Getting zoned, and 5 other easy steps to successful e-commerce

Successful e commerce

Yeah, I know, by the time you've finished reading you'll have figured out that there are actually 7 steps, but I was hoping the first – subscribing to our e-commerce solution – was a given.

I was secretly hoping to invite Nicolas to write this article (mostly out of sheer laziness, but also because since he's taken to wearing a hat, I have so much more respect for him). But then he called in sick, so it's “6 steps to attaining e-commerce nirvana for your business website” ... by me.

First things first: you can set up your store, let's not forget, without forking out a dime, cent, penny, rupee, or any other currency unit that happens to be lying around. You just need to use your favorite free website builder to create your (free) account, then enable the e-commerce option. It'll only cost you when you're ready to publish your store online. I didn't pay anything and I spent a whole four days playing with it before I was even slightly bored (I think I got more bang-for-effort out of it – and twice the play time – than I did playing Call of Duty … 4, though I'll confess to playing the easy level and to opening up the walk-through after the first twenty minutes … as well as to having a notoriously limited attention span).

Once you've activated your store, there are a few things to set up; a quick run through of the main points will get you off to a flying start. And funnily enough, in case you hadn't figured it out yet, there are six main things to remember when setting up your store:

  1. Get ZONED. Where you're selling your stuff, and how you'll be shipping it, are the two major factors that are going to influence the final billing price. You'll be wanting to group places together into zones that share similar rates for ...
  2. The taxes that will apply to each of your zones. A little (OK, a lot) of groundwork now making sure of your rates will save you a lot of heartache later. Get it right first go.
  3. Payment methods you're willing (and not willing) to accept. Are checks in or out, do you PayPal, or would you really prefer everyone just to transfer the money directly to your account? You'll also need to decide what currency to use.
  4. Categories and tags. The former will help you group your products together (tables, chairs, baby furniture etc.) and the latter will be useful for your customers to do a quick search for what they're looking for in a crowded store.
  5. Products and combinations describe the actual stuff you are selling. If you're offering chairs, they might be available in “red”, “blue” and “green” combinations. Or you might sell t-shirts in color and size combinations. A combination is just the sum of a product and it's attributes (and you'll need to define those too ...).
  6. Shipping. It ain't free, so do some research on different carriers and find the ones offering the best prices for what you have on offer. Don't forget to factor in the cost and weight of packaging, and decide how you'll apply shipping – by weight or invoiced amount. Then break your shipping costs up by zone.

Once you've zoomed through the setup, the rest is quick and easy: you create your product and it's associated combinations, set your prices, and add it to the store. In fact, it'll be so quick that you'll probably have more than enough time to (re)play CoD … 6.

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