Is your business ready to start selling online?

A quick browse through the sites of some of the biggest players in e-commerce – from multinational supermarkets and high street chains, to eBay and Amazon – could leave you feeling overwhelmed at the thought of trying to start selling your own items online.

These are big budget eCommerce websites with attractive designs and efficient payment gateways that have evolved after months of development work.

Can I really create a professional looking eCommerce site on a low budget?

As you start to plan your route to selling online you’ll probably be considering two options: Either to sink a huge amount of time and money into engaging a web design and development agency to build a web store from scratch, or to just sell through Amazon and give them a cut of your profits.

There is a third option which is becoming increasingly popular and that’s to design and run your own shop using one of the ever-expanding range of free or low-cost website platforms.

WordPress and WooCommerce are free and open-source options for building a website and configuring a storefront, respectively. They make it relatively easy to configure the look and feel of a page to make it look unique and custom-built.

Platforms like these are ideal for anyone who already runs a small commerce business but hasn’t yet started to extend their reach online. Businesses that are at this stage are not large enough to justify the expenditure of outsourcing website development and are likely to want to test the water online before making any big financial commitment to eCommerce.

Start trading online within days

The only real investment needed is time and if you’re prepared to put a bit of work in to set up your online store you could be trading online within days.

The advantage of doing it yourself is that, as a business owner, you know your customers better than anyone and understand their buying journey. Even if you did ask a web development agency or consultant to build a website for you, it would still be crucial to brief them about your customer, your products and how you want the site to look. By building it yourself you can try out different looks until you’re happy with the design and layout.

Hosting your eCommerce site

Once your site is built you’ll need to find a web hosting provider. There will be a cost attached to this and you may decide that this is an area where it isn’t appropriate to go for the lowest cost option.

Free web hosting options can leave a lot to be desired. They are designed to be deficient in certain areas to encourage users to upgrade for better features. Some require sites to carry the free hosting provider’s adverts, or prevent the hosting of custom code required for the site to operate.

It’s worth shopping around for reliable, stable hosting and although it won’t be free, the investment will be minimal compared to the cost of having an eCommerce website custom built from scratch.