Starting an online store or marketplace is a very promising type of business. You can work from anywhere in the world with your own schedule, you are your own boss, and you have no limit for your business growth. Moreover, you don’t need to have lots of money for a start. And in a little while you will start making money without hard effort. Sounds easy, but these thing are on the surface. There are much more hidden things you need to know going into ecommerce.
The basics. The home of your business. People will visit it, and it depends on you what it will be like—a hut in a ghetto or a luxury palace.
Among many options of hosting after a long research you will come to a conclusion that not all of them are meant for ecommerce. Your hosting has to be fast and secure and ready for traffic spikes.
The most popular and widely spread type of hosting. If you are using a website builder, be sure you are on a cloud hosting. Although you are sharing space with other clients, you have your own space with an ability to scale automatically depending on your traffic. It is reliable because as far as this is the primary business for the hosting provider. And you don’t have to worry about anything. All updates and patches will be installed automatically. Additionally, the cloud includes resources to protect your data and make its delivery maximum fast. The provider will take care of everything for a small price. But the only thing you can influence here is to add more hardware to improve your performance. This option does not cost much.
VPS (Virtual Private Server)
Almost the same as cloud hosting but with one important difference—you have access to server control. It is managed like a dedicated server—with high level access and ability to manage software and hardware—but it is still a part of the cloud. At the same time, the resources of the VPS are not shared with other clients of the cloud and are totally guaranteed, but you will also be restricted to use additional resources from others in case of need. So it’s a compromise between a cloud and a dedicated hosting.
The most secure, fastest and expensive option. Entirely yours physical server machine with all resources at your service. Dedicated servers have more options with backing up by mirroring data or with accessing to the database during server maintenance, or hiding your data from intruders if they get access to the server. But with all advantages of owning a server there come more duties. Like server monitoring. This will cost you time or money to hire an administrator. If your online store outgrown common cloud abilities and settings and you can call your business “an enterprise” it is just about time to move it into its own house and invest into a dedicated server.
No matter what hosting you have, backing up is something you have to do on a regular basis as a rule. It is vital to back up your online store daily. For those backups, don’t use your laptop, home computer, or the same server your store is running on. Use another server, preferably in a different data center. Always keep at least three copies of your store or marketplace in case one of the backups doesn’t work. To make sure all your backups are restorable, test them regularly.
To ensure the transactions in your online store or multi vendor marketplace are secure and all private information like credit card number is safe, business owners are strongly recommended to use encryption with SSL certificate. It has become a standard for ecommerce lately when Google Chrome started marking websites without SSL as insecure and warn users about it prior loading the page. It also influenced page ranking. Now if you want your ecommerce website rank high, SSL is a must have. SSL is usually provided alongside with a platform and does not cost you extra money. But it’s better to clear this up.
Content Delivery Network (CDN) serves to speed up your storefront, videos or pictures load speed. The system uses multiple servers to store your content and choses those which are geographically closer to your visitors disregarding your server location. This is the most powerful instrument that can boost your online marketplace performance.
While choosing a CDN provider try to focus on your specific needs. Some can be super fast but not reliable enough and suffer from unstable connection. So this will be a disaster if you have many videos to show to your customers.
Service Level Agreement is an official document that defines the responsibilities of two sides—the service provider and the service user. The document describes the quality level provided, the timing and agreed service volume.
Most respectable service providers for ecommerce have such a document, especially hosting providers. But in the age of “business rush”, when you buy a service with one click, SLA is usually being skipped and replaced with some sort of “by clicking you confirm that you agree” agreements. Though it is convenient on the first sight, in a while it can lead your business to unplanned extra spendings, performance failures or even to a dead end. If you are building an ecommerce business which you mean to live a long and happy life without unexpected stressful situations, make sure you have official agreements, including SLA, signed by all your service providers.
Separate Business and Private Machines and Emails
This is simple, while surfing the net for personal interests, you are more likely to face dangerous malware. This will be a good idea to create your separate business machine which you will use for business only. Since you will mostly use office applications on it to create documents and send emails, it doesn’t have to be a high-end computing station. A laptop will do the thing. The same for the emails. If you enter your email from every device you have, do not be surprised your personal information is stolen one day. Create a dedicated email with your online marketplace name. Even a free one like mybusinessname[at]gmail[dot]com is fine.
Though there is a lot of free and worthy anti-malware software across the net, those for annual subscription will give you more confidence. Just because if you take money for your product, you are in a strong commitment for it and for your reputation. Besides with paid software, you enjoy more options to protect your business from web attacks, like isolated environment for protected transactions and deeper integrated solutions, like email scanner. “Pay and forget” solution for around $50 a year sounds like a more deliberate decision.
If you want to make sure the device you use for business is not infected, use trusted Wi-Fi spots. Connecting to public spots can be unsafe. It doesn’t mean every access point is dangerous, but if you are not ready to risk your confidential credentials and credit card information, treat those connections as potentially suspicious. Even a Wi-Fi point in a cafe where you drink coffee twice a day can be infected. It’s your business, take it seriously.
How and where to keep money coming from your ecommerce business is not the priority when you are just starting. Attaching your PayPal will do the thing and will work fine. But there are simple points to follow to level up your business’s financial protection right from the start. You don’t want your startup to get robbed the next day after launch, do you?
- Separate private and business. By creating at least a separate PayPal account to accumulate marketplace income will be fine. Never use a business account to shop anywhere. Transfer money to your private account when you need it.
- Check your account manually. Probably you can assign a notification about your account activities and receive them via smartphone. But having your account balance on the screen is the best way possible to control it. Try taking manual balance monitoring as a rule. Do it periodically.
- Don’t keep money in one account. Having two different accounts for private use and for business needs is perfect. But if you transfer money from the business account to another one which has never been noted online by other users and services will give you a little more confidence that your money is safe.
- Strengthen banking rules. Having online access to your funds is very convenient for you and for intruders as well. Banks can provide services to protect your money. Like a phone call approval, or short message approval, or even block online access allowing transfers only with your physical presence in the bank office. Consider these options or others to protect your wealth.
Choosing the Right Name
Choosing a domain for an online marketplace is almost the same as choosing a company name. It is your brand online. It has to fit your business and at the same time has to be easy to find as long as it is the first keyword the search engine checks. In simple words, it should be short, comprehensive, relevant to your offer, memorable and easy to find. Here are a few tips to help you choose the right domain name.
- Be comprehensive. Use existing words that most of the people know how to type.
- Keep it short. Less typing—less mistakes. It’s also easier to remember.
- Use keywords. Use keywords describing your offer to engage customers.
- Targeted area. If you are a local marketplace, say it in your name to build trust of the local audience.
- Be memorable. It’s hard, but if you have a catchy name, you are more likely to get direct traffic.
- Beware of trademarks. That can happen. At least make sure you are not competitors if you use a trademarked name.
- Consider different extensions. To cover other regions and to make sure no one else registers another version and steal your audience.
Choosing the Right Extension
The most commonly used domain extension is .com. That’s the reason search engines rank them better than the others. So the answer to the question: “What domain extension is right for me?” could be simple: .com. But what about other hundreds of extensions? We can use them to support your main source, like additional resources and landing pages.
If you have lots of information about the products or services you offer, then creating a knowledge base online with .info extension which will be the two of your sales funnel leading engaged people to your marketplace. Or you can build a dedicated resource for your community to communicate and interact with .club domain extension. Some companies buy domains with country codes for landing pages while running promotional campaigns. That allows launching a multilingual promotion under one single brand for multiple countries.
Load Speed Optimization
Even if you have the best design for your marketplace startup, useful features, unique products or services, super secure protocols applied and a “never-forget” domain name you won’t make it to the end of the month if the customers close the window because the page just won’t load!
In the fast changing world people are expecting everything to work lightning-fast. No time for breakfast, no time for sleeping, no time for friends and family, no time for themselves. And no time for waiting for your page to load. Take it for granted.
A study by Akamai found that:
- 47% of people expect a web page to load in two seconds or less.
- 40% will abandon a web page if it takes more than three seconds to load.
- 52% of online shoppers say quick page loads are important for their loyalty to a site.
Here you go with a checklist of how you can raise your page load speed:
- Minimize the number of elements on your pages. Loading each element takes time.
- Put scripts to the bottom of the page. Let your visitors see the body of the page first.
- Combine different styles into one. Make page rendering faster.
- Reduce server response. Choose the right hosting and use CDN.
- Use compression. If you have large pages over 100kb.
- Optimize the code. If you have an ability to edit code, make sure to delete extra spaces, line breaks, and indentation.
- Optimize images. Use JPEG, adjust images to your page aspect ratio, resize them to web preferences.
To make sure your load speed is good enough, use a simple though useful tool—Google Page Speed. There are many other speed checkers, but we consider this one a primary one, because you are going to rank for Google search first.
The last but not the least. Though you can start an online marketplace without a mobile storefront but in a little while you will understand the importance of having it. Mobile shopping is a strong and growing trend. Most ecommerce platforms already offer responsive themes to their clients. People are not giving up shopping offline or using desktop, but the times are changing. Next generation is coming and they will do more things using mobile. Probably they will have even less time for themselves than we do and buy everything on the go.
There are a lot of things to keep an eye on except for marketing and sales. Dedicating time to server infrastructure, data safety, content delivery, online security, digital identity, performance and device friendliness you are investing into the future. Once done, you only have to maintain these aspects. But if it’s too hard for you to cope, you can always hire someone to do it for you.