Creating an online store and entering the world of e-commerce is one of the best investment ideas that you can make at the moment. As the digital economy is witnessing a huge revolution from which the Arab world is no longer immune, it is expected that the volume of e-commerce in the Arab world will reach about $13.4 billion during the current year 2020, with over 30 million Arab shoppers. Of course, no one would want to miss this opportunity.
Table of contents:
Determine the products offered by your store
Choose a brand name for your store
Choosing a domain and hosting for the online store
Building an online store
Online store design
Determine the shipping and storage system
Final review and test
Online store insurance
Marketing the online store
How to create a professional online store
There are two main reasons that may push you to establish an online store at the present time, the first of which is: the large size of the e-commerce market, which has become very huge, including the Arab world, as the size of the Arab e-commerce market is estimated at tens of millions of dollars, although it is still virgin with very few stores. Which means there are a lot of opportunities that can be exploited.
The second is the relatively low cost of setting up an online store, especially when compared to expensive traditional stores that require essential elements that online stores do not need, such as renting or buying a store for sale and storage, getting licenses, and administrative procedures, and operating expenses such as water and electricity bills, the Internet, and others.
Now, perhaps the question that comes to your mind is: What is the cost of creating a good online store? Well, there is no specific answer to this question. It depends on the type and size of the store, and the features that you want in it. But you can create an online store for free via the WooCommerce platform, for example. Let’s now go through the steps of creating a professional online store.
- Decide what products your store will offer
The first step before creating an online store is to determine the type of products that this store will sell because defining products is an essential element that directly affects the success of the project. The last thing you want is to open an online store that no one buys from because the market does not need the products you offer. But with millions of items and products out there, how do you choose the right products to sell in the store?
In the beginning, take the time to research your target audience and the products you will be selling. It is likely that you have an initial idea about these products, but this does not mean that these products will be popular. So it is important to check that people will buy these products. There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing the type of products, such as
Availability and demand for products
Are the products you want to sell available in your area of activity? If it is not available, or is far away, in another city, for example, then this is an excellent opportunity, and it will increase your chances of selling those products. What about the demand for these products? Is it big, medium, or little? Simply find products that are in urgent need in the market.
You can start by doing research to find out which products are in high demand by looking at the lists of best-selling products in department stores, and carefully explore the reviews of these products to see if there are any problems associated with them and if you can solve them or offer an alternative. There are also some tools that may help you with this, such as
Google Trends: It allows you to view the search volume for keywords during a specific period and in a specific country. This helps you determine the amount of demand for the products you want to sell.
Trent Hunter: Displays many products that are in high demand globally, with the ability to sort results by industry or industry. You can use it to identify and choose the most popular products.
Price and profit margin
The price is one of the fundamental factors that lead to the success of any online store, so if the price is very cheap, it will be difficult for you to achieve a glorious return on investment. But if the price is too expensive, it is difficult to convince customers to buy. Therefore, it is necessary to choose products at an appropriate price.
If your store will undertake shipping products to their owners, it is important to take the sizes and weights of the products into account. Shipping large and heavy products is expensive, and can affect your profit margin, especially since many customers today expect shipping to be free.
As for the profit margin, it often ranges between 30 and 35%, but this may vary from one industry to another. For example, in the sector of selling electronic devices, the profit margin is lower, while it may be higher in accessories and accessories for phones. Make sure that the profit margin is appropriate, ask the manufacturer about the wholesale price of the product, calculate the costs of establishing the online store, and estimate the profit margin. If not, look for other products.
- Choose a brand name for your online store
It is difficult to find a suitable name for your brand. Do not find the perfect name. The most important thing is the services you provide to your customers. If they like these services, they will remember your name even if they have not heard it before. Remember, there are plenty of examples of e-commerce companies that chose nonsensical names and still succeeded.
There are some criteria that are preferred in your brand name, such as it should be easy to spell and relevant to the industry you are targeting while avoiding names with complex spellings so that people will write it easily. It’s also a good idea for your online store to be the same as your brand name. Try to look for a name that is available with the .com domain suffix. Because of its popularity and reliability compared to other domains.
- Choose a domain and store hosting
Now you need to find a domain name for your online store. This process may take you a lot of time, especially if you are looking for a unique domain name that is short, or that contains a specific keyword. Your preferred domain name will often be taken, so when thinking about creating an online store, select a list of potential domains to use.
An excellent way to get a unique domain name is to search domain-selling sites that allow you to check if a particular domain name is available, with suggestions for similar domain names. Some hosting sites offer a free domain name if you buy hosting from them, but there are some things to consider when choosing a domain name:
Choose a country code:
If you intend to sell your products in a specific country, you can choose that country code. For example (a) as a symbol for Saudi Arabia.
Avoid famous names: You may be subject to lawsuits if you enter a product name or a registered trademark in the domain name of your online store.
Add a keyword: If your online store specializes in selling a specific category of products, try adding a keyword related to that category.
After purchasing the domain name, book hosting for your site. There are many reliable hosting companies to host your store. But remember that some online store-building platforms offer the option to host the store, so don’t rush. You can learn more about how to host your online store in the following article: What is the most suitable web hosting for your startup?
- Building the online store
Not all people have the technical knowledge that enables them to create an online store and access the e-commerce market themselves, so you will have two options to build your store, either to hire a professional web developer or to use one tool dedicated to building online stores.
Hire a web developer
Hiring a web developer is a preferred option for many as it gives them more flexibility. They can request to customize the site according to what they want, and they will have complete control over the details of building the store, and the technology used to build it. This may not be available in the tools for building online stores, but the price of this flexibility and control is that the cost may be greater.
You can hire a highly qualified web developer at reasonable rates through a freelance website. Just specify the details of the project carefully, specifying the expected delivery period and the expected budget, and you will find dozens of offers from the best web developers in the Arab world. Compare them, select the best offer, and start communicating with the developer and agreeing with him on your project.
Choose a ready-made platform to build your store
They specialize in online store-building platform applications for building stores, which do not require technical skills or knowledge of programming and development. In all cases, online store-building platforms provide the advantages of hosting an online store and linking your chosen domain name to the hosting. Provide your site with a security certificate to encrypt financial transactions and protect the personal data of store patrons.
Besides classifying products according to categories, and helping to market your store and your products. Besides other advanced features, such as discounts and sales analysis. There are a lot of such platforms, and each of them has advantages and disadvantages. But the free WooCommerce plugin for the popular WordPress platform is one of the best options for building an online store, whether it is small or large. There are many other e-commerce platforms that you can use, but to choose the right one for your needs, keep some criteria in mind, such as
Price: Each platform usually offers several options. It may be enough for you to work with the initial low-cost plans and then move to an advanced plan after your store grows.
SEO: The platform you choose must support SEO features, such as improving links, ease of browsing, site speed, and other SEO factors.
Customer Service: If you encounter a technical problem, or a malfunction occurs in your store, it is important that you get support as soon as possible.
Customization: Most platforms offer ready-made store templates and designs. However, the platform should provide the freedom to customize your store and change its design.
Security: Verify that the platform supports HTTPS, and respects the rules in force in electronic commerce, such as PCI rules and the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Mobile responsive: I made A large percentage of purchases from phones, so mobile responsiveness is an essential feature for your store.
Help you grow: As your business grows, you will need new, more advanced features. Verify that the platform allows you to do so.
Easy to use: The platform should be easy to use. Usually, e-commerce platforms provide ready-made templates for adding products. Someone should do smoothly this process and not take much time.
- Designing the online store
Your online store design should be attractive and elegant, but not exaggerated. Because overdoing it will slow down the site and distract visitors. The design should respond to screens of different sizes because a large percentage of your store visitors use phones. Also, make sure the store is easy to navigate.
Also, the visitor should be able to visit the home page from anywhere on the site, enter the purchases page, quickly find the products he is looking for, and find the categories and subcategories of the products. Online store-building platforms usually provide ready-made templates. Search the templates provided by the platform you have chosen. There are components that must be available in every online store, namely:
A- Product pages
Product pages are the pages where you display your products, and they are very important because they are where visitors make their purchases. Therefore, pay special attention to it and improve its design. These are some of the basic components that should be present on the product page:
Product name and description
Choose names for the products. If these products have foreign names, you can hire a freelance translator to localize them. Avoid complex names, and look for simple, memorable names. Each product should also have a description. The description is to convince the visitor to buy the product. Therefore, the description should be written in a convincing and attractive marketing style, in simple and clear language, while showing the advantages of the product.
We should also consider SEO rules while writing the product description to get traffic from search engines. The more visits, the higher your chances of selling. You will lose the trust of your customers if the description is not honest. Writing product descriptions requires some experience and may be cumbersome and long, especially if you sell a lot of products, so it may be best to hire a freelancer with these skills through a freelancer.
If the product is a physical good, such as a shoe or a phone, for example, include a picture on the product page. This has become very easy with the availability of smartphones with professional cameras. Choose an area with a suitable background, use your best camera, and take a picture of the product from several angles. If there are several variations of the product, in terms of colors, sizes, and shapes, take several photos showing this variety.
They also recommended that you take a photo of the product in use. This is appropriate for clothing. Instead of putting a picture of a coat or shirt, it is better to take a picture of someone wearing that coat or shirt. Do not deceive your visitors, the images should be realistic and express the truth about the product. And do not have too many images, because too many images slow down page loading, especially on phones.
Studies show that 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations. Finding and reading reviews have also become an essential part of the product research process. Besides reviews, the call-to-action button should be well taken care of. This button is just a marketing name for the buy or “add to cart” button, so it should be prominent and clearly colored.
There are several factors that control the pricing of products, including the cost of the product, storage, shipping, and the average prices of competitors. Besides the general costs of managing the online store, such as hosting and development costs. All these factors should be considered, and you should set a balanced price that will bring you a good profit margin. Bearing in mind that the price is in the local currency, clarity whether it includes shipping and tax.
Recently, the concept of dynamic pricing has emerged, which is a strategy for pricing products according to the amount of demand for the product and the stock available from it, as well as the extent to which the customer needs that product. These factors are determined using some artificial intelligence techniques that analyze users’ profiles, visit history, past searches, and other digital activities, and then set product prices based on that.
b- Product category pages
Most online stores divide the e-commerce products they sell into categories to make them easier to browse and find. If you sell only a few products, there is no need to divide them into categories because they will most likely be in the same category, anyway. But if you sell hundreds of products, it is necessary to divide them into categories and allocate a page for each category, so that customers can easily browse and choose between them.
Dividing your products into categories is usually not enough, because the shopper may not know which category of product they should look at. The best way to solve this problem is to provide a search feature in the store. Most e-commerce platforms provide this feature by default. If it is not available, or if you have hired a developer to build your online store, be sure to tell them to add the search feature.
C- The main pages of the online store
Any online store comprises a set of essential pages that cannot be dispensed with or neglected. Notable among these pages:
Home page: Most online stores display the best-selling products on their home page, as well as some customer reviews.
Who we are: The “About Us” page is an introduction page about you, your company, and your goals. Avoid copying other stores’ content and write original content.
Communication: You must create a page to contact you, in which you put your contact information such as phone number, address, and email, besides a form for those who want to contact you to fill in.
Frequently Asked Questions: The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page is the one that includes answers to frequent customer questions and inquiries. Which saves you a lot of time and effort.
- Determine the shipping and storage system
One of the biggest challenges you will face when setting up an online store is storing and shipping products. These challenges become more difficult as the project grows. Before you ship a product to a customer, you need to know some key information, such as the customer’s address and shipping type. The time to ask for this information is when you make your purchase. There are several ways to charge customers for shipping, for example:
This option will give you a significant competitive advantage. But you have to study it well, and it is preferable that you activate this feature only when the customer’s purchases exceed a certain value, in this way ensuring that the profits will cover the shipping cost, and it will also encourage customers to buy in order to get this feature.
In this option, someone fixes regardless of the shipping cost of the type of product. This option is suitable for online stores that sell items of similar size and weight.
Variable rate: In this option, we calculate the shipping cost based on several factors, such as the weight and sizes of the products, and the shipping destination. This option is suitable for stores that sell a variety of products in terms of sizes and weights, or those that have a customer base from distant geographical areas.
The question now is how will the products be delivered to their owners. You have two basic options: deal with a third party or ship the products yourself to customers. In the first case, a third party will take care of all shipping. All you have to do is tell them the information such as the customer’s name and place of residence, and they will be in charge of delivering the products to their owners.
As for self-shipping, you will take care of everything, with the storage and packaging of the goods, and their delivery through a specific delivery service. This method may be suitable for those who want to create a small online store project, or who target a small geographical area. But as the business grows, it will need a better shipping system.
- Final review and examination
After building and designing your online store, it is your turn to set up the payment gateways. Most of the e-commerce platforms provide a lot of ready-made payment options, such as Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, and others. If you hire a developer to build your online store, ask them to add payment gateways to the store. After setting up the payment gateways, don’t forget to check that all the payment gateways are working fine. The best way to do this is to make a test purchase, and see if everything works as expected.
Now, you should be done with everything related to building and setting up your store. But don’t rush, don’t launch your store now. There is one last stage you have to go through before the actual launch, which is the final review and testing stage. There are several key aspects to review and verify that they are working as expected, mainly:
Review the content of the site carefully, because errors will negatively affect the user experience, and visitors may feel unprofessional.
Responsive to small screens: Verify that the store works well on phones and tablets.
Work on multiple browsers: Try accessing your online store from several browsers, especially the popular ones.
- Securing the online store
As with traditional stores, online stores are not immune from theft attempts. Therefore, you must secure the site by purchasing a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate that will secure your site data and the personal information of your customers. All online stores are required to support this protocol to encrypt sensitive information, such as credit card details and personal customer information.
Your customers expect their personal information to remain safe when they buy from your store, so adopting this protocol is necessary to gain buyers’ trust, besides Google adopting this encryption as a ranking factor. Browsers warn of sites that do not support it. Please note that they do not store the credit card numbers of your customers in the site’s database, because keeping them on the server is a very dangerous source, and if they are hacked and leaked, you will be legally responsible to your customers.
- Marketing your online store
Before you open your online store, outline your marketing strategy. Without an effective marketing strategy, your project will not grow, and people will not know your store exists, even if you sell high-quality products at competitive prices. There are many marketing techniques you can use to bring customers and visits to your online store, the most important of which are:
Content marketing is about creating content to drive traffic and customers. This type of marketing is based on a clear content plan that focuses on creating content that attracts the target audience. This content does not talk about your products directly, but maybe educational content related to them.
Email marketing is one of the best marketing techniques out there compared to other major budget marketing channels. Although the rest of the channels give you contact with more customers, email marketing gives you better results with them, as its return on investment can reach $38 for every dollar you pay. So it should be part of your marketing strategy.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search engine optimization means those rules that must be adhered to in order to get a good ranking in the search engine results in pages, such as choosing keywords, building backlinks, user experience, responsiveness to phones, and other factors that search engines consider when ranking sites.
Social media marketing
Social media is an inexhaustible source of potential customers and an excellent way to promote your store and products. You ensure that you have a powerful presence on these platforms, whether for marketing and promoting products or providing customer support. You can read how a social media marketing plan works. Learn more.
You may initially have to market your online store yourself, and this may take a lot of time and effort from you. There is an alternative solution, which is hiring a freelance marketer from a freelance platform or buying one of the professional marketing services provided by freelancers on Fiverr, which will save you a lot. Of time and effort.
We hope you have benefited from this article, during which we covered the most important points of creating a professional online store to enter the fast-growing world of e-commerce. Tell us in the comments about your expectations for the e-commerce market in the coming period.