The following are the various steps that you would need to take in order to open a successful online store.
1.) Designing a website that sells.
The first important aspect of online selling is to have a professional looking web site that is designed to sell. You can chose to create the web site using web designers or simply chose readymade website templates. If you are purchasing web site templates, make sure the templates are professionally designed and have the option of shopping carts. Buying templates from providers who offer allied services like template customization, web hosting; SEO etc would be even better. Some template providers like buytemplates.net offer allied services irrespective of where you actually purchased the template from. To get a idea of how your site should be designed you can take hints from successful online stores.
2.) Hosting your store online
There are many factors that you need to take into consideration before selecting your web host when it comes to online selling. Some of the major factors are discussed as follows.
a.) Secure servers
Firstly you got to make sure if your web host offers you with SSL encryption which is very important for secure money transactions online. Most web hosting companies would offer you with SSL secure server facilities along with a regular package whereas a few would charge you an extra amount for the service.
b.) Up time guarantees
Your business is only as good as it remains online. Make sure to go for web hosting service providers who promise you an uptime guarantee of 99 %. Also check to see as to how they back up their data and what kind of back up systems they have in place in case of emergencies.
c.) Private CGI-BIN
A CGI-BIN directory is a location on your web server where you can upload your binary scripts or interactive programs. This is very important for payment processing and shopping cart management. So be sure that the hosing company gives you a private CGI BIN directory.
d.) Web logs and web statistics
Web logs and statistics are vital for your online business. Studying the web logs can give you much needed information about your customers and your sales records. Understanding your customer behavior can help you retain customers and attract new customers.
e.) Customer support
Get information about the hosting company s support policies and the type of support they offer. Chose web hosting companies that offer 24/7 customer support.
Most web hosts promise you lots of goodies, but may not actually fulfill these promises. Make sure to test the web host s credibility by asking them for references. The existing customers of the hosting company can give your first hand information on the service that you can expect to get.
In addition to this you should also look for services that offer you Mysql database and PHP scripting, unlimited emails and a minimum space of 10GB.
3.) Deciding on shopping carts
If you are selling more than a handful of products then having a shopping cart on your site is a good idea. You have three major options of getting yourself an online shopping cart. First one is buying a shopping cart software program, the second is using services of an ASP and the third is programming it yourself.
Your best option as a beginner would be to go for ASP services. These services are cheap and come with flexible options. As time passes and you online business develops, you can hire programmers to design yourself a customized shopping cart or buy shopping cart software programs that can be set up in your server. Some good ASP s that offer shopping cart services are SecureNetShop (SecureNetShop.com) and GoEmerchant (GoEmerchant.com).