevant information required. A video should be made keeping in mind that it should project a 360 degree view.

Thumbnail is a very important aspect of sales because it is the first glance that a customer has on the product. Thumbnails are small pictures that provide a brief and concise description of product.

Smart Start Tip: Simple background such as white or black will give maximum contrast and prove to be time and money-saving. A white or black background (according to colour scheme of your product) will give a true outline and an elegant look.

Uploading product description

Providing accurate description of a product is very necessary. It gives a clear picture of the product to the customer, as he/she cannot feel it. This will make it easy for them to take risk and buy from your e-shop. Detail of shipment and other terms and conditions have to be clearly defined for making mutually understood and beneficial choices.

Smart Start Tip: Interactive features like sharing, mailing, reviews, recommendation, etc, can ensure more value to the product and improvement in the overall customer experience.

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