COVID-19: Business as (un)usual

Get Started: E-commerce for small businesses during COVID-19

07 April 2020
4 minute read

Emma McCarthy

The internet was built for business and in this current time of uncertainty, trading online has now become more important than ever. Whether you’re starting from scratch, or thinking about the e-commerce add-ons that you can integrate with your existing business website, there are several points that you should consider when trading online. 

Choosing a Platform 

Here are just a few of the platforms that are available for you to begin your online trading: 

Shopify – Shopify is an easy to use software solution for small businesses who want to set up and run an e-commerce website. The platform provides you with all the tools you need to build and market your website online, including a drag-and-drop store builder, which makes creating your online store simple. Shopify’s online store builder allows you to sell, ship and manage your product selection all in one place.   

This is a great platform for business owners who are just starting out online, as it offers pre-made templates and comes at a range of monthly price points to suit your budget. Shopify are currently offering a free 90-day trial, which you can sign up for here!  

Squarespace – Squarespace also comes with a huge range of beautifully designed templates for you to use and customise, and includes useful analytics tools too so you can monitor how your website is performing. Unlike many other e-commerce providers, Squarespace doesn’t charge per transaction fee; but it does charge an overall monthly subscription fee which is a little higher than its competitors’. 

For a limited time, Squarespace are offering 20% off any new website plan if you enter the code “APR20” at checkout. They’re also offering a 14-day free trial if you want to get to know the features before subscribing. 

eBay - eBay is a popular e-commerce platform connecting sellers and buyers all over the world. You can sell products quickly and easily through their selling platform, and it doesn’t take much time at all to set up. They’re currently offering a free basic eBay store for up to 3 months, in addition to no selling fees through to June 30 for up to 500 product listings. Like Squarespace, eBay offers business owners powerful customer insights. You can find out more here

Magento – Magento is often considered as the most flexible e-commerce platform, but you will have to learn the basics of the software to get going. It is available at two price points; either Magento CE which is free to download and use with no monthly fee, or Magento EE which is popular with larger businesses. If you’re up for a little coding, you can add Magento’s e-commerce functionality to an existing website too. 

Once you’ve decided on your online trading platform, make sure to factor the following points into your planning: 

Cost: If you decide to trade online using an e-commerce platform, calculate exactly how much you can afford to pay for it each month; don’t forget to include extra costs such as domain fees and any individual transaction fees. Some platforms such as Shopify and eBay are offering large discounts or free trials over the next few months, so if cost is an issue during these challenging times, we recommend looking at these platforms as a starting point.  

Maintenance: Trading online can give your business access to an ever-growing global market, but making this work will require updating product listings and secure management of your customer data. Make sure that the platform you choose isn’t too complicated to update; and consider whether you have the resources to build and manage your e-commerce site effectively, or whether you will have to have it maintained by a third party instead. 

Payment options: Ensure that your chosen e-commerce platform will allow for your customers to use a varied set of ways to pay you. You may also want to use encryption. This can be done easily with an authentication certificate such as SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). This is important to give your customers confidence in making transactions online, and to keep payments safe. 

Design: This isn’t just about showing off your business in the best possible way; but, similar to the security of your online payments, the design and navigation of your site is hugely important in establishing a credible relationship with your customers too. To build this trust, make sure to go with an attractive website design that is also easy for the customer to use. 

Check out e-commerce comparison sites such as Ecommerce Guide for more! 

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